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.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Delta Rifles, Part I

The Delta Rifles were a militia company out of West Baton Rouge Parish. When the Civil War started the Rifles were eventually formed as Company C of the 4th Louisiana Infantry. A member of the company's original roster was John McGrath of Baton Rouge. McGrath's service with the company was brief. He resigned his position as 1st Sergeant in the company and became 1st Lieutenant (and later Captain) of Company C of the 13th Louisiana in September 1861. Following the war, McGrath wrote a series of articles in the Woman's Enterprise about the Delta Rifles. Below is McGrath's first piece which ran on November 18, 1921:

When and Where Organized and
Its Rank and File.

When the result of the national election of 1860 became generally known throughout the south intense indignation and uneasiness spread throughout the land such as was never experienced before or since. That war was inevitable was the opinion of all classes of citizenship, including the most peace loving and conservative, and in order to be prepared for eventualities steps were at once taken to organize new military companies and to recruit existing ones up to full war strength. In every city, town and village of Louisiana armed bodies sprang up like unto mushrooms over night. No urging, no persuasion was required and appeals to one's patriotism altogether unnecessary as every able bodied individual knew in the direction duty pointed, and was resolved to follow the path.
Baton Rouge responded nobly to the demands of the hour and in less than a month's time several strong companies were armed and equipped and ready to face what the future held in store for them. Two companies, the Pelican Rifles, Captain W. F. Tunnard and the National Guards, Captain H. A. Rauhman had been in existence for some years and were well organized, armed and drilled and to supplement the old commands the Delta Rifles, Captain H. M. Favrot. Fencibles, Captain Andrew S. Herron, the Creole Guards. Captain J. L. Fremeaux were organized.
The Delta Rifles was organized in and credited to West Baton Rouge but as some forty odd men were from this city and some fourteen or fifteen from Pointe Coupe it might truthfully be considered a tri-parish company. In time what with promotions and transfers the personel of the Deltas was composed with few exceptions of Baton Rougeans even to its Second Captain. Let its domicile he West Baton Rouge or elsewhere only picked men were received as recruits and as the material necessary for a company of war strength could not be secured in the upper portion of the parish a number of acceptable recruits from other sections were enrolled.
Another strong company of infantry was being recruited about the same time in the neighborhood of Bruly Landing known as the Tirailleurs which was composed almost entirely of French speaking Creoles and by the way let me say this company rendered excellent service to the Confederacy. Two companies out of the small population was rather too much for West Baton Rouge. But of the Delta Rifles only do I wish to write at this time so I will continue without further discussion.
At the moment of most intense excitement and when it was generally understood that war would result through the victory of what was known as the Black Republican Party word was spread throughout the parish that a meeting would be held in the court house upon a certain day of all young men willing to assist in forming a military company and in response nearly every able bodied man of the upper part of West Baton Rouge was present ready to serve Louisiana in case of war and to go wherever their services were required.
Now I was pleasantly situated and drawing a good salary as Station Agent of the old Baton Rouge, Grosse Tete and Opelousas railroad, had been back from a war in Central America but two years, had not entirely recovered from a wound, had seen cities destroyed, people impoverished, comrades killed and maimed in sufficient numbers to satisfy the most blood thirsty and felt reluctant to enlarge that experience, but said I, "Young man you traveled a thousand miles to get into a fight and right at home looms one of considerable magnitude if the kid gloves will accept a railroad clerk you will be a soldier one again before the plantation bells ring for the sontide meal." Not only was I accepted but much to my surprise was elected first sergeant or as the latter day veterans say "top." Among the privates the first name on the list was that of Henry Watkins Allen and I ever after felt exceedingly proud of having in my capacity as sergeant ordered the man around who afterwards became Lieut.-Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier General and Governor of Louisiana all within four years. A great man indeed was Allen.
The officers chosen were: H. M.Favrot, Captain; 0. M. LeBlane, First lieutenant; L. Y. Hereford, Second Lieutenant; N. W. Pope, Second Lieutenant Junior.
Non-Commissioned Officers: John McGrath, First Sergeant; .1. C. Patrick, Second Sergeant; E. M. Dubroca, Third Sergeant; G. C. Lemmon Fourth Sergeant. Corporals: A. D. Barrow, first; F. Richard, second; L. L. Lobdell, third; A. B. Dubroca, fourth.

It was understood that every member furnish an outfit at his own expense which consisted of one full dress uniform, one fatigue suit, cap, blanket, canteen, knapsack and everything I necessary in the way of military equipment except arms and cartridge boxes which were furnished by the State. Believe me, it cost a neat sum to become a member of the Delta Rifles and many a young fellow was compelled to dig deep down into his pockets to pay the price. But then the social recognition was supposed to be worth it. Poor mistaken boys! Could they have peered into the very near future while drilling around Port Allen and saw themselves toting sand bags in company with roughnecks, uncouth ditchers and steamboat roustabouts their eyes would have been opened to the fact that social position in army life reaches no lower than the junior lieutenant and then in slight
At the second meeting Thomas Gibbs Morgan, Dudley Avery, Bailey Stuart, Robert Waddill, Steve Henderson, Fern McHatton, Burris Magruder, Penn Skolfield and a number of others considered eligible were admitted to membership, while George and Mark McCausland, Dan Gorham, Ben Cooley, Fred Jewel, Deplane Viene, E.A. Carmouche and W. J. Jetter came down from New Roads to join.
When the rolls were pretty well filled Captain Favrot ordered drills three times weekly and thereafter until ordered away we tramped around the old depot ground for hours at a time much to the disgust of the young soldiers and the evident satisfaction of the old men looking on. Thus things dragged along until to our great delight orders were received from the Adjutant General,. to appear upon North loulevard at 10 o'clock next morning fully equipped for active service. This was preparatory to capturing the trarrison and arsenal several accounts of which have appeared in newspapers quite recently I shall only say that atftr two or three days service the Delta Rifles were relieved and ordered home.

During the month of December the State organized two regiments of regulars, one of heavy artillery to garrison the forts below New Orleans and one of infantry to guard the arsenal at this place and right then the Deltas lost three of its most popular members, Mr. Willie Robertson was appointed Captain of artillery, J.H. Lamon a lieutenant of artillery and William Sparks of infantry.
The Constitutional Convention called for that purpose passed an ordinance of secession and declared the bond heretofore existing between the States of the Union dissolved and decreed State sovereignty. Then began in earnest the beating of drums, the waving of flags with uniformed young soldiers marching and counter marching through streets with ladies bestowing their brightest smiles upon them and cheering them on.
In the meantime the ladies of West Baton Rouge had manufactured a large handsome silk flag which was presented to the company by Miss Dubroca in presence of the largest assembly ever previously seen in that parish. In eloquent words our lovely sponsor presented the precious gift which was received by the Captain who most eloquently and earnestly promised that it should never be surrendered to a foe while a man was left to defend it. A grand feast prepared under the direction of mothers of the boys was then partaken of which wound up with a popping of champagne corks of a volume equal to a fire of musketry. Champagne, mind you! Any liquor less costly was too common and vulgar a beverage for the swell Delta Rifles. How we did promise to bring back that flag with emblems of victory entwined around it or perish beneath its folds. Oh, yes, when that champagne began to work right lively we not only felt we were of heroic mould but were sadly grieved that each of us was not facing at least five Yanks that we might display our prowess in their presence. The time came, however, when one foeman would have satisfied us and he a small drum boy at that.
During early April days orders came for the Delta Rifles to proceed to Camp Moore where regiments were being formed and the excitement grew while messengers were dispatched throughout the upper part of the parish and as far as New Roads with orders to the members to report next day to leave for our destination. It was short notice, nevertheless next morning 118 officers and men answered roll call.
How gallant ,you appeared my brave comrades, a. you stood at attention, to answer that last roll call upon your native heath and to take a last glance over the fields where happy childhood was spent and of which some were fated never to behold again. Gone, gone, each and every one of you leaving he alone who called the roll that day the sole one of your number to answer "Here" when the Supreme Ruler of the universe issues the order to pass through death's dark portals into the Eternal camping grounds.
With apology for taking up so much valuable space in Woman's Enterprise I will discontinue my story of the Kid Glove Company until the next issue.

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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