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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Last Words from a Yankee Killed at Port Hudson

Killed at Port Hudson, May 28, 1863

The Wisconsin Historical Society has done a great job in collecting information on their involvement in the Civil War. They put together several newspaper clipping on the 4th Wisconsin, which fought in Louisiana. I have put below a letter written by the Colonel of the 4th Wisconsin, Sidney A. Bean, about his regiment's role in the attack on Port Hudson on May 27, 1863. These were the last words Bean penned for he was killed the following day.

The Fight before Port Hudson

Extract from a Letter by Col. Bean, of the 4th Wisconsin, written the Day before his Death.

The New York Herald has a letter from New Orleans, giving some account of the battle before Port Hudson, on the 27th and 28th ult. The writer gives the following extract from an unfinished letter found on the person of Col. Bean, of the 4th Wisconsin, after his death. Col. Bean was killed on the 28th. The letter relates to the events of the previous day, and shows how desperate the fighting was:

“I will give you the first day of the battle of Port Hudson. It is the morning of the second day on which I write. I came off the field last night after the battle had ceased, crippled so that I was just able to make my way a few rods to a horse. I lamed myself by some violent exertion, jump or fall in the abatis. When or how I can’t recall, so that my leg is stiff and I cannot walk.

“I wrote you from Simmsport when I received ‘s letter. We marched from that place to Bayou Sara, then crossed the river and marched here. Here we found ourselves in a dense Southern forest one mile and a half through, our pickets and the enemy’s meeting midway. The day before we had driven them so far in, losing one hundred men killed and wounded. On the further edge of the forest, there are a series of deep ravines, beyond high bluffs. On these bluffs, the enemy’s forts are built-strong redoubts, flanking each other, covered and connected by rifle pits. There is a cleared space in front of the forts six to ten hundred yards, the trees having been felled so as to form a formidable abatis. Our negro regiments had cut a road through the forest for our artillery, as far as our pickets extended. At four o’clock in the morning we marched in line, driving in the enemy’s pickets, and in a few moments more falling on their infantry in rifle pits this side of their abatis, driving them through it over into their forts. When we commenced the march we were in three lines, and two were in front of my regiment. When we got through it, I was in front of everything. We pressed down through the abatis and halted on a crest of hills within near rifle shot of the breastworks. Of course, when we got through there was the most inextricable confusion, and it was the diligent and excessive work of hours to bring the regiments together and into line again. The abatis and woods were filled with stragglers, cowards and men looking for their regiments. I finally succeeded in getting my men an da hundred others, hopelessly separated from their commands, organized and in position, and, as I said before, in the front of the whole army. It took time to make our way through the abatis, and we were under the murderous fire of then or twelve cannon and of all the infantry in the rifle pits. I cannot give any description of this fire, because, as at Baton Rouge, I was perfectly unconscious of it, and didnt hear a cannon ball or a rifle shot whiz, though the men were fast falling on every side of me. My anxiety to press my regiment forward and to keep it in order wholly absorbed me. But during these few fatal moments in which we were crawling over and under the felled trees and through the branches, some of my best men fell. Captain Craigon was hit with a musket ball, not mortally I hope, and the poor fellow lay there among the threes bleeding like an ox, laughing at his wound, and cheering on his men.- Captain Herron had his leg knocked off. It has since been amputated, and life is questionable, and he lies on his bed crying, now for his leg and now that he did not get into the forts. Lieut. Pierce, of the same company, was shot in the arm, but seemed quite consoled when I told him the regiment was ahead of everything. Lieut. Chittenden was hit in the breast; how badly I do not know. Our whole loss during the day was about seventy killed and wounded, and three hundred was all I took on the field.

“Having passed the worst abatis, and finding shelter for the men under the crest of the hill, I halted, and in half an hour the men drove away the gunners from their pieces and silenced every cannon but one-that being out of range-nor dare a man of the rebels show his head above the breastworks. The number of their killed and wounded must have been great before they abandoned their guns.

“I have just been reading the Herald of the 7th of the battle of Chancellorsville, and of the attack made on Saturday by the rebels on Sykes’ division of regulars, the rebels outnumbering them three to one; of the terrible fire ranks and courage beyond comprehension of our men in withstanding the fierce attack; and no doubt it was a fine thing; but the whole division, it stats lost only one hundred and fifty men, while my single regiment lost half that number in the same time, and their spirit, dash and good humor rose every moment. My admiration for my men is beyond bounds.”

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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