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, June 29, 2012

Captain Alfred Clarke

Below is a piece written by Henry Lee Clarke, the descendent of Captain Alfred Clarke of the 11th Louisiana and then the 13th & 20th Louisiana Regiment. I have put Mr Clarke's piece on his ancestor in its entirety. If anyone has information to share with Mr Clarke you may contact him at

Captain Alfred G. Clarke, CSA

My family has known little about my great grandfather, Alfred Clarke, other than that he was killed at Spanish Fort, Alabama, in one of the last battles of the Civil War – and that it was a disaster for his family. Recently, after visiting libraries and cemeteries in Louisiana, I have been able to fit some new data together with that contained in a small handful of family papers. Louisianians in the Western Confederacy, by Stuart Salling, added a rich context to our understanding of Alfred Clarke’s civil war service and death.

Alfred Clarke enlisted in Captain W. Barrow’s company of the 11th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry in 1861. At the time he was about 34 and living with his wife, Mary E. (Smith) Clarke, and children in Baton Rouge. He was one of 150 men selected to form Austin’s Battalion of Sharpshooters, in Adams’, later Gibson’s, Louisiana Brigade, and took part in the battles of Belmont, Shiloh and Farmington. In mid-1862 he was appointed Ordnance Sergeant. After taking part in the battles of Munfordville, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Jackson and Chickamauga, he was promoted to 2d Lieutenant in October 1863 and assigned to the 13th-20th Consolidated Regiment and fought with them at Missionary Ridge. In 1864 he was appointed Brigade Provost Marshall, promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and took part in battles at Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, New Hope Church, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Franklin, Nashville, “and all the skirmishes of the Sherman Campaign, falling at last at Spanish Fort, the last engagement in which the Brigade participated,” according to a handwritten statement of Clarke’s military record by Captain John McGrath of the 13th Louisiana Infantry, which fits closely with official records.

The situation faced by the Louisiana Brigade and other Confederate troops at Spanish Fort, Alabama, at the end of March and early April 1865 was desperate, much like the fate of the Confederacy as a whole. Some 4,150 Confederates at Spanish Fort, Fort Huger, and nearby Blakely defended the port city of Mobile on the eastern side of Mobile Bay, while some 45,000 troops under Major General Edward R.S. Canby approached by land from the south and from the northeast. Brigadier General Randall L. Gibson commanded the units defending Spanish Fort, which consisted of artillery emplacements facing Mobile Bay, about 1,500 infantry, and some incomplete earthworks intended to defend against the Union approach by land. Alfred Clarke, commanding the Louisiana Brigade Provost Guard as Provost Marshall, was newly promoted to Captain and given additional duties as commandant of the Fort.

On April 8 the Union succeeded in silencing the Confederate batteries, using 90 artillery guns and fire from the Union fleet. A Union breakthrough on the northern flank of Spanish Fort caused Gibson to pull Louisiana regiments under Colonel Francis Campbell out of their positions facing east and to counterattack, which halted the breakthrough. Captain Alfred Clarke was reported killed, leading his men at the head of the counterattack. Under covering fire by skirmishers, most of the defenders of Spanish Fort were then able to evacuate, using a small path covered with planks and moss and hidden by high grasses, through the marsh to Fort Huger. From there some went to Blakely, and the rest, including the Louisiana Brigade, took boats to Mobile provided by the Confederate commander in Mobile, Major General Dabny Maury.

The next day, April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. Six hours later, in the last major battle of the Civil War, Fort Blakely was overwhelmed by Union forces and the garrison was captured. Remaining Confederate forces under Maury withdrew from Mobile on April 12, allowing Union forces to enter without destroying the city.

On May 12, while his Louisiana Brigade was being paroled at Meridian, Mississippi, Brigadier General Randall Gibson wrote the following letter of condolence for Captain John McGrath to take to Alfred Clarke’s wife and family.

“I feel it is my duty to claim the privilege of expressing my deep sympathy with the family of Lieut. A. G. Clarke Provost Marshall of the Brigade who was killed while leading his command, in the most gallant manner, at Spanish Fort.

“I have no words which will adequately convey my sense of his worth as a soldier. He was indeed an extraordinary man. Who was more zealous? Who could have been more attentive? Who ever exhibited under hard trials more steady fortitude, more unflinching courage? What ever deterred him from performing promptly his whole duty and of exacting from his subordinates the most implicit obedience? In rain, in sunshine, in our prosperous days, in crushing disasters – he was ever the same brave, devoted, high-minded, prompt, soldier patriot. Would that there were more men like him in our unhappy land.

“Let us not forget Clarke. Let us tell his wife & children that we all admired & loved him.

“As his commanding officer, I can say he has left a rich legacy to his family – in the good services he rendered the Country -- & in his [word unclear] character as a soldier & a man. Please take this note to them.

“Yours very truly,
R.L. Gibson Brig Genl.”

Although Confederate sources, including my family, all understood that Alfred Clarke died during the battle at Spanish Fort, we now know from Union records that they found him seriously injured but alive when they captured the Fort. They shipped him to the U.S. Army General Hospital in New Orleans on April 11, where he died of his wounds on April 23. Like others from both sides who died in U.S. hospitals in New Orleans, Alfred Clarke was initially buried in Chalmette Cemetery. That cemetery includes him in a list of Confederate soldiers who were later disinterred and reburied in “other cemeteries in New Orleans.” It is possible, but I have not been able to confirm, that his remains were reburied at the Confederate Memorial in Greenwood Cemetery.

We know even less about what happened to his family. A letter from Alfred to his wife of January 1863 refers to her letter, which we do not have, reporting that she had to “skedaddle” out of Baton Rouge when the Yankees arrived there in 1862. By January 1865, when Alfred applied for leave to visit his family, they were living along the Amite River in Livingston Parish. We have no further information about Mary, or two of the children listed in the 1860 Census, Lilian L. and Alfred C., and it is possible that they did not survive the war or its aftermath. In the Census of 1870, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clarke appears as a member of John McGrath’s household in Baton Rouge, age 12, “attending school.” My grandfather, Edwin Gilding Clarke, does not appear in the Census until 1880, where he (and not Lizzie) is listed as a member of John McGrath’s household and a “nephew,” age 18.

Edwin G. Clarke married Florine Grayson Chambliss, daughter of Confederate Captain William R. Chambliss, of Company D, 4th Louisiana Cavalry, in 1905. Their only child, Edwin Lee Clarke, must have inherited some of the military aptitude of his distinguished Civil War grandfathers. Graduating from West Point in 1938, like Alfred Clarke he became an infantry officer and was an expert marksman, participating in Army rifle teams before World War II, and spending the entire war away from his family. In a most unlikely coincidence with the duties of Alfred Clarke, as a Lieutenant Colonel, Edwin L. Clarke served as Provost Marshall of the XX Corps (of Patton’s 3rd Army) throughout the invasion of France and Germany, and received a Bronze Star and other decorations. Perhaps, as Brigadier General Gibson expressed in his condolence letter, Alfred Clarke really did leave a legacy to his family, and to his country.

Henry Lee Clarke, May 5, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Young-Sanders Center Guest Speaker: Dr. Horace Beach, Ph.D.

The Young-Sanders Center will be hosting Dr. Horace Beach, Ph.D., on July 8th, Sunday at 1:30PM. Dr. Beach will be speaking on the Gunboat Diana. Below is the annoucement I received from the Young-Sanders Center's Director Roland Stansbury.

The Last Moments of the Gunboat Diana, and
Her Almost Final Resting Place
On the morning of 14 April 1863 the citizens of a small town named Franklin in St. Mary Parish Louisiana were introduced to the sounds of war. On this morning the Battle of Irish Bend also known as the Battle of Nerson’s Woods began with the frightening sound of  hundreds of Confederate muskets aimed at approaching Union forces in the sugar cane fields parallel to the Bayou Teche above Franklin. This battle was fought between Union General Nathaniel P. Banks and Confederate General Richard Taylor for the control of the Bayou Teche region. The Confederate forces under the command of General Taylor were greatly outnumbered by the Union aggressors under the command of Brigadier General Cuvier Grover. The battle was a Union victory at a cost of 353 casualties to the Union command.  The victory would have been an even greater victory for the Union army if they would have been able to conquer and capture the Confederate forces. The Gunboat Diana saved the day for the Confederate forces by giving continuous fire from her siege gun and cannons upon the Union forces. This continuous barrage of artillery fire by the gunboat Diana gave the Confederate army the opportunity to retreat from the field of battle without being immediately pursued by the Yankee army.  This valiant deed by the captain and crew of the Gunboat Diana came at a high cost in casualties. The Diana was abandoned and set on fire by the crew to prevent the vessel from falling into the enemy’s possession.
On Sunday July 8,  Horace Beach, Ph.D., will present a PowerPoint presentation about his research, The Last Moments of the Gunboat Diana, and Her Almost Final Resting Place, explaining how a psychologist in California became a gunboat Diana researcher. He will share his interest in the Diana and her last hours, and present some of his research findings and conclusions. New information will be presented, as well as speculation requiring future research and exploration.
Dr. Beach was born and raised in Texas. He earned a BA in Psychology at the University of Houston in 1990, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alameda, California in 1996. He is licensed as a Psychologist in California and New York. Today Dr. Beach lives in the Bay Area in a small town named Clayton.
Dr. Beach’s lecture will begin at 1:30 pm on Sunday July 8 at the Young-Sanders Center in Franklin, Louisiana located at 701 Teche Drive. For further information contact Roland R. Stansbury, Director at (337) 413-1861 or email us at

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