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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

More Letters From Wheat's Battalion

Tiger Rifles painted by Don Troiani
(Courtesy of Historical Art Prints)

Here are three more letters from the Camp Moore Newsletter, provided by Wayne Cosby. I have simply copied and pasted his piece below:

Wheat's Tigers - Letters of Drury P. Gibson

In this issue we continue with some letters sent from Drury P. Gibson, who had joined the Catahoula Guerillas in Trinity, LA. He was a 22-year old physician but enlisted as a private early on. It would be a short time, however, before his skills as a physician would be better utilized. These letters were originally published in the North Louisiana Historical Association newsletter in 1979. The first letter was written from Centreville, VA shortly after the battle of First Manassas and exudes the confidence of the writer in his army and in the cause.

We are at present encamped at Centreville, Va., a little town about half-way between Manassas and Washington City.

We will in all probability remain here some time, without we should have another fight. Judging from the movement of our troops, I don't think we will directly attack Arlington Heights or Washington City but that we will cross the Potomac above and below those places and surround the city. We fellows will have a fine time wintering it up here. Some of the men think that we will suffer from cold weather, but I have no fears. I think that I can stand it very well. I am perfectly satisfied and contented to stay here as long as it is necessary.

When the war first commenced I made up my mind to shoulder my knapsack and musket and go forth and defend the rights of my country, let the consequences be what they would.

There is no telling when this unholy war will cease, there is one thing certain however and that is the Yankees never have whipped us nor never will. They may fight us ten years but they never will defeat us in a regular battle like Manassas and Springfield.

They are fighting for plunder and pay but we are fighting for our very existence, consequently justice is on our side and we will succeed in the end.

I have an easy time of it now I am acting as assistant surgeon and I stay in the Hospital. We have converted one of the churches in Centreville into a Hospital which makes a very good one. When we are out in the country where we cannot get a house for a Hospital we have to use a large tent for that purpose. The men are generally in tolerable good health at present, but there is still several cases sick even in our own company.

- D. P. Gibson


The next letter in this series was written on October 13th, 1861. In this letter, he exudes the same confidence in the army but he seems to also be impatient, as we have seen in so many other letters of the time.

We have yet had no fight but expecting one every day. The Yanks are too cowardly to advance on us, and our Generals deem it inexpedient to attack them just at this time. We have a world of men here, it really looks like we could march on the enemy and carry every thing before us. Camp fires can be seen burning at night in every direction. Marshall Music resounds throughout the plains of Manassas from early morn till dreary eve. The men are all eager for a fight but the Generals are laying waiting for something no one knows what.

When our men fell back from Manassas Hill in order to draw the Yankees in they kicked up a terrible rukus about it. They told Gen. Beauregard that falling back had played out, that we did not come up here to fall back. He told them to be quiet that he would soon lead them in a victory that would astound the world. It had the desired effect and allayed all demurring in his command. Every one has the utmost confidence in Gen Beauregard but the whole army wants to fight the Yankees.

I begin to think now, that we will have no fight here for some time.

The army has almost ruined this portion of Virginia. The whole country is laid in waiste by the two armies marching to and fro. There is not a fence rail, cow, hog, horse, or anything else to be seen without it is in some way connected with the service.

War is an awful thing to say the least of it. The weather is becoming cold but our men seem to stand it pretty well.

If there is no fighting by the first of next month, we in all probability will go into winter months, we can soon build crude log cabins and daub them with mud and make them warm and comfortable winter quarters.

- D. P. Gibson


The next letter was written on February 12th, 1862. He has, discovered a different attitude about living in the colder weather.

As Capt. Buhoup is going home recruiting, and I have an opportunity of writing to you, I have concluded to write you a few lines although I am hardly able to do so, as I have been very sick for the last two weeks and have not entirely recovered my health.

It is an awful thing to be sick in camp -- one has to worry about it the best he can. I came very near freezing to death, it has been very cold ever since I returned and it continues to be so.

When I was in bed sick, my mess mates would put blankets on me until they would be oppressive and still I was cold.

A well man can stand it pretty well out here, but a sick man suffers, the wind seems to go through one.

I am up and about and think that I will improve rapidly.

- D. P. Gibson

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lt. Colonel Frederick H. Farrar

Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Howard Farrar
1st Louisiana Regulars

The 1st Louisiana Regulars is a relatively unknown unit. When I run across the unit, I like to share it to help give it a little attention. Found a piece on one of the regiment's first officers, Frederick Howard Farrar. Interesting figure. Here is the bio on Farrar from Norwich University, 1819-1911; Her History, Her Graduates, Her Roll of Honor, Vol. 2 (1911):

Frederick H Farrar, son of Judge Frederick Howard and Mary (Balloch) Farrar, was born in Natchez, Miss., November 30, 1837, and was killed in battle, January 5, 1863. In February, 1849, his parents removed to Point Coupe, La. He entered the University in 1853, and graduated B. S. in 1856.

He was engineer on the railroad between Vicksburg, Meridian and Brandon, Miss. He was one of the four assistant engineers employed by Braxton Bragg, afterwards major-general, C. S. A., chief engineer of the Board of Public Works of Louisiana, and accomplished a great deal of work in ascertaining levels, etc., in different parts of the State.

On the breaking out of the Civil War, he went to New Orleans and enlisted a company for the Confederate army and was commissioned its captain. This company [became a part of the 1st Louisiana Regulars, so called as they were enlisted for the period of the war. This regiment served first under General Bragg, his old chief. He was for atime the adjutant of the brigade, and then was promoted major; and in the absence of the colonel and lieutenant-colonel, he led the regiment in the two clays' fight at Shiloh, where he had two horses killed under him and a third wounded. He commanded the regiment under General Bragg in his march into Kentucky. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel and was in command at the battle of Murfreesboro, where standing in company with his fellow officers around a camp fire at night, he was struck by a shell and mortally wounded, and died January 5, 1863. He was a great favorite with General Bragg, who considered him one of the most promising young officers in the Confederate Army, and would undoubtedly have held a high command had it not been for his untimely death.

An interesting side note to the 1st Louisiana Regulars's commanding officers: Its first Colonel (Henry Gladden) was promoted to Brigadier General and then killed at his first engagement, Shiloh. The 1st Regulars were in Gladden's Brigade and when that officer went down, the new Colonel of the 1st Regulars, Daniel W. Adams, assumed command of the brigade. Command of the 1st Regulars then fell on the shoulders of then Major Frederick Farrar. Adams was wounded that same afternoon, losing his left eye. In Adams recuperation he was promoted Brigadier General and never returned to the regiment. Following Shiloh, Colonel John Jacques was placed in command of the 1st Regulars and Farrar was promoted to Lt. Colonel. At Murfreesboro, Farrar was mortally wounded and died and shortly afterwards Jacques was court martialed. Command of the regiment now fell to Major James Strawbridge (who was promoted to Colonel). Strawbridge was captured by the enemy later in the year and never returned to the regiment. Command fell onto the shoulders of Major S.S. Batchelor (who was only recently promoted to Major from Captain). Batchelor led this unit to the early part of the Atlanta Campaign where he was mortally wounded. For the remainder of the war, there are suggestions that the 1st Regulars operated under the umbrella of Austin's Sharpshooters Battalion. Commanding the 1st Regulars was risky business.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Louisiana Dead at Sharpsburg

At the top of this page is an image of dead Louisianians from Brigadier General William E. Starke's 2nd Louisiana Brigade (1st, 2nd, 9th, 10th, and 15th Louisiana Regiments and Coppen's Louisiana Battalion). The image attached to this post is also another image taken by Alexander Gardner. While searching for images of Louisianians to use I came across a post on the Louisiana Civil War Message Board by Alan Pitts. In his post, Alan quotes part of a New York Times piece that was was by Ken Burns in his civil war work. Here is Alan's post:

"The dead of the battle-field come up to us very rarely, even in dreams," wrote a reporter for The New York Times.

"We see the list in the morning paper at breakfast, but dismiss its recollection with the coffee. There is a confused mass of names, but they are all strangers; we forget the horrible significance that dwells amid the jumble of type...We recognize the battle-field as a reality, but it stands as a remote one. It is like a funeral next door. It attracts your attention, but it does not enlist your sympathy. But it is very different when the hearse stops at your front door and the corpse is carried over your own threshold...Mr. Brady has done something to bring to us the terrible reality and earnestness of the War. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along [our] streets, he has done something very like it."

If you click on this link it will bring you to the news article that was quoted from. The article ran on October 20, 1862 and was titled, "Pictures of the Dead at Antietam."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Annual Adjutant General Reports of Louisiana

Was checking out the Civil War Message board and found a reference to the Annual Adjutant General Reports of Louisiana. I've linked both the 1857 and 1893 Adjt. General Reports. The 1893 Report details a lot of information on officers and all the units mustered into service during the war. It starts on page 6 and runs through page 41. Both books are downloadable. After you click on the link, look the far right and you'll see a link "PDF" click on it and download the book from Google Books.

Bonwill Sketches of Louisiana

Charles E.H. Bonwill was an artist for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Reader. I found some sketches he made while in Louisiana in The Becker Collection. I've linked all of his Louisiana images.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Letters from Wheat's Battalion

Tiger Rifles painted by Don Troiani
(Courtesy of Historical Art Prints)

More of Wheat's Tigers! Hey, why not. They were a very popular unit and I have only given little attention to them. Building off the piece from the Camp Moore Newsletter that was shared with us, here are letters from Drury P. Gibson of Wheat's Battalion.

Wheat's Tigers - Letters of Drury P. Gibson

Following are some letters sent from Drury P. Gibson, who had joined the Catahoula Guerillas in Trinity, LA. He was a 22-year old physician but enlisted as a private early on. It would be a short time, however, before his skills as a physician would be better utilized. His first letter comes from Camp Moore. These letters were originally published in the North Louisiana Historical Association newsletter in 1979.

Camp Moore June 6, 1861

Dear Sister,

I again write to inform you that we are all well, and getting along tolerably well in drilling.

One of our men died yesterday with the pneumonia, his name was Patrick Sweeney. He was an Irishman and a good soldier, he was sick only five days, he died in his tent.

Several of the boys have been a little sick, though nothing serious, save that of poor Sweeney. One of the "Lafourche Guards" died a few days ago, he had the Typhoid Fever, those are the only deaths that we have had in camp since our arrival.

The "Catahoula Guerrillas" have been placed in the first Special Battalion, which when filled will be the 8th Regiment.

Two regiments left yesterday for Virginia. We will in all probability follow on in the course of two weeks.

One of our men deserted the other day. He was an unknown Irishman, our company numbers at the present, 100 Rank & File.

We have fine times, the men all seem to be well satisfied with the Camp life. We are quartered in a very healthy and pleasant country. There seems to be a disposition in some of our officers that has the subscription fund paid over to them, to get all they can, and keep all they get. The company have not been at any expense whatever since they left the shores of Catahoula and strange to say, there has not been one dime paid to any man in camp.

None of us are suffering or in particular need of money, but as it was paid into the treasury of the Company for the volunteers, I think it but just that it should be paid over to the company and some account rendered to the respecting contributions. At least such is my opinion of the matter. Other persons may perhaps think different notwithstanding.

I am going to keep my eyes open and watch passing events, and report to the public accordingly but, more some other time.

I am satisfied with the soldier's life, but it is very confining and laborious to any one that has never been used to such a life.

The very flower of the South are engaged in this war. Companies are not formed of the lower classes in this war as in other wars. Men of intelligence, courage, and standing have taken up arms in defense of their homes, firesides and domestic institutions and they are invincible. We are bound to succeed or every man will perish in the effort.

I am well satisfied with my office 3rd Sergeant. I have all the benefits and privileges of an officer without such responsibilities and laborious duties that the higher officers have to go through with. We drill six hours every day, three hours in the morning and three in the evening. Nothing more at present.


The following letter home from Drury P. Gibson relates events relative to the battle of 1st Manassas on July 21st, 1861.

August 1, 1861

I would have written before now, had a favorable opportunity presented itself; but owing to frequent movements and scarcity of writing materials, and all the time being in extreme outpost, I have delayed until the present leisure moment. We are stationary after cleaning out the Yankees on the memorable 21st of July 1861.

Previous to that battle we had been continually on the pact for two weeks. Maj. Wheat being an officer of experience and a noted character for scouting, we were placed on an outpost as soon as we arrived in Virginia, and kept there until Gen. Beauregard ordered us back to "Stone Bridge" to take a bold stand against the invading foe.

We were anxious to meet the enemy, in fact our hearts jumped for joy when we saw their bayonets glittering through the distant forrest. We were, especially the Guerillas, completely exhausted, we had been lying in ambush and marching around for two weeks, without tents or anything to cover us, save the canopy of heaven, it raining part of the time & at times with nothing to eat. I shall not pretend to give you an account of the battle of "Stone Bridge" as you no doubt have long since read all the particulars of that glorious victory in "your Delta". Suffice to say that the "Catahoula Guerrillas" were the vanguard and had the honor and consolation of opening the battle on that occasion.

Catahoula has at last done something worthy of note, the names of her sons that were engaged in the battle of "Stone Bridge" will be handed down to future generations on the page of history, as souldiers and patriots, fighting for their homes, firesides, and to free our cherished sunny South of mercenary foes. Little did the avowed ________, foes of the Catahoula Guerrillas expect when we left Trinity that we would be identified and actors in one of the greatest victories that can be found in the annals of the nineteenth century.

All of the Louisiana troops are being concentrated at this place, Mitchell's Ford on the Bull Run three miles below the Stone Bridge. We will rest here for awhile, if Davis don't take a notion to march on Washington. We have got the Yankees whipped and I don't think it will require much fighting to keep them so. We defeated the old regulars and best drilled men, and Sherman's Artillery at Stone Bridge. It was not only a defeat but a route, a complete slaughter. Our total loss I suppose was about three hundred killed and one thousand wounded. The enemy lost some four or five thousand. The Battle field for miles was covered with dead and dying Yankees and our Cavalry completely slaughtered them when retreating or running. Every barn house, corner of the fence, and hollow top is full of dead, dying and wounded Yankees. I have had fine time of it, in cutting off their arms and legs, and dressing wounds. They seem to be very greatful for any attention for they know they deserve none. The northern army seems to be principally composed of foreigners, such as Elksworths Fire Zouaves, they are fighting for plunder. The New England states send native religious fanatics, especially Maine, Vermont and Michigan. None of the Lincolnites have been paid off and some of the prisoners say that they are not being well fed.

Among our prisoners I recollect of seeing several big buck Negroes marching in ranks, guns on sholdier as big as anybody. I reason it will be some time before you will see us if ever. I regretted very much the death of Hall and Elias Stone, they were both brave young men and fought like men and souldiers. Genticores was mortally wounded, he was sent to Richmond. I have not heard from him since. All the rest of our wounded are doing as well as could be expected. Maj. Wheat who at first was thought mortally wounded is improving some better. Our Battalion has been reported ready and willing for service. If you was to unknowingly happen into our camp I don't think you would know any of us. We are so badly tan burnt and look so bad generally. Our health is tolerable good, but it makes one bear to be souldiers, marching around on half rations reduces all surplus fat, he is noting but bone and sinew. I have become so used to walking until I would rather walk than ride. I can lift three times as much now, as when I commenced souldiering. I think I have been considerably benefited.


This letter, written on August 12th, 1861 to his sister Mary, relates more about the battle of 1st Manassas and relates the tragic account of the loss of two brothers from Catahoula Parish only casually mentioned in the last letter, Hall and Elias Stone.

August 12, 1861

.......the Catahoula Guerrillas are getting along tolerably well out here though several of the boys have been and are now sick. Four of our company has died from diseases, namely Sweeney, Peoples, Reinheardt and Ballard. We have had pretty warm times out here. You no doubt have long since heard of the great Battle of Stone Bridge on the 21st of July in which the Catahoula Guerrillas distinguished themselves for courage and bravery in maintaining firmly their position against overwhelming odds until we were sufficiently reinforced to shove the field of the mercenary and plundering Yankees. Wheat's Battalion and five other regiments, in all numbering about five thousand effective men, held the enemy in check for two hours until our reinforcements came up; the enemy numbering at least fifty thousand, headed by all of the old United States regulars, Ellsworth Zouaves and Shermans celebrated light artillery. The Guerrillas fired the first guns, they opened the ball on that memorable occasion.

Poor Hall Stone and Elias Stone got killed in the battle. They were both mess-mates of mine. I very much regretted their untimely and premature deaths. Elias fell on the field during the action. When I saw that he was shot I asked if he was badly wounded. He said yes but I will give them another shot. He run his hand in his cartridge bag and fell dead in the act of loading his gun. Hall was mortally wounded, poor fellow, he struggled so hard against death. I never saw any one take death so hard, he said he wanted to live to revenge the death of Elias who fell by his side on the plains of Manassas. They were both buried with military honors side by side in the battlefield, in a beautiful place near some shade trees on a hill. We placed some stones at their heads to know the spot in future as a kind of a tomb stone. I think that we were very fortunate in getting only two killed and fifteen wounded, for I was shure or thought at one time that we would all be killed, and for my life even now. I don't see how the remainder escaped unhurt. The balls came as thick as hail, grape bomb and canisters would sweep our ranks every minute, and strange to say the enemy only killed three hundred of our men.

One reason why they did not kill more of us, was because they overshot us. Their guns were ranged for a mile with raised sights so we closed in on the gentlemen, before they could lower their sights.

.......all of the Louisiana troops are here at Mitchell's Ford on Bull Run on the main road between Manassas and Washington City. All of the Louisiana troops are under the command of Brigadier General Seymour of New Orleans. I have frequently heard of Mr. Cotton speak of Col., now Gen. Seymour. He is a fine officer and if the Yankees should take a fool notion and come this way, you will hear again from the Pelican State.....

No New Orleans, NOW WHAT?

“How much longer is Louisiana to be considered without the protection or beneath the consideration of the Confederate Government?”

Governor Thomas O. Moore

Letter to Jefferson Davis (July 8, 1862)

In my opinion, the status of Louisiana following the fall of New Orleans is a very interesting topic. For a full year of the war, Louisiana followed a basic format for the war: Volunteer companies were raised in the local communities, they were shipped first to New Orleans to Camp Walker and then to Camp Moore (named after the Governor), they were organized into units and shipped to the front, the state spent its resources equipping these units and New Orleans pumped out the materials needed for uniforms, accouterments and all the other needs for war.

This comfortable routine came to a crashing halt on April 25, 1862, when the U.S. Navy captured New Orleans. There then existed a huge vacuum: The state now lay totally open to Federal incursion, its largest population center, manufacturing base, banking establishment and shipping center was now in enemy hands. Just up river sat the capitol of the state, totally void of any defense against the U.S. Navy's push up the Mississippi River. What military forces that existed in the state centered around New Orleans. When that city came under the guns of the Federal fleet there was a mass exodus of units out of the city...while others simply disbanded and remained in the city.

The May - October 1862 time span was the readjustment period for Louisiana. It was not until early August that Governor Moore and Confederate forces were able to recover from the loss of New Orleans and offer resistance to Yankee incursions into Louisiana. In the meantime, what was going on? This will be a "running post" as more and more is developed it will be posted and added on to this foreward.

At the center of everything that was occurring in this period was Louisiana's Governor Thomas O. Moore. Once New Orleans fell, Moore was very aggressive in pushing President Jefferson Davis to address the needs of Louisiana. The fruition of his long distance campaign did not pay off until the appointment of Major-General Richard Taylor in late July 1862. During the intervening time from April 25th (fall of New Orleans) to July 30th (Taylor's appointment to the Department of Western Louisiana), Moore battled not only President Davis in seeking attention for his state, but also the dejected commander of New Orleans, Mansfield Lovell.

Progressing at the same time in the war were the Shiloh and Corinth Campaigns. The deep strike of U.S. Grant into western Tennessee caused major issues for New Orleans' fall and the post-New Orleans Louisiana. Thousands of men were dispatched from Louisiana to protect Corinth, Mississippi. The result was the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). The defeat of the Army of the Mississippi led to that army being besieged in Corinth until May 28th-that resulted in sucking the Davis' administrations attention away from Louisiana. These campaigns took importance over a post-New Orleans Louisiana and the significance of this policy left Louisiana stranded until the August-October time. The month of May, June and July were vulnerable months for the people of Louisiana and Governor Moore worked hard to rebuild their hope in the Confederate cause.

I hope "setting the stage" did not confuse anyone. I hope to put forth several more pieces with much more detail in the future. The goal will be to catalog the progression of Moore's struggle to gain proper attention from the Confederate government (April - July 1862) and then to see the result of these actions (August-October 1862).

  • As always, ANY input and on this topic is more than welcome.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Flags of the Confederacy Website

I noticed on Lee White's Army of Tennessee Blog that Flags of the Confederacy is back in operation. Very nice resource to read up on types of flags used and there are plenty of visual aids. One of the editorial staff is Mr. Greg Biggs. He was one of the gentleman who assisted me with several map questions when working on Louisianians in the Western Confederacy. He provided extensive documentation for all questions I had-very impressive. There is even a Trans-Mississippi section for flags.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wheat's Battalion

Tiger Rifles painted by Don Troiani
(Courtesy of Historical Art Prints)

Wayne Cosby of the Camp Moore Association has graciously submitted a piece from the Camp Moore Newsletter for us to share. Mrs. Susan Hikida of Carson, California wrote a piece about Wheat's Battalion and Wayne wanted to share it with Louisiana in the Civil War. I quote the article in entirety from the Camp Moore Newsletter. Any "Editor's Notes" are from Wayne Cosby, who edits the newsletter. It is the goal of our website to share and put information out for researching on Louisiana during the Civil War. Thank you Wayne.

The following is an article contributed by Susan Hikida of Carson, CA. She is an avid historian of Wheat's Battalion and we are much indebted to her for her research and sharing it with us.


In January 1861, even as Louisiana debated the question of secession, state troops were seizing U.S. Federal properties in addition to ships that were docked in New Orleans. Commerce in the Crescent City ground to a near standstill, leaving many unemployed. Recruitment among these men was brisk as the city became caught up in the excitement of the coming war.

Camp Walker was created at the racecourse at Metairie for the training of these early recruits. It was here, on May 4, that three companies were organized into the beginnings of a battalion. Included among the companies were Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s company of ex-patriot Virginians, Robert A. Harris’ veterans of Walker’s filibusters in Nicaragua, and Alexander White’s company recruited among the working classes of New Orleans.

Two more companies were added before the battalion’s officer elections of May 10. “Rob” Wheat was elected major. The captains were Harris for the Walker’s Guard (later designated Co. A), “Alex” White of the Tiger Rifles (Co. B), Henry Clay Gardner of the Delta Rangers (Co. C), Obed P. Miller replacing Wheat in the Old Dominion Guards (Co. D), and Henry Chaffin of the Orleans Claiborne Guards.

The soggy grounds of Camp Walker quickly proved unsuitable for the needs of the volunteers. They were ordered to the newly created Camp Moore in St. Helena Parish to complete organization of their units. On May 16, the day after Wheat’s battalion arrived at Camp Moore, the Tiger Rifles’ Pvt. William Douglas was struck and killed by a train while on guard duty. He became the first man buried in the Camp’s cemetery. The incident was apparently later described to a reporter for the Daily Delta.

He [Major Wheat] gave several illustrations of this virtue of the Tigers. The most recent was that of Bill _____ who had been placed on the railroad track, with positive orders to allow nothing to pass. By and by the locomotive came up. Bill called out ‘halt!’ The locomotive did not heed the order; then Bill fired his musket at the infernal, obstinate old ‘bullgine,’ and seeing it wouldn’t halt, charged bayonets on it, and was run over and mashed into a ‘regular jelly’.”

[Editor's Note: The first grave marker at Camp Moore nearest the monument is to Pvt. William Douglas.]

The drill and other aspect of military camp life continued at Camp Moore throughout the spring. The Daily Picayune noted a parade of Wheat’s Battalion on May 26.

While this city was full of military excitement day before yesterday, Sunday though it was, and our brave citizen soldiery were going to the different churches to hear the last counsels and to receive the latest benedictions of the ministers of our religion, our good fortune, superinduced by a pressing invitation from Major R. C. Wheat, took us in another direction, and that was the delightfully situated Camp Moore, at Tangipahoa

“We had a most hearty welcome from our inviter, who showed us, in a ramble in and out among the streets and by paths of the canvas city, the quarters of the various commands now encamped there. All looked in tip-top order, and appeared to be enjoying themselves greatly. Health prevails in the camp, but two or three, we believe, being in hospital…

“We dined, of course, al fresco, in front of our hospitable entertainer’s quarters, our canopy being only the intertwined branches of trees, ingeniously woven to make for us a grateful shade. An hour or so was very agreeably passed at the table, and then, after a brief siesta, we were summoned to witness a review of Major Wheat’s large battalion, some four or five hundred men, by Gen. Tracy and his staff, in which, by the way, we observed Major Thomas E. Adams, who officiates as the Adjutant of the Brigade. After the review of the battalion was put through a variety of evolutions, which, considering the brief time it has been formed, were very creditably performed. An evening dress parade concluded the interesting ceremonies of the day most satisfactorily…”

On June 6, Wheat’s Battalion, now designated the First Special Battalion Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, was mustered into service with five companies and a total strength of 415. It was around this time that the Battalion gained another company, the Catahoula Guerillas, only to lose the Orleans Claiborne Guards when it was disbanded due to its failure to fill its rolls.


Wheat’s Battalion departed for Virginia by railroad on June 13. The eventful journey took them through Mississippi, Tennessee (where they participated in the tar-and-feathering of an abolitionist in Knoxville), crossing into Virginia at Bristol on the 17th, and stopping at Lynchburg for supplies on the 19th.

The Battalion arrived at Manassas Junction on June 22 where Major Wheat reported to Colonel Philip St. George Cocke. Cocke stationed them at Frying Pan Church under the command of Colonel Nathan G. Evans. They arrived around midnight of June 24 or 25, joining the 4th South Carolina Infantry Regiment and Campbell’s Ranger (Virginia cavalry). Colonel Robert Withers, of the 17th Virginia Infantry noted the condition the Tiger Rifles on their arrival:

Major Robert Wheat reached Manassas in June, commanding a battalion raised in New Orleans, two companies of which were Zouaves who called themselves the ‘Louisiana Tigers.’ These men were a hard lot, and when they reached the camp at Manassas on freight cars was pretty nearly full of men under arrest for disorderly conduct, drunkenness, etc., most of whom were bucked and gagged as some of my men reported who were at the station when they arrived.

The Tiger Rifles promptly saw action on June 28 as part of General William H. T. Walker’s demonstration against Federal troop at Seneca Falls on the Potomac River. They earned the distinction of becoming the first Louisiana infantry to engage the enemy in combat in Virginia. They also hold the distinction of having Louisiana’s first battle casualty in Northern Virginia when Pvt. James Burns received a wound in the leg during the action. The leg was later amputated, but he continued to serve as a driver.

Wheat’s Battalion spent the next two weeks on picket around Fairfax Court House. Many of the men were without blankets or tents, barely fed, and suffering from effect of rain and heat of summer. The Battalion received orders on July 17 to take a position at the Stone Bridge on the Bull Run along with the 4th South Carolina, Campbell’s Ranger, and 2 guns of Latham’s Battery. This was the left flank of the Confederacy’s Army of the Potomac.

On the morning of July 21, the First Battle of Manassas commenced when Federal artillery opened fire over Confederate positions followed by Union infantry advancing against the Stone Bridge. Two companies of the 4th South Carolina and a company of Wheat’s Battalion were ordered forward to prevent their crossing. However, a division of Federal infantry under a Colonel Hunter and two brigades crossed the Bull Run at the bridge at Sudley’s Ford where Federal scouts had earlier seen Major Wheat crossing the stream while on reconnaissance.

At about 8:30, Evans realized that the attack on the bridge as a deception and ordered his remaining infantry to the left to meet the new threat. The 4th South Carolina mistook Wheat’s Battalion for the enemy as they cleared a stand of trees and shot into their ranks. Wheat’s men shot back in response before turning their attentions to the enemy. As Evans recounted the following action:

Placing the Fourth Regiment on the left, supported by one piece of artillery, Major Wheat on the right, supported by a company of cavalry, I directed my command to open fire as soon as the enemy approached within range of muskets. At 9.15 o’clock my command opened a vigorous fire from their position, which caused the enemy to halt in confused order. The fire was warmly kept up until the enemy seemed to fall back. Major Wheat then made a charge with his whole battalion.”

The Union attack was repulsed three times, but Evans was forced to retreat towards Young’s Branch where his command made a stand. Here Wheat’s Battalion fought the New York Fire Zouaves, a battalion of U. S. Marines, and a battery of artillery until reinforcements arrived. Major Wheat received an apparently mortal wound during the struggle. As 1st Ordnance Sergeant Robert Ritchie wrote to a friend:

Our major was shot through the body and carried from the field in a dying condition. Our captain had his horse shot from under him, and we thought he was killed. Our First Lieutenant, gallant old Tom Adrian lay on the ground shot through the thigh and numbers of our men lay around dead and dying. We gained a piece of the woods, and the New York Fire Zouaves, whom we had been fight against, seeing our momentary confusion, gave three cheers; in what was the last cheer many of them ever uttered.”

As later recounted in the New Orleans Daily Crescent:

The Tiger Riles having no bayonets to their Mississippi rifles, threw them away when ordered to charge, and dashed upon the Fire Zouaves with bowie knives.... We covered the ground with their dead and dying, and had driven them beyond their first position, when just then we heard, three cheers for the Tigers, and Louisiana. The struggle was decided. The gallant Seventh had ‘double-quicked’ it for nine miles, and came rushing into the fight. They fired as they came within point blank range, and charged with fixed bayonets. The enemy broke and fled panic stricken, with our men in full pursuit.”

Corporal Samuel English of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry described the aftermath of Young’s Branch:

I then descended the hill to the woods which had been occupied by the rebels at the place where the Elsworth zouaves made their charge; the bodies of the dead and dying were actually three and four deep, while in the woods where the desperate struggle had taken place between the U.S. Marines and the Louisiana zouaves, the tree were spattered with blood and the ground strewn with dead bodies.”

Evans pulled back toward Henry House Hill. With Wheat wounded, the Battalion broke up but continued the fight as companies or as individuals. Confederate reinforcements arrived in a flanking attack and the tide turned against Federal forces. Of the Federal retreat Robert Ritchie wrote:

The enemy fled, throwing down their arms, equipment, clothing, and everything. We followed for several miles, taking a great many prisoners. Tom, it is no use talking, the boys surpassed my expectations; I knew we had good men, but they were more; in their efforts to make victory perch upon our banner, they were superhuman.”

Wheat’s Battalion finished the battle with 8 dead or mortally wounded, 38 wounded (including Major Wheat and 4 other officers), 2 captured or missing, and a stand of captured flags for which they received much praise.


Napier Barlett, Military Record of Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1964) 51.

“The Camp at Tangipahoa,” The Daily Picayune (28 May 1861), 2; from a transcription by Ross Brooks.

J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, ed., The Papers of Randolph Abbott Shotwell, vol. 1 (Raleigh, North Carolina: The North Carolina Historical Commission, 1929) 134-135.

James A. Harrold, “Surgeons of the Confederacy,” Confederate Veteran (May 1932) 173.

Alison Moore, He Died Furious (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Ortlieb Press, Inc., 1983); New Orleans Daily Delta, 3 September 1861, quoted on page 81; Robert Ritchie in the New Orleans Daily True Delta, 15 August 1861 quoted on page 62 and 64.

Robert Hunt Rhodes, ed., All For the Union: the Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes (Lincoln, Rhode Island: Andrew Mowbray Incorporated, 1985; reprint ed., New York: Orion Books, 1991) 34.

Richard Taylor, Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879) 25.

U. S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861‑1865, Ser. I, vol. 11, pt. 2 (Washington D.C.: Government Publishing Office, 1884) 559.

Robert Enoch Withers, Autobiography of an Octogenarian (Roanoke, Virginia: The Stone Printing & Mfg. Co. Press, 1907) 139.

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