Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)

Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)
CWLA seeks to provide an online resource of any and all material of the Civil War relating to Louisiana with a special interest in the war in Acadiana in southwest Louisiana.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Andrew Devilbiss: 11th Louisiana/Austin's Battalion of Sharpshooters
(Courtesy from Private Collection)

Private Andrew Devilbiss of Austin's Sharpshooter's Battalion had a most unfortunate end to a very successful military career. When the war started, Devilbiss enlisted in Captain John E. Austin's Cannon Guards from New Orleans. Austin's Company was mustered into the 11th Louisiana Regiment at Camp Moore, Louisiana on August 13, 1861. The 11th Louisiana fought its first battle at Belmont on November 7, 1861. Devilbiss was very descriptive in his letters home to his wife, Mary, and its obvious his first time "seeing the elephant" was sober awakening to the horrors of war. Here is a part of his letter to his wife on November 9th following Belmont:

As soon as we landed, which we did by turning up the river a few hundred yards, Gen. Cheatam or Pillow, I do not know which, came and called us to go through the woods above them, and when we got about 200 yards from the river, we saw four or five Federals, which we could tell by their blue coats, and several companions, without orders, fired on them killing all but one who threw down his arms and came and gave himself up. We went two or three hundred yards further and came into an old field, where we saw the stars and stripes waving and thousands of Federals. We advanced and poured with deadly aim a fire into their rear, at the distance of about 150 yards. They turned on us and such a shower of minnie balls and grapeshotwhistled by our heads. Our whole line wavered beneath it. The cannon guards under Capt. Austin, Lieut. Alexander and Hughes took their stand at a large cottonwood log that lay in the field and over that log our company fired eight rounds. We could hear the balls, as we were loading behind the log, striking it, and when we raised our heads to shoot, they whistled by our heads uncomfortably close. One ball slightly burned my ear. It was here that Alexander fell shot through from shoulder to shoulder with a minnie ball. He died immediately. Our company was three deep behind the log. I was in front, next to the log, and Lieut. Alexander rose to give some order. I saw him first kneel, then sit down; then I caught his eye and saw he was dead. Capt. Austin then told us to retreat to the timber close by and avenge the death of our first Lieutenant. His last words were: "Stand to them my cannon guards for the honor of Louisiana." Myself and three other men started to carry him to the boat. Just then a private on my right fell. His name was Bonco. He had a wife here in the army. Well, we carried him two or three hundred yards toward the river and met the whole column of Federals retreating. They got within fifty yards of us before we saw them. We laid him down and started to run when they saw us. We ran back and told Col. Marks. We then fell into the ranks, and went over and commenced an unmerciful fire on the blue coats. I shot one as he climbed the fence and saw him fall. There were so many obstructions, logs. Brush, trees, etc., etc. here that we pretty much on our own hook. The Federals now and then would return our fire but were more intent on running. Of the cannon guards, forty-five only crossed the river, and of these thirteen were killed and wounded-five killed--. So you see, we lost more than one fourth of our company in killed and wounded. One of the killed was a messmate of mine and I generally marched next to him. He was a fine quiet man.

Following the evacuation of Columbus, the 11th Louisiana marched to Corinth as part of the Confederate buildup to stop U.S. Grant's strike down the Tennessee River. Devlibiss' next battle was Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. Again, Andrew left vivid details of the battlefield around him in a letter home to Mary:

The Yankee camps, that we took were beautifully located with fine springs running down in branches, but on Monday morning I saw those branches having their waters all colored with blood. O Mary you could never form an idea of the horrors of actual war unless you saw the battlefields while the conflict is progressing. Death in every awful form, if it really be death, is a pleasant sight in comparison to the fearfully and mortally wounded. Some crying oh, my wife, my children, others my Mother, my sister, my brother etc. any and all of these terms you will hear while some pray to God to have mercy and others die cursing the "Yankee sons of b_____s."

Shiloh was the last battle the 11th Louisiana fought. On August 19th, the regiment was disbanded by Braxton Bragg and its members dispersed to the 13th and 20th Louisiana Regiments. Captain Austin, though, was allowed to recruit men from the regiment to form a sharpshooting battalion. Devilbiss was one of the 150 men picked to form Austin's Battalion. He served with the battalion through the Battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Jackson, Chickamauga, Chattanooga and through most of the Atlanta Campaign. He was wounded and did not return to the army until August 1st. For his services on the December 31, 1862 at the Battle of Murfreesboro Devilbiss was awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor. On that day Austin's two companies deployed to cover the retreat of the brigade from a devastating flank attack at the Round Forest. The sharpshooters were able to buy time in the face of multiple regiments for their sister regiments to escape. Apparantly, Devilbiss performed "above and beyond" during this part of the engagement to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Following the fall of Atlanta, Devilbiss marched north with the army toward Tennessee. When the Army of Tennessee went to cross the Tennessee River to invade Tennessee the task of securing a bridgehead at Florence was given to Randal Gibson's Louisiana Brigade. Leading the attack across the river, posted at the head of each slip, were 2-3 sharpshooters of Austin's Battalion (now under the command of Lieutenant A.T. Martin). The Unionist Tennessee cavalry holding the opposite shore put up minimal resistance and the victory-deprived Confederates gave quick chase. Unfortunately for Devilbiss, the quick pursuit was amidst the barrage of friendly artillery fire from the opposite shore. While giving chase to the galvanized Tennessee cavalry Devilbiss was struck in the back by an artillery round. The devoted and hard fought veteran was the only loss of the day-due to friendly fire.

Lieutenant Martin sat down two weeks later to write Mary a letter notifying her of her husband's death:

Hd. Qrs. Austin's Batt. S.S.
Florence, Ala.
Nov. 15th, 1864

Mrs. Mary E. Devilbiss

Dear Madam,

It becomes my sad and painful duty to inform you of the death of you beloved consort, Andrew Devilbiss, who was killed in the attack on this place Oct 30th 1864. He was wounded mortally by one our own shells and expired almost instantly. His last words were "Lieutenant, write my wife." In fulfilling this his last request, I cannot but testify to his many virtues as a soldier and a Christian. His greatest hope was that he might live to see his children once more, as he talked continually of you and them. He had a strong presentiment of his approaching death, as he has often (lately) told his comrades that in the next engagement, he would fall; his words have been truly verified. I have known Andrew since the commencement of the war, and his only wish seems to have been to see his boys and have them with him once more. I shall write you more at length at the first opportunity. His body is interred in the cemetery at this place and marked. I have some $400.00 Confederate money, which I shall send you in current funds as soon as practicable. Sympathizing with you in your affliction and knowing a just God will console you in distress, I am very resp'y

Lt. A. T. Maritn


  1. Stuart, A great blog and thank you for posting this about Devilbiss. Im working on Hood's campaign now and the engagement at Florence is one I have been looking into.


  2. Hey Lee! Good to see you. Make sure you hit the Confederate Veteran volumes. There are two accounts on Florence from the 4th Louisiana and 16th Louisiana-both are good accounts.

  3. This is a very interesting posting, and I greatly enjoyed seeing an image of Andrew Devilbiss and reading excerpts from his letters.

  4. Loved reading this information and especially the letters. ......Jerry DeVilbiss

  5. I am a Great- ggeret Grandson of Andrew DeVilbiss. His Widow and 2 boys hoppes a covered Wagon in Missouri and had a team of Muel drag them to Nothern California where our famil including my son Andrew yet live. Andrew is Buried at "Soldiers Rest" Cemetary in Florence Alabama


Coppens' Zouave Battalion

Coppens' Zouave Battalion
Lt. Colonel George Coppens (seated) and brother, Captain Marie Alfred Coppens.Image sold at auction on Cowan Auctions, for $14,375