Where 19-year-old Captain Joseph Latimer positioned his guns during the fighting at Slaughter Pen Farm.
The Slaughter Pen Farm portion of the Fredericksburg battlefield often receives less attention
than the fighting that occurred at Marye’s Heights. In turn, the Latimer’s Knoll section at
Slaughter Pen Farm sometimes gets overshadowed by actions on other parts of the field by
Gen. George Meade and Maj. John Pelham. However, Latimer’s Knoll is certainly significant in
its own right. Being on the north end of the fighting at Slaughter Pen Farm—opposite the Union
right flank—Lattimer’s Knoll was a key position for Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall”
Jackson’s defensive line.
After Federal artillery established its superiority by knocking out numerous Confederate guns
during the mid-morning of December 13, 1862, Jackson’s chief of artillery, Col. Stapleton
Crutchfield, ordered five pieces under the command of 19-year-old Captain Joseph W. Latimer
moved to support those previously damaged. Latimer positioned them at a rise just north of
Capt. Greenlee Davidson’s guns, which were situated at Bernard’s Cabins. Latimer’s choice of
ground provided excellent aim at the Federal right flank. Latimer described the location in his
official report: “It was a small rising in an open field, with a wood to the right . . . and on the left
was a ditch and bank running parallel with the railroad . . . .”
During the fighting, Davidson and Latimer blasted the advancing Union division under Gen. John
Gibbon with shots of double canister as they approached the tracks of the Richmond,
Fredericksburg, and Potomac railroad. Davidson, elder to Latimer, praised the young officer:
“he was one of the coolest and bravest boys I have ever met with,” and noted that Latimer
appeared “as if he had been a holiday frolic.”
Later in the day, another Federal advance challenged Latimer’s composure. Gen. Evander Law’s
mixed Alabama and North Carolina brigade received orders from Gen. John Bell Hood to
support Gen. Dorsey Pender’s North Carolinians as a Federal infantry division under Gen.
William Brooks continued to attack toward the railroad and Latimer’s position. Pressed by the
Federals and felling abandoned, Latimer rode to Law’s Brigade and yelled, “Don’t come up here
unless you will promise to support me.” Reassured Law’s men would protect his guns, Latimer
returned to direct them. Advancing with two of his regiments, the 57 th and 54 th North Carolina,
Law moved forward “to attack the enemy, who had now gained the line of the railroad which
crosses the plateau directly in front of [Latimer’s] battery and about 200 yards from it. The
enemy was promptly driven from the railroad by the 57 th North Carolina, which was in the
advance. . . .” Latimer’s guns and Law’s Brigade held the position until after dark.
I was kept constantly engaged at this point from 11 a.m. (when I gained it) until night, repelling repeated advances of the enemy by use of canister.
Capt. Joseph White Latimer,
Artillery, Ewell’s Division
These troops advanced in a handsome manner under a severe fire, and then
charged the enemy’s position. . . .
Col. Alfred Torbert, commanding First Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac
In December 2004, CVBT and Lansdowne Properties, LLC, a group of local developers, agreed to
place a conservation easement on 104 acres of land at Latimer’s Knoll. Just over two years
later, CVBT transferred custodianship of the easement to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania
National Military Park. These historic acres, which played a significant role in the Battle of
Fredericksburg are now protected forever.