How An Optical Illusion Affected Confederate Captain Lumsden's Battery At Perryville.

Captain Charles Linnius Lumsden, Company F, 2nd Battalion, Alabama Light Artillery and the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862.


According to the 1860 census, Charles L. Lumsden was born on May 23, 1839 in Petersburg, Virginia, but when he was young his family moved to Richmond. His father was Charles Lumsden, Sr. who immigrated to America from Scotland. His mother was Martha Laura Lumsden. His father owned a store that sold watches and silverware. The store, C. Lumsden & Company, was located in Petersburg and operated from 1832 until 1856, when he changed the name to Lumsden and Shortt. Later the company again changed their name to C. Lumsden and Sons, when his son David Lumsden took over the jewelry company.[i]

On July 22, 1856, he entered the Virginia Military Institute and graduated on July 4, 1860. He was standing seventh in his class of forty-one, and was adjutant of the corps of cadets. When the Civil War began in 1861, he was a professor of military tactics at the University of Alabama. He was promoted to the rank of major and became commandant of the military department. In early 1862, he resigned his position at the University, against the wishes of the trustees and faculty, and accepted the command of a battalion of light artillery which was in the process of formation.[ii]


In May 1861, Harvey Cribbs resigned his position as sheriff of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama in order to join the Confederacy. He invited all the men of the county to volunteer with him. By the end of the week, he managed to recruit two hundred men. Lumsden had been contemplating the idea of raising an artillery company and had been corresponding with the Confederate War Department and Army officers who were already in the Confederate service concerning the matter. When Cribbs heard that Lumsden was recruiting a battery, he offered Lumsden his two hundred men. Captain Lumsden offered his services of his company to Major General Jones Withers, who accepted the offer and promised a six gun battery fully equipped. He ordered Lumsden to report for duty at Mobile, Alabama.[iii]

On March 3, 1862, Lumsden and his battery boarded a steamer and were taken to Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island at the mouth of Mobile Bay. On April 15, Lumsden arrived at Corinth, Mississippi, a week after the Battle of Shiloh, and took over Gage’s Mobile battery. When Lumsden received the battery, he had four 12lb Napoleons, one 10lb Parrott, and one 12lb howitzer. By April 23, Lumsden’s battery was attached to General James Chalmer’s brigade.


On May 9, one section of two guns opened fire on Union infantry and a battery near Farmington, Tennessee, and an artillery duel broke out between the batteries. Lumdsen suffered no causalities. By August 8, the battery reached Tuscaloosa and by the 16, headed for Chattanooga, Tennessee. By September, the battery moved with the Confederate Army of the Mississippi into Kentucky, starting Bragg's portion of that campaign. Lumsden’s battery was attached to Colonel Thomas M. Jones’s Brigade which was comprised of the 27th, 30th, and 34th Mississippi infantry regiments. On September 19, the battery was on a hill overlooking the Federal fort at Munfordville, Kentucky, where the Federal garrison eventually surrendered after holding out for several days. By the 23rd, the battery was camping at a Catholic College in Bardstown, Kentucky.

On October 4, 1862, the battery left Bardstown and reached Springfield. On the 6th, the battery passed through Perryville and was within a mile of Harrodsburg and camped for the night and marched back to Perryville on the 7th. Early the next morning, Jones’ brigade advanced toward Union Colonel Leonard Harris' 9th Brigade. Lumsden led his battery across Doctor’s Creek onto a hill, and from this position fired on Harris' Union brigade. Both Lumsden and Captain Henry Semple’s Alabama artillery opened the fight by dueling with Captain Peter Simonson’s 5th Indiana Light Artillery and Captain Cyrus Loomis' 1st Michigan Light Artillery. Lumsden moved forward with his battery and unlimbered under fire, losing one horse. He tried to subdue the Union artillery fire, which was targeting Jones' brigade, but much of it was ineffectual. This occurred because the terrain between his position and that of Harris’ brigade appeared level, but there were two depressions between the hills. The nature of the terrain made the Union battery appear much closer than they actually were. The optical illusion resulted in Lumsden’s canister shot falling short with little effect. Fighting raged for two hours from 4 pm until dark. Two artillerymen were wounded in the head by a piece of shell and another artilleryman was wounded by a rifle ball. The fourth piece in the battery was dismounted and two more horses were killed.[iv]


The position of Lumsden’s Battery is marked with an “L” at the Widow Bottom’s house.

Private James T. Searcy wrote about his experience during the battle. He remembered, “Our battery and one other began the battle, drawing the fire of two Yankee batteries. We went into the fight while the enemy were firing upon us. One of the shells killing one of our horses before we got into position. The music of twelve Yankee guns and their whistling shells is not the most pleasant I have heard. For two hours, we carried on the duel, half a mile distant perhaps. I consider it almost miraculous that we came out alive.”[v] He also wrote that a member of the battery “had the port fire stock cut off close to his hand, as he was about to touch off the gun.”[vi] The battery must have been short of friction primers as they used the outdated port fire isntead. He also wrote that another cannoneer, Benjamin Wooley, had not been seen “since the battle and supposed he was killed.” Wooley was indeed killed in action. Captain Thomas Stanford’s four-gun battery replaced the Alabama guns, and supported Confederate Generals Alexander Stewart and General Daniel Donelson’s brigades as they charged and drove the Union troops back for about two miles. During the battle, Lumsden’s men fired two hundred rounds from their guns. After the end of the fighting, Lumsden managed to find two wheels and fixed the dismounted gun. On October 9, the battery, along with Bragg’s army, passed through Harrodsburg, and by October 12, arrived at Camp Dick Robinson. The army retreated through the Cumberland Gap and back into Tennessee. The Confederate invasion of Kentucky was over.

Lumsden’s battery later participated in the battle of Stone’s River, Tennessee and was attached to General John Jackson’s brigade. During the battle of Chickamauga, the battery was part of Major Felix Robertson’s artillery reserve. In that battle, they had three 12lb Napoleons, one 10lb Parrott, and one 12lb howitzer, but lost one gun.. The battery alsp lost one man killed, one wounded, five horses killed, and three wounded. In the Atlanta Campaign, the battery temporarily served under Captain James Hoskins at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Posted on the west slope of the mountain, Lumsden’s battery, along with another battery, and a section of Hoskin’s battery, opened fire on the Union infantry. T, the battery was part of Major Daniel Trueheart’s artillery battalion of General A. P. Stewart’s corps during the Nashville Campaign in November and December 1864. During the battle, all of the battery’s guns were lost and six men were killed and twenty-two men captured. In March 1865, Lumsden was commander of Trueheart’s artillery battalion and took part in the defense of Mobile. In late March, the battery took part in the siege of Spanish Fort. The battery then moved to Marion Station, Mississippi where the battery eventually surrendered.

After the Civil War, Lumsden lived in Pascagoula, Mississippi and started a sawmill. On December 6, 1866, he was caught in the drive wheel of the saw and was instantly killed. He left a wife, Harriet Taylor Raoul Whiting Lumsden, and two children.[vii] His daughter, Henrie Augustine Whiting, was posthumously born on July 27, 1867 after her father’s death. Harriet married Major Henry Augustus Whiting in 1869 and he adopted Henrie and raised her as his own daughter. Henrie’s older brother Charles Lee Lumsden, was raised by his father’s parents. He died on January 12, 1895, in New York. Henrie married William Young Westervelt, a mining engineer and president of the Ducktown Copper Company. She had four sons: Dr. Richard McIllwaine, Graham McIllwaine, H. Whiting McIlwaine, and Charles McIllwaine and a daughter Mrs. Stewart Irby.[viii] In 1939, David Lumsden, the brother of Captain Lumsden, and Mrs. W. Y. Westervelt, granddaughter of Captain Charles Lumsden, presented the battle flag of Lumsden Battery to the University of Alabama, where the flag resides to this day.[ix]

[i] Cutten, The Silversmiths of Virginia, 1952, 115-116. [ii] Distressed Bereavement, Richmond Dispatch, December 28, 1866. [iii] George Little & James Maxwell, A History of Lumsden’s Battery, C. S. A., R. E. Rhodes Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1905, 4-6. [iv] Robert Cameron, US Army Armor Center Fort, Knox, Kentucky, Staff Ride Handbook for the Battle of Perryville, 8 October 1862, Combat Studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 156. [v] Letter from Private James T. Searcy, Company F, 2nd Battalion, Alabama Light Artillery “Lumsden’s”, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Confederate letters, LPR 78, Box 3, Folders 14 & 15. [vi] Letter from Private James T. Searcy, Company F, 2nd Battalion, Alabama Light Artillery “Lumsden’s”, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Confederate letters, LPR 78, Box 3, Folders 14 & 15. [vii] Distressed Bereavement, Richmond Dispatch, December 28, 1866. [viii] Mrs. Westervelt Dies at 91, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 19, 1959, 11 [ix] Banner Presented: Civil War Flag is Given to University of Alabama, The Birmingham News, Birmingham, Alabama, October 26, 1939.


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