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.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Northern Captain of the 8th Louisiana African Descent

11th Illinois - 8th Louisiana, African Descent
Courtesy of Mrs. Cindy Parkinson

The William Moore Parkinson Letters have been posted online by Cindy Parkinson. William Parkinson began the war Co. C, 11th Illinois Infantry. The 11th Illinois became part of the Federal army that moved into northeast Louisiana in January of 1863. Parkinson's letters are VERY interesting for two reasons. First, reading the Yankee impression of Louisiana during the war is always interesting-an outsider perspective on what he sees. Second, Parkinson accepted a Captain's commission in a black regiment that was formed from slaves from Louisiana. He goes into a lot of detail about the recruitment process (very interesting), his own struggles in accepting a commission in a black unit (personal and socially) and his life as an officer in a black regiment. The regiment he helped recruit and train was the 8th Louisiana Infantry of African Descent.

I have provided links to Mrs. Parkinson's website where she has all of William's letters posted (including his photo). Mrs. Parkinson has graciously allowed me to share a few of his letters here. I've picked exerts from William's letters below. Thank you Mrs. Parkinson. ENJOY!

In the evening, Feb 11th, 1863
...This is one of the finest counties I ever seen, very rich land and large plantations, each one looking like a village. Negro houses look neat, set in straight rows and painted white, and a large cotton gin or sugar mill on every plantation, and generally from twenty to sixty houses, and very seldom any person about except a few negro women and children, and three or four negro men. Sometimes a few white women, and oh how they do hate us, would make the hair stand on your head to hear them abuse us. I hope our Gov will arm the negroes, although I do not think it would be any advantage to our army. There is such large portion bitterly opposed to it. I do believe it would almost ruin our army. But I think our best plan is to pitch in without fear or judgement, and we might happen to stumble on a good thing. If they do arm the negroes, I am going to do my best to get to be Captain of a Company...

Providence Lake, Louisiana, Carroll Parish.
Feb. 24th, 1863
...I believe the letters our soldiers get from home are doing our army more harm than any other one thing. I do not say all the letters to the soldiers are so, but fully two thirds are opposed to Lincoln or his proclamation, or call our generals Secesh or they say we are not fighting for our country, but to free the negroes and make shoulder straps. Some even go so far as the advise their sons, brothers or husbands or lovers to desert. It is the ignorant portion of our soldiers that get such letters, and it is having a very bad effect. They was raised to believe that slavery is one of the sacred things instituted by God, but they was getting pretty well abolishionized till that rebel back bone breaker of old Abe's came out, one of the harmlessest things ever written on paper. Only the dissatisfaction it creates in the north and army, it does the negro neither harm nor good. The negroes that do come into our lines are either starving or freezing to death or dying like rotten sheep, no person to take care of them, neither feed them or clothe them. Tell Wilson I am not opposed to it, but I call it a very poor thing, and it has done more harm than good. I am in favor of taking every negro and making him fight...

Camp 8th La, Inft Reg of African Descent, May 17, 1863
...The negroes are a great deal of trouble, and I have to use all my patience to keep from cursing them. The great trouble with them is they are very ignorant and they expect too much. They thought they would be perfectly free when they became soldiers, and could almost quit soldiering whenever they got tired of it, and could go and come as they pleased. But they find they were very much mistaken. It is very hard to make them understand that they are bound to stay and soldier until discharged, and they do not know now that it is for three years. But we are gradually letting them know it. We did not force one of them to come into the Regiment. I believe, though, if we had told them it was for three years, every one of them would [have] been forced in...

Camp 8th La Inft, Reg of A.D. May 28, 1863
...My Company was on picket guard from Saturday morning till Sunday morning. We got along very well, only the mosquitoes was so desperate bad at night, I could not sleep one minute. I had nothing to lie on, but an oil cloth and two boards. The darkeys make very good guards. They are just afraid enough to be very watchful. There is considerable sickness in the Reg, and from two to four dying a day. We have not drawn the clothing, blankets, or shoes yet. We are looking every day. I think it will be here this week. We are still drilling six hours a day. We are going to have Battalion drill. It will be our first. I guess I will make a bungling thing of it, but I know I can soon learn, and I will make a bold face of it, and put her through...


  1. The William Moore Parkinson letters are now at:

  2. Thank you very much Cindy for the update! I'll fix that link.


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