23 August 2013

Thirty Minutes One Hunderd Thirteen Rounds

There is a monument on the corner of Carlisle and Lincoln St, that is mostly viewed in passing.  The monument is to Battery K of the First Ohio Artillery, known as Heckman’s Battery.  Brought out to the northwest part of town, as a part of a last ditch effort to hold or buy time for the retreating 11th Corps.  Most people visit Coster’s Avenue, if they visit this part of town at all.  Heckman’s really is worth a stop, they were the last  to leave the field.

Battery K of the First Ohio Artillery was raised in Cuyahoga and Washington Counties, and organized under Captain William L DeBeck at Camp Dennison in Cincinnati, Ohio, 22 October 1861.  A part of the 11th Corps, Battery K showed its mettle at the Battle of Chancellorsville, as the rest of the Corps retreated in front of Confederate General Thomas J Jackson’s assault, Battery K “remained like a solid wall” using canister to slow the Confederate charge.  Following Chancellorsville, Captain Lewis Heckman took over command of the Battery on 11 May 1863.

Captain Lewis Heckman was born 1823 in Germany.  At the start of the war he was living in Cleveland, Ohio, and making a living manufacturing fancy cakes and candies.

The men of Battery K came onto the field in the early evening of 1 July 1863 with 4 Napoleon; 12 pounder smoothbore cannons.  They had been held on Cemetery Hill since arriving in Gettysburg, but with the collapse of the Union line north and west of the town, Battery K was rushed forward to hold back the Confederate advance, so the 11th Corps men could retreat through the town to Cemetery Hill.

Heckman and the 118 men of the battery had to of seen their posting as a suicide mission.  As the Union troops of the 11th Corps streamed past, the men of Battery K began firing as soon as their front was clear, as the enemy was already in range.  In the roughly 30 minutes the battery was in place they fired 113 rounds of canister.  Confederate Brigadier General Harry T Hays, whose men faced Heckman, wrote that the “fire to which my command was subjected from the enemy’s batteries was unusually galling.”

In the end the men could not hold their position.  They were surrounded and were only able to pull 2 guns off, the other two pieces being captured by the 6th North Carolina of Isaac Avery’s brigade.  Union Major Thomas Osborn, who commanded the 11th Corps Artillery wrote of Heckman, that he “worked his battery to the best of his ability, the enemy crowded upon it, and was within his battery before he attempted to retire...I think no censure can be attached to this battery for the loss of’ their guns.

Battery K retired with their 2 remaining Napoleon's, back to Cemetery Hill.  They went to the west side of the Baltimore Pike, falling in with Colonel Orlando Smith’s Brigade.  It was clear however that this Battery was too disabled to be of service and was sent to the rear for the rest of the battle.

Besides losing the 2 cannons, the short 30 minute fight cost Heckman’s Battery, 2 men killed, 11 wounded, 2 missing and 9 horse dead.  Heckman served to the end of the war and died 1 August 1872 in Rocky River, Ohio.

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