Overton, Joel

15th Independent Battery
Middle island

Joel G. Overton
Pvt. 15th and 32nd Independent Battery
Middle Island

Joel G. Overton was born in 1841, and worked as a farmer most of his life. Motivated by a sense of duty to serve the cause, on August 26, 1862, he and two local friends enlisted in the Army of the Potomac for three years. He was twenty-one years old.

The three friends signed on in Westchester, New York, and were mustered into the 15th Independent Battery New York Volunteers. Captain Henry McMahon commanded this Light Artillery Unit, with recruits drawn from New York City and surrounding areas. The unit had been organized on December 21, 1861, by consolidating companies A and C of the 2nd battalion of the New York Volunteers. It was later placed under the command of Captain Patrick Hart and went on to receive high praise and recognition for its valor under fire.

Overton served with this unit through several major campaigns, including Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Spotsylvania, Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. For a while, he served with fellow Middle Islander, Christopher Hassenger, on ambulance train duty. They spent their time assisting and transporting the wounded to the rear line hospitals.

Upon returning to the unit, they found out that the 15th Battery had been assigned to the Fifth Corps. This was a difficult task after coming out of the heavy fighting at Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, the Wilderness and Mine Run. The Fifth Corps was thrust into the Petersburg siege and the 15th was sent along to provide support. The trenches at Petersburg were, as some men described, "hell on earth." Overton saw his unit take heavy casualties in the earthworks in front of the city as both forces traded artillery rounds at close range.

On the morning of August 18, 1864, the 15th Battery moved to a point on the Weldon Railroad. Overton recalled digging in and practically burying himself in the earthworks as artillery shells exploded around his gun position. The men were commended for their ability to handle the guns along a changing front and at close range. The record shows that in no other battle was artillery used so effectively. As a result, General Grant succeeded in extending the Union Army's siege lines to the west, cutting off Petersburg's primary rail connection with Wilmington, North Carolina. This forced the Confederates to unload supplies from the rail cars at Stony Creek Station, then haul them by wagon thirty miles to Petersburg.

Overton, Joel
Union artillery getting ready to go into combat.

Overton was with the 15th when the battery was transferred to the New York 32nd on February 14, 1865 at Harpers Ferry in Virginia. He did not serve long with the 32nd, though, for he had already served nearly three years. Overton was discharged in New York City on July 14, 1865, and enjoyed his return to civilian life.

Map showing Union and Confederate lines around the Petersburg and Richmond areas.

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