The Chatham Artillery has played a leading part in the history of its city, state, and the nation since the Revolutionary War. In 1776 the Georgia Patriots authorized Thomas Lee to enlist a provincial company of artillery for the defense of Savannah—the first such unit in Georgia’s history. Commanded by Joseph Woodruff when the British attacked Savannah, this company defended the right flank of the Patriot forces. Fraser’s Highlanders suddenly emerged up out of the swamp captured the city.
In 1785 the volunteer company of artillery at Savannah re-organized under the command of CPT Edward Lloyd. In 1786 Lloyd’s artillery company adopted the date of 1 May, St. Tammany’s Day, as its anniversary date in honor of the patron saint of the American Militia. From 1786 to 1791 the Savannah Artillery undertook successive campaigns against renegades in the swamps along the Savannah River in what was known as Sharper’s Insurrection. In addition, beginning in 1787 and lasting until the Treaty of Coleraine in 1796, the Savannah Artillery Company found itself in almost constant field service against Creek warriors during the Oconee Wars.
In 1791 President George Washington made his Southern Tour, and the Artillery Company greeted him at Savannah. When he first observed the company, Washington exclaimed, “They are the boys for me!” As the final event, a grand banquet under an arbor on the commons feted the president. Washington himself gave the 13th and last toast, “The present dexterous Corps of Artillery.” This arbor banquet proved to be the inspiration for the design of the Great Seal of Georgia a few years later. In 1792 Washington presented the Savannah Artillery two pieces of ordnance, one a French piece that Lafayette had brought over during the Revolution, and the other a British piece captured at Yorktown.
In 1793 the Savannah Artillery changed its name to the Chatham Artillery. Soon, hostilities broke out between Great Britain and France as the Embargo Wars. The Chatham Artillery mustered into federal service in 1807 in response to the First Federal Requisition and again in 1809 to meet the Second Federal Requisition. In response to the Third Federal Requisition, the Chatham Artillery again entered federal service. However, by this time the United States had declared war on Great Britain and the War of 1812 had opened. The British landed at St. Mary’s in early 1815, and the Chathams again went into federal service at Causton’s Bluff.
The British evacuation of Georgia ended this tour of duty. In December of 1835 the Seminoles massacred Major Dade’s command in Florida to open the Second Seminole War. In response, a company of Savannah volunteers, including a detachment from the Chatham Artillery, served at Picolata in federal service.
In 1861 the governor ordered the Chathams to occupy Fort Pulaski. The Chathams served in and around Savannah in various defensive positions during 1862–1863, and in 1864 went to James Island in Charleston harbor to defend against the enemy’s attempts to capture that city. In March of that same year the Chathams joined Colquitt’s Brigade which rushed to Florida to block an invasion from Jacksonville. In the ensuing Battle of Olustee, the Chatham Artillery played a prominent part in the rout of the invasion forces. The Chathams returned to the defense of Charleston, and in 1865 joined Johnston’s forces which fought their way through the burning city of Columbia. They surrendered at Greensboro in April, but marched home as a unit.
In 1872 the Chatham Artillery reorganized, and in 1898, the United States having declared war on Spain, the Chatham Artillery went back into federal service as Light Battery B, U.S. Volunteers. However, the war ended before the Chathams could get into the fight. In 1913 the Chatham Artillery formed a second battery as elements of the 1st Field Artillery Battalion of Georgia. Three years later the Chathams were again federalized and ordered to the Mexican Border to stop Pancho Villa’s raids into the United States. Upon returning home, the Chathams continued in federal service for service in France during the World War. They were attached to the 31st (“Dixie”) Division, but arrived in France too late for action.
Back home, the unit reformed as part of the 118th Field Artillery Regiment, known as “Savannah’s Own.” Soon, the 118th FA Regiment joined other elements to form the 55th Field Artillery Brigade, a component of the 30th (“Old Hickory”) Infantry Division. On 16 September 1940 the Chathams again went into federal service. At Fort Jackson the Chatham elements became part of the 230th Field Artillery Battalion. After extensive training, the 230th FA landed on Normandy Beach on D-Day plus 4, participating in the St. Lo Breakthrough and playing a significant role in the critical Battle of Mortain, which stemmed the German Army thrust to the coast. Subsequently, the battalion crossed the Seine, fighting through Belgium and Holland.
They breached the Siegfried Line and were at the Elbe River when the Germans surrendered.
Upon its demobilization, the 230th FA Battalion reformed in state service as an element of the 48th Division. Not called to active duty during the conflicts in Korea or Vietnam, the Chatham Artillery consisted of elements of the 118th Field Artillery Group, later Brigade. In 2005 the Chatham Artillery, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 118th Field Artillery, mobilized into federal service as an element of the 48th Brigade Combat Team. In May the battalion crossed into Iraq in the largest combat deployment of the Georgia National Guard since World War II, part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As an element of Task Force Cobra the battalion took post in the area of Taji in northern Baghdad and at Mahmudiya in the “Triangle of Death” in the southern region of Baghdad. Next, the battalion moved to Al-Asad in the western desert. The battalion returned to Fort Stewart in May of 2006, where it demobilized.
In 2009 the Chatham Artillery, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 118th Field Artillery Regiment, mobilized once more into federal service as an element of the 48th Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Enduring Freedom VIII and IX. The battalion landed at Kabul International Airport on 28 May. From there the command moved to Camp Phoenix, its base camp. Here, it became part of Joint Task Force Kabul. Headquarters and Headquarters Battery personnel trained the Afghan troops and police. Some 5,000 recruits, including the first Afghan females, completed their training by 118th personnel. In addition, the Chathams conducted humanitarian assistance missions, carrying out drops of food, clothing, tents, shoes, and blankets, starting or completing some 15 schools, and supervising the drilling of hundreds of wells. Also the 118th assisted in providing security for the second Afghan national elections. Headquarters and Headquarters Battery returned to Fort Stewart in 2010 and demobilized.
Once more in the Georgia Army National Guard, the Chatham Artillery continues to uphold its proud tradition as “Savannah’s Own.”
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