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The Flying Artillery

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[ARTILLERY]. SHERMAN, Thomas West. Washington, D.C., February 10, 1853. [Text commences]: “Sir: Believing that the interests of the nation in a military point of view are being overlooked....” [Washington?, 1853?]. [1] 2-5 [3, blank] pp. 8vo (22.5 x 15.5 cm), stitched as issued. Creased where formerly folded, lightly browned and soiled. Very rare. No copies on OCLC.

First edition.

A prescient circular letter probably sent to members of Congress asking that money be appropriated to maintain the Army’s light artillery. He points out that the training required for these units is extensive and that they cannot just be thrown together in a time of crisis. He notes that the units were dismounted after the Mexican-American War but that President Taylor, who obviously recognized their importance, had them remounted, only to be dismounted again on Taylor’s death. He comments extensively on the units’ vital roles in the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and especially Buena Vista.

The light or “flying artillery” was different from other artillery batteries in that all members were mounted so that the guns could be rapidly moved from one place to another on the battlefield as circumstances required. The companies used light-weight six-pound brass cannon, which were easy to maneuver, and the units were notable for the high rates of fire they could achieve. They introduced the modern concept of “shoot and scoot.”

Sherman (1813-1879) was a career Army officer who spent most of his career in the artillery corps. He was involved with the light artillery during the Battle of Buena Vista and brevetted for his actions. At the time of this letter, Sherman was a captain in the light artillery.


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