Published in the New York Times on August 8, 1863:
The Capture of Brashear City by the Rebels The Ironsides Regiment.
To the Editor of the New-York Times:
As various statements have reached home concerning the capture of Brashear City and the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth New-York State Volunteers, known as the "Ironsides," and as it is desirable that our friends should learn the truth, I will endeavor to give you a sketch of the whole affair.
Our regiment encamped at Brashear City on the 1st of June; two companies (A and F) were sent to Fort Buchanan, at the head of Berwick Bay, about two miles from the town; another (I) was sent down to Fort Chene, at the mouth of Bayou Chene, a small bayou running into the Atchafalaya River, about twelve miles below Brashear; Company K was left at Terre Bonne in charge of the stockade, and a portion Company D remained at Thibodaux, under command of the Captain on provost duty. Hence it will be teen that we had at headquarters but five fall companies and a portion of a sixth. While we remained at Brashear we made frequent scouts across Berwick Bay and up the Teche, but without teeing any considerable force of the enemy. At a result or this arduous duty many of the officers and men fell sick, to that not more than one half of the force were actually on duty. Rumors, of the approach of the enemy, under Gens. Mouton and Dick Taylor, were frequent, but no definite information being given, they were not credited.On the morning of June 20, an attack being apprehended at La Fourche, all the available force not sick or on duty left Brashear City for that piece. One battalion numbered 120 men and eight officers, under command of Maj. Morgans; the Twenty-third Connecticut took some 80 men, under the Major, and a company of about 40 men of the Forty-second Massachusetts. When we reached La Fourche, we found about one hundred men of the Twenty-third Connecticut stationed there. Hearing nothing of the enemy, we were about to return to Brashear in the afternoon, when a courier dashed in, reporting their approach.
They captured Thibodeaux and a portion of our force there, which only numbered about 100 in all -- mostly convalescents. The remainder came safely to La Fourche Crossing, closely pursued by the enemy, who were mounted. Our artillery opened upon them and drove them off, with a loss of two killed and several wounded. An extra train was then tent to Terre Bonne for Company K of our regiment. Just before it reached there, some fifty of the enemy approached under a flag of truce. Lieut. Lyons went out to meet them. During his parley the train arrived, and the Company embarked, seeing which the enemy made' the Lieutenant prisoner, and charged on the 'train, which moved off, and reached La Fourche in safety. This made an accession of twenty-five men to our force. No further demonstrations were made that night. We remained under arms. The rebels were reported as numbering 3,000 men. The next morning we received reinforcements of two companies of the Twenty-sixth Massachusetts, We were underarms all day. At 10 o'clock it commenced raining and continued all that day and night. Our scouts reported the enemy's approach late in the afternoon. The attack was made about 6 1/2 o'clock, just before dark, the enemy advancing through the weeds on our front and endeavoring to turn our right flank. Our line of battle was formed with the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth New-York on the right, supporting one 12-pounder field piece, one company of the Twenty-fifth Connecticut and Twenty-sixth Massachusetts in centre, and Twenty-third Connecticut on the left, at each of which points a piece was planted. The balance of the artillery, 3 pieces, were posted on the railroad bridge -- the Forty-second Massachusetts in reserve. As regards the action itself, I can only speak from personal knowledge of that portion in which the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth regiment was encased, and the right flank, which was held by a company of the Twenty-third Connecticut. The heaviest fire was on the right, where we were engaged. We drew their first and second fires, and then fired from rank at close range, the enemy being not more than three rods distant. This fire proved very destructive and broke them, but rallying, they renewed the fire; but our rapid volleys proved too much for them, and they fled.
The action lasted about an hour; the force engaged on our side did not exceed 225 men, that of the enemy was 500 infantry, with 200 cavalry in reserve who did not take an active part. The enemy's loss was, to our certain knowledge, 68 killed and 70 wounded, including Col. Dixon and Lieut.-Col. Walker, of the Second Texas Mounted Rifles, who were both badly wounded. We have reason to believe that a much larger number of the enemy were wounded than they acknowledged at the time. Our loss was 7 killed and 32 wounded, including two killed and 15 wounded from the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth. Our force being worn out with exhaustion and fatigue, and uncertain as to the number of the enemy, did not attempt to pursue them. A word or two concerning the conduct of the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth, while under fire: Although it was the first time they had been in action, not a man flinched, but all stood like veterans. Our Ma[???]e, MORGAN MORGANS, Jr., distinguished himself by his gallantry and bravery. This was his first fight, vet his orders were delivered as coolly as if drilling the battalion; receiving no orders, he fought as long as there was a rebel to be shot at.
On Monday reinforcements arrived, under Col. Cahill, consisting of the Ninth Connecticut and the Fifteenth Maine. On Tuesday the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth New-York and the Fifteenth Maine, with a section of artillery and a company of cavalry, advanced to Thibodeaux, and found the enemy had left the night previous for Brashear City. Our battalion remained at Thibodeaux till Wednesday, when, receiving intelligence of the approach of a large body of the enemy, we fell back to La Fourche, from whence the entire force fell back to Boutte Station. Our battalion was sent to New-Orleans, where we first heard of the capture of Brashear.
On the arrival of the men who had been paroled we learned the full particulars. It seems that Lieut. Col. Duganne left Brashear with all the force, infantry and artillery, be could get together, on Sunday, June 21st, and cams down to Bayou Boeuf Station with about 300 men. The enemy made some offensive demonstrations to attract attention, meanwhile crossing a portion of their force in sugar coolers and piroques, at the head of Bayou Boeuf, whence they went up to Brashear City. At four o'clock on Tuesday moraine, June 23, the enemy opened upon Brashear from across the bay with a battery of ten or twelve pieces; heavy firing was continued for several hours, attracting the attention of the few men there, who were, with few exceptions, sick and convalescents, when suddenly the Confederate yell was heard in the rear, and a force of about three hundred was discovered close at hand. There being no leader, the men fought in little squads for a short time, but were overpowered by numbers. Our gallant Colonel, Charles C. Holt, who had been sick for nearly three months, mounted his horse to endeavor to rally the men, but fell twice. A colored company of the Second regiment Ullman's brigade made a good stand, but were cut to pieces, and, I understand, alt killed -- the last seen of them, their Commander stood with a few men about him, fighting desperately. The Provost-Guard, some 12 men under Lieut. L.W. Stevenson, also did well; the Lieutenant and three of the men were wounded. It is currently reported that the commanding officer of the post. Major Anthony, of the Second Rhode Island cavalry, did nothing to rally the men or to defend the place in the least.
After the surrender, the enemy sent a portion of their force to attack Bayou Boeuf in the rear, and on Wednesday morning, Lieut.-Col. Duganne, finding himself completely surrounded, and believing resistance to be useless, surrendered. Unfortunately, in the haste of leaving Brashear on Saturday, the regimental colors were not taken, and were consequently captured by the enemy.
The only officers of the regiment not captured were Maj. M. Horgans, Jr., Capts. Homer, Terry, Barbor and Johnson, Adjt. Edsall, Lieuts. Irving, Landers, Kehr, Goodsell, West, Stephenson and Weed, These were all with the battalion at La Lourche, with the exception of Capt. Johnson, who was sick in New-Orleans.
The paroled prisoners report that the officers and men were treated with great kindness by the Texans who would share their rations with them, but that while they were guarded by the Louisiana troops their treatment was severe. T.
The below article appeared in the Goshen Democrat (posted at the New York State Military Museum):
The Ironsides Regiment.As a portion of this regiment is composed of men from this vicinity (who enlisted under Colonel Wood and were subsequently consolidated with the Ironsides), the following letter, which we find in the Goshen Democrat, will prove of interest:NEW ORLEANS, LA., JUNE, 26, 1863.FRIEND T____ :Having fulfilled the promise of writing to all my near friends, I will occupy a few spare moments I have in writing you a short letter.
Well, the Ironsides Regiment is laid on the shelf for the present, as far as active duty is concerned. There remains but about one hundred and forty members for duty, the remainder being taken prisoners with our Colonel and Lieutenant-Colonel. The regiment has been at Brashear City for the past month, skirmishing daily with the enemy across the bay and up the Teche country.
Last Saturday morning we received a dispatch from Thibodeaux, that a large cavalry force had got in the rear of us and marching on that place, hereupon a detachment of the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth was ordered to take the cars to Lafourche Crossing, distant from Thibodeaux four miles, and from Brashear City twenty-five. We arrived at Lafourche in due time and found everything quiet, remained until night when we were ordered to return. Just then in came a courier, stating that fifteen hundred mounted Rebels were within two miles of Thibodeaux. We accordingly began preparing for them. Their advance guard rode in town, capturing some twelve of our company, who were on foot, and one company of the Twelfth Maine.
Our Captain, who was mounted, escaped with some others, and came into camp closely pursued by the Rebels. They rode to within thirty rods of our lines, when we sent a shell from a 12-pound howitzer among them, dismounting about half a dozen of them, when they retreated back toward Thiboudeaux. Nothing more was heard from them except picket firing until the next night, when they advanced under a drenching rain, driving our pickets before them. We were formed in a line of battle, our left resting on the bank of the bayou, our regiment in the centre, a 12-pounder on each flank, supported by a company each, of the Twenty-Third Connecticut, and a rifled piece in the centre.
They opened first with canister from a piece they had concealed behind a distant sugar house, but we silenced it after firing three rounds. They then charged with a yell through the thich [sic] weeds, in front, firing at the same time. Our boys did not fire until their line was within thirty feet of ours when we opened on them with a murderous fire and it cheeked them immediately. They rallied and charged again on the left flank, getting one of our guns in their possession, but only for a moment.—One Rebel Lieutenant layed [sic] his pistol across it and demanded the surrender of the piece, when he was picked up instantly on at least six bayonets. Three others met the same fate, and seeing they could not break our lines they fell back in the darkness, evidently not well satisfied with their evening's entertainment.
The groans of their wounded were terrible. They lost eighty killed and one hundred wounded. Nearly all fell within fifty feet of our lines. We lost ten killed and twenty wounded. We took about thirty prisoners. It was the Second Texas that charged on us; they were three hundred and fifty strong, while we had but two hundred and twenty-five engaged in the fight. They fought desperately and bravely, but they could not break our lines, our boys never give way one foot, but stood and fought like veterans. We had only one hundred and ten of our regiment engaged. They say it is the first time they were ever whipped, and indeed they were as fine looking men as I ever saw. They were with Price in Missouri and Arkansas, and at the taking of the Harriet Lane.
The next day we went in force to Thibodeaux, but they had retreated and left their Lieutenant-Colonel there badly wounded; the Colonel was wounded in the arm and leg, but escaped with them. We killed two Captains and four Lieutenants outright. Our company had seventeen men in the fight, including the Second Lieutenant, and we had six wounded. I myself had a very narrow escape. I was capping my gun, with my head slightly bent, when a bullet grazed my temple and cheek, leaving a mark as it went and striking the button on my shoulder and cut the cloth strap nearly off. It turned my head around for a few moments.
Old John Finley has sustained his reputation as a marksman. Being out on picket, three Rebels rode by at some distance off, when he fired, bringing one of them to the ground. Our Adjutant, T. Henry Edsall, is a very brave and skillful soldier. He was in the thickest of the fight with a rifle in his hand, but he over-exerted himself and was carried to the rear before the firing ceased. The day after the battle, a negro came riding in, stating that seven thousand Rebels were advancing on us, which we soon found out to be true. Not having one third of their force we began retreating, burning bridges behind us as we went. We arrived opposite New Orleans the next night, and there learned that our Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel and the remainder of the regiment had been captured, with all our knapsacks, but heard no particulars of the battle. We have not had a blanket to lay on for the past week, and it has rained near all the time. We are staying at present on a race course, about four miles above New Orleans. The Rebels now occupy the country between Oppelousas and New Orleans. Magruder is in the state with about 15,000 men, but Banks will take care of him, if things go right at Port Hudson, and no doubt they will, as the news from there yesterday was very favorable. If we ever do get back in the Lafourche country again, we will lay waste everything. The very planters whose property we protected, and even supplied them with guards, fired on us on our retreat.Mr. Alexander Ross, formerly of Goshen, was doing a fine mercantile business at Thibodeaux. He was absent at the city at the time, and being the only Union merchant in the place, his store was pointed out instantly to the Rebels, who entirely emptied it of its contents. But I must close. Give my respects to all the friends and answer soon.
Yours, HARRY GORDON,Acting orderly, Co. D., 176th Regiment, N. Y. V.P. S.—I send you a list of our wounded of company D, which I wish you would have the Democrat publish for the benefit of their friends.Corporal A. Nelson Smith, of Chester, mortally, in the groin, now in the hands of the Rebels. Privates.—J. E. Redner, Chester, through the wrist; William H. H. Hall, Chester, legs off, prisoner; George Slauson, Monroe, leg, prisoner; Edwin Sanders, New York, hip, prisoner; Richard Shortall, New York, in shoulder.Sergt. S. K. Wood, Newburgh, accidentally, jaw.