John McGrath began his military career as a Sergeant in the Delta Rifles of the 4th Louisiana Regiment. We have several of his accounts posted at Louisiana Civil War documenting his role in the 4th Louisiana. McGrath also took the time to write the New Orleans Picayune and include a brief write up of his early days in 13th Louisiana. He actually focuses his attention on joining "Avegno's Zouaves" as a Lieutenant. The six companies of the Governor Guards' Battalion ("Avegno's Zouaves") combined with four independent companies to form the 13th Louisiana in September of 1861.
After a month or more spent between the banks of Beaver creek and the river Tangipahoa orders came to proceed to
Soon after receipt of orders a reign of busy activity began. Tents were taken down, trunks packed, blankets rolled and the regiment aligned along the railroad track to await the train. Every officer had one trunk at least at
The train to carry the regiment and its belongings came snorting along about in the morning, and as soon as filled with men and camp equipage was off for the
After a few hours' travel, the train pulled into the old Jackson Railroad Depot, where an unusually animated scene presented itself. The surroundings were black with a dense mass of humanity. It was a bright Sunday morning, and fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sweethearts, and throngs of persons drawn hither by simple curiosity, or it may be, moved by patriotic impulses, arrayed in holiday garb, packed the depot until it was well-nigh impossible to alight from the cars or to form companies. 
Nine-tenths of the men of the 13th were from New Orleans, mechanics, screwmen, longshoremen, sailors, barbers, cooks, and, in fact, men of all trades and callings, some with parents, sisters and brothers, others with wives and children, and all with scores of friends, and it seemed this Sunday morning as if neither relatives or friends were absent—as if the last one was crowding in upon the cars as the train stopped. Nor was that the worst, for it seemed that every wife, mother or sister in the mob expected her soldier boy to accompany her home for the day. ‘Oh, Captain, for the love of God, let Patrick go home with me. I have a good dinner cooked for him, and he'll be in camp to-night. Oh, do, Captain; maybe I'll never see my boy again,’ importuned an old Irish mother. ‘Impossible, madam, strict orders to keep the men in ranks,’ was the reply. ‘Mon Dieu, Lieutenant! let my lila garcon, Jules, go my'ouse. His petitesis-tar seek. Come back queek,’ said another. ‘Impossible, madam..’ But Patrick slipped, and Mike followed; Jules dodged through the pressing crowd, and Pierre also. Of course, in such a crowd of admiring patriots, with hearts overflowing with patriotism, whiskey was slipped to the boys going off to fight the battles of the country, and the liquor soon began to tell, so by the time the march began many of the soldiers were decidedly groggy. Nevertheless enough sober and slightly intoxicated men remained with the colors to present a fine appearance as we bravely marched through
It was a long march from where the old
The longest march comes to an end at last, and so did ours, and we arrived at
Oh, there is not a trade a-going,
Worth the knowing or the showing
Like that from glory growing,
Says the bold soldier boy.
Nothing in the way of soldiering could have been more pleasant or agreeable than life at
We were at Camp Chalmette some five or six weeks, and began to think the Secretary of War was ignorant of our existence or that he had a sufficient number of soldiers without us to whip all the Yankees this side of the Kennebec river, when orders came to strike tents and go by steamer to Columbus, Ky., where a Confederate army was then forming. Within five minutes after receipt of this order there was a hurrying and scurrying to and fro, such as was never before witnessed in the 13th. Striking tents, packing knapsacks,  filling haversacks and loading wagons to take our plunder to the steamer Morrison, which arrived almost simultaneously with the order to move. The news of our early departure had spread uptown before the soldiers themselves were made aware of it, thanks to the energy of newspaper reporters, and it was not long before, what appeared to be, a big half of the city's population was on the ground. Wives, mothers, sisters, sweethearts, with weeping eyes and saddened hearts, clinging to their loved ones, could be seen on every hand, and even those who were from other portions of the State were made serious and depressed by the sorrowful lamentations of the weeping women.
The last load of camp equipage had been sent to the river and only the stacks of arms and uniformed soldiers were left to mark the spot where our home had been for weeks, when loud above the hum of conversation and crying of women a bugle was heard sounding the assembly, followed by the short, sharp commands of ‘Fall in! Fall in!’ With a great cheer the men fell into their respective places, were brought to ‘Attention.’ ‘Take arms,’ ‘Carry arms,’ ‘Right face,’ ‘Forward march,’ quickly followed, the band struck up ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me,’ and the regiment marched gayly to the river, followed by the multitude of civilians, men and women, waving handkerchiefs and wishing Godspeed to those about to enter actively upon a war of four years duration, and which left only poverty, desolation and misery in its wake.
Weep, mothers, weep; weep, heartbroken wife; weep, gentle sister, for you are perhaps parting forever from your loved ones. Were you gifted with prophetic vision whereby you could penetrate the dark war-clouds of the future, you might see many of the dear ones now marching so bravely and proudly aboard the majestic steamer, lying stark and cold in death, on bloody shot-torn fields, or dying in fever-infected hospitals, with nothing but strangers to wipe the death-damp from their brows, or to utter a prayer for their soul's repose. Soldiers, take a last lingering look at your
“I wish I had a gurl to cry for me; but the devil a wun cares whether I go or stay,” said a brawny young Irishman, as he looked on at the parting of other soldiers from those they held dearest in life.
‘A gurl to cry for ye, do you? Maybe ye'd like to have a wife  and two childer, like McMahon, over there, to be clinging to ye and begging ye not to lave'em. Be me soul, I'm glad I've no wun. If I get kilt me people will never know what became of me, and the only monument I'll get will be an entry on the Company books— Killed in battle, Mike Morrisy—and that's not me thrue name, at that.’
All aboard! The pilot has signaled the engineer, the shrill whistle gives warning that all is in readiness, the hawser is cast loose and the palatial steamer gracefully swings out into the stream. Nine hundred soldiers, five or six hundred of whom wore brilliant red caps and baggy trousers, cover the forecastle, the main upper deck and every spot available, except the cabin, which is reserved for the forty-five officers. A pretty picture was the majestic steamer, with its living cargo, as the gold lace and red and blue colors of the uniforms flashed in the evening sunlight, to elicit thunders of applause from immense crowds at points of vantage all along the city's front. Cannon saluted the departing soldiers as the boat passed the barracks; bells tolled out their sad farewells, and steam whistles shrieked shrilly and wildly. When the boat reached the upper limits of the city I noticed that every eye was turned cityward, and every face saddened at the thought of leaving home and friends. Ah, soldiers, take a long farewell look at your beloved
Well, we are off at last. Off to where battles are being fought and where heroes are developed, and every officer and enlisted man in the Thirteenth is eager and anxious to participate in the fray. The all-absorbing desire is to reach a battlefield before the war closes. ‘It cannot possibly last longer than six months,’ say the wise ones. ‘Were not Mason and
Comfortably seated in an armchair, inditing these crude reminiscences forty-two years after, it appears strange and unreasonable that young men are ever ready to leave the comforts of home life to go where chances of early sepulcher are great, limbless bodies abundant, and at the best only hardships and suffering are to be found. So it was, is and always will be.
Readers of these sketches must expect quite a number of twists in the thread of my story. I am not writing a history of the 13th, but my own experience, as a soldier ‘in a
Now that we are afoot and fairly on our way, it might be well to furnish a roster of the regiment, which was as follows:
Randall Gibson, Colonel; Aristide Gerard, Lieutenant-Colonel; Anatole P. Avegno, Major;——King, Adjutant.
First Company, Governor's Guards—Auguste Cassard, Captain; Charles Richard, First Lieutenant; Victor Mossy, Second Lieutenant; Victor Olivier, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Second Company, Governor's Guards—J. Fremaux, Captain; B. Bennett, First Lieutenant; C. H. Luzenburg, Second Lieutenant; Charles Hepburn, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Third Company, Governor's Guards—Bernard Avegno, Captain; St. Leon Deetez, First Lieutenant; Henry Castillo, Second Lieutenant; Eugene Lagarique, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Fourth Company, Governor's Guards—M. O. Tracey, Captain; Hugh H. Bein, First Lieutenant; Eugene Blasco; Second Lieutenant; George W. Boylon, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Fifth Company, Governor's Guards-Lee Campbell, Captain; John M. King, First Lieutenant; J. B. Sallaude, Second Lieutenant; Norman Story, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Sixth Company, Governor's Guards—W. Dubroca, Captain; John McGrath, First Lieutenant; A. M. Dubroca, Second Lieutenant; Robert Cade, Junior Second Lieutenant.
St. Mary Volunteers—Thomas G. Wilson, Captain; James Murphy, First Lieutenant; H. H. Strawbridge, Second Lieutenant; Adolph Dumartrait, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Gladden Rifles—William A. Metcalf, Captain; John W. Labuisse, First Lieutenant; Walter V. Crouch, Second Lieutenant; E. B. Musgrove, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Southern Celts—Stephen O'Leary, Captain; John Daly, First Lieutenant; E. J. Connolly, Second Lieutenant; John Dooley, Junior Second Lieutenant.
Norton Guards—George W. Norton, Captain; M. Hunly, First Lieutenant; A. S. Stuart, Second Lieutenant; George Cammack, Junior Second Lieutenant.
J. M. Parker, Sergeant Major.
Colonel Gibson, a graduate of Yale, wealthy, refined and polished by travel and association with the most famous men of the day, served as Colonel or Brigade Commander from the firing of the first gun until the battle-torn and stained flags of the regiments were  furled for the last time, and never missed a battle or skirmish in which his command was engaged, and these numbered one hundred or more. In my opinion, Gibson was not what one might call a great commander, but that he was a brave and faithful one his splendid record bears testimony. He was a good soldier, if not a military genius.
Lieutenant-Colonel Gerard was a Frenchman by birth and a soldier by profession. He was a master of the science of war, and brave to a degree of rashness. Arriving in
Major Avegno was a Creole of Louisiana, educated, refined and wealthy. His service was also short, as he fell mortally wounded on the second day at
Adjutant King, at the breaking out of the war, was a second lieutenant in the United States Army, resigning to take service with the Confederacy. He was a thorough soldier, and to him in a great measure was due the fine discipline and perfect drill which were always characteristic of the regiment.
At one of the landings made by the boat it was learned that a battle had been fought at Belmont, opposite Columbus, and that the Yankees had been defeated with great loss and had returned to Cairo pell-mell, and that, too, without the presence of the 13th. Thus, thought we, faded the only opportunity of ever facing the enemy. Defeated at
About evening of the sixth day the journey ended.
At last the 13th was at the front.