The Richmond Howitzer Company of the 1st Regiment of Volunteers was founded on November 9, 1859, by George Wythe Randolph, a grandson of Thomas Jefferson, a U.S. Navy veteran, and a Richmond lawyer. After electing Randolph its first captain, the company, which was recruited from elite Richmond circles, marched to Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia), to help provide security during Brown's trial and subsequent execution. Curious out-of-towners had flooded into Jefferson County, taxing the authorities' ability to keep order. In addition, a series of damaging fires had swept through the area, and the locals pointed their fingers at allies of the accused. Virginia governor Henry A. Wise called for militia support, including the Howitzers, the cadets from the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington (commanded by Thomas J. Jackson and including the sixty-six-year-old "cadet" Edmund Ruffin), and the Richmond Grays, in whose ranks was the nonmember John Wilkes Booth.
The 1st Company left Richmond on May 24 to join the Confederate army near Manassas Junction and would never again serve with the other two companies. The men were present but not engaged at a skirmish at Blackburn's Ford on July 17 and the First Battle of Manassas on July 21. Meanwhile, late in May and early in June 1861, the 2nd and 3rd companies moved to the vicinity of Yorktown and joined John B. Magruder's Army of the Peninsula. The companies fought at Big Bethel on June 10, the first full-scale battle of the war in Virginia, suffering three men wounded. This was the only time that the Richmond Howitzers Battalion would fight as a unit during the war.
On September 13, 1861, the 2nd and 3rd companies joined the 2nd Virginia Artillery Regiment, later designated the 1st Virginia Artillery Regiment. (As a tactical organization, the Richmond Howitzers Battalion now ceased to exist.) The three companies had all moved to the Peninsula by the spring of 1862. The 1st Company fought in the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5. Both the 1st and 2nd companies participated in the Battle of Seven Pines, May 31–June 1. And the 1st and 3rd Companies were engaged several times during the Seven Days' Battles, June 25–July 1.
The Army of Northern Virginia, including the Howitzers, evacuated its lines in front of Richmond and Petersburg on the night of April 2, 1865, and marched westward. The men of the 2nd Company resumed their duties as infantrymen and fought the enemy in several skirmishes. The 3rd Company saw only minor skirmishing near Deatonsville on April 6 during the Appomattox Campaign. After participating in an engagement near Appomattox Court House on April 8, the men of the 1st Company separated from the army to march toward Lynchburg. They disbanded the following day near Red Oak Church and buried their cannons in a nearby ravine. The 2nd and 3rd companies, meanwhile, surrendered with Lee's army at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
On February 3, 1941, the 111th Field Artillery again entered active federal
service as a part of the 29th Infantry Division. When the division reorganized in
March 1942, the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, became the 111th Field
Artillery Battalion. The 29th Division traveled from the United States to England
In the years following World War II, the Richmond Howitzers were separated from the 29th Division and served under several different configurations. The unit again became Battery A, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, in 1972 and currently retains that designation in the Virginia National Guard.
November 9, 1859 - George Wythe Randolph founds the Richmond Howitzers, a light artillery unit, and is elected captain. The Howitzers march to Charles Town, Virginia, to help guard John Brown during his trial and subsequent execution.
1860 - The Richmond Howitzers become Company H, 1st Virginia Volunteer Regiment.
September 13, 1861 - The 2nd and 3rd companies, Richmond Howitzers, become a part of the 1st Virginia Artillery Regiment.
April 9, 1865 - The 1st Company, Richmond Howitzers, disbands near Red Oak Church, Virginia, and the 2nd and 3rd companies surrender with the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.
April 10, 1871 - The Richmond Howitzers reorganize as a light artillery company of the Virginia militia.
1917–1918 - The Richmond Howitzers serve as Company A, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, during World War I.
February 3, 1941 - The Richmond Howitzers enter federal service as a part of the 111th Field Artillery Regiment in the 29th Infantry Division.
1942–1945 - The Richmond Howitzers serve as Battery A, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, during World War II.
1972 - The Richmond Howitzers become Battery A, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, in the Virginia National Guard.
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First published: October 5, 2009 | Last modified: January 21, 2011
Contributed by Arthur W. Bergeron Jr., a reference historian with the U.S. Army Military History Institute. He is a past president of the Louisiana Historical Association and of the Richmond and Baton Rouge Civil War round tables. His publications include A Thrilling Narrative: The Memoir of a Southern Unionist (2006), The Civil War in Louisiana, Part B: The Home Front (2004), and The Civil War in Louisiana, Part A: Military Activity (2002).