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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Van Alystne's Diary, Part III

We continue with the diary of Lawrence Van Alystne was part of Co. B, 128th New York Infantry. His regiment was assigned to Louisiana in December of 1862. The 128th New York served in our state until July 1864, when it was transferred to Virginia. Van Alystne put together a book that included his diary he kept while serving in the 128th New York, Diary of An Enlisted Man(1910).

Camp Chalmette, La.

Spying out the land—Foiling an attempt at suicide—Clash with the 28th Maine—An interrupted sermon—Brownell's last words.

January 4, 1863.

SUNDAY. Hip, Hip, Hurrah! The Laurel Hill, a steamer, has stopped at our camp and we have orders to pack up for a move. All that are able are to be taken to Chalmette, the old battle ground below New Orleans. Anywhere but this God-forsaken spot, say I. Chaplain Parker preached hot stuff at us to-day. Says we don't take proper care of ourselves, that we eat too often and too much. That made me laugh. Dominie, if you lived with us a while, ate at the same table and had the same bill of fare to choose from, I think you would tell another story. Poor man, it is getting on his nerves sure. But it sets me to wondering if our officers all think that way. If they blame us for the condition we are in, who brought these conditions about? Did we from choice herd in between decks like pigs, while the officers, chaplain and all had staterooms and a bed and good food to eat, well cooked and at regular hours? If they blame us for our condition to-day, I can only hope that at some time they may get just such treatment and fare and that I may be there to remind them it is their own fault. Chaplain Parker must do some tall preaching to make good what he has lost by that tongue lashing. It was uncalled for and a sad mistake.

January 5, 1863.

Chalmette. Monday. Said to be just below the city of New Orleans. We left quarantine about 11 p. M. and reached here about 8 this morning. Many were left behind, too sick to be moved. We have put up our tents, and have been looking about. It is a large camp ground and from all signs was lately occupied and was left in a hurry. Odds and ends of camp furniture are scattered about, and there are many signs of a hasty leave-taking. A few of us went back across the country to a large woods, where we found many trees covered with long gray moss, hanging down in great bunches from the branches. We took all we could carry to make a bed of, for it is soft as feathers.

Later. The doctor won't allow us to use our bed of moss. Says it would make us sick to sleep on it, and much worse than the ground. This is said to be the very ground where General Jackson fought the battle of New Orleans and a large tree is pointed out as the one under which General Packenham was killed. Ancient-looking breastworks are in sight and a building near our tents has a big ragged hole in the gable which has been patched over on the inside so as to leave the mark as it was made, which a native tells me was made by a cannon ball during the battle of New Orleans. The ground is level and for this country is dry. The high bank, or breastworks, cuts off the view on one side and a board fence cuts off a view of the river. Towards the city are enough trees to cut off an extended view in that direction, so we have only the swamp back of us to look at. But this beats quarantine and I wish the poor fellows left there were well enough to get here. There are several buildings on the ground, which the officers are settling themselves in, while a long shed-like building is being cleared out for a hospital. It has been used for that, I judge, and is far better than the one at quarantine. We brought along all that were not desperately sick and have enough to fill up a good part of the new hospital. Walter Loucks has rheumatism in his arms and suffers all the time. He and James Story are my tent mates. We have confiscated some pieces of board to keep us off the ground. Company B has been hard hit. We left seven men at Baltimore, seven at Fortress Munroe and seven at our last stopping-place. It seems to go by sevens, as I find we have seven here in our new hospital. This with the four that have died makes thirtytwo short at this time.

January 8, 1863.

To-day is the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans and is celebrated here like the Fourth of July at home. Drill has been attempted, but only about 200 men were fit for it and our camp duties are about all we are able to do.

January 9, 1863.

Were paid off to-day and the peddlers that hang out just across the guard line have done a thriving business. Walter gets worse every day. His courage seems to be giving out and it is pitiful to see him suffer.

January n, 1863.

Meeting to-day. Some way they have lost their force. We attend because we have to. The sermon at the quarantine is remembered. We seem to have lost faith, not in God, but in ministers. Colonel Smith with all his cursing has done more for our care and comfort than those that profess so much and do so little.

January 17, 1863.

Saturday. On account of my cough, which is worse when I lie down, I have walked about evenings or sat and chatted with others about the camp fire until tired enough to sleep, and last night crawled in near midnight where my two bedfellows were asleep. Soon after I got into a drowse from which I was awakened by a coughing spell and saw Walt standing by the help of the tent pole and groaning in agony. Soon I heard him say "I'll end it all right now," and with that he pitched over towards his knapsack and by the noise I thought he was after his revolver. I jumped across Jim, who lay asleep in the middle, and snatched the gun out of his hand before he had it out of the case. Out in the company street I threw the three revolvers and then grabbed for a sheath knife which I knew was there, getting hold of the handle just as he grabbed the sheath. By this time Story was in the game and we both had our hands full getting him down and quiet. I went for Dr. Andrus, who after lighting a candle and looking in Walt's eyes, told us to take him over to the hospital. The struggle had put him in agony and it was pitiful to see how he suffered. We staid with him the rest of the night and by morning he was helpless. Every joint seemed as stiff as if no joint was there. For the next five days I did little but watch him and help in any way I could to make him more comfortable. Then he and others were taken to the general hospital in the city, where they will at least be warm. We have had a cold rain and the camp is a bed of mud. The wind sifts through the cracks in this old shed and although a stove was kept running, it was too cold for comfort. I have slept but little in the last five nights, but the doctor has kept dosing me and I feel better than when this time with Walter began. Letters from home have made the world seem brighter and the men in it better.

January 18, 1863.

Sunday. Yesterday the chaplain's tent for public worship came and this morning we were all gathered there and the chaplain was praying, when snap went something in the top and down came the tent upon us. He didn't have time to say "Amen," to say nothing of the benediction. In the afternoon Isaac T. Winans, Jim Story and I went to see Walter and found him in a good bed and in a warm room. He is much better, but his wrists are swollen yet and look as if the joints had been pulled apart.

January 19, 1863.

It rained hard last night and before the tents got soaked up enough water sifted through to wet our blankets and we hardly slept at all for the cold. Not being called on for anything I lay all day and dosed, trying to make up for the miserable night. Isaac Brownell, of Company B, who has done more to keep up the spirits of the men than anything else, is down and very sick. He is a mimic and could mimic anyone or anything. His antics have made us laugh when we felt more like crying, and we are all anxious about him. A case of smallpox was discovered yesterday and the man put in an outbuilding, where he died this morning. Dr. Andrus so far has been alone, and he looks like death.

Later. He has given out and another doctor from the hospital is coming to take his place. The sick list grows all the time.

January 27,

Two doctors came to take the place of Dr. Andrus and they have had plenty to do. For several days the weather has been hot, which opens the pores in our tents so the first rain sifts right through. Last night it rained and we had another night of twisting and turning and trying to sleep and with very poor success. I cough so when I lie down that I keep up and going all I can, for then I seem to feel the best. Dr. Andrus still looks after us. He is getting better and we are glad, for he is the mainstay in the family. Brownell died this forenoon and I shall never forget the scene. He was conscious and able to talk and the last he said was for us to stick and hang. "But boys," said he, "if I had the power, I would start north with all who wanted to go and as soon as we passed over four feet of ground I would sink it."

January 28, 1863.

Cold day. Ice formed on puddles last night. I am staying in my tent, keeping as warm as I can. I begin to feel I am going to give out. I have kept out of the hospital so far and hope to die right here in my tent if die I must. But to-morrow may be warmer and my cough better, and under such conditions my spunk will rise as it always has. So good-bye, diary. I am going to try for a nap.

January 29, 1863.

For excitement to-day a man in the tent next ours tried to shoot himself. He is crazy. He rolled himself up in his blanket and then fired his revolver, on purpose maybe, and it may be by accident. At any rate he put a ball in the calf of his leg which stopped under the skin near his heel, and the doctor cut it out with a jackknife. He has acted half crazy for some time and should be taken care of before he kills himself or someone else.

January 30, 1863.

The 28th Maine Regiment has encamped close beside us. They are well advanced in the art of taking care of themselves, for they stole everything loose in a short time after their arrival. Have been vaccinated again. This makes the third time since we left Hampton Roads.

January 31, 1863.

One of the Maine men put a bayonet through Charlie Tweedy's arm as he came from the river with a pail of water. Charlie crossed his beat, which he had no right to do. But it made bad blood and quite a quantity flew from the noses of the Maine men and some Company B blood flew too. Tweedy is the smallest man in the regiment, and has been plagued by all hands until he is very saucy and on account of his size is allowed to do about as he pleases. But it didn't work on the Maine men and may teach the Bantam a lesson.

February 6, 1863.

Friday. The days are so much alike I have given up noting the doings of each as it comes. Since February 1st our meeting-house tent has been repaired and raised again. Rumor of a move came early in the week and has kept us guessing ever since. I think it means something, for the sick in camp hospital have been sent to the general hospital in New Orleans. The weather has been of all sorts. Cold and windy and then a thunder and lightning storm that shook the very earth. The hospital is filling up again, too. Twenty men from Company K were reported to-day, and five from Company B. I fear my turn is coming, for in spite of all Dr. Andrus does, my cough does not let up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

12th Connecticut at Port Hudson, Part II

We continue the account of Captain John W. Deforest of Co. D, 12th Connecticut Infantry at Port Hudson. Deforest's account of his regiment at Port Hudson was printed in the Harper's New Monthly Magazine in August of 1867.


Our fighting at Port Hudson was not without its spice of variety. From time to time, as a relief to the monotony of being shot at every day a little, we made an attack and were shot at a good deal. On the 10th of June General Banks ordered a nocturnal reconnoissance on a grand scale, with the object, as I understood, of discovering where the enemy’s artillery was posted, so that it might be knocked out of position by our own batteries previous to delivering a general assault. The whole line, six or eight miles in length, advanced sharp-shooters, with instructions to be in position by midnight and then to open violently.

I had noticed premonitions of mischief during the day. A cavalry orderly from division headquarters had passed through our gully with dispatches for the brigade commander. And here I will honestly clear my breast of the confession that I dreaded the sight of these orderlies for the reason that they hardly ever made their appearance among us but we were shortly engaged in some unusual high cockolorum of heroism. It must be understood that by this time we had seen as much fighting as human nature can easily absorb inside of a month. Next after the orderly came another somewhat unwelcome personage, the adjutant, going from shanty to shanty with the message, “The colonel wishes to see the company commandants.” I distinctly remember the faces of the ten men who listened to the orders for the reconnoissance. They were grave, composed, businesslike; they were entirely and noticeably without any expression of excitement; they manifested neither gloom nor exultation. When the colonel had ceased speaking three or four purely practical questions were asked, and then the officers, separating without further conversation, returned quietly to their companies.

The orders which we received were singular, and to us at the time incomprehensible. Seven companies were to be formed at midnight behind the parapet, ready to advance at a moments notice. Three companies were to pass over the knoll, cross the ravine, carry the enemy’s works, and report their success, upon which they were to be supported by the others. The companies selected for the assault were the ones whose turn it would be to mount guard the next morning.

Knowing nothing then of General Banks's purpose to make the rebels unmask their artillery, and remembering that our companies did not average thirty men apiece while the apron to be attacked was held by two regiments, we looked upon our instructions as simple madness. Of course, however, we prepared to obey them, ordering the cartridge-boxes to be replenished, the canteens and haversacks filled, and the blankets slung. That is to say, we got ready to occupy the enemy’s position precisely as if we expected to carry it.

The night was warm, damp, cloudy, and almost perfectly dark. A little before the hour appointed for the attack the seven reserve companies formed line in perfect silence along the inner slope of our natural parapet. No one spoke aloud; there was a very little whispering; the suspense was sombre, heavy, and hateful. Then, as quietly as possible, but nevertheless with a tell-tale clicking of canteens against bayonets, the fighting companies climbed upon the knoll and commenced to file over it. Suddenly there was a screech of musketry from across the ravine, a hissing of bullets in flights over our heads, a crash of cannon to our right, whistling of grape, bursting of shells, shouts of officers, and groans of wounded. The rebels in front had caught the sound of the advance, and had opened upon it instantaneously with all their power. My lieutenant, leaning against a sapling, felt it struck by six bullets in something like as many minutes, so thickly did the fusillade fill the air with its messengers. Now, flowing with alarming rapidity considering the small force advanced, commenced the backward stream of wounded, a halting procession of haggard men climbing painfully over the parapet, and sliding down the steep bank to lie till morning upon the hard earth of the basin. In the darkness our surgeon could do nothing more than lay a little dressing upon the hurts and saturate them with water.

The clouds had by this time gathered into storm, and gleams of lightning showed me the sufferers. A group of two brothers, one eighteen the other sixteen, the elder supporting the younger, was imprinted upon my memory by this electric photography. The wounded boy was a character well known in the regiment, a fellow of infinite mischief, perpetually in the guard-house for petty rascalities, noisy, restless, overflowing with animal spirits, and like many such, a headlong, heroic fighter. Young Porter, as every body called him, was firing and yelling with his usual gayety when a bullet struck him in the groin. Turning to his brother he said, Bill, the d--d rebs have hit me; help me in. As he came over the rampart one of my men, not knowing that he was wounded, laughed out, Aha, Porter, you’ve come back early! D--n you, he replied, you go out there and you’ll come back early. Walking down the bank he groaned, Oh, my God! don’t walk so fast. I can't walk so fast. This d--d thing pains me clear up to my shoulder.

On examination it was found that a second ball had actually passed through his shoulder. So severe were this lads injuries that it was not supposed possible that he could live; but six weeks afterward, as we lay at Donelsonville, he rejoined the regiment, having run away from hospital and stolen a tent and a boat.

Within ten minutes from the commencement of the attack the three captains of the advancing companies were brought in disabled. I was leaning against the bank near the edge of the gully, thinking, I suppose, how disagreeable it was to be there, and how much better it was than to be outside, when, behold! that undesired messenger, the sergeant-major.

“Captain, he said, the Colonel directs that you take command of the skirmishers and push them across the ravine.”

Dreading it like a toothache, but nevertheless facing it as though I liked it, I ran a little to the left in search of a spot where the bullets were not flying too thick, and went over the parapet with a light step and a heavy heart. My first adventure in the blinding darkness was to roll into a rain-gulch, twenty feet deep, through the branches of a felled tree, tearing off my sword-belt and losing my sabre. I groped a moment for the last-named encumbrance, deemed so essential to an officers honor; but could not find it, and did not see it again until the end of the siege gave me a chance to seek it in safety. Parenthetically I will state that it is now hanging beside me, restored by sand-paper to something like its original brightness, but deeply pock-marked with the rust incurred in its four weeks of unprotected bivouac.

I had my revolver in my hand when I fell, and I still held fast to it at the close of my descent, as I have seen a child cling to a plaything while performing somersaults down stairs. Clambering out of the gulch, and directing my steps toward a spitting of musketry, I came upon Lieutenant Smith and six men of our Company D, who had established themselves in another of the many rainways which seamed the face of the hill-side.

“Forward, boys! I shouted. We must carry the works. Forward!”

I remember distinctly the desperate look -- seen by a lightning flash -- which the brave boys cast at me before they charged out of their cover. It seemed to say, “Are you, too, mad? Well, if it must be—“. In answer to our hurrah the enemy’s musketry howled and the air hissed with bullets. The first who reached the edge of our gulch fell groaning; and I had five men left with whom to storm Port Hudson. Satisfied that the attempt would be futile unless I could have at least one more soldier, I allowed the survivors to take cover, and wondered what General Banks would do if he were in my place.

“I don’t believe the men can be led any farther,” observed the Lieutenant.

“This is a new thing in our regiment, flinching from fire,” I remarked.

“Yes, but it has been pretty bad out here. It was tremendous when we first came over.”

“Where is the rest of the storming party?” I asked.

“God knows. A great many have been carried in. The rest, I suppose, are scattered all over the hill-side, fighting behind stumps.”

An occasional shot from the darkness around us corroborated this supposition. Evidently our storming column of six officers and ninety men had gone to pieces, some disabled and others having taken cover as skirmishers, while many no doubt had drifted back into the regimental bivouac. There is always a great deal of skulking in night fighting -- first, because darkness renders the danger doubly terrific; and second, because the officers can not watch the line.

“Stay where you are, Lieutenant, I said. I will report matters to the Colonel and be out again with orders.”

On my way in I found two men, each behind a tree with rifle ready, waiting for a flash from the hostile rampart as a target. I had not far to go to reach our head-quarters, for the skirmishers had only advanced a few yards down the hill-side. I felt decidedly ticklish about the legs, knowing that the muskets of our reserve were on a level with them, and not being sure that they might not break out with a volley. It was as ugly a little promenade as I ever undertook.

“Captain, the orders are explicit, said the Colonel in reply to my statement. Advance, take the enemy’s works, and report the fact.”

Thinks I to myself, I wish the person who gave the order had to execute it. Back I stumbled through the midnight to my tatter of a skirmish line, pondering over my task in despair. If any other man ever had so much to do, and so little to do it with, I should like to hear his story. To charge again was out of the question; my seven men had had all they wanted of that. Accordingly I gave orders to separate, take such cover as could be found, crawl ahead, and fire as skirmishers. It was all done except the crawling ahead. The men were willing enough to crawl, but not toward the enemy. I did not blame them. If any one advanced he was liable to be shot in the darkness, not only by the rebels but by his own comrades. I don’t believe that King David’s first three mighty ones would have made much progress under the circumstances. What added to our discouragement was the fact that no other regiment was firing. All around Port Hudson, at least as far as we could hear, there was dumb silence, except in front of the 12th Connecticut. Why this was I never knew, and can only guess a diversity of orders, or perhaps a wide-spread influenza of self-preservation.

Presently a storm of rain burst, and both sides ceased firing. I sat on a stump with my rubber blanket over my head, suffocating under the heat of it, and conscious of much moistness in the way of drippings. After an hour or so the rain stopped, and we renewed our musketry. So wore on the most uncomfortable, disgusting, irrational night that I can remember. At last daylight appeared: not sunrise, be it understood, but faint, dusky, misty dawn: a grayish imitation of light robed in fog. Lieutenant Allen of Company K now arrived from farther down the ravine, and went into the lines after the stragglers of his command. Reappearing in the course of a few minutes with a dozen men, he had to expose himself recklessly in order to shame certain demoralized ones into advancing over the fatal knoll behind us. He was admirable, as he walked slowly to and fro at his full height, saying, calmly, “Come along, men; you see there is no danger.” Old Putnam, galloping up and down Charlestown Neck to encourage the Provincials through the ricochetting of the British army, was not finer.

Now we recommenced firing with spirit and kept it up until after sunrise, thinking all the time how absurd it was, and wondering that we were not recalled. Just as the fog lifted and exposed us to the view of the enemy we heard from behind our rampart a shout, “Skirmishers, retire.” It was a good thing to hear; but it was easier said than obeyed. The 2d Alabama had a clean sweep into the gulch where we had collected, and it took all the stumps and jutting banks which we could find there to cover us. We were much in the condition of the Irishman in the runaway coach, who did not jump off because he had as much as he could do to hold on. But it was necessary to be lively; the fire was growing hotter every moment; the bullets were spatting closer and closer to our lurking-places. I claim some merit for superintending the evacuation so successfully as to have only one man hit in the process; although whether the men would not have got off just as well if left to themselves is of course an open question. I ordered one fellow up an almost invisible gutter, another through a thicket of blackberry-bushes, another along some tufts of high grass, and, in short, put my people on as many lines of retreat as the ground would admit. I had about fifteen soldiers, and I sent them in thirty different directions. One fine lad, the clerk of D Company, anxious to save the ordnance stores, for which his captain was responsible, undertook to carry off the muskets of five wounded men, and thereby drew upon himself an unusual amount of attention from the enemy. I ground my teeth with helpless rage and anxiety as I heard the balls strike like axes wielded by demons in the ground near him, he was lying upon his face, crawling slowly and pulling the muskets after him by a gun-strap. He had nearly reached the little log parapet when he gave a cry, They have hit me! Hands were extended to help him, and he was dragged over with no other harm than a flesh wound through the thigh, but without his precious charge of ordnance-stores. When I got in he was hopping about cheerfully and telling the adventures of the night to his comrades of the reserve companies. Poor, brave little Nash! Twenty months later, at Cedar Creek, he died on the field of honor.

I was now left alone with Lieutenants Allen and Smith. "Gentlemen, I said, you are officers; you are supposed to know enough to look out for yourselves; the devil take the hindmost.”

Smith disappeared among the blackberries, or perhaps went under ground, for I never saw him again till I got inside. Allen, over six feet high, bounded across the knoll with a length of stride which the rebel officers remembered after the surrender as having set them a laughing. I surveyed the ground before me, and pondered to the following purpose: “Here I am, a tolerably instructed man, having read The Book of the Indians, all of Coopers novels, and some of the works of Captain Mayne Reid. If I can’t he as cunning as a savage or a backwoodsman I ought to be shot.”

For my road of retreat I selected a faint grassy hollow, perhaps six inches deep, which wound nearly to the top of the knoll before it disappeared. From the stump which sheltered me, and which had already received one bullet and been barely missed by others, I made a spring to the foot of this hollow and dropped in it on my face at full length. I suspect that the grass completely sheltered me from the view of the rebels, for not a shot struck near me during my tedious creep to the summit of the hillock. And yet it was very short grass; I thought it contemptibly short as I scratched through it; an alderman would have found it no protection. I feel certain that my escape was owing entirely to the caution and dexterity with which I effected this to me memorable change of base; and even to this day I chuckle over my good management, believing that if the last of the Mohicans had been present he would have paid me his most emphatic compliments. I did not properly creep, knowing that it would not do to raise my back; I rather swam upon the ground, catching hold of bunches of grass and dragging myself along. My ideas meanwhile were perfectly sane and calm, but very various in character, ranging from an expectation of a ball through the spine to a recollection of Cooper’s most celebrated Indians. About a rod from the parapet the hollow disappeared and the herbage became diminutive. Here was the ticklish point; the moment I rose I would be seen. I sprang to my feet, shouted, “Out of the way!” thought of the bayonets inside, wondered if I should be impaled, made three leaps and was safe. I have seldom felt more victorious than at that instant when I became conscious that I had done the rebels. The repulse of the night seemed insignificant compared with the broad-day triumph of my escape from scores of practiced marksmen who were on the watch to finish me.

I immediately went to the Colonel and reported the skirmishing party all in. In this, however, I was mistaken, for about half an hour afterward an anxious voice outside informed us that another straggler had returned thus far from his adventurings in the ravine. A canteen of water and haversack of biscuit were thrown out to him, and he remained all day behind a stump, coming in safe at nightfall Of the hundred or so of officers and men engaged in this attack thirty-eight, or nearly two-fifths, were killed or wounded. The affair injured the morale of the regiment, for the men thought they had been slaughtered uselessly, and naturally concluded that there was a person above them somewhere who did not know what orders were good to issue. Even old soldiers rarely see the sense of being pushed out merely to draw the enemy’s fire. Our artillery now went to work upon the two pieces which had been unmasked to grape us, and soon had them silenced, with their wheels in the air and their muzzles pointing backward. The next day General Banks obtained another armistice to collect the dead and wounded of his skirmishing emprise. The rebels in our front crowded their parapet, pointing out where one of our men lay lifeless at the bottom of the ravine, and demanding news of our three wounded captains. They had learned their names during the attack from Mullen, our sergeant-major, a brave little fellow who had bean sent out with orders to the officers, and who, being unable to find them in the darkness, had shouted for them all over the hill-side. The dead man who was brought in to us was a horrible spectacle, swollen and perfectly black with putrefaction, filling our bivouac with an insupportable odor.

As the 14th of June has been well described by Captain Fitts I shall skip it, merely remarking that I would have been pleased to skip it at the time. This is the only fight that I ever went into with a presentiment that I should be hit; and perhaps the cause of the presentiment may be regarded as philosophically worthy of notice. Two days before the assault, as I was passing over a dangerous hillock immediately in rear of our bivouac, I heard the buzz of a Minie among the higher branches of the trees on my right, then heard it strike a fallen log close at hand, and then felt my right leg knocked from under me. The mind is capable of running several trains of thought at once. I was distinctly aware of the bullet singing on its way as merrily as a humble-bee in a flower-garden, and conscious of sending a hurried wish of spite after it, while I was desperately eager to pull up the leg of my trowsers and see if the bone was broken, remembering in a moment what a bad thing it was to have an amputation in such hot weather. Great was my gratification when I found that no permanent harm had been done. A hole in my dirty trowsers, a slight abrasion on the shin from which a few drops of blood flowed, and a large bruise which soon bloomed into blue and saffron, were the only physical results. My main feeling so far was exultation at the escape; the cause of the presentiment of evil was yet to come. When the accident became known in my company an old soldier, a German by birth, who had served in our regular army and in his own country, observed, “It is a warning!”

“What is that, Weber?” I asked.

“Oh, it is a foolish saying, Captain. But we used to say when a bullet merely drew blood that it was a forerunner of another that would kill.”

I am as little superstitious as a human being can well be, but Weber’s speech made me very uncomfortable until the 14th of June was over. I went into the assault with a gloomy expectation of the bullet that would kill, and hardly forgot it for a quarter of an hour together during the whole day. And when at night, after fifteen hours of exposure to fire, the regiment moved into the covered way and through it and beyond the reach of hostile musketry, I experienced a singular sense of elation at having balked my evil destiny. Yet I had contrived to behave about as well as usual, and had been honorably reported for gallantry at division head-quarters.

After the assault came twenty-four days more of sharp-shooting. We grew weak and nervous under the influences of summer heat, confinement, bad food, and constant exposure to danger. Men who had done well enough in battle broke down under the monotonous worry, and went to the rear invalided. From rain, perspiration, sleeping on the ground, and lack of water for washing, our clothing became stiffened and caked with inground mud. Lice appeared, increased, swarmed, infesting the entire gully, dropping upon us from the dry leaves of our bough-built shanties, and making life a disgrace as well as a nuisance. Excepting a three-days raid into our rear to cover foragers and hunt rebel raiders, the brigade had no relief for six weeks from the close musketry of the trenches. Nor did we have any of those irregular truces, those mutual understandings not to fire, which were known along other portions of the line. Every day we shot at each other across the ravine from morning to night. It was a lazy, monotonous, sickening, murderous, unnatural, uncivilized mode of being. We passed our time like Comanches and New Zealanders; when we were not fighting we ate, lounged, smoked, and slept. Some of the officers tried sharp-shooting as an amusement, but I could never bring myself to what seemed like taking human life in pure gayety, and I had not as yet learned to play euchre. Thus I had no amusement beyond occasional old newspapers and rare walks to the position of some neighboring battery or regiment. Meantime General Banks was preparing for another assault, and offering various glories volunteers for the forlorn-hope. I observed the regiments which had suffered most severely hitherto sent up very few names for the “Roll of honor”. For instance the 8th, one the most gallant organizations that I ever knew but which had already lost more than two-thirds of its numbers in our unhappy assaults, did not furnish a single officer or soldier. The thirty or forty who went from my regiment were a curious medley as to character, some of them being our very best and bravest men, while others were mere rapscallions, whose only object was, probably, to get the whisky ration issued to the forlorn-hope. I did not volunteer; our only field-officer was wounded, and I was the senior captain present; and I naturally preferred the chance of leading a regiment to the certainty of leading a company. There was no doubt that the brigade would be put in; on what occasion had it ever been left out? Once we were marched back to corps headquarters, formed in a hollow square, and treated to an encouraging speech from General Banks. One Colonel, who admired the discourse, remarked that it was fit to be pronounced in the United States Senate. Another Colonel, who did not admire it, replied that it was just fit. At the conclusion of the oratory our brigade commander called out, “Three cheers for General Banks!” whereupon the officers hurrahed loyally while the men looked on in sullen silence. Volunteers can not easily be brought to believe that any body but their Commander is to blame when they are beaten, and will not make a show of enthusiasm if they do not feel it.

Finally came news that Vicksburg had surrendered, and then a mighty hurrah ran around Port Hudson, like the prophetic uproar of rams horns around Jericho. “What are you yelling about?” an Alabamian called to us from across the ravine. “Vicksburg has gone up!” a score of voices shouted. “ Hell!” was the compendious reply, reminding one of Cambronne atWaterloo, as told by Victor Hugo. Then came quiet, flags of truce, treatings for terms, and capitulation. Grand officials at head-quarters got mellow together, while the lower sort mingled and prattled all along the lines. Bowie-knives were exchanged for tobacco and Confederate buttons for spoonfuls of coffee. It was, “How are you, reb?” and, “How are you, Yank?” and, “Bully for you, old boy!” and, “Now you’ve got us!” all through the a hot summers day. Never were fellows more friendly than the very fellows who but a few hours before were aiming bullets at each others craniums.

I soon discovered that the rebel officers, not without good reason, were exceedingly proud of their obstinate defense. They often alluded to the fact that they had held out until they were at the point of starvation, reduced to an ear of corn a day, and such rats and mule meat as the sharpest foraging might furnish. They had surrendered, they said, because Vicksburg had; yes, they bragged not a little of having outlasted Pendleton; at the same time their roll provisions would have been quite gone in three days more; and then they would have had to come down, Vicksburg or no Vicksburg. One of our captains accepted an invitation to dine with these gentlemen, and found broiled rat a better dish than he had expected.

“Well, you have cut the Confederacy in two,” said one officer to me. “But we shall not give up the contest, and I think we shall tire you out at last.”

Is he living now, I wonder, to see the fate of his prophecy?

The defense of Port Hudson was gallant, but the siege, I affirm, was no less so. On the day of the surrender we had ten thousand four hundred men for duty to watch and fight over a line of nearly eight miles in extent. We had at least four thousand killed and wounded, and not far from as many more rendered unserviceable by sickness. The total number of prisoners, able and disabled, combatants and non-combatants, amounted, as we are informed, I believe, by General Banks, to six thousand. Our victory had been no easy achievement, but it was no inconsiderable victory.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NY Times on the Destruction of Louisiana Countryside around Port Hudson

Yankee depredations in Louisiana is subject, in my opinion, that has fully been explored. Anytime I run across in relation to this topic is always interesting. A reported from the New York Times visited Port Hudson in February of 1864 and commented on the countryside surrounding the Union garrison there. I've included only part of the story that relates to the destroyed countryside. Notice the religious tone of facing judgement for rebellion in the reporter's story and notice how the reporter relishes in the abuse of the land.

New York Times
PORT HUDSON, La., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1864

...All through the country it was found that old men, women and children are reduced to the most frightful suffering. To a people accustomed to all the luxuries which the markets of Europe and America could afford, how galling it must be to beg a little coffee of a poor Federal soldier! How hard it must be to be reduced to corn meal only! The wives of officers in the rebel army, of Colonels and Generals; those of men formerly styled the "Aristocracy of Louisiana," have approached our soldiers, saying, "Please, Sir, can you bring us a little coffee when you come again; we want some salt very badly, and our little children suffer for proper clothing." Although there are strict orders against supplying the rebels, male or female, yet the common promptings of our common humanity, lead our soldiers to share their rations with these starving aristocrats. To our own knowledge, families would have starved to death this Winter, were it not for the pity, the mercy of our soldiers.

We read in the Good Book, that men reap that which they sow; and the rebels, both men and women, have this truth brought home to them now. They sowed rebellion against the Government, and they are reaping starvation. One is the natural product of the other. Our loyal people in the North have no idea of the extent of suffering which sweeps over the revolted districts. This Winter, with its unusual cold and want, will be marked in the recollections of the ex-planters of Louisiana as the saddest period of their life. Were your correspondent an artist, he would paint a picture in which he would delineate the suffering of these rebels. It would be, in some measure, like one which he remembers having seen in his boyhood, representing Adam and Eve in the attitude of viewing at a great distance the pleasures and the bounties, the purity and sweetness of Eden, not forgetting the wiley serpent who had beguiled them, and which, with glaring eye and poisonous tongue, was pictured lying on the ground. The picture of these rebels would be thus: A splendid mansion in the distance, surrounded with beautiful trees and flowers; a coach and fine horses, with negro driver and footman, waiting at the gate; an immense plantation, with a vast number of slaves employed in "the cotton and the cane;" the driver, with his lash in hand, riding around; the "trader" and the auction for the sale of human "chattels;" the parting of families would be depicted by the child torn from its parent's arms; the iron shackels; the stocks; the sugar-mill; the cotton-gin; the loads of sugar and of cotton; and yonder the first gun of the war fired at Sumter belching confusion into and through plantations, sugar, cotton, slaves, planters, palaces and gardens; and then, over in a corner, alone, ragged, gaunt and mad, should stand the rebel and his wife; and a serpent, whose name should be Slavery, should be represented coiled around their feet. "Caught in their own Net" should be the name of the picture; or, if that would not do, call it "The Reward of Iniquity." In this picture we see the present condition of sugar-growing, cotton-raising, slave-breeding, sin-accursed Louisiana. But in the picture there should be a sign to represent a new and better order of things. Perhaps we have the subject here in Port Hudson. An American flag, and beneath it a new Yankee "church and school-house." This would be about as good a token as any.

In this connection it may be well to communicate an appropriate fact. Two nights ago, the first of a large number of newly-constructed regimental school-houses was dedicated, with appropriate services. Every shingle, and every plank, and every log of it had formerly been used in the interest of Slavery! Henceforth the cause of education, religion and justice shall be served by them.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Delta Rifles, Part III

We continue John McGrath's account of the Delta Rifles of the 4th Louisiana Infantry. This is the coninuation of his story that ran in the December 16, 1921 edition of the Woman's Enterprise. Last time McGrath gave an account of the regiment up to its arrival at Camp Moore. This is where we pick back up...

The Delta Rifles
Get off at Last and Proceed to New
Orleans on the Way to Camp
Moore-Lost Liquor and First
Delta to Be Placed Und-
er Arrest - Stump

...The long, hot trip ended at last on arrival at Camp Moore where we detained to the intense disgust and after earnest protest the order was obeyed to unload the camp equipage and private luggage. This was the first manual labor many of the "Kid Glove Company" ever performed and worst was to come for no sooner had the cars been unloaded than the boys were furnished axes and grubbing hoes and put to clearing up ground covered by scrub oak and other small growth for our tents and company street. Oh, the blistered hands and aching backs! Yet these young gentlemen complained less than aggregation of rough necks known as the Tiger Rifles would have done.
While the boys were thus engaged the officers' negroes were loaned to us to cook dinner which consisted of wheat bread, beef, beans, potatoes, rice and coffee, good substantial food but bless you, our dainty lads refused to eat it. For the first time since leaving home I became angry when on fellow after being served, threw the food on the ground remarking as he did so "Hell, I wouldn't feed my nigger such stuff as that." "No," said I, "dam you, if I do not miss my guess about this war the time will come when you would pick that food out of the sand and eat it." They one and all in time were glad enough to receive a ration of corn bread and a small piece of bacon for a day's allowance.
Tents pitched and everything in order, details were made from guard duty, drilling was begun and formation of a regiment accomplished, between and after which sports of all kinds were indulged in and the boys seemed quite contented with military life. Early during this period of activity the ranks began to lose some of its most popular men. The first loss was the promotion of four, Thomas Gibbs Morgan was commissioned a Captain in the Seventh Louisiana, Dudley Avery a Lieutenant in the Eighteenth, Ben Cooley a Lieutenant in the Fourteenth, Marshall Pope regimental surgeon while Henry Watkins Allen became Lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth to which regiment the Delta Rifles were attached.

Within a few days after our arrival companies from every section of the State arrived daily until there were some nine or ten thousand men being broken into military life. Soon an epidemic of measles accompanied by other diseases broke out, resulting in numerous deaths, some claim that as many as 800 died at Camp Moore from first to last, but a more conservative claim put deaths at 600. Some 25 or 30 regiments were at one time or another at that camp, say 30,000 men. Every man who died at that time and place died while in the service of the State and previous to being transferred to the Confederate States for immediately upon being mustered and accepted by the Confederacy the regiments were sent to Virginia, Kentucky or elsewhere.

While disease was playing havoc among the troops strange to say that, not a single man of the Delta Rifles experienced the least sickness during the stay of that company. The measles seemed to be confined to troops from country life.

While deaths were numerous the Deltas performed all required duties and between time indulged in all kinds of sports including boxing contest and the only matter of serious import was when called out to suppress a rioting of the company known as the Tiger Rifles. The for the first time ball cartridges were served and inserted into our guns.

It seems that the mutineers refused to perform duty as ordered and defied authority to do their worst and Gen. Tracy in command determined to subdue them. So the Delta Rifles were chosen to enforce obedience to the laws. Ranks formed we marched to where the Tigers were assembled, accompanied by the Adjutant General who ordered the mutineers to form ranks and obey orders. This they flatly refused to do but instead began cursing the Kid Glove Deltas and daring them to fire. We were then ordered to load and come to a ready and the Adjutant General taking out his watch notified the malcontents that he would give them just two minutes to form ranks and unless they obeyed in that time he would order us to fire up on them. At first they laughed and guyed him but noticing the firmness of the Deltas and believing they would fire at the command they were in ranks before the expiration of the two minute limit. Strange to say these toughs had a more friendly feeling for us than for any other troops in camp and many of them honored us as visitors and when we entrained to leave the Tigers turned out in full force to bid us a farewell.

On the 25th of May 1861 a Confederate officer from Richmond arrived in camp to muster the Fourth Louisiana Infantry into the Confederate service when ranks were formed, the roll called, each held up a hand while the oath of allegiance was administered and at last after several months in the service of the State we became Confederate soldiers and left for points assigned us next day.

McGrath's story of the Delta Rifles will continue in later posts...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Van Alystne's Diary, Part II

We continue with the diary of Lawrence Van Alystne was part of Co. B, 128th New York Infantry. His regiment was assigned to Louisiana in December of 1862. The 128th New York served in our state until July 1864, when it was transferred to Virginia. Van Alystne put together a book that included his diary he kept while serving in the 128th New York, Diary of An Enlisted Man(1910).

Quarantine Station, La.

Cooking gray-backs—A big cat-fish—Starting a grave yard—" The most trying circumstances war can bring."

TOWARDS night the Arago swung up to the bank near the big brick building and we went ashore and piled into it. It was built for storing cotton, and is fireproof. The lower floor is of brick and the upper one of iron and so cannot well burn. The bricks seem hard and cold and are water-soaked. Still we spread our blankets and got some sleep and woke up hungry. The cooks have established themselves between us and the river so as to be near water. We have room to stir about at any rate and some went in bathing, but the water is cold. The only good quality the body lice possess is a habit of letting go of us when we move and grabbing hold of our clothes. Taking advantage of this we took the camp kettles as soon as breakfast was cooked and boiled our clothes. Those that had no change—and that was the most of us—ran about to keep warm until our garments were cooked and then after a wring out put them on and let them dry as fast as the wind and sun would do it. By night we were dry and slept without a scratch, and strange to say none of us took cold. But not all would try this heroic remedy and consequently we expect to have to repeat the operation. A negro came across the river with his boat loaded with oranges. We bought the whole of them as fast as he could count them out, fifty cents for 100, and the doctor says eat all you want. The sick are in the wooden buildings outside, except in one, which the officers have taken. We acted like colts just turned loose and already are forgetting the close quarters we were in so long. Along the river is a narrow strip of hard ground and beyond that is a swamp which so far as I can see has no end. Sluggish streams flow with the tide back and forth from the river to the gulf, and between these the ground is covered with what is here called wild rice. Birds of all sorts are plenty; ducks and geese all feed upon the seeds that abound everywhere.

December 17, 1862.

Have explored the country up and down and back from the river to-day. Found much that is strange to me but met with no startling adventures.

December 18, 1862.

The officers gave a dance in the upper part of the storehouse last night and the iron floor was fine for dancing. All hands were invited to join in and all that felt able did. Two men died yesterday, and last night another, all fever patients. Two were from Company A, and the other from Company I. They were buried just back of the quarters on hard ground, for this place. A catfish was caught by one of Company A's men to-day, that looked just like our bullheads, only bigger. As he was pulling him in over the mud the line broke, and I got the head for hitting him with an axe before he got to the water. The head weighed 145/2 Ibs, and the whole fish 52 Ibs. A native that saw him said he was a big one, but not as big as they sometimes grow. My family had a meal from the head and Company A had fish for all their sick and part of the well ones.

December 19, 1862.

Fifteen cases of fever reported this morning. A dead man was taken out very early and buried in a hurry. This has given rise to the story that small-pox has come, too. It looks as if it might be so, for it's about the only thing we haven't got. Those that seemed strongest are as likely to be taken now as the weakest. I have been half sick through it all and yet I hold my own, and only for my sore throat and this racking cough would enjoy every minute.

December 20, 1862.

One day is so much like another that the history of one will do for several. I think about everything that can be done for our comfort is being done. There must be some reason for our being kept here and it is probably because of so much sickness. It would not do to take us where others would catch our diseases and yet it is tough lines we are having. Chaplain Parker does everything he can to keep up our spirits, even to playing boy with us. A new doctor has come to take the place of one that died while we lay off Newport News.

December 21, 1862.

Inspection of arms to-day and a sermon by the chaplain. We are thinking and talking of the letters we will get when we have a mail. Uncle Sam keeps track of us someway and sooner or later finds us. We have a regimental postmaster, who is expected every day from the city with a bag full. We have enough to fill him up on his return trip. The Arago is unloading all our belongings, which looks as if we were to stay here. Good-bye, Arago! I wish there was a kettle big enough to boil you and your bugs in before you take on another load. So many are sick the well ones are worked the harder for it. I still rank amoung the well ones and am busy at something all the time. Just now I have been put in place of fifth sergenat, who among other duties sees that the company has its fair share of rations, and anything else that is going. I also attend sick call every morning, which amounts to this. The sick call sounds and the sick of Company B fall in line and I march them to the doctor's office, where they are examined. Some get a dose of whiskey and quinine, some are ordered to the hospital and some are told to report for duty again. Dr. Andrus and I play checkers every chance we get. We neither play a scientific game, but are well matched and make some games last a long time. He is helping my throat and my cough is not so bad lately. Our quarters were turned into a smoke house to-day. An old stove without a pipe is going and some stinking stuff is burning that nothing short of a grayback can stand. It is expected to help our condition, and there is lots of chance for it.

Christmas, 1862.

Nothing much out of the ordinary has happened since I wrote last. A man went out hunting and got lost in the tall weeds. He shouted until some others found him and then had great stories to tell of narrow escapes, etc. Harrison Leroy died this morning. He was half sick all the way here and did not rally after coming ashore. Dr. Andrus poked a swab down my throat with something on it that burned and strangled me terribly. But I am much the better for it. We have all been vaccinated, and there is a marked improvement in the condition of those not in the hospital. The chaplain preached a sermon and Colonel Cowles made a speech. He thanked us for being such good soldiers under what he called the most trying circumstances war can bring. Loads of soldiers go up the river nearly every day. As the doctor allows them to pass the quarantine, I take it they are not in the fix we are.

December 26, 1862.

Leroy was buried early this morning. My part in it was to form the company and march it by the left flank to the grave. For fear this may not be plain I will add, that the captain and orderly are always at the right of the line when the company is in line for any purpose and that end of the line is the right flank. The tallest men are on the right also and so on down to the shortest, which is Will Hamilton and Charles Tweedy, who are on the left, or the left flank as it is called. This arrangement brings the officers in the rear going to the grave, but when all is over the captain takes command and marches the company back by the right. I got through without a break and feel as if I was an old soldier instead of a new one. But it is a solemn affair. Leroy was a favorite with us and his death and this, our first military funeral, has had a quieting effect on all. Last night the chaplain and some officers, good singers all, came in and we almost raised the roof singing patriotic songs. Speeches were made and we ended up with three cheers that must have waked the alligators out in the swamp. Sweet potatoes and other things are beginning to come in and as they sell for most nothing we are living high. But we are in bad shape as a whole. Mumps have appeared and twenty-four new cases were found to-day. Colonel Smith, our lieutenant-colonel, has been up the river to try and find out if better quarters could not be had and has not succeeded. He is mad clear through, and when asked where we were to go, said to hell, for all he could find out.

December 28, 1862.

We have had a rain and the hard ground made the softest kind of mud. It sticks to our feet and clothes, and everybody is cross and crabbed. The sun came out, however, and our spirits began to rise as the mud dried up. There was preaching and prayer meeting both to-day.

Our chaplain's courage is something wonderful and many of us attend the services out of respect to him when we had much rather lie and rest our aching bones. The captain of the Arago sent word he will be along to-night on his way to New York and would stop for letters. He will find some, judging from the writing that has been going on.

December 29, 1862.

John Van Hoovenburg, another Company B boy, is about gone. The men are getting discouraged and to keep their minds from themselves it is said drilling is to begin to-morrow. The seed sown on the Arago is bearing fruit now. Something to do is no doubt the best medicine for us. I know I should die if I laid around and talked and thought of nothing but my own miserable self.

January 1, 1863.

The Arago did call for our mail and the body of Lieutenant Sterling was put on board to go to his family in Pougtikeepsie. We gave the old ship three cheers, and then some one sang out three cheers for the lice you gave us. John Van Hoovenburg died last night. We made a box for him out of such boards as we could find. Though we did our best, his bare feet showed through the cracks. But that made no difference to poor Johnnie. The chaplain was with him to the end, says he was happy and ready to go. This is how we spend our New Year's day. We wish each other a happy New Year though just as if we were home and had a good prospect of one. After the funeral Walter Loucks and I went up the river quite a distance, so far it seemed as if our legs would not carry us back. Negro huts are scattered along. I suppose white people cannot live here and so the darkeys have it all. Some cultivate patches of ground and in one garden we saw peas in bloom. We bought a loaf of bread and a bottle of molasses of an old woman, and though the bread was not what it might have been, it tasted good. There are some orange trees, but no oranges. The darkies say they will blossom in about a month. A man in Company E, a sort of poet, who was always writing songs for the boys to sing, was cutting wood to-day and the axe flew off the handle and cut the whole four fingers from the right hand. There were no witnesses and some there are who say he did it so as to get a discharge. The doctor has dressed the hand and he is going about in great pain just now.

January 2, 1863.

Friday. Peter Carlo, the one who went through the medical examination at Hudson with me, died last night. He was found dead this morning and appeared to have suffered terribly. His eyes and mouth were staring wide open and his face looked as if he had been tortured to death. Companies A and B keep in advance on the sick list.

January 3, 1863.

Two more men died last night, but not from Company B. We sent off another mail to-day. I wish we might get some letters. We ought to have a lot of them when they do come.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tennessee Diary Account of Port Hudson

At the University of Notre Dame's Rare Books and Special Collections sits the Thomas Benton Alexander Diary. Thomas Benton Alexander joined the Maury Artillery in October 1861 in Tennessee. He served with that unit at Fort Donelson. Alexander and his unit were exchanged in October of 1862 and reorganized and assigned to Port Hudson. He and his unit served there until their capture (the second time in the war) when that post surrendered on July 9, 1863. Most of Alexander's diary is transcribed and available for viewing (even the scanned pages as well). His account while in Louisiana is included in this post. Please visit the link to see Alexander's diary at Notre Dame and their indexed list of all of his entries. REALLY impressive what they have done with his diary.

Alexander left with a batch of prisoners from Camp Douglas on September 2, 1862. Once exchanged they reached Vicksburg on September 17th. From there they took cars to Jackson and then on September 22nd took the rail to Camp Moore, La. The Tennesseans stayed at Camp Moore for two days before leaving for Port Hudson on the 25th. They marched overland to Port Hudson where they arrived two days later.

December 12, 1862March 25, 1863

Dec the 12 gunboats come up in sight and fired several times also the 13th the 14 heavy firing was heard some distance off

March the 13/'63 Gunboats came up in sight. The bombardment commenced 14th 3 oclk P.M. lasted 2 1/2 hours at night commenced 11.ock lasted 3 1/2 hours the 15th the boats insight but all quiet 16th boats in sight no firing was heard 17th at 2 ock P.M. Commenced & fired a few times every now a then during the adressing at night commenced firing

The 18th boats in sight all qiet The yanks came in on the other side of River & fired fine house busted down in short time 19th 2 oclk P.M. several shells was thrown our & fired a few times 20th Through a good many shel during the day some were acurate all quiet at night 21st in Evening several shot was thrown at our stemers some very acurate no damage done sunday 22nd through the day all qiet 23rd all qiet along the lines 24th qiet 25. 2 oclock A.M. yanks set fire to a shugar mill & burnt 25 a few shells out of a sege [?] piece

May 17 – June 3, 1863

breast works 17. shot several times 18. at night shelled 19th shelled one hour at night 20th shelled one hour 21. fighting on land most all day at night as usual 22nd all quiet on land shelled from the Gunboats & shelled at night 24th fighting by land & water most all day very little damage done 25 heavy skirmish all day but few killed 26th skirmishing all the Day & canonading some at night 27th commenced fighting six oclok.A.M. lasted all day M. Hutchenson killed wounded Gus Mays D. M. Deckesy D. Kerr I. Bruce EC Alexander Capt Sparkman

it was the hardest fight I ever was in lasted all day 29th skirmishing all day shelling at night 30th I took a musket and went to the Biffle Pitts. skirmishing all day and shell at night 31th fighting all Day & shelling at night 1863 June the 1st skirmishing and cannonading all day shelling at night from the morters 2nd sharp shooting and cannonading during the day shelling from the mortery at night 3rd sharpshooting & cannonading all day shelling

June 4 – 14, 1863

at night from the morter Boats shelled 4 hours June the 4th sharpshooting & cannonading all day shell at night 5th sharpshooting and cannonading & shelling at night shelled 6th sharpshooting & shelling all day & shelled at night 7th sharpshooting & canona all day & shelled at night. 8th some sharpshooting & canonading through the day shelling at night 9th cannonading & sharpshooting all day shelled at night from the morters 10th sharp & canonading all day & night by land and water

The .11. sharp shooting & cannonading all day & night. several killed. 12th skirmishing & cannon fighting all Day & most all night 13th sharpshooting & cannonading all day about 12.oclock Federal charged our works was repulsed several killed one of the Rebels killed at shelled as usual by land & water 14th commenced fighting about Day in the morning on the left wing we repulsed them There loss very heavy They made attempt to charged the Right wing our Artillery played on them they was compel to give back our

June 14

was 3 killed zero wounded there loss supposed to be heavy fight about half hour their felled back sharpshoot & cannon fighting the balance of the day 15th sharpshooting & cannonading all Day some at night 16th sharpshooting & cannonading all day & some at night 17th some sharp shooting & cannonading all day & night 18th some little sharp shooting morters still & cannonading through the day & night 19th sharp shooting & cannonading all day and night morters quit shelling 20th sharp shooting and canonading all day & night morters all quiet

June the 21 1863

21st sharp shooting & some cannonading all day some at night 22nd some sharp shooting & cannonading all day & some at night Morters quiet 23rd sharpshooting & cannonading all day some at night 24th some shooting along the line all day & night 25th sharp shooting & some cannon during the day & night 26th sharp shooting cannonading on the right lasted 4 hours hardest sheeling I ever seen by land or water 4 of our men killed sevral wound

June 27 – July 9, 1863

June the 27.1863

27th cannonading & sharp shooting all day and most all night 28th sharp shooting heavy cannonading all day some at night 29 cannonading and sharp shooting all day and night some few killed & 3 wounded 30th Feds made a small charge on the right and get in our works but we drove them our loss 4 killed 7 wounded there loss was heaver than our July the 1 sharp shooting cannonading all day few killed several wounded they planted a battery across the river oposite our brestworks

on the right July the 2nd sharp shooting cannonading most all some at night 3rd sharp shooting and cannonading some all day & at night 4th sharp shooting cannonading day & night 5th sharpshooting and cannonading all day some at night 6th some cannond & sharp shooting during day & night 7th sharp shooting cannonading all day & some at night 8th surrendered Port Hudson at 2 oclock P.M. I was ordered to Depo then was surrounded by the Federals and Guarded

July 10 – July 31, 1863

The 10 we signed our parols still at the depot

11th at Depot yet

12th at Depot sick

13th at Depot we got our parols

14th we got our Parole and started home in the eavening sick was left that was not able to go

15th I moved to the hospital and there found Eben [i.e., Eben C. Alexander]

16th we still at hospital

17th in Hospital Port Hudson

18th no prospects of geting away

19th we made an attempt to get on a boat to start home was too late late the boat left

July the 20 1863

20th some of my company left Port Hudson to day for home a few ones still left behind 21st no prospects of getting away 22nd still at Port no prospects of geting away 23rd at Port Hud 24th all quiet 25 some little of going to mobile hear yet 26 still at Pt Hudson 27th some prospects of going away 28 was ordered to pack up our baggage but did not get off that day 29th packed up but did not get off 30th still disappointed not off yet 31st get on boat Morgan Brown Morgan Brown

August 1stOctober 15, 1863

at 2 1/2 oclock P.M. left the boat landing at 11 oclock P.M. started for New Orleans August the 1st we landed at New Orleans at 3 o'clock half remain all night 2nd layed up at the city all Day & night. 3rd got on boat Gen. Banks and left new orleans at 3 o'clo P.M. run all night got to the bay about 3 ocl.A.M. 4th run all day and got to our fleet & lay up at night 5th day we got on board of a Rebel boat at 2 oclk and started for mobile

got there at night we stay all night 6th stop all day 7th day got aboard of cars at 3 oclok run that evening & night 8th cars run off the track & detained 4 hours done no damage 9th I went to the Hospital at Montgomery I left the Hospital Sept the 25 & went to a private House to Mr J. A. Ware I left Mr Ware Oct 15th & got on boat & went to Oct

Monday, May 9, 2011

Louisiana's Plantations in Early 1864

From the New York Times, March 29, 1864:

NEW-ORLEANS, Tuesday, March 8, 1864.

Correspondence of the New-York Times.


Nearly all the desirable plantations on both sides the Mississippi, as high up as Baton Rouge, are under cultivation; so are those on the Lafourche, and west as far as Brashear City. Probably more than half of all are in the hands of new men, many of them from the North, who have begun the cultivation this year. Three new firms in New-Orleans, BROTT & DAVIS, GRAHAM, HODGES, & Co., and WEED, WITTERS & Co., are carrying on many, and are partners in many more They furnish supplies, &c., and divide with the proprietors the profits in some way agreed upon. To show how business has revived here, a partner in one of the firms told me their weekly profits were now four thousand dollars.

There have been many delays and difficulties in getting to work, growing out of the scarcity of mules and negroes. Mules have advanced, so as to touch $250 each for good plantation animals and are scarce at that; while last year they could be had for less than $100. As it requires from 60 to 75 mules to cultivate an estate of 1,000 acres, this change becomes important. My estimates are that it will cost this year to cultivate each 100 acres, (including cost of mules,) about five thousand dollars -- deducting the mules, &c. for each 100 acres, about three thousand. Here after this estimate may be reduced to two thousand, depending upon prices of labor and supplies.

Say outlay for labor....................$3,000

Say outlay for mules, &c............... 2,000 -- $5,000

Return, say 50 bales cotton, at 25c......$5,000

Or 50 bales cotton, at 50c................10,000

Many persons expect to get a bale of cotton to the acre. I have estimated it half a bale to the acre. Last year was a very favorable cotton year and everything went well. But in this pan of Louisiana this cannot be relied upon. I find[???] the richer sugar lands there is danger of overgrowth, which is non-productive; that rust is possible, which spoils the plant; that in case of a rainy season the bolls do not open, and that worse than all, the caterpillar may devour the whole crop in twenty-four hours. In other words, Lower Louisiana is not most favorable for cotton. Still much cotton was formerly raised here, and especially in the Teche country, west of this, and I think much will be raised this year, but I would not put it higher than half a bale to the acre.

The sugar crop of the State is not rated over 50,000 hogsheads in the last year, (and there is no probability of its reaching so high a figure this, against, say 400,000 hogsheads in the best of days. Very little new cane was put in last year, but little seed cane was saved for this year, and of the old stubble I think a great deal will have been destroyed by the severe frosts. Whatever sugars are produced will therefore bring higher prices. As to the value of these sugar lands, it is evident they must every year grow less, as the old cane "runs out," and no new cane is saved for renewals. I have no idea that they would now sell for more than one quarter their extreme prices. Whenever the settling day comes there must be a slaughtering of the innocents, who having spent their substance in riotous living are heavily mortgaged. The longer this settling is postponed the worse for the individual, the State, and the nation. Most of the propertis must change hands, and the sooner the better.

The best cotton region is further north upon the Teche, the Red River and the Mississippi, To-day I came upon a crowd of plantation negroes, who told me they had just been brought down on a gunboat from Waterproof (above Natchez,) and that the guerrillas were burning and destroying about there. From the various reports I judge that cultivators in that part are not having a "good time," and that but little cotton can be had from them. It is to be hoped that by another Spring the prospects will be safer.

The "chivalric" Gov. ALLEN (I am told and believe,) has given orders to burn right and left, upon the advance of our forces, and it is difficult to see whence large amounts of cotton are to be derived in the coming year.

Labor here is not at all adequate even this year to the demand. Many of the best men have enlisted in the army; many have wandered away, and thousands have died; so that at the present time brokers are getting from five to fifteen dollars for each good hand. There is no great danger therefore that our Irish citizens at the North will be driven out by the negro. I regret the fact. There is little doubt that the old owners will have to give it up, as the negroes are not willing to work for them, while they work well for the new men. The old owners will, in some cases, try it this year to their own satisfaction and to that of the negroes, and will then disappear. Let them go -- they have had their day, and a long and luxurious one it has been.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

91st New York's Attack at Port Hudson

Below are two accounts of the 91st New York in its attack on Port Hudson on June 14, 1863. This article is posted online at the New York State Military Museum. This organization has done a fin job of acquiring numerous articles on New York regiments that fought in Louisiana.

From the Ninety-First Regiment.
June 15, 1863.
To the Editor of the Times & Courier:
SIR:—Yesterday was fought the bloodiest battle the 91st has been engaged in, and we glory in the thought that the regiment not only sustained its previous character for gallantry and heroism, but that it exceeded anything it had ever achieved previously. But I sincerely regret and mourn our very heavy loss in killed and wounded. Among the former are Capt. Hurlburt, Co. K, and Adjutant Lieut. Shepard, both officers being shot down while leading that company to the charge, for on the fall of Capt. Hurlburt, the Adjutant took command of his company, and in gallantly cheering them on, received his death wounds; of all the officers that went into action only five remain for duty, the others being wounded, viz: Capt. Lee, and Lieuts. Herewith, Diamond and Matthias, severely; Stackhouse, slightly, and Barker got injured by a fall in a ravine, but he kept up until the battle was over. The number of men killed and wounded is reported to be 88 out of 293 that went into action, our regiment being reduced to that small number by battle and disease. A number of the wounds are slight, and many will again join the regiment, but still a good many will have to be discharged as unfit for service.
The 91st were armed with three and five pound hand grenades, besides their rifles, which they carried slung over their shoulders. They were to be covered by the 75th New York and 12th Connecticut as skirmishers, while they went up to the rebel entrenchments and hurl the hand grenades over, which they partially succeeded in doing through a tremendous fire, and with the loss of many men, the fire from the skirmishers not being so effective as could be wished to keep the rebels quiet.
When the 91st had gained the position it was to occupy, another regiment was ordered to advance and take position in front of the 91st. (I do not know what regiment it was,) It either refused or held back to make the advance, when our regiment was again ordered forward, the Colonel saying, "I know it is hard, boys, but it has got to be done, and we must do it" at the same time there was a moistening of the eye, for the Colonel felt for his men, knowing as he did, that he was leading them as it were into a slaughter house, and the regiment had lost many men in gaining the position they occupied. However, the regiment took him at his word, and nobly gained the desired point.
The officers vied with each other in deeds of gallantry, and it is almost invidous [sic] to mention names, but Capt. Evans, of Co. G, and Capt. Collins, of Co. H, were the observed of all observers. The former seemed to bear a charmed life, the balls falling about him like hail, and men dropping right and left of him, yet he passed unhurt through the fiery ordeal as he advanced, with his sword in one hand and his cap in the other, cheering the men on, and both Captain and himself with a few men, got so close up to the rebel works, that it was 10 o'clock at night before they could leave the place they were in, and get back to the regiment, yet both these officers never received a scratch.
And Our Flag! That beautiful emblem as it was when we left Albany, had grown pale and sickly from constant exposure, and its proportions measurably reduced, and with its shattered staff, lashed with line, showed many a rent and tear from shot and shell; but on this day its military career has ended, and though its existence was but brief, yet it has been a triumphant one, for it never fell back from the foe, and its only course was "forward." It has perished gloriously in the cause it represented, and as its historian let me give a desscription [sic] of its last hour.
On the charge of the "forlorn hope," when Col. Van Zandt gave the command "forward" there was a momentary hesitation, at which he ordered "Townsend," of Co. K, to bring on the flag. Townsend was the same who saved the flag from a fall at a charge on the 27th of May, and has carried it since, and into excellent hands it fell. On this occasion he promptly advanced, saying "boys, follow your flag,'' and they did, over the gully and up the knoll, and there he received five balls in his body. He sank down muttering "You _____, I plant you there yet." Lieut. Diamond, who was already wounded, caught the flag as Townsend fell, and the same instant was wounded again, this time dangerously. As he caught it, the staff was again shattered by a cannon ball, and the fragments flew around in all directions, and nearly every star was obliterated from the Union or "Blue Ground."—Corporal Garretty then sprang forward and caught its remains, receiving as he did so, two dangerous wounds which dropped him, but his grasp was so tenacious that it required the united strength of two men to get it from him. Now, our old flag is no more, which, on the morning of the 14th of April, at Irish Bend, was whole and intact, and is now lying in pieces in the knapsacks of different officers and men of the regiment as valuable relics, and neither gold or costly jewels could buy the insignificant pieces of what was once so vauntingly displayed at its presentation by Mrs. J. W. Harcourt, in Lydias street, to the 91st, when it left Albany, in December, 1861.
It is with great regret that I have to say that Port Hudson is still in possession of the rebels, and that so far we have as yet shed our blood in vain and uselessly against that rebel stronghold; but we have to take it, and fall it must and will, and I hope in my next letter to announce the glorious news, and that our present campaign is ended for the summer.
The following regiments were engaged on the 14th. 75th, 90th, 91st, 110th, 114th, 131st, 133d, 159th, 160th and 163d New York, 1st La., 4th Wis., 8th Vt., 8th and 15th N. H., 12th, 13th, 22d and 28th Conn., and 22d Maine, and all have suffered more or less, according to the position they occupied.
Quartermaster McKown is quite well; he has gone to-day to Baton Rouge, with the remains of Capt. Hurlburt. Lieut. Shepard's remains were sent yesterday; it was only last night that Capt. H.'s body could be recovered.
Gen. Banks has called for a volunteer force out of each regiment, to consist of from one to two thousand men, to make a grand attack on Port Hudson in a day or two. Every man and officer must be a volunteer, and come freely and if anything can take it, this will; if this fails we must abandon it for the present.

Yours, &c. W. H. W.

BEFORE PORT HUDSON, June 16, 1863.
DEAR BURROWS—When the Lieutenant Colonel arrived I was laying sick, but am better to-day, and am up to the front with my company (25 men). Sunday we had a pretty severe fight. We went into the fight with 13 officers and about 250 men, and came out with 5 officers and 135 men. Capt. Hulbert and Adjutant Shepard were killed. Capt. Lee, Lieut. Herwerth, Mattice, Diamond and Stackhouse wounded. Our army loss is great. I had the misfortune to sprain my knee, but could not get to the rear until 4 o'clock in the afternoon. We commenced the fight in the morning at 4 o'clock. Starting from camp at 1 o'clock A. M. yesterday, we got the Adjutant's body, boxed it up and sent it to be buried in the Magnolia Burial Ground at Baton Rouge. Captain Hulbert's body was got out to-day, and will be sent to the same place. Both bodies were very much decomposed. Capt. Collins and Evans and Lieut. Hobbs, Walker and myself came out all right. Our boys fought well. Give my love to all the family and regards to all friends. I am, most respectful1y, your o'bt ser'vt,
WM. P. BARKER, Lieut. Commanding
Co. A of 25 men, 91st Regiment N. Y. V.

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