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.

Monday, January 26, 2015

176th New York in Louisiana, Part 1

The 176th New York Infantry "Ironsides" Regiment served in Louisiana from January 1863 to July of 1864. Found several news articles on the "Ironsides" that provide detailed accounts of its role in Louisiana in several of its campaigns.

A brief account of the 176th New York in Louisiana is drawn from The Union army: a history of military affairs in the loyal states, 1861-65 -- records of the regiments in the Union army -- cyclopedia of battles -- memoirs of commanders and soldiers. Madison, WI: Federal Pub. Co., 1908. volume II.

"It left the state under command of Col. Nott on Jan. 11, 1863, and embarked on transports for New Orleans. On its arrival it was stationed in the defenses of New Orleans for several weeks and was attached to Augur's division of the 19th corps, when that corps was organized. It formed part of the garrison of New Orleans during the siege of Port Hudson, and took an active part in repelling the advance of the enemy under Gen. Taylor. During June, 1863, detachments of the regiment participated in the skirmishes at Pat-tersonville, La Fourche crossing, Thibodeaux, Fort Buchanan, Bayou Boeuff and Brashier City. In the action at La Fourche crossing, the regiment was commanded by Maj. Morgan and behaved most gallantly; in the actions at Fort Buchanan, on the Atchafalaya, and at Brashear City, the regiment met with serious disaster, over 400 men being captured. This disaster was not due to lack of bravery on the part of the men. There was no one in command, but the men fought with all the bravery that could be expected. The loss of the regiment in the above actions amounted to 464 killed, wounded and captured or missing. In the spring of 1864, attached to the 3d brigade, Grover's division, 19th corps, it took part in Banks' Red River campaign, being engaged at Mansura and Simsport. In July it returned to Virginia..."

This following newspaper article is posted at the New York State Military Museum - an amazing collection of Civil War material relating to New York. This letter was written from Houma, La on May 6, 1863 from the 176th New York: 

CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE SOUTHWEST.A Letter from one of the 176th Regiment.PARISH OF TERRA BONNE,HOUMA, LA., May 6th, 1863.To the Editor of the Times:Knowing the great interest you take in the affairs of our Nation, and supposing that it would be interesting to you to receive & few lines from the Pelican State, I will give you a brief history of my experience since I left home. You will remember that I was left behind lame when the Ironside Regiment sailed for New Orleans. As soon as I was able I came on in the ship West Point, and when I reached New Orleans I was sent by mistake to Baton Rouge, where my regiment was at the time supposed to be. I arrived there soon enough to be a distant spectator of the night bombardment of Port Hudson, and to witness the destruction of the frigate Mississippi. While on the way up the River, and at the city of Baton Rouge and vicinity, I had a good chance to become acquainted with the real condition of national affairs in this State. The whole country has resting upon it the gloom of political death, for the few white people that still remain here are mostly the aged, the widows, children, and the infirm. Scarcely a healthy white man seen, and the few pretended loyal people remaining have a dishonest hang-dog look, that stamps them as villains [sic], hypocrites, and traitors, as soon as you see them. The only real friends the soldier finds here are the poor contrabands, who, deserted by their masters, to starve in the hour of danger, are in the fullness of their grateful hearts ever ready to help us. I thought, with a great many other's, that the Emancipation Proclamation would only increase the troubles of the country and be of no material benefit. But I am glad to find that the Copperheaded idea is erroneous in every particular. The colored men of this State enlist very willingly. There are now five regiments. They learn fast, take a great interest in doing their duty, and do not manifest as brutal and as savage a disposition toward their former masters as our peace Democrats and Copperhead traitors have predicted. I find the colored men a far more intelligent race than I supposed. Brought up as they have been, they would in most cases, if left to themselves, have before now devastated this entire section of country, and would have spread terror on every side. But either led by the hand of God, or possessed of a full knowledge of the position of affairs, they seem to assimilate themselves with the new order of things. They grasp eagerly after knowledge. The primmer is seen in the hand of the colored soldier and he learns his A, B, C's at the same time that he does his military evolutions. Here there is a great field for men who have true American hearts to benefit themselves, their country, and at the same time elevate a long down-trodden and oppressed race. I never before felt how really this is a war of freedom. But it surely is not only to the Blacks, but also to the Whites, for the spirit that influences the slaveholder has no feeling in common with his fellow man. It has been truly said of it that it is the sum of human villany [sic]. I could fill a quire of paper, had I the time, with cases of outrage of the most terrible character, and each of which could be verified in this parish of Terre Bonne. But it is useless to add to already existing proof. Let the political grave in which this beautiful country will soon be buried cover its crimes; a glorious resurrection awaits it.  
After I left Baton Rouge, I came out to this parish, where I found our regiment on the New Orleans and Opelousas Railroad, under General Weitzel. We were soon ordered to Berwick's Bay, opposite Brasher City. Our forces were found to be too weak to hold the position, as the rebels observing General Banks advancing on Port Hudson, prepared to attack Berwick and retake the railroad. Weitzel fell back with two companies of the Ironsides and covered the retreat for 48 hours. One of our reconnoitering parties, returned with the gunboat Diana, and was captured. General Banks immediately moved his whole force from Baton Rouge, passed rapidly to Berwick Bay, crossed over towards Bayou Teche, and in a series of engagements during the past three weeks has defeated and driven the Rebels 150 miles, recaptured the Diana, Queen of the West, and destroyed the Rebel fleet on the Atchafalaya. He also captured 2,000 Rebels, and thousands of horses, mules, cattle, cotton bales, sugar, etc., and destroyed important salt works. To-day we hear the retreating Rebels have made a stand at Washington, La., where they are being reinforced from Texas. If so, reinforcements must be sent to Banks, for we have to hold all the important places taken, which spreads our forces over a great extent of country. A desperate conflict, I think, will take place soon, somewhere on the route to Texas, as the Rebels will suffer more from the loss of supplies from that direction than they would from the loss of Richmond or Charleston at the present time. But after another grain harvest in the States east of the Mississippi, Texas would be of less value to them, as they could get supplies from there. At present those States have nothing to spare. 
Our regiment now does the Provost duty over a large extent of country, holding confiscated plantations, guarding the Blacks at work on them, scouting the country to prevent the operations of guerrillas, enforcing the laws of the United States, etc. The mail closes. I will write more fully and take time to inform you of passing events. Yours, respectfully, The Ironsides Regiment.

Monday, January 19, 2015

31st Massachusetts in Teche & Port Hudson Campaigns

Found a blog on the 31st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in which the author put together a nice write up on the 31st Massachusetts in the Teche and Port Hudson Campaigns. Follow the link to read about this regiment's role from March - early July of 1863 in Louisiana. This website was formed after a large number of 31st Massachusetts primary material was discovered at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

Below is a brief history of the 31st Massachusetts:

 The 31st Regt. Mass. Vol. Inf. was raised by Gen. Butler in the fall of 1861 and early part of the winter following. It was first known as the Western Bay State Regiment. It was organized at Camp Seward, Pittsfield, and its members were mustered into service mostly during November and December. A contention having arisen between Governor Andrew and Gen. Butler over the latter's authority to raise troops in Massachusetts, the 31st was at first in charge of Acting Lieut. Col. Charles M. Whelden of Pittsfield. About Feb. 1, 1862, the regiment was transferred to Camp Chase, Lowell, and on the 20th it embarked for the seat of war. After delays at Fort Monroe and Port Royal, on March 23 it reached Ship Island in the Gulf of Mexico. The questions in dispute between Governor Andrew and Gen. Butler having been settled, Oliver P. Gooding, formerly first lieutenant in the 10th U. S. Inf., was commissioned colonel to date from Feb. 8, and most of the other field and staff and line officers were commissioned to date from Feb. 20. The regiment was now officially known as the 31st Mass., and was assigned to Gen, Thomas Williams' (2d) Brigade.
     After the fall of Forts Jackson and St. Philip it was sent to New Orleans where it was the first regiment to land. During the summer and fall it did guard and provost duty at New Orleans and the forts. With the organization of the 19th Corps in January, 1863, seven companies of the 31st became a part of the 3d Brigade, 3d Division, the three other companies being stationed at Fort Pike. The main body of the regiment now joined the forces at Baton Rouge and in the middle of March cooperated with the fleet in its passage of the batteries at Port Hudson.
     It now proceeded to Algiers and joined the Teche expedition, Col. Gooding being in command of the brigade. It was engaged with loss at Fort Bisland, April 13, then advanced through Opelousas to Alexandria on the Red River. Returning thence via Simsport and Bayou Sara to Port Hudson it was present during the siege, losing 64 men mostly in the assault of the 14th of June, 18 being killed or mortally wounded. After the formal surrender, July 9, it accompanied Gen. Weitzel's expedition to Donaldsonville, returning to Baton Rouge, Sept. 2. On the 9th it was rejoined by the three companies from Fort Pike, and now became a part of the 2d Brigade, I at Division.
     In December, 1863, the 31st was armed and equipped as cavalry and stationed at Carrollton, being commonly known as the 6th Mass. Cav. During the winter 330 men re-enlisted and were re-mustered Feb. 23. The regiment now formed a part of the 4th Cavalry Brigade under Col. N. A. M. Dudley.
     Feb. 9, 1864, it crossed the Mississippi to Algiers and proceeded up the Mississippi to Donaldsonville, thence via La Fourche Bayou to Thibodeau. Turning west and northwest it followed its old route of April and May, 1862, through Opelousas to Alexandria on the Red River, reaching the latter place March 20. Advancing from here up the Red River toward Shreveport, on April 8 it met the enemy at Sabine Cross Roads above Natch- itoches, where the main Union force was defeated, the 31st losing 62, of whom 11 were killed or mortally wounded.
     Retreating southward it was engaged with low at Cane River, Hudnot's Plantation, Moore's Plantation, and elsewhere in the neighborhood of Alexandria. Diverging toward Simsport it was engaged at Yellow Bayou just north of that city May 18, losing 32 men of whom nearly half were killed or mortally wounded.
     Arriving at Simsport on the 19th, three days later the regiment reached Morganzia on the Mississippi. On July 3 the regiment returned to Algiers, the re- enlisted men proceeding thence to Cairo and homeward to Massachusetts on veteran furloughs, starting from Algiers July 21, and returning September 19. Before leaving for home they turned in their horses, but on their return they were again equipped as cavalry. They were then stationed opposite Donaldsonville to keep down the guerrilla bands, and were later engaged in the operations against Mobile, Ala., occupying that city after its surrender until the close of the regiment's service.
     It was mustered out Sept. 9, 1865, transported to New Orleans, and from there sent to Massachusetts. Boston Harbor was reached Sept. 24, and on the 30th the regiment, since February only a battalion of five companies, was paid off and discharged.

Monday, January 12, 2015

91st New York in the Teche Campaign

In March of 1863, Nathaniel Banks began moving the balance of his army toward Brashear City (modern day Morgan City) to march through the Teche-Opelousas region. The goal of this movement was to flank the Confederate bastion of Port Hudson which sat just north of Baton Rouge. Below is the account of the 91st New York Infantry Regiment from April 7 - May 1, 1863. This accounts for the regiments movements from Bayou Boeuf to the town of Washington, just  a few miles north of Opelousas.

Itinerary of the 91st New York March-May 1, 1863:

Duty at Baton Rouge, La., until March, 1863.
Operations against Port Hudson March 7-27. 
Moved to Donaldsonville March 26, thence to Brashear City.
Operations in Western Louisiana April 9-May 14
Teche Campaign - Fort Bisland April 11-20 
Madam Porter's and McWilliams' Plantations at Indian Bend April 13 
Irish Bend April 14 
Vermillion Bayou April 17 
Opelousas April 20

Letter from the 91st New York Infantry Regiment

Graphic Account of an Expedition in which the 91st (Albany) Regiment took part.

Saturday, May 2d, 1863.
My Dear Mother—
Our regiment left Bayou Boeuf about the 7th or 8th of April, for Brashear City, some 10 miles, on foot, arriving about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The city, so called, is about as large as our Greenbush; but the amount of business in peaceable times is immense. It is situated on Berwick Bay, capable of floating the largest vessels, and also connects with New Orleans by railroad, and a railroad graded to Opelousas. 
On the afternoon of Saturday, April 11th, our division were put aboard gunboats, steamboats, and steamers of various kinds—the 91st Regiment taking the steamer "John C. Calhoun," a vessel taken from the rebels. The vessel had on board three of the heaviest guns, besides a crew that were willing to do duty in any case. On Sunday morning [April 12th], being all ready, we steamed up Grand Lake, somewhat cautious, and came opposite Indian Landing, where we laid-to until morning, when all hands landed as orderly as possible.
The 6th Regiment and 1st Louisiana went on shore, and were met by some rebel cavalry, but finally drove them into a sugar house, where our artillery gave them some shells, which sent them on a "right smart" run into the woods, where we left them for the night.

The 91st were stationed at the road, and opposite the residence of Madam Porter, an old secession lady, but as we were not on women, we left her to her own fate, taking, however, a considerable number of wagons and mules, and all the negroes disposed to go.

I will mention that when the "rebs" left, they undertook to burn the bridge, and the "darks," for once, done us good service by putting it out. The 91st laid here till dark, when they were ordered to cross the bridge, which was done in good order; and all hands took a sleep for the night.

Tuesday morning, April 14th, the troops were again on the march, shortly after daylight, without even coffee or crackers, and marched up the road, opposite to a sugar-cane brake, where the artillery and 13th Conn. were engaged with the enemy on one end of the field on the edge of the woods, and the 26th Maine and 159th New York more in the centre and on the right. These two last regiments were getting cut to pieces terribly. The 159th had their Colonel wounded and Lieut. Colonel killed, and the men being thrown into confusion, were firing too high or too low; and the Maine regiment taking themselves to the drains to avoid the fire of the enemy, were of no service.

Then came our turn. Gen. Grover rode up and ordered these regiments to retreat; and I heard him say, "Send the 91st." We got the order "right flank" into the field, and then the order "front," and went up in line of battle, so that we could cover the retreating regiments, and within about forty rods of the enemy, who were perched in trees, behind fences, and in the cane brake, sending their leaden messengers at us in good style—whistling over our heads and dropping at our feet. Our whole regiment gave them two rounds of balls, which staggered them considerably. We then dropped on the ground and fired several rounds in that situation, when we up and ran for the woods, and drove them completely out, picking up their wounded and taking some prisoners. We kept the woods until the afternoon—the rebels with their gunboat "Diana" shelling us—while they retreated over the bayou, and set fire to their gunboat and let her drift down the bayou. We then started out after them again, and came to a sugar house on a large plantation, the owner of which had left with his rebel friends, and here we went in for sugar, chickens, sheep, and everything that would satisfy the cravings of hunger.

The troops, after getting a sufficient supply, and supposing to have a good meal, were ordered back some two miles, where we started from in the morning, being obliged to leave their food behind. We encamped that night in a corn field, hungry, tired, foot-sore and reckless in regard to ourselves. About 9 o'clock we got some coffee and crackers, the first we tasted since the night, before. This was on Tuesday, April 14th.
On the morning of the 15th we were off again, and passed some of the most splendid residences to be met with anywhere; as rich a soil as I ever saw North. On each side of the road were thousands of blackberries, pears, onions and vegetables of every description. The 16th and 17th we still marched on—resting at night—and arrived on Friday evening at the Vermillion Bayou, where we had the rebels almost in our reach. Here they burnt another bridge, which stopped our further progress. They held up and gave us a slight skirmish, to make their work sure of burning the bridge.

We camped here until Sunday afternoon, the 19th. The 91st Regiment being located near a farm house, we had plenty of good water, sweet potatoes and fresh meat—one blessing, thank God. We rested here until Sunday afternoon 4 o'clock, when, the 91st being the rear guard, and the baggage crossing over, we then proceeded at almost "double quick," only resting once in 13 miles, part of the way over a prairie some eight miles in width, and at night it was almost impossible to keep the right road. 

I will mention that, Sunday afternoon, we went through a small village called Vermillion, where white flags were as thick as snow flakes, the owners of which no doubt were firing at us on Friday night. That's my belief in their friendship. All along our march we get the curses of the whites and the prayers of the blacks. I may be somewhat mistaken in regard to the whites, but I think not. The negroes are sincere. 

Monday, April 20th, we started again, chasing the "rebs" pretty close, and at 5 o'clock came within a mile of Opelousas, the capital of the "rebs" in Louisiana, where we heard that they had surrendered, and the Legislature broke up. Here we took a rest until Wednesday morning, the 22d, when we again started for Washington, passed through, and came to another bridge which they had burned; this delayed us till morning, when we were off again  at daylight—all the time at their heels; but they being better runners, kept ahead. 

Thursday night [April 23rd] we put up at a large plantation, which we took possession of, and helped ourselves to cotton, sugar, chickens, sweet potatoes and beef, and all the young "darks." 
Friday afternoon we went into another plantation, and laid up until Tuesday morning, living very well.

On Saturday [April 25th], between daylight and dark, I witnessed a sad sight—the shooting of one of the 131st Regiment for stealing from loyal citizens. 

On Tuesday morning [April 28th] we started again for Washington, and came within four miles, where we encamped until Friday morning, the 1st May, and as we were about breaking up camp, the rebels gave our cavalry some trouble, but three or four shells sent them back in the woods. The cavalry being reinforced, drove them some 11 miles back. We have traveled some 300 miles taken some 2,000 prisoners, as much as a million dollars worth of cotton, any quantity of sugar, lots of horses, mules and "darks." The army and the expedition has been as successful as possible in a strange country.

With the bright side of our doings comes the dark. Our regiment lost some three men killed and eleven wounded. Other regiments were more unfortunate, which you will see by the papers. I think after these trials no man need be ashamed of belonging to the 91st Regiment.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Louisiana Account of Sharpsburg

At the Battle of Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862, Brigadier General Harry T. Hays' First Louisiana Brigade (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 14th Louisiana Regiments) was subjected to a short, intense and bloody fight near Dunker Church. About sunrise the brigade was ordered out of the West Woods, across Hagerstown Pike, and into the clover field between the West and East Woods. This put Hays' small command of about 550 men in a cross fire from Miller's Cornfield, East Woods and supporting batteries from behind each Union location.

Below is the account of Captain Fred Richardson of Company F, 5th Louisiana Infantry as it appeared in the Memphis Daily Appeal, October 11, 1862:

Map showing Lawton's (Douglass') and Hays' Brigades engaged in the clover field between West and East Woods. 

The Memphis Daily Appeal – October 11, 1862
From the Battle-Field – Loss of Louisianians
EDITOR’S APPEAL: The following is an extract of a letter from Captain Fred Richardson of the Orleans Southrons, Company F, Fifth Louisiana Volunteers, to a friend at Arcola, La., giving the casualties of the company, and also among the officers of the regiment.  We send the extract particularly for the benefit of numerous friends of our lamented friend, Lieutenant N. A. Caufield and his brother, William, many of who are residents of our ill-fated Crescent City, hoping by some chance it may reach the afflicted parents.                                                                                                                            
Lieutenant Caufield was in Richmond at the time our regiment joined the 8th brigade under Jackson, and did not join us until after our battle at Slaughter Mountain.  He participated in the subsequent fights at Bristol, also the three days battles at Manassas and the battle of Chantilly, which followed, and was present during our advance into Maryland, and at the capture of Harper’s Ferry, again crossed the Potomac, and was killed at the battle of Sharpsburg.  The circumstances attending his death are as follows:  Our brigade was ordered into a corn-field to the support of two batteries, which were firing from either flank.  Shortly after obtaining our position, the enemy’s shells came so thick and fast that General Hays ordered us to lie down.  Our c0mpany was small, and we (the officers) laid down behind it.  William, Lieutenant Caufield’s brother, was leaning immediately in his front.  Nick was reclining on his elbow, conversing with Lieut. [James] Gubbins of our camp.  Lieutenant Fitzpatrick, of Company B, by the side of him, was struck, and Nick remarked: “Fitz, you are hit.”  Many of those surrounding us were uttering exclamations of “Oh,” etc., as they were shot, when, all at once, a shell from the enemy plunged through my poor camp, passing first through the body of Willam, then cut off the leg of John Fitzsimmons, then both feet of D[avid] Jenkins, and passed through my poor friend Nick, entering at the small of the back, coming out at the breast, tearing out and exposing his heart.  I immediately jumped up, but he was beyond the possibility of being assisted.  I advanced my face close to his and called him by name, but his eyes were fixed, and he was supporting himself on his elbow in his last throes.  Oh! the anguish I feel at the sight of my poor friend, who, a moment before, was buoyant in spirits, even whilst the leaden messengers of death were dealing destruction around us, now in the hands of his Maker, and the thought rushed fast to my mind of the feelings of his poor mother and family on hearing of the loss of her two boys, the pride of her heart.  In Lieutenant Caufield we have lost a brave and efficient officer, one idolized by our company, and beloved by the officers and men of his regiment.  By the one shot I lost three killed – Lieutenant Caufield, William Caufield and John Fitzsimmons. Beside David Jenkins, who had both of his feet cut off.  The regiment went into the fight with about one hundred men, and lost in killed and wounded 57.  Our brigade suffered terribly having but 95 men in line of battle next morning.  The loss of the brigade was more than one-half.  It consists of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 14th Infantry Louisiana Volunteers and the Louisiana Guard Artillery battery, Captain D’Aquin, (late Girardey’s).  The 7th alone lost 14 officers.  Among the killed are Colonel Strong of the 6th and the Captain of Company A of that regiment besides others.  The killed and wounded officers of the 5th Louisiana at Sharpsburg are as follows:……….
Besides the above, there are others who were wounded but not disabled, viz, Captain McGuire of company B, struck four times and knocked down twice, and myself knocked down once by a piece of shell in the shoulder. 

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