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.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Alabamian from Port Hudson

The New York Times printed a letter from Captain James K. Whitfield, Co. K, 1st Alabama Infantry from the Montgomery Advertiser. Whitfield wrote the following letter on June 10, 1863, in the midst of the siege. The 1st Alabama was part of the left, or northern rim, of the Confederate line.

PORT HUDSON, Wednesday, June 10.

It has now been two months since we had anything trustworthy, or in any shape, from the "balance of the world." Since the Yankee raid on the Southern Railroad, gallant and glorious Port Hudson has been completely isolated, and for the last twenty days thoroughly invested by Banks' army, outnumbering us only eight to one! Ver[???]y, Port Hudson is a "self-supporting institution," and, thanks to Almighty God and the bravery and endurance of our heroic Southern soldiery, is destined to stand yet a while longer, and welcome the detested Yankees to "hospitable graves" by regions. We have been fighting regularly for ten days, and so far have held our own in a remarkable degree. The enemy have made two desperate assaults on our works, and have been as often hurled back with severe loss.

On Wednesday, the 3d inst., we had a severe fight, as on that day the Yankees attempted to charge our works at several different points. They came up in the style, with the "old flag" flying, and yelling for the "best Government the world ever saw." We let them come up within easy range, and then turned loose our infantry and artillery, which sent them back in terrible disorder and shattered ranks. The loss of the enemy was heavy, and it is estimated that since the siege began his loss in killed, wounded and missing has been from three to five thousand, and, sad to relate, our loss has not been inconsiderable. We have to mourn the loss of many gallant soldiers and officers. *****

What the army of Port Hudson has done and endured no pen can properly depict.

With a large army in our rear and within two hundred yards from our breastworks, a large fleet in sight above and below on the river, you see we are completely and thoroughly cut off from all communication; but notwithstanding all this disagreeable state of things, the army is still in good spirits, and hoping for reinforcements. Owing to our small number of troops, we are compelled to keep every man that can shoulder a musket at the breastworks, day and night, without any relief, in a crouched position, and in a hot, broiling Louisiana sun. The sharpshooters pick off any man that dares lift his head above the works. The Yankees are provided with the best of arms, both large and small, assisted by their fleets and mortars.

Our fortifications are in the shape of a crescent, and extend in a semi-circle of about two miles in diameter around Port Hudson. The Yankees have [???]ted a large quantity of artillery at all points around, and have a cross -- yes, double cross are, on all parts of our army. From the river to their own line there is scarcely a spot that has not been struck with artillery and Minie balls, and as I write the shells are falling in every direction. The camp of our regiment has been in a very warm place, but as the men are nearly all at the breastworks no casualties have occurred from these stray shots.

We can hold Port Hudson as long as our supplies hold out. We have enough to last us five or six w[???]ess yet, and by that time we will certainly be reinforced by Gen. Johston.

I do not know anything of the situation of affairs in any portion of the Confederacy; but I firmly believe that our situation is surely known, and that we will be rescued. Be it as it may, we will fight on and hope on, and if at last we should be overpowered we will cheerfully submit to our great misfortune -- satisfied that Gen. Gardiner and his little Spartan band have done all that determined hearts could do, and that the defenders of Port Hudson will receive the "well done" plaudits of their countrymen. No place during this struggle has been besieged as Port Hudson has, and now is; still the army is in good spirits, and hope for the best, and will fight to the last. We have a good deal of sickness in the regiment, mostly chills and fever, but the general health is improving.

Our entire loss thus far has been about 400 in all. The following is a list of the casualties in the First Alabama: Killed, 32; wounded, 44. Total, 76, up to June 10, 1863.

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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