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, February 12, 2010

Louisiana Jayhawkers

"No Man's Land": The land between Opelousas and Lake Charles proved to be a difficult country for Confederate authorities. Ville Platte or "Flat Town" is highlighted because it did not appear on the origianl map. (Source: OR Atlas, Plates CLVI and CLVII).

I came across two pieces about Jayhawkers in Southwest Louisiana this week and thought I'd put them on the blog for everyone to see. I did a little more work and found that Mr. W.T. Block has done some exceptional work on this topic. Mr. Block's work focuses on Texas units and their role in the war. He has done some outstanding work on the Texas units that fought in Louisiana. This explains why he has taken an interest and done some great work on the Jayhawking of Southwest Louisiana. Basically, the area between Opelousas and Lake Charles was sparsely populated (look at the size of those parishes in 1860-they had to be drawn big for a large enough population to compose the parish). While thousand of Texas served from Alexandria to Vermillionville areas the roads between Opelousas and Texas was filled with furloughed soldiers, supply wagons, etc. The country was great, though, for deserters and pro-Unionist to operate and became a "lawless" region.

Here are two articles written by Mr. Block on Southwest Louisiana Jayhawking. Both articles are very well documented to provide you with more leads for research:

Below I have put two contemporary stories about the Jayhawkers. The first is from the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, August 29, 1863:

Camp Stonewall Jackson, near Washington, La. } August 17th, 1863. }

Editor Telegraph.—As you are aware, our army has long since "changed its base" and fallen back west of the Atchafalaya, and south of Red River. A small "squad," who generally go along with Gen. Tom Green on his excursions around, stopped here awaiting orders, (principally from Banks) where we have been permitted for two or three weeks to enjoy rest for man and beast, the first for many days—but the outrageous acts of the conscripts, deserters and free negroes who inhabit the country west of this, came to the knowledge of the "powers that be" and our rest was broken. There has long been quite a number of the aforesaid class, who have taken to the woods and bottoms and evaded the enrolling officers, and declared it to be their intention not to fight for either Federal or Confederate Governments, but at the time the Federal army occupied "these parts," I have been credibly informed that the leading members of this clan formed an alliance with the "rail splitters" minions, and after giving all information required, obtained permission to remain here and plunder good citizens and murder alike citizen and soldier. They are said to be 300 or 400 strong, and commanded by one Carrier. They are principally armed with double barreled shot guns. They having recently killed some good citizens, and 4 or 5 C. S. soldiers, it was determined, if possible, to bring some at lest, of the offenders to justice. Accordingly, on the night of the 8th inst., a detachment of Co. B, Lieut. Coleman commanding, and of Co. C, Capt. Clough commanding, all of the 5th T. M. V., were ordered to report to Capt. West, (I think of Gen. Taylor's Staff) at Washington. At Opelousas we were joined by ten more belonging to Co. E, 4th T. M. V., and after dark, while on the march, by the Home Guard, 20 strong, making in all about 75 men. We proceeded about 10 miles to the westward—to a neighborhood composed principally of these fellows (Jayhawkers) and situated along bayou Mallet. We then divided into two or three parties and the performance commenced. Each party had so many, and certain houses to surround and search. The parties were to move cautiously and as noiselessly as possible until near the house. Then rush up, dismount and surround the "castle," guard every door and window, while a "storming" party entered each house, demanded lights and searched every nook and corner. Thus we hunt conscripts, visiting a man's home at the hour of midnight, and in some instances, we took them away. The women in some cases appeared, much grieved, and cried and begged at an awful rate, when their husbands, fathers and brothers were being taken away, but as they all cried and talked in French (!) and as we could not "Parley Francais," their wails amounted to nothing at all. We captured 10 or a dozen during the night. Some of them were deserters from the army, while others were liable to conscription and accused of being connected with the clan known as Jayhawkers. All of them were sent to Opelousas for imprisonment and trial. On the morning of the 9th, and our command having had nothing to eat since noon of the 8th, divided into small parties and sent to the houses in the neighborhood for breakfast, and while this state of affairs was existing, a party of 40 or 50 mounted Jayhawkers surprised a party of about 25 of our command, who believed they were some of our own command returning, and consequently they were permitted to move up in rear and on both flanks within shot gun range and fire, before it was discovered who they were. Being desirous of concentrating our different parties and as they were in the edge of the woods, rendering it impossible to learn their numbers, the order was given to fall back into the prairie. Our boys formed and dashed through their lines, the Jayhawkers firing rapidly. Roy Blondelle and Chas. Elkin, of Co. B, T. M. V., were wounded. Roy has since died—also Pearson, of Co. C. had a mule shot under him. The scoundrels never followed, having a great terror for the prairies and cavalry. There was a speedy concentration of our little party from breakfast, and so we remained concentrated during the day. For this impudence the remainder of the 5th T. M. V., Lt. Col. McPhail commanding, and 2d Louisiana Cavalry, Maj. Thompson commanding, were sent to our aid, with orders to scour the woods and country for miles around, and to shoot every man connected with the clan. We remained for that purpose until the night of the 15th, we returned. We scoured the woods and country for miles, forming in line of battle and marching abreast, across bodies of timber and the swamps—driving for them as if for deer, and on the evening of the 10th inst., while moving in this manner, we surprised them in their camp and fired into them. Most of them fled, while two or three stood up, fired, and badly wounded James C. Francis of Co. G, 5th T. M. V., (since died,) and John Watson, a member of 5th Texas Infantry. Three of them captured on the spot, and another in the same neighborhood, were shot per order the next day. The family of one of them came to take leave of him a few minutes before he was led out to be shot, and it was truly an unpleasant scene. Methinks I can hear that woman and her children's cries to this moment. However, they had already killed two of the most gallant soldiers of our regiment, and were found in arms resisting the laws of their country and as such should have died. Col. McPhail, on leaving, issued a proclamation promising pardon to all who may in future return to their due allegiance, but death to all who may be caught in these disloyal practices—whether plundering, or murdering, or caught in arms and skulking in the woods from justice. I have written this for the purpose of informing the citizens of Texas, who may intend traveling from Niblett's Bluff to the eastward, of the state of affairs existing in that portion of the State, and to ask them to remember that the late punishment inflicted on some of the conscripts renders it very unsafe for small parties to travel alone. Respectfully, W. R. H.

The Opelousas Courier, August 15, 1863:
"On Sunday last, a company of mounted troops, joined, it appears, by some citizens, started in pursuit of the jayhawkers, and when arrived in their quarter, dismounted and leisurely laid down, waiting for something or other, when, all at once here come the jayhawkers pouncing upon them and throwing dismay among the crowd. Firing commenced, running too commenced, and from what we can learn we had one man killed and several wounded, one of whom has since died. We know not the loss of the othe side..."

This is an article from Harpers Weekly, December 19, 1863, commenting on captured orders from a Confederate officer that were issued by Alfred Mouton:

THE following letter comes to the Lounger from an officer of one of the New York regiments in the Army of the Gulf. The revelation of the suffering of faithful American citizens under the fierce terrorism of the rebellion is startling. The rebel General Orders which our correspondent incloses, and which follow his letter, were found upon an officer of the rebel General Mouton's brigade, captured by a detachment of Major-General Washburn's division, near St. Martinsville, south of the Red River. They show how desperate is the resistance made by Southern men against the "Confederate Government," and how earnest their hate of the "liberty and independence" proffered them by a slaveholding oligarchy:
To the Lounger:
The circular which I inclose will tell you its own story, and will be allowed, I hope, to appeal through you to the sympathies and faith of a hundred thousand loyal men
and women. Were there no other evidence existing of loyalty in rebellious Louisiana—of true, tried, unswerving loyalty, which lives and has its being, even though hunted, persecuted, and massacred by such incarnations of traitorous hate and cruelty as Sterling Price, Richard Taylor, and Alfred Mouton—this circular would nevertheless triumphantly prove the fact.
Are there, Mr. Lounger, among the worthy people whom you visit weekly, some who have never felt the burdens of the war, save as the tax-gatherer has knocked more loudly at their doors, and who have never felt the bitter afflictions of the war, save as they have mourned the decline of gold, and yet who have complained loudly of its hardships? Are there haply those whose faith that the old Union ship must yet outride the storm has wavered, and whose hearts have grown apathetic, even beneath the peaceful shelter of the Old Flag? If such there be, let me ask them to read and learn how the Wittingtons, the Ozimes, the Carrieres, the Huddlestons, of Louisiana, have been made the victims of a relentless and cold-blooded persecution; hunted through the swamps and brakes of their State: proscribed, outlawed, murdered in secret, because—and I would that it might be blazoned in characters of fire before Copperhead eyes—because they could not lift the traitor's hand against their beloved country! Honor, thrice honor, to these gallant spirits! The soul of all the Army of the Gulf cries out to them in sympathy and encouragement.
This circular has probably been prepared for distribution to the people of the State, and has, undoubtedly, the authority of our Generals in this Department.
Yours in loyalty.

VERMILIONVILLE, June 12, 1863.
Information has been received that there are bands of outlaws, deserters, conscripts, and stragglers from a point above Hineston, on the Calcasieu River, in the parish of Rapides, down to the lower parishes, extending into the parishes of Calcasieu, through to the Bayou Teche, which are committing depredations, robberies, and incendiarism, and who are openly violating the Confederate laws, with arms in their hands. Such men can only be considered as outlaws, highwaymen, and traitors.
In consequence:
I. You will proceed with your battalion up to the Calcasieu River, and in the vicinity of Hineston, in the parish of Rapides, and from that point scour the whole country to the outer limit of Calcasieu Parish, if necessary, to the Bayou Teche, in search of these outlaws, highwaymen, and traitors. These bands, beyond the pale of society, must be exterminated, especially the leaders; and every man found with arms for the purpose of resisting the operations of the Confederate laws, or against whom satisfactory evidence may be given, must be executed on the spot.
No prisoners should be taken. Such as are not sufficiently guilty to deserve immediate execution must be liberated, and, if conscripts, ordered to report forthwith. Men by the name of Wittington, Elliot, Ozime, Carriere, Huddleston, have been designated as some of the ringleaders.
By order of Brigadier-General ALFRED MOUTON:
LOUIS BUSH, Assistant Adjutant-General,
To Major G.A. FOURNET, commanding Yellow Jacket Battalion.
These instructions are to be kept secret, and no one is allowed to know the objects of your movements except yourself.
True copy:
LOUIS BUSH, Assistant Adjutant-General.
Lieutenant G. J. DEBLANC, Acting Adjutant.

Ozeme Carrier: Jayhawk Leader in Southwest Louisiana (Acadians in Gray)

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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