The Pride of the Confederate Artillery: The Washington Artillery in the Army of Tennessee, by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr., Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, $29.95.
While the wartime experiences of four companies of the celebrated Washington Artillery of New Orleans–those that served in the Army of Northern Virginia–have been thoroughly documented, the exploits of the Fifth Company have been curiously neglected. In The Pride of the Confederate Artillery, distinguished Civil War scholar Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr., of Chattanooga, Tenn., gives that pivotal group its rightful place in wartime history.
The Fifth Company fought with the Army of Tennessee in the western theater of the war, seeing action in such hard-fought battles as Shiloh, Chickamauga, Perryville and Atlanta. Known as Slocomb’s Battery after its popular and capable leader, Captain Cuthbert Harrison Slocomb, the battery won repeated praise from every commander of that army. Despite sustaining high losses, the company was recognized repeatedly for its bold, tenacious fighting and esprit de corps.
The Fifth Company was comprised of educated, propertied men (they were sometimes referred to as a “silk stocking” unit) who had known each other prior to the war and would band together as a benevolent association after the war was over. Their leader, Captain Slocomb, set the tone by refusing promotion so that he might remain with the battery. Fellow New Orleans resident General P.G.T. Beauregard specifi-cally asked that the Fifth Company remain with the Army of Tennessee to fight alongside its brothers in the Louisiana Brigade.
The Pride of the Confederate Artillery is a compelling story of 400 brave yet infinitely human young men whose unit slogan–“Try us!”–was shouted to foes on more than 40 contested battlefields. They would be tried and found equal to their task on each of those fields. As Hughes concludes, “These men, this Fifth Company, could be counted upon to do their duty, and do it with enthusiasm and style.”