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Petersburg Medals of Honor: Made Good Use of the Enemy’s Weapons



At about ten o’clock on the night of April 1, 1865, Captain G[eorge]. W. Adams, of Battery G, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, was detailed to select a detachment of twenty men from his battery to advance with the Sixth Army Corps in its intended assault on the enemy’s works in front of Petersburg, Va., and with this detachment take command of all the captured guns and turn them on the enemy.

Late that night Captain Adams called his battery together and asked for volunteers for this hazardous duty, at the same time pointing out to them what it meant to go into the enemy’s works with only ramrods, sponge-staffs, lanyards, friction primers and gunspikes; that, should they be unable to work the captured guns, they would have no means of defending themselves, except with these implements.

Twenty men nevertheless promptly volunteered, and at the outset of the assault, when the captain asked whether any of the twenty wished to remain with the battery, only three fell out, thus leaving seventeen to perform the duty laid out for them.

At daybreak of the 2d the assaulting column moved upon the fortifications of the enemy amid a shower of shot and shell with such resistless force that the works were carried and the enemy driven back. Here followed the little volunteer detachment of seventeen, scaling the works and at once taking possession of twelve large guns, but when they began to work them it was necessary to fire along the line of works in order to drive the enemy out of the embrasures at the end of the pits, and consequently only one gun, a twenty-four pounder Napoleon, could be used. It was in an exposed position, and the brave cannoneers received a heavy fire from the rebels in the embrasures of the forts they still retained. But the gun was kept hot by the rapid fire with which the little band poured one hundred or more shots into the enemy, causing them to become demoralized and retire. Some of the detachment were wounded, while others were under cover, but the seven who served this gun so nobly, standing up unflinchingly before the terrific fire of the enemy—Sergeant John H. Havron, Sergeant Archibald Molbone, Corporal James A. Barber, Corporal Samuel E. Lewis, Privates Charles D. Ennis, John Corcoran and George W. Potter—were rewarded for their bravery and daring with the Medal of Honor soon after this eventful day.


Read about even more Medal of Honor winners at the Siege of Petersburg:


  1. Beyer, Walter F. and Keydel, Oscar F. Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor…, Volume 1 (The Perrien – Keydel  Company: 1901), pp. 515-516
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