Battle of Middleburg/Mt. Deﬁance
The artillery piece before you, a replica of a 12-pounder (4.62 inch) Napoleon, sits along a line where two Confederate batteries from Virginia were rapidly put into position facing east toward Middleburg on the early morning of June 19, 1862. The batteries of William Morrell McGregor and Marcellus N. Moorman ("the Lynchburg Battery") were both part of J.E.B. Stuart's vaunted Stuart Horse Artillery. These units had a mix of cannon, particularly 12-pound Napoleons like this and 3-inch iron rifles, often seen on Civil War battlefields today. The Stuart Horse Artillery was particularly known for its mobility and the rapid deployment of its guns when needed. They could pack up and redeploy at a moment's notice. The idea was that every man in a battery be mounted. That rapid deployment and mobility was on display here.
From the location of this field piece, there were guns both to your right (south) and to your left (north), including one 3-inch rifle placed right on the turnpike beside the blacksmith's shop. Batteries varied from day to day as to how many cannon could be deployed, but typically, four to six guns would be present. Guns could be deployed in a full battery of in two-gun sections.
The batteries' guns varied in weight. A Napoleon weighed just over 1200 pounds. The lighter 3-inch rifle, weighing
just over 800 pounds, was ideal both because of its increased accuracy and its easier, faster mobility. These 3-inch rifles, however, were harder for the South to come by. The effective range of both types was about one mile.
Stuart's Horse Artillery became a significant concern for the attacking Federal cavalry on June 19th. Suffice it to say, mounted and dismounted Federal cavalry attacking Mt. Defiance over largely open ground when it was defended by ridgetop horse artillery presented a daunting task. The horse artillery was capable of firing solid shot, exploding shell, shrapnel, and anti-personnel canisters of small balls ("canister"). The Confederate gun of McGregor's Battery placed just behind the rise of the turnpike road off to your left proved itself particularly devastating.
When William Fuller's Battery C, 3rd U.S. artillery set up on the ridge on the west end of Middleburg opposite us, Mt. Defiance was in range. Exploded artillery shell remnants have been found here indicating that these Confederate guns and troops were under fire.
Later, due to repeated Federal charges along the turnpike, the guns of these two batteries were rapidly limbered and the horse artillerists galloped off to find a safer position just west on the next ridge. It is exactly what horse artillery was expected to do.
By June 1863, Union General
Pleasonton's cavalry also had specially trained horse artillerymen and were equipped with the fine 3-inch ordnance rifle. The Battle of Middleburg shows the evolving ways both armies could use artillery coordinating with cavalry to make a more modern, mobile, effective force.
Artillery fragment found at Mt. Defiance.
Stuart's Horse Artillery in action. Library of Congress