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 4, 2010

14th Louisiana Goes to War

The following write up comes from Wayne Cosby. It is a first hand account of Private W.P. Snakenburg of Co. K, 14th Louisiana Infantry. Wayne informed me that the original source of Snakenburg's letter is unknown but his account was printed in 1984 in the Amite News Digest. The piece covers the formation of Snakenburg's company, the formation of his regiment, the trip to Virginia and early duty in southeast Virginia.

Part 1 - Off to Virginia
Aug. 29th, 1984

The writer was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 21st, 1844, where the Company was formed early in the year of 1861. I was then 17 years of age, and was a member of the "Hope" Base Ball and LaQuarte Club. The Club met one day in each week for practice on our playgrounds in Gretna, a village across the Mississippi River, opposite New Orleans. The club was composed of a number of young men, I think all older then myself, but none over the age of 20 or 25 years. There was and had been considerable talk of war, and several states had seceded from the Union and companies were organizing and drilling in the city. In our Ball Club was one member, Harry M. Myatt, who was also a member of one of the old Civic Military Companies and had some knowledge of drill tactics, and when going and returning from practice, would fall us in line and march us about different places and finally to the Union Hall on Jackson St. and dismiss us. From these movements of the Ball Club, we organized a military company and elected officers. David Zable was president of the Club and we elected him Captain of the Company. Henry Verlander was elected 1st Lieut., Harry M. Myatt, 2nd Lieut., and J. W. Wilson, Jr., 2nd Lieut. In a short while we had gotten together nearly 100 young men and went into camp for drill. We were given a very pretty uniform and also a flag by the Ladies and Citizens of the Fourth District. We were finally admitted as Co. F or Color Company in the 14th La. Vol. and sent to a camp of instruction near Amite City, La. , 68 miles from New Orleans. Col. Victor Sulakowski was our commander, and after being in camp a short time, changed our position in the regiment to Co. "K" or Skirmish Co., fearing to risk the colors with us, as we were nearly all young men and wanted us for skirmishers for the Regt. The Regiment was made up of ten companies, men of all nationalities and three companies were of men who could claim anywhere they were at as home, men who worked on the levee, loading and unloading boats all day and spend their wages at night for drink, sleep off their carousal under a canvas or tarpaulin until morning, then go to work again.

We stayed in camp near Amite City, La., drilling in regimental and company drill until the middle of July 1861, then started for Virginia. Col. Sulakowski was a Polander and had been a soldier from his boyhood. He had received a commission to enlist a brigade of Polanders, but, failing to do so, started to Virginia with our Regiment. We were first known as the 1st Regt. of the Polish Brigade. We left camp Pulaski (the camp near Amite City) about the 15th of July, 1861, for Va., traveling by railroad through Mississippi to Grand Junction; thence through Georgia and East Tennessee to Chattanooga and Knoxville; thence into Virginia to Bristol, Lynchburg and Richmond, where we went into camp at the Rocketts shortly before the after the battle first of Manassas fought 21st July, 1861. I expect the intention was to get us into Virginia in time for that battle, although we had not received any arms, not enough even to mount camp guard with and they were muzzle loaders, flint and steel guns. After leaving the Camp of Instruction near Amite City, La., a number of members of the Regiment would jump off the train at every depot and place where the train would stop, go into the bar saloons and take as much liquor as they wanted, then go back to the train. Many of the men got drunk by the time we got to Grand Junction, Miss. There Col. Sulakowski ordered the Regt. to go into camp, intending to remain until next morning. We moved off the train but a number stayed at the depot, where several got very drunk, came into camp, where men from two companies (the Rough Companies) got to fighting and others joined in, until the greater part of two companies were fighting. The Officer of the Guard, Lieut. Myatt, with this guard arrested all who were fighting and moved them out of camp for the purpose of locking them up in the town jail to stop them from drinking any more. On the way to the jail, the prisoners attacked the Guard and did disarm some of them of their guns and bayonets. Many of both guard and prisoners were clubbed and cut with the bayonet and large knives which many soldiers carried. The guard were finally overpowered and ran, some into a hotel, locking the door behind them. The prisoners, enraged at not being able to get into the hotel to the guards, gathered __________ and kindling wood, piled it up against the front of the building and set it on fire. About the time they set it on fire, Col. Sulakowski came up from town where he had been when the trouble was going on, with a revolver in each hand and going into the crowd, ordered first one, then another to go back to camp and if the man did not turn immediately at the command and go, he shot him down. There were one or two other officers shot down, nearly all by the Col. He then had several handcuffed and ordered the Regiment back on the train and started off. Of the number shot, five or six were killed, the wounded were left there in the hotel, which was not burned, for attention, also several that were wounded by the prisoners in the first fight, when they jumped the Guard. Those who lived came back to the Regiment in Virginia, when they got well. One of the men handcuffed was Private Tom Manion, of my Company. Before the train left Grand Junction, Miss., Col. Sulakowski wired all towns and depots ahead to close their bars before the train got there, which was generally done. During the trip the members of the Regt. cut the handcuffs off the wrists of those who were arrested, and, as they kept quiet, no more was said about the matter to them. The next stop for the night was made at Knoxville, Tenn., where we were marched from the depot to a large foundry yard, where were built high brick walls, with sheds built against them. Guards were mounted at the gates and none were allowed to go out unless he had a pass. At the depot where the regiment fell in to march to camp, some of the men got away from the companies and remained in the city. Knoxville, Tenn., was known as an abolition hole and was the home of Parson William Gannaway Brownlow, a strong abolitionist, and the head of his party in East Tennessee. Those soldiers who succeeded in getting left at the depot got enough liquor to get drunk and during the night tore one man's house partly down, got him out and rode him on a rail, because he refused to let them have more liquor. At that place the 14th La. were given the name of Wild Cats.

The next day we again took the train and next stopped at Bristol about daylight. Bristol is on the line of Virginia and Tenn., a pretty little place, where we stopped two or three hours. The doings of the 14th La. were well known on the road ahead so not much liquor was to be found there. With two or three of my company, I went to a private residence some distance from the depot and ate as nice a breakfast as I ever enjoyed. While we were gone for breakfast, the boys at the depot made a raid. In the depot and on the platform were a lot of hogsheads of meat for General Joseph E. Johnston's army at Manassas. The boys found a cask marked to Gen'l Pierre G. T. Beauregard, took out the head, took a number of the nice hams out for themselves, had them boiled, and so had cold boiled ham to eat while en route to Lynchburg, Va., which was the next stopping place. When we arrived there, we were again fell in line and marched to the Fair Grounds, but some of the same drinking crowd hid at the depot and stayed in the city and soon again got into trouble. Colonel Sulakowski came across some of them in a low part of the city, found a number drinking and fighting. He rode into them and struck several with his sword from the back of his horse. I did not see any of that trouble, but learned that one of my company was struck. His name was Private Dennis Keating who was afterward killed in battle. Another one of the Company, Private James Fitzsimmons, a young man drank enough by the time we got to Lynchburg and there so as to have fits. We stayed in the Fair Grounds one night and again took the train for Richmond, Va., where we arrived about sunrise and went into camp at the Rocketts on a ledge of ground between Chimborazzo Hill and York River Railroad in the lower part. Our drill ground was on Hill where now is a beautiful park. There is the best water running out of the rocks, I think, that I ever drank. In this camp I first saw the great woman spy, Miss Belle Boyd. She spent one night with us in Camp. While camped there, a court of inquiry was held to look into the conduct of Col. Sulakowski and other officers for killing and wounding so many men at Grand Junction, Miss. After inquiry was made, he was honorably acquitted of any wrong. A court was also ordered held, to try several of the Regt. for their conduct all along the route from Louisiana and in Richmond since being here. They were convicted and sentenced to have one side of their heads shaved and drummed out of the service. They went to Richmond, carried on as before, and we understand that they were soon killed by the citizens of Richmond. The Franko Guards, one of the three terrible bad companies, was exchanged for a company doing duty near Norfolk, Va., and I suppose the Frankos went there. What became of them afterward, I never knew. We remained in the Richmond Camp until late in August, then were sent to Yorktown, Va. While in Richmond, we saw a number of wounded soldiers who had been in the Battles of Bull Run and Manassas, also a great many prisoners who were taken in those battles. They were confined in what was termed "Libby Prison."
- to be continued


  1. Thank You for that.....

    Please keep me informed when more is posted

    George F Cholewczynski
    New Orleans
    walka_books (AT)

  2. Looking forward to Part II -- Thanks!

    (Interested in any info on 14th Regiment, Louisiana Infantry.& Henry (H.B.) Monet, Pvt.)

  3. Wonderful reading. My Great- grandfather was with the 14th Regiment LA Company H. His roll call records place him at Manassas and other battles. He was captured and held at Point Lookout.

  4. A new diary of the chaplain to the 14th Louisiana is due out on January 6, 2017:


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