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 7, 2011

91st New York's Attack at Port Hudson

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.

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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