Commanders of the Washington Artillery

Washington Artillery Commanders
CPT W. Ward
CPT C. Willard
CPT Elisha Leffingwell Tracy
MAJ C. F. Hozey
CPT Henry Forno
CPT Isaac F. Stockton
CPT Hill
CPT Joseph E. Ealer
CPT R. O. Smith
1LT Rinaldo Banister, Sr.
CPT Augusta A. Soria 
GEN Elisha L. Tracy
CPT Horace I. Hunting
CPT James Burdge Walton
LTC Benjamin F. Eshleman
LTC William Miller Owen
[allowed to reorganize following War Between the States in 1875]
COL James B. Walton
COL William Miller Owen
LTC John B. Richardson
CPT Fred Kornbeck
MAJ William D. Gardner
COL Thomas McCabe Hyman
LTC Allison Owen
CPT Luther E. Hall 
MAJ Guy Molony
MAJ Raymond H. Fleming
LTC Henry Curtis
LTC Edward P. Benezech, Sr.
LTC Thurder G. Rickey
LTC Bernard Rausch
LTC Duncan Gillis
LTC Numa P. Avendano
LTC Ragnvald B. Rordam
LTC Louis O. D'Amico
LTC Armand J. Duplantier, Jr.
LTC Pierre J. Bouis
LTC William B. Cox
LTC Cecil A. Haskins
LTC Edward P. Benezech, Jr.
LTC Vincent Beninate
LTC Douglas Ruello
LTC Thomas P. Breslin
LTC Emile J. St. Pierre
LTC Charles A. Bourgeois, Jr.
LTC Richard J. Gregory
MAJ Silton J. Constance
LTC Harry M. Bonnet
LTC Russel A. Mayeur, Sr.
LTC Urban B. Martinez. Jr.
LTC Rene C. Jacques
LTC Urban B. Martinez. Jr.
LTC Ronald A. Waller
LTC Glenn M. Appe
LTC Ivan M. Jones, Jr.
LTC Thomas W. Acosta, Jr.
LTC John R. Hennigan, Jr.
MAJ Russell L. Hooper
LTC Jonathan T. Ball
LTC Jordan Jones
LTC Brian P. Champagne
 Early Commanders

James B. Walton

“Father of the Washington Artillery”

“Ever faithful, it has maintained in peace and in war an enviable distinction for high character, devotion to duty, discipline, and all those grand qualities that have made the muster roll of the Washington Artillery a roll of honor.”

                                                                             James B. Walton 1883


  Although Elisha L. Tracy was the Washington Artillery’s first captain when officially organized in 1838, James B. Walton may be considered the unit’s “father.”  He was instrumental in creating the organization that we know today, including its logo, insignia, and its reputation for valor earned in battle. Walton was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 18, 1813. His family moved to New Orleans when he was a child. Walton took his military inspiration from Louisiana’s General Persifer R. Smith and helped organize a militia unit in New Orleans named the Washington Battalion. This unit was increased to a full regiment and offered its services to the U.S. government during the Mexican War with Walton in command, serving under Zachary Taylor.

Following the war, Walton resumed his civil pursuits, taking on political endeavors, serving as Secretary of the State Constitutional Convention in 1852 and Secretary to New Orleans’ Mayor C. M. Waterman in 1857. Walton took over command of a floundering Washington Artillery which consisted of a mere fifteen men in 1857 and brought it back to its full glory. He was major of the unit when it was increased to a full battalion of four batteries and joined the Confederacy in 1861.

Walton served as commander of the Washington Artillery and attained the rank of Colonel, Chief of Artillery of General Longstreet’s Corps during the War Between the States. However, he was offended when passed over for the rank of Brigadier General to a younger subordinate (E. Porter Alexander), and he resigned from the Washington Artillery in protest on July 18, 1864, much to the dismay of his men. He served as Inspector General of Artillery until the close of the war at which time he returned to New Orleans. He owned an auction house both prior to and following the war. When the Washington Artillery reorganized in 1875, Walton was elected Colonel and served until his resignation in 1877. He died on September 8, 1885.




Benjamin F. Eshleman


“We thought we were doing our duty. It may have been an illusion, but nothing could have carried us through our work if our hearts and consciences had not been where we at least though they ought to be."          Eshleman 1883


  Benjamin Franklin Eshleman was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on March 9, 1830. At age twenty he moved to the South to partake in the prosperous hardware business in New Orleans. He joined the Washington Artillery in 1857 as a private. He was promoted to lieutenant when the company was enlarged to a battalion and captain prior to leaving the city for Virginia in 1861. He commanded the first artillery duel of the Civil War at Blackburn’s Ford and the signal fire to start the Confederate cannonade prior to Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.   

He took part in all of the battles in which the Washington Artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia participated and continued to advance in rank until he assumed the position of Major of Artillery under Longstreet’s Corps on March 26, 1862. 

His wartime talents did not go unnoticed. Confederate General John D. Imboden called him “one of the best artillery officers in the Army,” and General Robert E. Lee personally recommended him for his final promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on February of 1864. Eshleman took command of the battalion after Walton's resignation until the return of William Miller Owen from special assignment. He surrendered with the battalion at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

After the war he returned to the mercantile business and became a partner in the established firm of Stark, Stauffer & Co., which became Stauffer, Eshleman & Co. in 1885. He postwar activities included presidency of the Washington Artillery Veteran Association.





William Miller Owen

“When leaving home, bearing so proudly upon our breasts the tiger head of our command with the inscription, “Try Us,” little did we think how soon it would receive its baptism of fire, and how many well fought fields would in after years attest our fidelity and our devotion to our motto.” “Gaining reputation at the cannon’s mouth. Our battles, where they tried us.”                                                                                                                                     William Miller Owen 1883

  William Miller Owen was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1840 and received his education from a military academy in  that city. In 1858 he moved to New Orleans to gain employment at a leading cotton brokerage firm. Longing again for military comradeship, he joined the Washington Artillery on December 6, 1860 as private. He was soon put into action, taking part in the seizure of the federal arsenal at Baton Rouge on January 11, 1861. Colonel J. B. Walton noticed his leadership and organizational skills, and appointed him adjutant of the battalion with the rank of first lieutenant prior to the unit’s leaving the city for Virginia.

Owen participated in the battle of Manassas and all the battles engaged by the battalion through Gettysburg, after which he was promoted to Major of Artillery and sent to Abingdon, Virginia where he was placed in command of the artillery at Saltville in the Department of Southwestern Virginia. He was then appointed lieutenant colonel, chief of staff of the division under General William Preston and participated in the battle of Chickamauga. The following winter he was placed in command of the 13th Virginia Battalion of Artillery.

In 1864 he was ordered to the command of the Washington Artillery in time for the siege of Petersburg. While standing on a parapet directing one of his guns, he was wounded in his left cheek by a glancing blow from a sharpshooter’s Minie ball. He surrendered his battalion at Appomattox, paroled his officers and men, and returned to New Orleans where he made his permanent residence. When the battalion was reorganized in 1875 following Reconstruction, he succeeded Walton as its commander. He achieved national recognition after writing his wartime recollections in his book, In Camp and Battle with the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, in 1885. Owen died on January 10, 1893.





John Benjamin Richardson

(Above photo courtesy John M. Fleming Collection)


   John Benjamin Richardson was the sixth child of eight born to Virginians John M. and Mary Ann Keyes Richardson on April 28, 1833 at Florence, Alabama. He inherited his fondness for military life from his father who was wounded while serving under commander and personal friend Andrew Jackson during the Seminole War.

 John B. settled in New Orleans where he received his education and worked in the lucrative antebellum cotton and sugar business, becoming a partner in the house of John F. Wyche & Co., one of the leading firms of the city. He joined the revamped Washington Artillery on December 19, 1859 at the age of 27 as a private at a time when the military organization was more of a social than a military one. He was elected First Lieutenant of its First Company prior to the unit leaving for Virginia to fight in the Civil War and saw action almost immediately. While commanding his battery in an artillery duel with the Federals at Blackburn’s Ford prior to the battle of First Manassas, his horse was killed under him by cannon shot. The action yielded him the honor of commanding the first Confederate battery which engaged the enemy during the war. Following the engagement he received the personal commendation of General Beauregard for the bravery which he showed in the fight.

Within a short period of time Richardson’s command expertise warranted him a promotion to Captain of Second Company. Other battles of the eastern theater followed in quick succession and Richardson figured prominently in all of them. At the second battle of Manassas Richardson engineered the capture of one of the federal batteries, abandoning his own inferior guns, then turned to newly seized guns on their former owners and the superior enemy force. So intent was his loyalty to his cause that Richardson refused to surrender at Appomattox, ordering his battery’s men to bury their guns and disband into the hills the night before the fateful April 9, 1865. He and most of his command fled to Greensboro to meet with the Confederate Army under General Joe Johnston, but were forced to surrender there with the remainder of the eastern Confederate forces on April 26th.

After the war John B. married Cornelia A. “Nannie” Pugh on May 17, 1865 in Guilford, North Carolina. They went briefly to Virginia where her parents had returned after the war, and where their first child was born in July of 1866. He and his new family resettled in New Orleans on 1625 Prytania Street where he raised four other children. Richardson tried to return to the cotton business, but found that a profit could not be made in that field in Reconstruction New Orleans. So he turned his attention to the railroad industry, at first with the old Pontchartrain Railroad. In 1869 he was appointed secretary and treasurer of the Opelousas and Western Railroad and Steamship Company, then continued in that capacity when the company was purchased by the Morgan Railroad and Steamship Company some years later. Richardson attained that same position within the Southern Pacific Company, then later the Southern Bridge and Railway Company.

In 1875 Richardson was instrumental in reorganizing the Washington Artillery. He resumed the rank of Captain of Company C when the organization was allowed to exist the following year. In 1881 Lieutenant Colonel John B. Richardson replaced William Miller Owen as commander. Richardson would reign as commander for the next twenty-six years and was instrumental in securing the old Exposition Hall on Saint Charles Street as a new arsenal, aptly renamed Washington Artillery Hall. In 1880 he was advanced to the highest rank within the command, Lieutenant Colonel, which he filled until the time of his death in 1906.

John B. Richardson was buried in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans in the Army of Northern Virginia Mausoleum (Vault 9) until he was re-interred into the family tomb within the same cemetery. Prior to burial he laid in state at the Washington Artillery Arsenal under full color guard from the battalion. Honorary pallbearers included many dignitaries of the day, including then Louisiana Governor Blanchard.

Allison Owen 
    Allison Owen was the son of the past commander William Miller Owen. He was born in New Orleans on December 29, 1869.  Allison Owen was educated in the public schools of New Orleans, then Tulane University, and finally
technically for his chosen calling in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  For about thirty years he had been identified with a large volume of important Practice as an architect, being member of the firm Diboll & Owen, 
architects, with offices in the Interstate Bank Building.  He specialized in the building of churches, colleges and other public structures.  Some of the important examples of his work include the New Orleans Public Library at 
Lee Circle, Canal-Louisiana Bank and Office Building, Municipal Court Building on Broad Street, Metropolitan Bank and Office Building, Prytania Street Presbyterian Church, Notre Dame Seminary at New Orleans, Westminster 
Congregational Church at Kansas City; St. Joseph's Church at Mobile, Sacred Heart Academy on St. Charles Ave. and  many other church and school structures in New Orleans and other cities of the south.  He was a member 
of the Board of Architects for Loyola College; is a past president of the Louisiana Architects' Association, a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and was a lecturer on architectural history at 
Tulane University.  For a number of years he was editor of "Architectural Art and Its Allies of New Orleans," and contributed many' articles on architectural subjects to other publications. As early as 1895 the young architect 
Allison Owen attempted to form a society to preserve New Orleans landmarks. Owen successfully fought the city's plans for the destruction of the Cabildo, the colonial building constructed to house the Spanish governing body.
He married at New Orleans, September 16, 1896, Miss Blanche Pothier, daughter of Louis Benjamin and Emelia (Carriere) Pothier.  Four children were born to their marriage:  William Miller, Cecile Violett, Allison, and Louis 
Benjamin.  Louis Benjamin died in November, 1921, at the age of six years.  
As a young man Allison joined the Washington Artillery, rising to the rank of captain and adjutant, then to major. Owen became commander of the Washington Artillery in 1909. Owen had the insight to allow the Washington 
Artillery to muster into service within the Louisiana National Guard on December 13, 1909 as the Battalion Washington Artillery. Owen oversaw the unit’s 470 men and 17 officers and continued the battalion’s reputation 
of artillery skills, winning nationally recognized artillery competitions.

Owen served with the rank of major from July, 1916, to February, 1917. During this time the Washington Artillery became part of the U.S. forces sent to the American/Mexican border to protect American lives and property.  The Washington Artillery was mustered out of Federal service on Mardi Gras Day February 28, 1917.

In July, 1917, Owen became lieutenant colonel, and when the Washington artillery was mustered into the national army, he became colonel. He took special courses in the artillery schools at Fort Sam Houston, Fort Sill and Fort Riley.  The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917 following the sinking of the USS Lusitania, at which time the men of the command went into training at Camp Nichols. The battalion was expanded and mustered into Federal service on April 20, 1917 as the First Louisiana Field Artillery as part of the 64th Field Artillery Brigade of the 39th Division and given a new designation, the 141st Field Artillery, on September 27, 1917. While in France the unit received a telegram from the War Department authorizing the use of the name “Washington Artillery” in addition to its numerical designation “141st”. It was here that his son, William Miller Owen, died March 14, 1919 while serving as a lieutenant of the unit. The Washington Artillery arrived back in New Orleans on April 28, 1919. Its members were mustered out of Federal service May 3, 1919 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

General Owen served in 1922 as commander of the Fourth Corps Area military order of the World War, and became a member of the general staff of that organization as well as the American Legion.
He was vice-president of the Aetna Homestead Association, president of the New Orleans Round Table Club, a member of the Pickwick Club, the Lions Club (elected its president December 23, 1924), the Louisiana Historical 
Society, the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Tennessee, and a prominent layman in the Catholic Church.  He was a fourth degree Knight of Columbus.  General Owen was vice-president of the City Planning and Zoning 
Commission, president of the Lee Circle Commission, and vice-president of the City Parking Commission.  In early 1941, General Allison Owen was New Orleans’ Red Cross President.  He died in 1951.
Brian P. Champagne
Present Commander

Lieutenant Colonel Brian P. Champagne joined the United States Marine Corps on November 13, 1983, serving with the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines. He transferred to the Louisiana Army National Guard in February 26, 1987 to attend Officer Candidate School at the Louisiana Military Academy at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. In 1988, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Washington Artillery.

From 1988-1990, he served in Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 141st  Field Artillery as a Fire Support Team Chief assigned to 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry. From 1990-1995, he was re-assigned to Charlie Battery, 141st Field Artillery as a Fire Direction Officer and later as a Platoon Leader. He was mobilized, with Charlie Battery, in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, training at Fort Hood Texas. From 1995-1996, he was re-assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 141st  Field Artillery where he served as the Battalion Fire Direction Officer. From 1996-1998, he commanded Alpha Battery, 141st Field Artillery. From 1998-2003 he was re-assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 141st  Field Artillery,  as the Battalion Operations Officer. From 2003 to until assuming command of the 1st Battalion 141st Field Artillery, he served as the Battalion Executive Officer and was mobilized with the Battalion from 2004 -2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon returning home, he was called upon to support the Hurricane Katrina relief effort serving with Task Force Orleans as the Executive Officer and later the Task Force Commander. On January 3, 2007, he assumed command of the 1/141 Field Artillery Battalion, the position in which he continues to serve.

His military schools include United States Marine Corps Recruit Training, United States Marine Corps Basic Infantry Course, the Louisiana Military Academy, Artillery Officer Basic Course, Artillery Officer Advance Course, the Nuclear Biological and Chemical Self Defense Course, Combined Arms Staff Services School and Command and General Staff College   

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal with a Service Star, Army Reserve Components Medal with Mobilization Device, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, United States Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Louisiana War Cross (2nd Award), Louisiana Commendation Medal, Louisiana Emergency Service Medal, Louisiana General Excellence Medal (3rd Award), Louisiana Longevity Medal (2nd Award), Louisiana National Guard Cold War Medal.

His professional memberships include: the National Guard Association of the United States and Louisiana, the Field Artillery Association, and the Washington Artillery Veterans Association.  

He has been married for 14 years to the former Denise M. Taliancich of Nairn, Louisiana. They have three children: Blake (7), Kaleb (4) and Zachary (4). They currently reside in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.

More profiles to come.....