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TEEL’S COMPANY OF ARTILLERY

TEEL'S COMPANY OF ARTILLERY. Originally a volunteer infantry company raised and commanded by Trevanion Theodore Teel, the unit that would become known as Teel's Battery was mustered into state service at San Antonio on February 16, 1861. The previous day it had taken part in Ben McCulloch's capture of the Federal garrison at San Antonio. It next saw service at San Lucas Springs on May 9, 1861, where it assisted in Earl Van Dorn's capture of six companies of the Eighth U.S. Infantry under Brevet Lt. Col. Isaac Van Duzer Reeve. At Fort Clark on May 1, 1861, the company was reorganized as Light Company B, First Artillery, and mustered into Confederate service for twelve months. Although sources fail to agree, the battery seems to have consisted of two sections, those of first lieutenants Joseph H. McGinnis and Jordan W. Bennett, and each section was armed with two six-pounder guns. Teel was elected captain.

The battery was initially attached to the command of Col. John R. Baylor and was ordered to garrison Fort Bliss, where it arrived on July 10, 1861. In January 1862, however, when Henry H. Sibley's New Mexico expedition passed through El Paso, the eighty-nine man battery was attached to the Army of New Mexico (see SIBLEY CAMPAIGN).

Teel's battery saw its principal action at the battle of Valverde on February 21, 1862, when the first section, temporarily under the command of Second Lt. James Bradford, reached the already embattled Confederate force at about 10:30 or 11:00 A.M. (sources vary wildly). Teel ordered Bradford's guns to the sound of the battle "at a gallop," and Bradford placed them in battery in support of Lt. Col. William R. Scurry's Fourth Texas Cavalry and immediately commenced firing. According to Scurry's after-action report, Bradford "opened a galling fire upon the left flank of the enemy, whereupon the enemy commenced a furious cannonade upon him from their entire battery, consisting of eight guns." The section quickly lost one man killed and two wounded to the counter battery fire of Capt. Alexander McRae's battery. Bradford himself was slightly wounded, and Teel soon found himself with but five men to work the two guns. An enemy shell exploded directly under Teel's guns and set the grass on fire. One of the two guns "had been partly disabled and silenced" when Teel, "finding it impossible to use the two pieces with steady and effective fire," called upon Scurry for volunteers to serve as gunners. "Still," wrote Scurry, "that gallant officer held his position and continued to fire upon the enemy, himself seizing the rammer and assisting to load the piece."

As the hottest part of the fighting shifted to the Confederate left, Teel ordered Joseph H. McGinnis, who had just arrived on the field with the battery's second section, to relieve Bradford and "to hold in check the enemy." Teel himself took charge of the second section, that of First Lt. Jordan W. Bennett, and placed its guns in battery on the Confederate left where, according to Scurry, Maj. Charles Lynn Pyron's 200-man force "was hard pressed."

When Scurry gave the order to overrun the Union position, Teel massed his guns in a supporting position on the Confederate right flank. The Rebel line swept over the Union guns and, as Teel reported, "in eight minutes his battery was captured and his troops completely routed." Teel thereupon moved his battery to the front, opening a heavy fire on the retreating Federals, not only with his own guns but with the captured artillery pieces—thereafter known as the Val Verde Battery—as well. "The firing," he reported, "was kept up from our guns until the enemy's rear was out of range of them."

In the battle of Valverde, Teel reported two men (privates Atticus H. Ryman and Joseph Page) killed and four men (Sgt. Nicholas Mitchell and privates James Logan, John Maloney, and Herman Lowenstein) severely wounded, two of whom subsequently died of their injuries. Teel himself received a slight wound in this engagement.

Moving up the Rio Grande with the rest of Sibley's command, Teel's Battery took part in the siege of Albuquerque on April 8–9, 1862, and the climactic battle of Glorieta. After the disaster at Glorieta, Teel's Battery was attached to Col. William Steele's Seventh Texas Cavalry and was one of the last Confederate units to be withdrawn from New Mexico. Before beginning his brutal retreat from Albuquerque, Teel ordered eight of his guns to be buried near the town plaza; he returned to recover them in 1889.

While his battery served as a part of the rear guard on the retreat to Fort Bliss, two of Teel's guns were involved in a pitched battle with local Mexican rancheros near Socorro on June 15, 1862. James P. Newcomb, a scout and interpreter with the Union army, reported that "an express came from Capt. Tell [Teel] to Col. Steel calling in God's name to send him aid, as the Mexicans had attacked him, and captured two pieces of artillery. Some fifteen hundred Mexicans and pueblo Indians are now following upon the Texans…it will be a miracle if they escape to Texas." The pro-Confederate El Paso Mail, however, reporting the same incident, claimed that from 200 to 300 Mexicans fell upon a Confederate foraging party, killing from fifteen to twenty and capturing an additional fifteen. Teel, according to the paper, "came to the rescue, killed 30 Mexicans and liberated the prisoners."

Near the end of the New Mexico campaign, sometime in the spring of 1862, Bennett replaced Teel (who had been promoted to major) as battery commander, and the unit was assigned to Earl Van Dorn's Army of the West. It seems, however, to have been disbanded shortly thereafter, for it did not serve at the September 19 battle of Iuka. Teel's account of the New Mexico campaign was published in the classic Battles and Leaders of the Civil War.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army (Midlothian, Virginia.: Derwent, 1987). Donald S. Frazier, Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996). Martin Hardwick Hall, The Confederate Army of New Mexico (Austin: Presidial Press, 1978). Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, August 18, 1862. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (4 vols., New York: Yoseloff, 1956). San Antonio Semi-Weekly News, July 21, 1862. Stewart Sifakis, Compendium of the Confederate Armies: Texas (New York: Facts on File, 1995). John Taylor, Bloody Valverde: A Civil War Battle on the Rio Grande, February 21, 1862 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995). Marcus J. Wright, comp., and Harold B. Simpson, ed., Texas in the War, l86l–l865. (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, l965).

Thomas W. Cutrer

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Thomas W. Cutrer, "TEEL’S COMPANY OF ARTILLERY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qkt11), accessed July 24, 2014. Uploaded on April 3, 2011. Modified on April 11, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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