Run Up the Elevating Screw and Give 'Em Hell, Boys"

3rd Bunt

"Run Up the Elevating Screw and Give 'Em Hell, Boys"

Heroism abounds in this scene painted by Civil War Artist Rick Reeves. The U. S. Army War College's Distance Education of 1998 members researched this scene from the Battle of Antietam. In the early morning of September 17, 1862, Brigadier General John Gibbon leaves his mount to assist the crew of Battery B, 4th U. S. Artillery. With most of the regular members of the battery either dead or wounded, the gun depicted here was manned by a 15-year-old Bugler, Private Johnny Cook, and 22-year-old Infantryman, Private William Hagerty, both of whom would receive the Medal of Honor for their valiant actions "above and beyond" on this day.

Supporting the four regiments of Brigadier General John Gibbon's "Iron Brigade," who were spearheading the advance of Federal I Corps to open the Battle of Antietam, was Battery B, 4th U. S. Artillery. Ordered to unlimber west of Hagerstown Pike, the battery quickly lost half of its cannoneers to Confederate sharpshooters. At 6:30 a. m., on September 17, 1862, the 18th Georgia Infantry Regiment of Hood's Texas Brigade launched a furious attack to overrun the battery. Supported by the 6th Wisconsin, the cannoneers fought desperately to save their guns. The acrid smell of gunpowder filled the air and the smoke was so heavy at times that the cannoneers could scarcely see their targets, as the Georgians advanced to within 15 yards of the guns. After assisting his wounded battery commander to the rear, Private Johnny Cook, the battery's 15-year-old bugler, observed that nearly all the cannoneers were down in the battery. Picking up a pouch of ammunition, he moved to the guns and worked as a cannoneer for the remainder of the battle, at times working alone. One of the guns had been ordered to displace forward to the pike and engage the Confederates with cannister. The crew, now manned by inexperienced volunteers, was firing so rapidly that no one was aware that the elevating screw lowered with each round fired causing the gun's missiles to pass harmlessly over the heads of the Confederates. Brigadier General Gibbon, who once commanded the battery, noticed what was happening and yelled to the crew to "run up the elevating screw." Realizing his command could not be heard due to the din of battle, he jumped from his horse, rapidly ran up the elevating screw until the muzzle pointed almost to the ground and with a shout of "give 'em hell, boys," ordered the gunner to fire. The discharge carried away most of the fence to the front and produced great distruction in the Georgian ranks. The Georgians mounted three full-scale attacks to capture the battery and three times the cannoeers hurled them back. During the final lunge for the guns, Private William P. Hagerty, a 22-year-old infantryman-turned-cannoneer perceived through the stifling air one of the guns of the battery, at which all the crew had been killed or were disabled, standing idle and in a commanding position. He immediately seized a shrapnel round, cutting the fuse to explode as it left the muzzle, and alone and unaided fired it into the ranks of the Georgians. Afterwards, while awaiting orders, he picked up a musket and fought on as an infantryman. The enemy got so close to the battery that guns were double-shotted with canister which when fired caused whole ranks to go down. With ammunition almost expended and suffering severe casualties, the battery, along with the brigade withdrew to the rear. In this desperate 20-minute fight, Battery B suffered 52 percent casualites, the fourth highest casualty rate of any Federal battery in a single engagement, and lost 33 horses while inflicting 101 casualties on the 18th Georgia's 176 effectives, or 58 percent. Also, for their heroic and distinguished actions during this short period of time both Privates Cook and Hagerty were later awarded the Medal of Honor.


Rick Reeves combines exquisite detail with incredible authenticity as a newcomer in Civil War art. His limited edition prints are published by American Art & Antiques, Inc. All prints marketed in 1989 and 1990 are now available only on the secondary market. Rick has original paintings on permanent exhibit at The Atlanta Cyclorama in Atlanta, Georgia, Command & General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and the Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas. He also has original paintings on display at the Florida Sports Hall of Fame and in numerous private collections. Each painting will continue his pursuit to portray this epic in American history with authoritative realism.

Born in Tampa, Florida, in January 1959, Rick studied art at Southampton College on Long Island, attended University of South Florida, and graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Studio Art. From 1982 to 1988 he worked as a commercial artist and exhibited in juried shows throughout Florida. His artwork is included in corporate and public collections

This painting can be purchased from The MILITARY ART Shop.

The image and the entire text on this page used courtesy of American Art & Antiques, Inc.

Special thanks to MSG Thomas C. Benefield for providing this information. Be sure and visit Tom's CIVIL WAR HISTORY THROUGH ART Website.

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