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, September 27, 2010

14th Louisiana Goes to War Pt. II

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 last post was an account from Snakenburg about the formation of Snakenburg's company, the formation of his regiment, the trip to Virginia and early duty in southeast Virginia. This section is covers the 14th Regiment's role on the Peninsular in 1862 around Yorktown and its role in the Seven Days Campaign.

At Yorktown, we camped on the old battle field of the Revolution. Our company was camped around the monument that was erected to mark the spot where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Gen'l Washington years before. We drilled over the old battlefield and often found a cannon ball that had been fired off in the old battle. Here, there was issued a new Minie rifle and ammunition to each man. I think that was on the 18th or 20th of Oct, 1861. Yorktown is an old town, at the mouth of the York River, looking out into the Chesapeake Bay. From the town we would see the Yankee war vessels blockading the mouth of the River. We lived very well at this camp, as we could catch crabs and get oysters for very little money. Here I saw the only tomato pies in my life. From here we moved to Ship Point, 12 miles from Yorktown and 18 or 20 miles from Old Point Comfort. Close to our camp was a very deep ravine, where the Regiment used to get water, for purposes of drinking, cooking and washing clothes from a very large spring. At the mouth of the Ravine, Col. Sulakowski had a bakery built from which we used bread. It was finally burned down. While here, the Tigers, or Wheat's Battalion, moved here from Manassas and camped near us, at the edge of town. I knew a number of the men and officers and I used to go over to their camp and often met them in Yorktown when we were not on duty. Ship Point is a neck of land that runs out into Chesapeake Bay with Cheeseman's Creek running down on one side and a small river on the other and only 12 miles from Bethel, where the first battle was fought on June 10th, 1860. We built large log houses for winter quarters and stayed here until the middle of March, 1862 under Major Gen. John Bankhead Magruder, drilling, company, regimental and skirmish drill. Here we lost one of our company, named Private John Zimmerman, who was shot by a sentry on guard duty, because he ran across the guard line in the night and did not halt when challenged. There I saw Col. Sulakowski kill his horse by running his sword into him, because he reared and plunged with him and seemed to try to throw him, while trying to drill the Regt. We built very good and comfortable quarters and kept warm, excepting when on guard duty. We also built a church and opera house. It was very cold when the wind would blow in from the Bay. Our clothes would freeze on us stiff when on guard, if in a drizzling rain. We were near enough to Fortress Monroe to hear the firing of the guns in the fight between the Confederate ironclad "Merrimac and the Federal man-of-war in Hampton Roads. The "Merrimac" sunk the "Cumberland", burned the "Congress" and ran several others ashore. As we were bounded on three sides by water at this camp, our duties when on guard were to fire three shots in quick succession to alarm the camp when the enemy were coming in by boats. Whenever the alarm was made, all the companies were to fall in at the breastworks, to repel any attack made by the enemy coming ashore.

On one Sunday night the alarm was made and everyone was soon in the works, armed, expecting the enemy had come, but after looking around, had a good laugh on the guards, one of whose name was Private Fred Sontag (pronounced Sunday) of my company for firing at the moon, that had stuck her horn, or point, up over the water and the waves made it appear as a lamp in a boat coming in to shore. When we got into the works, the moon was above the water and the guards told of their mistake. Fred Sontag was afterward killed in the Valley of Va.

In our company was a Jew, by name of Private Simon Behr, afterward killed below Richmond, who was very much attached to me. I had done him several little favors and he seemed never to have forgotten them. When I fixed to wash clothes or stand guard, he would always take it on himself, excepting on Saturdays, then I would do any manual labor for him.

Here we got fish, oysters and vegetables to eat and more tomato pies. We lived very well that winter. In March 1862, Gen. George Brinton McClellan landed a large army on the peninsula at Fortress Monroe of 120,000 strong and we had to fall back to the entrenchments near Yorktown again. We were sent to Wynn's Mill, 3 or 4 miles from Yorktown, to watch and hold that section. Reinforcements were sent to us from Johnston's Army. About this time Howell Cobb, of Georgia, was commissioned a Brigadier General over Col. Sulakowski, who was a Sr. Col. He got mad and resigned his commission and went home and would not serve any more. While we were at Wynn's Mill, McClellan came up with his Army on April 5th, 1862, and the fighting begun. Our army was in works so very little damage was done us by their cannon, but sharpshooters would fight all day long for four weeks after they came up. In the meantime all of Gen. Johnston's army came from Manassas. After McClellan got his mortar batteries in position, they would fire all night as well as day. A short time before we left Wynn's Mill, we were called into the works at night, at midnight, in a hurry. The enemy were making a night attack to take our works while we were asleep. We ran into them and commenced firing in a hurry, driving them back. I was sick at the time and had been in my tent for several days. I went into the works and when the order was given to cease firing, went back into my tent, which was only a few steps from the works, and in a few days was sent off to Richmond Hospital with Pneumonia and was gone from the company in the hospital at Richmond and Danville for six weeks and only got back in time for the Richmond Battles, although I was very weak then. On Sunday evening late, the Regiment left the line of breastworks after a siege of thirty days and fell back toward Richmond. The rear guard of the army was attacked at Williamsburg, which was Major General James Longstreet's division, to which division our command had been attached. There was quite a battle there on Monday, May 5th, 1862. Gen. McClellan was pressing our army rather hard, so Longstreet was compelled to turn around and strike him a blow, afterwards turning around and continuing on the way to Richmond. Our company lost several men in the engagement. One was a young man named Private David Crawford, whose thigh was broken. He was taken prisoner and died at Fortress Monroe. Another was John Holler. He was struck in the mouth, the ball going in somewhere down his throat. Could not see the wound, but from which he soon died. Several others were wounded. The fall back from Williamsburg was very bad marching. It had rained a great deal, and the soil (red clay) was very soft and cut up very bad by the wagons and artillery, and nothing to eat excepting had corn, until they got to camp near Richmond. There the Regiment lay in the works near Chickahominy Swamp, in front of Richmond, until May 31st, 1862 when advance was made and attacked McClellan in his camp at Seven Pines, driving his army through his camps and lines, got plenty of his provisions and many things that make an army effective. Here we lost Tom Barkley, who was shot through the neck, the ball going in near the throat, and some wounded. Tom lived and came back to us after a long time and was wounded again. After the battle, the army went back to their same camp and rested until the 24th of June, 1862, when we broke camp again and went into line of battle at Gaines' Mill. On Friday morning (June 27) we fought there, and in the evening at Ellison Farm. The battle in front of Richmond began on Wednesday, but our Regiment did not become engaged until Friday. After a very hard fought battle, we succeeded in driving McClellan out of his works along his whole line, along the Chickahominy Swamp and crossed over after him, and at Cold Harbor that same evening attacked him again, keeping him busy, until Major Gen. Thomas Jonathon (Stonewall) Jackson fell on his flank and drove him off the field for that day. We in our company lost very heavily and among the number was the Jew, Simon Behr, who was shot in the stomach and said when wounded, "Ouch. The damn Yankee shot me." Col. Bob Wheat of the La. Tigers, was killed that evening, and before dying asked the boys to bury him under the apple tree where he fell. Gen. Jackson fell on McClellan's flank and rear and forced him to leave the field to save his army. We kept marching after and fighting him every day until the following Tuesday, July 1st, 1862, at Malvern Hill, and that night he got under the protection of his gun boats, lying in the James River. On Saturday, we fought at Savage Station: on Sunday Swamp: on Monday, at Frayser's Farm. There we had a hard fight and lost five men killed in the company. In the seven days, we were engaged three times and lost in our Regiment 243 men killed and wounded and 32 out of our company, just one-half of the number of the company that was present. On Monday, June 30th, 1862, a short while before we formed a line of battle at Frayser's Farm, I saw President Jeff Davis for the first time. He was with the army a great deal during the movement of our army around Richmond. On Friday, in the evening battle, we lost two color bearers and two sets of color guards. 1st Corporal Ulitius L. G. Sprabury, of Co. I was the second one killed, and when he fell, rolled up in the colors, and in the charge was missed, and we did not miss the colors until night, then we had gone so far forward, that we could not get back to look for them. We did not know then that the bearer was killed. They were brought to us on Sunday evening late and given to Private Jas. McCann, of our Company, to carry.

That evening, he was killed, having been struck with seven balls, four of them in the breast. That night after the fight we hardly knew each other, because we were so black. It was a very warm day and we had run so far, in a charge, that the perspiration poured out of us, and at that time of the war, the bullets we used were greased with tallow. So after handling cartridges, biting the ends off to the powder, and powder on our hands and faces. Before the battle around Richmond was begun, sixty rounds of cartridges were issued to each man. Generally only forty were given each man. Our Regiment was only actively engaged on Friday and Monday, that is in Ellison's Farm, Cold Harbor and Frayser's Farm, although we were in the field and under fire of artillery every day. We were kept in reserve on account, I suppose, of our heavy losses in those engagements. On Friday morning at Ellison's Farm, we lay under a severe fire from a 12-gun redoubt, and Col. Zebulon York, who had been promoted after Col. Sulakowski resigned, went to our Brigadier Gen. Roger A. Pryor, and asked to let him take his Regt. and charge the redoubt and silence it, as it was killing his men up. Gen. Pryor refused his request, saying: "No, you cannot get there alive." Col. York begged to let him go, saying: "My men will go with me." Pryor would not give the order. Had he done so, I do not believe any would have lived to come back. A Brigade had charged it the evening before and failed. We got it that evening with the help of Jackson. After Tuesday's fight, July 1st, 1862, at Malvern Hill, McClellan got away with his army through the swamp to his gun boats. We stayed on the battlefield two days and could not entice him from his boats.

- to be continued

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CWRT of Acadiana

I have the honor of being the guest speaker for the Civil War Round Table of Acadiana this Tuesday night (September 21st). The meeting will be at Ramada Inn in New Iberia (located on Hwy. 14 at Hwy 90 intersection). A sign in and brief social begins at 6:30 and a buffet will be served at 7:0o PM ($20.00 per guest).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Harvel W. Easley, 4th Louisiana Infantry

I wanted to spotlight an image that I was unable to include in Louisianians in the Western Confederacy (due to the time I was attempting to add the photo). The image is of Private Harvel W. Easley of the 4th Louisiana Infantry. Easley served with the regiment all the way through February of 1865. The 4th Louisiana was part of Brigadier General Randall Gibson's Louisiana Brigade and was licking its wounds from the disastrous Nashville Campaign. The brigade limped into Corinth, Mississippi in January. From there, the brigade was ordered to Mobile to join that city's garrison. It was at this time, many men were furloughed from the brigade to Louisiana. It was a furlough long overdue. Gibson's Brigade was constantly engaged from the first week of May through the later part of December in 1864 (which only breaks coming in mid September and late October). Easley received his furlough and from what records remains it looks as though he was not with the brigade when it fought through Spanish Fort or its surrender at Meridian.

I found it to be a very interesting photo.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Letters from the 18th Louisiana

Saw two letters from a Private Eraste Guidry at the 18th Louisiana's website. Guidry was part of Co. F of the 18th Louisiana Regiment. The 18th Regiment was part of the Confederate build-up at Corinth, Mississippi in early 1862. They are letters translated from French to English and are written in early 1862-before and after the Battle of Shiloh. Shiloh was the "wake up call" to the west that the war was not going to be a heroic walk in the park. The letters are quoted in entirety below:

Corinth Mississippi April 2, 1862

My dear Sister:

Behold, I received your letter some time back. You find that
I delay before answering you, but it is not anything of my fault.
I have taken time to cook my food (meal).

We are nearly always working. Now we are making (building) the fortifications around Corinth in case of attack. But, I do
not believe that they will arrive at (reach) Corinth. I believe
that we will attack. We leave tomorrow. Our regiment with nine
or ten other regiments. I guess it is to go meet them (the damn Yankees).

I know that Breaux has also left. Tell Azema to take Courage. There is nothing that has happened here in some months. She will have him near her again. If he left, it is in order to do a very
good other thing.

When you see Mrs. St. Jean give her my adieus. Tell her that
I still have the precious gift that she made for me and that I hope
to return with it. I saw that the fire and the balls (cannon balls
& bullets) did me nothing and I hope that God will preserve me a second time.

My adieus to all the family. Kiss Aurore Rosa.

Adieus Adieus

Your devoted brother,

s/ Eraste Guidry

Pollard, Alabama 22 June 1862

My dear Sisters

Emilie & Azema

I received your two letters. Alas, I have some time. I don't have your answers yet. But it is time that I not miss the occasion. When I received your letters I was at the hospital sick. But now I am well and I have rejoined my company and I am disposed perfectly well. It is not that the nourishment is short. We have almost nothing to eat. But, that is not anything we are accustomed to now.

Everything is exhorbitant. The melons that we were in the habit of paying 15¢ & 20¢ for, we pay $3.00 for. A gallon of molasses 2.50. And when for clothes and shoes, in proportion.

I see that they have brought a substitute for Breaux. I think that he is now returned and that as you say, happy to have this behind him. As for me, I hope to finish the war if the Yankees don't break my head.

I am told that Emelie is to marry. I pray you Emelie to not marry before the war finishes. I tell you to view marriage like your last sister. Her fiancee had the luck to be discharged in order to get married.

It is Gerracin who told me that you were promised to Cleobule his brother.

I saw with pleasure that you had my news. I had the pleasure of seeing Breaux after which I saw that he resembled me which I know you have all seen. I have cheeks like he has. It is not fair with me that he remains so, then I return I see him throw the other parts/party on ones back. I also knew that the College of Grand Coteau is broke. Tell Omer and Edgar to keep quiet that they won't be 18 years old. When, as for me, I am accustomed now, but after all I would be very content to be near my family than to be in the pine forest of Alabama where one doesn't see anything but pine trees and one has nothing to eat. I am nearly accustomed. On my return I believe that I could live without food. My adieus to Mamma, Breaux, Pite, and also to all your family. Tell Orare and Roza to be quiet about the plans for me.

Emelie you clasp the hand of my sweetheart for me when you se her and at the same time my adieus.

Your brother Devoted brother

Eraste Guidry

I forgot to tell you also that this morning I had a magnificent breakfast. We were five. We had 4 small chickens which still followed their mother. They were a little skinny but we didn't pay attention to that. They cost us $2.00.

I had the chance to buy this morning 4 small bits (links) of sausage which probably will make me my supper (be my supper). They cost me $1.00. Tomorrow morning I think that I am going to eat lunch with heart and also dinner and supper.

Excuse my scribble on my knees which serve me as tables.

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