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.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

John McGrath "In a Louisiana Regiment" Part IV

John McGrath began his military career as a Sergeant in the Delta Rifles of the 4th Louisiana Regiment. We have several of his accounts posted at Louisiana Civil War documenting his role in the 4th Louisiana. McGrath also took the time to write the New Orleans Picayune and include a brief write up of his early days in 13th Louisiana. He actually focuses his attention on joining "Avegno's Zouaves" as a Lieutenant. The six companies of the Governor Guards' Battalion ("Avegno's Zouaves") combined with four independent companies to form the 13th Louisiana in September of 1861.

In a Louisiana Regiment.

New Orleans Picayune, Aug. 2, 9; Sept. 6, 1903

After a month or more spent between the banks of Beaver creek and the river Tangipahoa orders came to proceed to Camp Chalmette, below New Orleans. Officers and men alike had been anxiously expecting orders to proceed to Virginia, and were greatly disappointed at change of destination, but as any change was desirable, marching orders were hailed with intense satisfaction.

Soon after receipt of orders a reign of busy activity began. Tents were taken down, trunks packed, blankets rolled and the regiment aligned along the railroad track to await the train. Every officer had one trunk at least at Camp Moore, but a day came when all one's surplus clothing was rolled in a blanket to be slung and carried over the shoulder. Trunks shrunk to valises, valises to hand grips and hand grips to nothing in a remarkably short time.

The train to carry the regiment and its belongings came snorting along about 3 o'clock in the morning, and as soon as filled with men and camp equipage was off for the Crescent City. Without regret, we bade farewell to the old camp in the pines, with its six or seven hundred graves, containing the remains of Louisianians who yielded up their patriotic young lives without having once faced the enemies of their beloved South. Not one single mound, however, was erected over the body of a member of the 13th, a fact which gives emphasis to the remark I often heard, that soldiers from urban communities withstand disease and hardships far better than those raised in the country, where regular hours are maintained and diseases usual to congested communities unknown. To measles may be largely charged the loss of life at Camp Moore, and as this disease is generally contracted in childhood by inhabitants in cities and towns, and as a great majority of our men were city bred, the 13th was as nearly immune as a regiment could well be.

After a few hours' travel, the train pulled into the old Jackson Railroad Depot, where an unusually animated scene presented itself. The surroundings were black with a dense mass of humanity. It was a bright Sunday morning, and fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sweethearts, and throngs of persons drawn hither by simple curiosity, or it may be, moved by patriotic impulses, arrayed in holiday garb, packed the depot until it was well-nigh impossible to alight from the cars or to form companies. [113]

Nine-tenths of the men of the 13th were from New Orleans, mechanics, screwmen, longshoremen, sailors, barbers, cooks, and, in fact, men of all trades and callings, some with parents, sisters and brothers, others with wives and children, and all with scores of friends, and it seemed this Sunday morning as if neither relatives or friends were absent—as if the last one was crowding in upon the cars as the train stopped. Nor was that the worst, for it seemed that every wife, mother or sister in the mob expected her soldier boy to accompany her home for the day. ‘Oh, Captain, for the love of God, let Patrick go home with me. I have a good dinner cooked for him, and he'll be in camp to-night. Oh, do, Captain; maybe I'll never see my boy again,’ importuned an old Irish mother. ‘Impossible, madam, strict orders to keep the men in ranks,’ was the reply. ‘Mon Dieu, Lieutenant! let my lila garcon, Jules, go my'ouse. His petitesis-tar seek. Come back queek,’ said another. ‘Impossible, madam..’ But Patrick slipped, and Mike followed; Jules dodged through the pressing crowd, and Pierre also. Of course, in such a crowd of admiring patriots, with hearts overflowing with patriotism, whiskey was slipped to the boys going off to fight the battles of the country, and the liquor soon began to tell, so by the time the march began many of the soldiers were decidedly groggy. Nevertheless enough sober and slightly intoxicated men remained with the colors to present a fine appearance as we bravely marched through Louisiana's great city, cheered to the echo by crowds massed on the sidewalks. With handsome field-officers, on gaily-prancing steeds, drum and bugle corps beating quicksteps, flashing uniforms of officers and men, the regiment presented a picture the like of which had not been witnessed in the Crescent City since Jackson's army fought at Chalmette—if then.

It was a long march from where the old Jackson depot was located to Camp Chalmette, and, as the men had not made any marches previously, it was absolutely necessary that frequent halts should be made, and every halt meant more whiskey. Only one gross violation of civil or military law resulted from excessive drinking, however, and that was the brutal and unprovoked murder of one soldier by another while resting in front of the Mint. This murder was committed by a Frenchman, a member of the Third Company, called the ‘Zoo-Zoos,’ who, crazed by drink, without the least justification, raised his musket and shot and killed a German of Company D. The murderer was disarmed, arrested and turned over to the civil authorities, but it is doubtful if he was ever brought to trial, as [114] the regiment left Louisiana not long after, taking all witnesses to the tragedy along.

The longest march comes to an end at last, and so did ours, and we arrived at Camp Chalmette in time to pitch tents for the night. Next morning stragglers came in by ones and twos, so that by evening roll call the regiment was itself again. At the time of which we are writing the battle field was a stretch of smooth pasture land, well adapted for regimental manoeuvers, and, as crowds of visitors came down from the city every afternoon, it was thought well to give daily exhibitions of the proficiency of the regiment. These drills and dress parades were no ordinary affairs, but on the most elaborate scale. Officers, mounted on handsome steeds, oceans of gold lace flashing in the sunlight, gorgeous Zouave uniforms and high-class military music, thousands of lovely bright-eyed women looking on admiringly, made every man of us feel as the old song expresses it:

Oh, there is not a trade a-going,

Worth the knowing or the showing

Like that from glory growing,

Says the bold soldier boy.

Nothing in the way of soldiering could have been more pleasant or agreeable than life at Camp Chalmette, and yet every unmarried man in the regiment was eager to be off. We were dreadfully afraid the war would end and we would be mustered out without experiencing the wild excitement of battle. To fight was what we had joined the army to do, and an opportunity to fight we ardently desired, yet, I think I speak truth, when I assert that in less than ten minutes in the ‘hornets' nest’ at Shiloh, the appetite for fighting of nine-tenths of the members of the regiment was satiated to repletion. If my readers will permit, I will digress right here long enough to say that the average patriot gets enough fighting to do him a lifetime in ten minutes under a good heavy fire of artillery and musketry, such as we had in the Civil War. A little of it goes a long way.

We were at Camp Chalmette some five or six weeks, and began to think the Secretary of War was ignorant of our existence or that he had a sufficient number of soldiers without us to whip all the Yankees this side of the Kennebec river, when orders came to strike tents and go by steamer to Columbus, Ky., where a Confederate army was then forming. Within five minutes after receipt of this order there was a hurrying and scurrying to and fro, such as was never before witnessed in the 13th. Striking tents, packing knapsacks, [115] filling haversacks and loading wagons to take our plunder to the steamer Morrison, which arrived almost simultaneously with the order to move. The news of our early departure had spread uptown before the soldiers themselves were made aware of it, thanks to the energy of newspaper reporters, and it was not long before, what appeared to be, a big half of the city's population was on the ground. Wives, mothers, sisters, sweethearts, with weeping eyes and saddened hearts, clinging to their loved ones, could be seen on every hand, and even those who were from other portions of the State were made serious and depressed by the sorrowful lamentations of the weeping women.

The last load of camp equipage had been sent to the river and only the stacks of arms and uniformed soldiers were left to mark the spot where our home had been for weeks, when loud above the hum of conversation and crying of women a bugle was heard sounding the assembly, followed by the short, sharp commands of ‘Fall in! Fall in!’ With a great cheer the men fell into their respective places, were brought to ‘Attention.’ ‘Take arms,’ ‘Carry arms,’ ‘Right face,’ ‘Forward march,’ quickly followed, the band struck up ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me,’ and the regiment marched gayly to the river, followed by the multitude of civilians, men and women, waving handkerchiefs and wishing Godspeed to those about to enter actively upon a war of four years duration, and which left only poverty, desolation and misery in its wake.

Weep, mothers, weep; weep, heartbroken wife; weep, gentle sister, for you are perhaps parting forever from your loved ones. Were you gifted with prophetic vision whereby you could penetrate the dark war-clouds of the future, you might see many of the dear ones now marching so bravely and proudly aboard the majestic steamer, lying stark and cold in death, on bloody shot-torn fields, or dying in fever-infected hospitals, with nothing but strangers to wipe the death-damp from their brows, or to utter a prayer for their soul's repose. Soldiers, take a last lingering look at your Crescent City, while the mighty engines throb and pulsate, impatient of restraint, for the years will pass before those of you who survive the bloody conflict will tread its streets again.

“I wish I had a gurl to cry for me; but the devil a wun cares whether I go or stay,” said a brawny young Irishman, as he looked on at the parting of other soldiers from those they held dearest in life.

‘A gurl to cry for ye, do you? Maybe ye'd like to have a wife [116] and two childer, like McMahon, over there, to be clinging to ye and begging ye not to lave'em. Be me soul, I'm glad I've no wun. If I get kilt me people will never know what became of me, and the only monument I'll get will be an entry on the Company books— Killed in battle, Mike Morrisy—and that's not me thrue name, at that.’

All aboard! The pilot has signaled the engineer, the shrill whistle gives warning that all is in readiness, the hawser is cast loose and the palatial steamer gracefully swings out into the stream. Nine hundred soldiers, five or six hundred of whom wore brilliant red caps and baggy trousers, cover the forecastle, the main upper deck and every spot available, except the cabin, which is reserved for the forty-five officers. A pretty picture was the majestic steamer, with its living cargo, as the gold lace and red and blue colors of the uniforms flashed in the evening sunlight, to elicit thunders of applause from immense crowds at points of vantage all along the city's front. Cannon saluted the departing soldiers as the boat passed the barracks; bells tolled out their sad farewells, and steam whistles shrieked shrilly and wildly. When the boat reached the upper limits of the city I noticed that every eye was turned cityward, and every face saddened at the thought of leaving home and friends. Ah, soldiers, take a long farewell look at your beloved Crescent City fading in the twilight. Feast your eyes once again on the crescent-shaped place of your birth, and the land of your fathers, for when the great steamer turns yon bend you will have passed from its life, many of you, forever. Even to you few who survive the dreadful carnage, will all be changed. Returning weary, emaciated, warworn, aye, limbless, you will find social, political and economic conditions far different from what you knew them, and the conqueror's steady tramp will be heard resounding through streets you proudly and bravely trod in the heyday of your military career. Turn away, soldiers, your city is no longer visible. The taps have sounded. Good-night.

Well, we are off at last. Off to where battles are being fought and where heroes are developed, and every officer and enlisted man in the Thirteenth is eager and anxious to participate in the fray. The all-absorbing desire is to reach a battlefield before the war closes. ‘It cannot possibly last longer than six months,’ say the wise ones. ‘Were not Mason and Slidell taken from an English ship and will not Great Britain avenge the gross insult to her flag?’ With an English fleet at their doors and Southerners at the heels of their soldiers, [117] short work will be made of the Northern armies. Throw fresh fuel into the furnace, firemen. Put on more steam, engineer, to hurry us on our journey. It depends largely on the speed of the boat whether we return conquering heroes, to be welcomed by the shouts and cheers of grateful and admiring thousands, or slink back to peaceful pursuits ‘unknown, unhonored and unsung.’ Ah! my debonnaire comrades, could you but glance into the book of fate and read what is there recorded; see before you the long, weary marches under burning suns, pelting rains or cutting hail storms, your hearts would be heavy and your faces serious. Could you, Major, see that shallow grave gaping to receive your mortal remains on the fiercely contested field of Shiloh, you would cease the interesting story you are telling and turn to beads and prayer. Charley, gallant, light and hearty Charley, could you picture in your mind that solemn midnight scene, on the banks of Stone river, where your body was laid away by tender hands of comrades, Il Trovatore, snatches of which you are softly humming, would suddenly cease and in its stead arise the solemn De Profundis.

Comfortably seated in an armchair, inditing these crude reminiscences forty-two years after, it appears strange and unreasonable that young men are ever ready to leave the comforts of home life to go where chances of early sepulcher are great, limbless bodies abundant, and at the best only hardships and suffering are to be found. So it was, is and always will be.

Readers of these sketches must expect quite a number of twists in the thread of my story. I am not writing a history of the 13th, but my own experience, as a soldier ‘in a Louisiana regiment.’ History tells the tale of the regiment. Nor will I cover more ground than that occupied by the Louisiana Brigade of the Army of Tennessee. While I was at the birth, baptism and death of that great Southern army, I only know what occurred outside of my brigade by hearsay. It was understood in our regiment that they who knew most of the general features of an engagement were company cooks, servants and skulkers, who gathered around wagon trains and viewed ‘the battle from afar.’ I felt in those days that a soldier who stood by his colors was doing his full duty without wandering over the field, watching the operations of brigades to which he did not belong. The truant's excuse, ‘I became entangled with other troops and could not again find my regiment,’ was met by a sneer in the 13th, and to avoid being sneered at, if not for loftier motives, [118] I confined myself and my knowledge of battles to regimental and brigade lines.

Now that we are afoot and fairly on our way, it might be well to furnish a roster of the regiment, which was as follows:

Randall Gibson, Colonel; Aristide Gerard, Lieutenant-Colonel; Anatole P. Avegno, Major;——King, Adjutant.

First Company, Governor's Guards—Auguste Cassard, Captain; Charles Richard, First Lieutenant; Victor Mossy, Second Lieutenant; Victor Olivier, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Second Company, Governor's Guards—J. Fremaux, Captain; B. Bennett, First Lieutenant; C. H. Luzenburg, Second Lieutenant; Charles Hepburn, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Third Company, Governor's Guards—Bernard Avegno, Captain; St. Leon Deetez, First Lieutenant; Henry Castillo, Second Lieutenant; Eugene Lagarique, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Fourth Company, Governor's Guards—M. O. Tracey, Captain; Hugh H. Bein, First Lieutenant; Eugene Blasco; Second Lieutenant; George W. Boylon, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Fifth Company, Governor's Guards-Lee Campbell, Captain; John M. King, First Lieutenant; J. B. Sallaude, Second Lieutenant; Norman Story, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Sixth Company, Governor's Guards—W. Dubroca, Captain; John McGrath, First Lieutenant; A. M. Dubroca, Second Lieutenant; Robert Cade, Junior Second Lieutenant.

St. Mary Volunteers—Thomas G. Wilson, Captain; James Murphy, First Lieutenant; H. H. Strawbridge, Second Lieutenant; Adolph Dumartrait, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Gladden Rifles—William A. Metcalf, Captain; John W. Labuisse, First Lieutenant; Walter V. Crouch, Second Lieutenant; E. B. Musgrove, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Southern Celts—Stephen O'Leary, Captain; John Daly, First Lieutenant; E. J. Connolly, Second Lieutenant; John Dooley, Junior Second Lieutenant.

Norton Guards—George W. Norton, Captain; M. Hunly, First Lieutenant; A. S. Stuart, Second Lieutenant; George Cammack, Junior Second Lieutenant.

J. M. Parker, Sergeant Major.

Colonel Gibson, a graduate of Yale, wealthy, refined and polished by travel and association with the most famous men of the day, served as Colonel or Brigade Commander from the firing of the first gun until the battle-torn and stained flags of the regiments were [119] furled for the last time, and never missed a battle or skirmish in which his command was engaged, and these numbered one hundred or more. In my opinion, Gibson was not what one might call a great commander, but that he was a brave and faithful one his splendid record bears testimony. He was a good soldier, if not a military genius.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gerard was a Frenchman by birth and a soldier by profession. He was a master of the science of war, and brave to a degree of rashness. Arriving in New Orleans some years previous to the war, while occupying an editorial position on one of the French papers, he became prominent through a duel with a notorious duelist, in which the latter was fatally wounded. Colonel Gerard was not long with the regiment, receiving a severe wound at Farmington, and upon recovery being assigned to duty in the Transmississippi Department.

Major Avegno was a Creole of Louisiana, educated, refined and wealthy. His service was also short, as he fell mortally wounded on the second day at Shiloh, and died a day or two after.

Adjutant King, at the breaking out of the war, was a second lieutenant in the United States Army, resigning to take service with the Confederacy. He was a thorough soldier, and to him in a great measure was due the fine discipline and perfect drill which were always characteristic of the regiment.

At one of the landings made by the boat it was learned that a battle had been fought at Belmont, opposite Columbus, and that the Yankees had been defeated with great loss and had returned to Cairo pell-mell, and that, too, without the presence of the 13th. Thus, thought we, faded the only opportunity of ever facing the enemy. Defeated at Manassas and at Belmont, the Federals would realize the folly of attempting invasion of the South and throw up the sponge. The disappointment had a most depressing effect on officers and men alike, the former cursing the slowness of the boat, while the latter, more superstitious, laid it on the unlucky number of the regiment. ‘Oh, why the blazes did I join the 13th. I might have known we'd be unlucky,’ was a common remark. It was a most discouraging piece of news to all, but I lived to see a time when the boys were not so anxious; when they could have remained on board a Confederate boat with perfect complacency while others were dying. The 13th always performed its full duty when called upon; the men did the fighting falling to their share, but, like the man who ate the crow, ‘didn't hanker arter it.’ After one or [120] two good stiff battles indignation meetings were not held if the regiment found itself in reserve. We might say right here, however, that no battle was fought by the Army of Tennessee where we were overlooked, when a battery was to be captured or a line of battle attacked. ‘Oh, go on, Mike, don't ye know we'll be sent in. We're not voters, an' they'll want to save the Hoosier regiments so as to have as many men after the war as they can to vote. Every last man of the colonels will be running for office,’ I heard one of the men of the Southern Celts say on one occasion.

About evening of the sixth day the journey ended. Columbus was covered by snow and the men without overcoats. Crowds of soldiers came down to the river to see us land, and as many of these had never seen a zouave before, they were surprised beyond measure. They took the baggy trousers for petticoats and one loud-mouthed Hoosier shouted: ‘Jeems, come over here and see the Loosyane wimmen soldiers. All of you'ns come.’ Disgust was plainly discernible on the countenances of the men at being taken for women, and the remarks addressed to the country soldiers were not such as to be printable.

At last the 13th was at the front.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Corps D'Afrique

The Corps D'Afrique was created by by an order of Major General Nathaniel Banks while he was in Opelousas, Louisiana. Quite an interesting piece of history for our Opelousas. Below is a New York Times printing of Banks' order that he made on 1 May 1863.


Published: May 18, 1863


GENERAL ORDERS No. 40. -- The Major-General commanding the Department proposes the organization of a Corps d'Armee of colored troops, to be designated as the "Corps d'Afrique." It will consist ultimately of eighteen regiments, representing all arms -- infantry, artillery, cavalry -- making nine brigades of two regiments each, and three divisions of three brigades each, with appropriate corps of engineers, and flying hospitals for each division. Appropriate uniforms, and the graduation of pay to correspond with the value of services, will be hereafter awarded.

In the field the efficiency of every corps depends upon the influence of its officers upon the troops engaged, and the practical limits of one direct command is generally estimated at 1,000 men. The most eminent military historians and commanders, among others THIERS and CHAMBRAY, express the opinion upon a full review of the elements of military power, that the valor of the soldier is rather acquired than natural. Nations whose individual heroism is undisputed, have failed as soldiers in the field. The European and American continents exhibit instances of this character, and the military prowess of every nation may be estimated by the centuries it has devoted to military contest, or the traditional passion of its people for military glory. With a race unaccustomed to military service, much more depends on the immediate influence of officers upon individual members, than with those that have acquired more or less of warlike habits and spirit by centuries of contest. It is deemed best, therefore, in the organization of the Corps d'Afrique, to limit the regiment to the smallest number of men consistent with efficient service in the field, in order to secure the most thorough instruction and discipline, and the largest influence of the officers over the troops. At first they will be limited to five hundred men. The average of American regiments is less than that number.

The Commanding General desires to detail for temporary or permanent duty the best officers of the army for the organization, instruction and discipline of this corps. With their aid he is confident that the corps will render important service to the Government. It is not established upon any dogma of equality or other theory, but as a practical and sensible matter of business. The Government makes use of mules, horses, uneducated and educated white men in the defence of its institutions. Why should not the negro contribute whatever is in his power for the cause in which he is as deeply interested as other men? We may properly demand from him whatever service he can render. The chief defect in organizations of this character has arisen from incorrect ideas of the officers in command. Their discipline has been lax, and in some cases the conduct of their regiments unsatisfactory and discreditable. Controversies unnecessary and injurious to the service have arisen between them and other troops. The organization proposed will reconcile and avoid many of these troubles.

Officers and soldiers will consider the exigencies of the service in this Department, and the absolute necessity of appropriating every element of power to the support of the Government. The prejudices or opinions of men are in no wise involved. The cooperation and active support of all officers and men, and the nomination of fit men from the ranks, and from the lists of non-commissioned and commissioned officers, are respectfully solicited from the Generals commanding the respective divisions.

By command of Maj.-Gen. BANKS.


Friday, July 22, 2011

New Book out on the Tiger Rifles

The Tiger Rifles by Michael Dan Jones

Michael ("Mike") Dan Jones of Lake Charles, La. has written a new book titled, The Tiger Rifles: The Making of a Louisiana Legend. If you click on the link it will bring you to the site to order his book. I asked Mr. Jones to elaborate a little on the scope of the book and why he chose the Tiger Rifles:

"As to the book, it is a history of the Tiger Rifles, Company B, 1st Special Battalion (Wheat's) Louisiana Volunteers. Because of their flashy zouave uniforms, their famous battalion commander, Major Roberdeau Wheat, and their heroics at First Manassas, their nickname, Tigers, became attached, first to the battalion, and then to all Louisiana troops serving in the Army of Northern Virginia. I especially tried to separate fact from myth with regards to the Tigers. They became so nortorious for their antics in camp, they got blamed for a lot of things that weren't their fault, although they did plenty on their own to deserve their reputation. I especially looked into the possible real identity of their notorious commander, Captain Alexander White. His name is an alias but as far as I know, his real identity has been a mystery. Also I brought together some information on the wealthy businessman, A. Keene Richards, who gave them their zouave uniforms. I tried to keep the focus tightly on the men of the Tiger Rifles and bring them to life as much as the limited resources allowed. I feel like I accomplished my goal."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

John McGrath, "In a Louisiana Regiment" Part III

John McGrath began his military career as a Sergeant in the Delta Rifles of the 4th Louisiana Regiment. We have several of his accounts posted at Louisiana Civil War documenting his role in the 4th Louisiana. McGrath also took the time to write the New Orleans Picayune and include a brief write up of his early days in 13th Louisiana. He actually focuses his attention on joining "Avegno's Zouaves" as a Lieutenant. The six companies of the Governor Guards' Battalion ("Avegno's Zouaves") combined with four independent companies to form the 13th Louisiana in September of 1861.

In a Louisiana Regiment.

New Orleans Picayune, Aug. 2, 9; Sept. 6, 1903

After waiting for months at Mandeville for the appearance of an officer to muster the battalion into the Confederate service, a proposition was made by the Adjutant General to the effect that, with four other companies ready for service, we form a full regiment of infantry, and the proposition was accepted. A few days after the camp was thrown into intense excitement by an order for the battalion to proceed to Camp Moore, preparatory to being sent to the seat of war. The good people of Mandeville had been exceedingly kind and hospitable to officers and men during our long stay among them, and now that the boys were going forth to assist in fighting the battles of the South, they overwhelmed us with kindness. The company to which the writer belonged was left behind when the battalion departed, to pack up and guard quartermasters' stores while in transit from Mandeville by schooner, through Lake Pontchartrain, to Pass Manchac, where we were to board a railroad train for Camp Moore. The boat carrying the five companies had scarcely started on her way ere a saturnalia of drunken fury took possession of the men of our company, accompanied by incipient mutiny, which might have had a serious termination had it not been for the courage of the officers, manfully aided by the sergeants and a few of the sober men. We passed an alarming night, but by morning the whiskey had died out, and, as the bar-rooms remained closed, order was brought out of chaos. The citizens of Mandeville were seriously alarmed by the riotous conduct of the soldiers, a condition brought about by the unstinted generosity of themselves, and were careful next day not to furnish much whiskey with their kindness. The men, too, kept [109] busy loading schooners, were under better control, but along about the time of embarking I began to detect the preliminary symptoms of another big drunk. Finding the soldiers about to take final leave of their dear old town, citizens again filled their canteens with the best to be had, so that when the hawser was cast loose we had another drunken company. To the patriotic people of Mandeville nothing was too good for Southern soldiers.

Night falling as we got well under ways, as a means of pacification I suggested that the men sing songs of their native land, and soon a dozen voices were raised in as many languages, and the singing, interspersed with a few fights, continued until one after another the drunken soldiers fell asleep upon the deck, the only covering being the starry canopy of the heavens.

Reaching Camp Moore the next day we found four companies awaiting to be added to the six of zouaves, and when this was accomplished we were no longer a battalion, but the 13th Louisiana Regiment of Infantry. That's another chapter of my story, however.

The four companies awaiting the Avegno Zouaves, or Governor's Guards, for the purpose of forming a regiment, were the Southern Celts, Captain Steve O'Leary (the famous ex-Chief of Police of New Orleans); the St. Mary Volunteers, Captain James Murphy; Norton Guards, Captain George Norton, and Crescent Rifles, Captain W. A. Metcalf.

Randall Lee Gibson, a captain of the First Louisiana Regular Artillery, was First Colonel. Aristide Gerard and Anatole Avegno Lieutenant Colonel and Major of the battalion, were given corresponding rank in the new organization. Lieutenant King, who had resigned a commission in the United States Army and cast his lot with the South, was appointed Adjutant. With these field officers and ten companies complete was formed a regiment with the unlucky number, the Thirteenth.

Camp Moore was the rendezvous for State troops, where, as the companies arrived, they were assigned to regiments and drilled and disciplined until transferred to the Confederate government. Gen-. eral Tracey, Major General of the Louisiana Militia, was in command of the camp, and a most trying position it was, with officers new to military duties and enlisted men untaught and undisciplined.

The 10th Louisiana had departed for Virginia a few days before our arrival, to the evident satisfaction of the old General, who found the men of this command rather difficult to handle, and from what we were told, it appeared no love was lost between the General and [110] the 10th. Be that as it may, he no sooner laid eyes on the battalion of Zouaves than he exclaimed: ‘Heavens above! When I sent the 10th away I thought I would never see its like again, but these fellows are chips from the same block.’

Tents pitched, drilling became the order of the day, and what some of our military college-bred officers did not know, but thought they knew, of tactics and company evolutions would fill more sheets of paper than I can well afford, and in strict deference to truth, I must say that the military knowledge of our Colonel was infinitesimal. Lieutenant-Colonel Gerard and Adjutant King were adepts in military science, and had been well and thoroughly trained, the former in the French army, and this, together with the fact that many of the company officers of the 13th Regiment had received initial training in the earlier-formed regiments, in which they had entered the service as privates, furnished a fairly good starting point.

Colonel Gibson, an exceedingly bright man, soon mastered tactics, and was never after at a loss in handling regiment or brigade. There were, however, company officers who firmly believed they possessed a knowledge of tactics equal to General Hardee, but who really ranked along with the Georgia captain, who, finding his company face to face with a rail fence which he wished to cross, gave the command: ‘Scatter, fellows, and cluster up on the other side.’ Yet the day came when General Hardee, at the close of a competitive drill at Tullahoma, addressed to the 13th the following words: ‘You are one of the best drilled regiments I ever saw.’ This was a high compliment to come from the author of Hardee's Tactics, and went to prove that while there were few, if any, professors of military science in our regiment, the young fellows were earnest, painstaking students of company and battalion formations.

Young men bearing such names as Norton, Cammack, Labouisse, Lallande, Luzenberg, Crouch, and many other of the best families of New Orleans and Louisiana were naturally bound to excel where ambition, duty and patriotism pointed the way. Self-confidence in ability to beat ‘old Hardee’ at his own game was not the only claim to superiority the boys set up, but to valor as well, and I may be permitted to say right here, that there was scarcely an officer or man in the 13th Regiment, in its early days, who did not honestly and conscientiously believe that he could, singly and alone, whip a ten-acre lot full of Yankees. Many afterwards undertook the job, only to find it an extremely difficult and disagreeable one, and alas, the shame of it, some of the fiercest of our aggregation of ferocity [111] did not even put their valor to the test, but got out of the service just as soon as it became positively certain that there would be Yankees to whip.

One in particular, I remember, was so bloodthirsty that he fairly foamed at the mouth whenever Yankees were mentioned, and yet he let the regiment proceed to bloody fields without accompanying it, and I often thought that the war might have terminated differently had this indignation and anger been of a more enduring nature. Instead of remaining at home, after Yankee occupation, calmly transacting mercantile business, if the three or four individuals who quit the regiment at Camp Moore, or shortly after, had remained steadfast, the surrender ofAppomattox might not be embraced in the history of the country. Fortunately for the honor of the State and the regiment, those who back-tracked were decidedly few. There were two or three, but with these exceptions, officers and men alike, were eager for the fray, and as CampMoore was a dull spot in the pine woods, soon began grumbling at the delay in sending them to the front.

Drilling and guard mounting became extremely irksome and monotonous, and if it had not been for our little games of poker and frequent trip to the sutler's store to indulge in convivial fellowship, it would have been almost unendurable. Wines and liquors were sold at the canteen to officers without regard to quantity, and to the enlisted men upon presentation of a written order signed by a company officer. Don't be shocked, gentle readers, when I say that many officers and the men that could do so, became liberal patrons of the deadfall, for I boldly assert that the average soldier, whether wearing the shoulder straps of an officer or the plain, unadorned jacket of a private, will indulge, to a greater or less extent, in ardent spirits when it is to be had, and it is generally to be had. Liquor was as easily procurable in the Thirteenth Louisiana as in any prohibition town you ever struck, and the latter is an easy proposition.

True, there were some who did not indulge, nor did I ever see an officer intoxicated at Camp Moore, but the whiskey was there to be sold, and was sold in vast quantities. The enlisted men secured the signatures of captains when they could do so, but to save time and chances of being met by a refusal most frequently forged the names of their officers. They were lively chaps, those soldiers of ours, to whom forgery of an officer's name to a pass or to a whiskey order was a small matter—a good joke. It was said parties high in authority [112] had an interest in the sutler's store, and for that reason signatures were not too closely scrutinized. This may not have been true; but that a wonderful number of men purchased liquor on forged orders is a fact.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Van Alystne's Diary, Part VII

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).

This post finishes Van Alystne's chapter on the Siege of Port Hudson. This piece covers June 18 - July 9, 1863 (the surrender).

June 18, 1863.

Thursday. Another squad of deserters came in this morning. I suppose they come in on other parts of the line just the same. This must weaken the enemy faster than our fighting has done. They all tell of hard times and short rations. The weather is hot, and a horrible stench comes from the dead horses and mules, which the buzzards are tearing to pieces. There is scarcely any firing between the sharpshooters. The lines here are so close the men talk with each other, and have agreed to warn each other when the officers come around. At other times it is more like visiting than anything else. It is terribly hot in the rifle pits. I made the rounds to-day, and had a chat with a middle-aged Johnnie. He said we were not at all like they had been told, and there were some who believed we had horns on our heads, and had feet like cattle. Now that they know better they don't want to fight us, and will only do so when obliged to. Three men were sunstruck while in the trenches to-day.

June 19, 1863.

Friday. Three more men knocked out to-day. One sunstruck and two wounded. The Rebs have men posted way back inside the works, with rifles having telescope sights, and it is these that do the mischief, rather than those in the rifle pits. Now that we are warned of these fellows, we must look sharp, and maybe then get a clip. This explains how a couple of balls whistled past me yesterday when no sound of a gun was heard.

June 20, 1863.

Saturday. One of Company B, while poking about yesterday, had the good luck to shoot a cow, and last night he came in dragging as much of it as he could. So we have had another fill up and the world seems well with us now. I went for another swim in the river, and gave my clothes another washing. My one shirt has shrunk so I can hardly get into it. Not a button is left on it. The wristbands only come a little below my elbows, and the bottom only just reaches to my trousers. I have no way to tell how I look, but the others are about as black as the negro troops, and I suppose I must be ditto. The rifle pits are being extended and the Rebs are shoving theirs just as fast, each keeping about the same distance from the other. No shooting is done, a sort of agreement having been made not to fire on each other until another assault is made along the whole line.

June 21, 1863.

Sunday. My diary says tc-day is Sunday. If I have kept my reckoning right it is, but nothing else hints at its being the day set apart for rest. Directly in front of our sleeping quarters is a high knob or hill, and directly back of that is the water battery on ground just as high and only separated from it by a V-shaped hollow between. There are men making a road up that knob, and I think it is going to be fortified. The storming party is said to be full, and are to report at General Banks' headquarters to-night. It is said thirty-five go from the I28th. If all the regiments send a like number there will be several thousand instead of one, as was called for. Nearly half from this regiment are from Company C. Company A is next, with nine, and the rest are from the other companies, except B, G, and E, which send none. They go way up to the right of the line, but where they will make the attempt is not told, if it is known. Captain Keesex goes in command of the squad from the I28th, and with sixteen from his own Company C, nine from Company A, three from Company D, one from Company F, two from Company H, three from Company I, and two from Company K, making thirty-six in all, making a big showing from our regiment. We bid them good-bye, for some of them, and perhaps all, have gone on their last march. There are men left who have proved themselves just as brave as these have ever done. We don't all see it alike, that's all. We feel as if we had had a big funeral in the family, and are a sober set to-night.

June 22,

Monday. Another drenching shower last night made our night miserable, though the sun soon dried us off this morning. A foraging party was sent out for fresh beef to-day, and came in minus one man, who it is supposed was picked up by guerrillas. Parties of them are said to be hovering about outside of our lines. The Rebs asked our pickets to-day when that thousand men was to come and get them. They would not tell how they knew of it, but perhaps General Banks has sent them word, as he has done of every move yet. No doubt the exact time and place will be told them by some one. I am more glad than ever now, that none of Company B went. The general opinion is now that the boys that have volunteered have been sacrified, and that if the thing was to be tried over again, few, if any, would stir a step. All quiet to-day except now and then a gun just to keep up appearances.

June 23, 1863.

Tuesday. Another detail for foragers to-day. I made out to get on this time. The quartermaster's team goes to bring in the beef or mutton or whatever it is we may get.

June 24, 1863

Wednesday. It is only by pure good luck that I am in my usual place of abode to-day, and able to write in my diary of yesterday's foraging expedition. A detail of three from each company set out with a four-mule team. We went until about opposite our old quarters, on the center, and then turned towards Port Hudson Plain. We divided up into squads, Smith Darling, the drummer boy, and myself of Company B making one, and each hunting on our own hook. If firing was heard, it would indicate a kill, and the wagon was to come for the game. We found cattle, but they were wild, and very soon the Company B squad found itself alone and out of sight or hearing of the others. Along in the afternoon we started to find our way back to camp and soon after came upon and shot a two-year-old steer. We fired our guns several times and then went to work and dressed the animal as well as we could with only our knives. We got the backbone apart and strung the hindquarters on a stake. Giving the drummer the liver and tongue, we started, hoping the wagon would pick us up on its way back. The country seemed new to us and we soon made up our minds we were lost, as likely to be going away from Port Hudson as towards it. Just about sundown we came in sight of a house, and before we got to it saw General Dow and George Story ride up. They dismounted, and the General went into the house, leaving George to put up the horses. George had pulled the saddle from his horse when we came up and hailed him. He was as glad to see us as we were to see him. He said the General was stopping there and his foot was getting well fast. He told us to take a path through the bushes and we would soon come to a negro shanty, where he thought we could trade some beef for an old mule the darkey had and so get the rest of the meat into camp. Just then we heard the clank of sabres coming, and fearing it might be some hungry cavalry squad who would want us to divide, we got into the bushes as fast as we could. We were just nicely hidden when they dashed up. We heard them talking with Story and soon after heard them ride on down the road in the direction from which we had come. Why the general left the good quarters inside the lines for this out-of-the-way place is a query we don't understand. We soon reached a clearing and were able to trade a chunk of beef for an old gray mule. It was then dark, but with directions from the darkey we were able to strike the road to camp. Smith rode the mule with the beef strung across in front, and the drummer and I followed on with the liver and tongue. When we were within a couple of miles of home a shower came upon us and soon soaked us through. The thunder and lightning was something awful, but except for the lightning I don't know how we would have kept the road. We reached camp at 10 o'clock, wet, tired and hungry enough to eat raw beef. The team with the rest of the foraging party had got in about dark, and until we came in, it was supposed some wandering squad of rebel cavalry had bagged us. Altogether we had a sufficient supply of beef to last us for some days.

June 25,

Thursday. We have been listening and expecting to hear the beginning of the third attempt to take Port Hudson by storm. But the day has passed without any great excitement. Five deserters came in this morning, and said there was others that would come if they were sure of good, fair treatment. They had agreed upon a signal, which was to be a green bush fastened upon the end of an old building close by. If the bush was put up it would mean they were well treated, otherwise they were to say nothing about the signal, and it would be a warning to their comrades to stay where they are.

A letter from Jane to-day. They have just heard where we are, and are very anxious. The newspapers have Banks' army all cut to pieces.

June 26, 1863.

Friday. Lieutenant Pierce is half sick yet, and ought not to be here. He wished this morning he had some blackberries, so three of us got permission to go for some. So many pickers have cleaned them up, so we found only a few here and there. We went a long way out, and made a thorough search. A shower overtook us and gave us a fine washing. Just after noon we heard the ball open again. It seemed to be all along the line from right to left. One said it was General Banks' notice to the Rebs to get ready to whip him again. We hurried back with what berries we had. The shot and shells were flying both ways. Company B was out on the skirmish line, and did not get in until morning. The firing stopped about dark, and so far as I can find out no one has been killed or wounded.

June 27, 1863.

Saturday. Too many blackberries yesterday have made me sick to-day. I certainly feel slim. I don't care who has Port Hudson; I don't want it. I wouldn't turn my hand over for the whole Confederacy.

Later. Am feeling better, but don't hanker after blackberries yet. Company B turned up four men short but they came in later. They got so close they had to crawl on their bellies for a long ways before they dare stand up.

June 28, 1863.

Sunday. Am all right again. To-day has been a busy one. A big gun, the biggest I ever saw, "Old Abe" it is called, was dragged here last night and got up on the point opposite the Rebels' water battery. To-day the gun has been got into position. Being so near, and having so little to do, I put in the day with them, helping in any way I could. The fort is made of cotton bales, backed up by bags of earth too thick to be shot through. When all was ready it was most sundown. A limb with thick leaves hung over one side, and under this I got to see what happened. When "Old Abe" finally did speak, the shell went into the ground way under the rebel gun, and after what seemed a long time exploded. The whole thing went up in the air, and when the dust settled, the muzzle of the gun lay sticking over the bank, pointed up toward the moon. So ended the famous "water battery" that we have heard so much about. "Billy Wilson's" Zouave regiment, our left-hand neighbor, then came up the ravine dragging a long rope they had got from the gunboats, and slipped it over the muzzle of the gun, intending to drag it over. But they couldn't budge it, and finally gave it up. Next they came back with hand grenades which they fired and tossed over. They had cut the fuses too long and they had no more than landed on the other side when the Rebs threw them back. That made the red legs skedaddle, and all that saved them was the fact that in coming up they had come on a slant, while the grenades rolled directly down. As it was, a piece hit a drummer boy, and he lies here on the ground apparently breathing his last. The top of his head has a large piece chipped off. There has been a good deal of powder burned to-day. What has been done besides tearing up the water battery I don't know. To-night the mortar boats have been throwing shells into the works. They pass directly over us. We are so near, the report is almost stunning. The fuse is cut long enough to last until they drop. I hope none of them may go off while over our quarters.

June 29, 1863.

Monday. The Rebs shelled our quarters last night, and kept us huddled in the ravine until some were asleep. The weather grows hotter every day. Many give out in the rifle pits, though they contrive every way to get in the shade of something.

June 30, 1863.

Tuesday. Last night the Zouaves made another try to get the guns from the water battery. Two of them came back on stretchers, and the guns are still there. A man was killed to-day while lying on the ground right among us. He was resting his head on one hand, when a shell burst and a piece as large as my hand came down and passed through his shoulder and so on through his body, coming out near his hip. He merely sank down and did not stir. An order has just come from General Dwight for every man to sleep with his accoutrements on, ready to move at a minute's notice.

July 1, 1863.

Wednesday. Nothing happened at our house last night, although we were ready for visitors or to go visiting at the shortest possible notice. It is reported that a part of the Sixth Michigan got into the water battery last night and brought out a rebel captain with them, and without loss on their part. The enemy are reported gathering in our rear. They captured General Dow and George Story yesterday. We are sorry about George, but no one feels very sorry about the general. A man from the right says General Banks made a speech to the storming party last night, and promised them thatPort Hudson would be taken inside of the next three days.

July 2, 1863.

Thursday. Last night the shot and shells flew thicker than at any time. The Rebs seem to be getting madder all the time. I got my closest call, too. I was sitting on a plankj laid across the ravine when a shell burst in front of me. I don't know how I knew, but I did know a hunk of it was coming straight for me, and I dove off into the weeds just as it struck and tore up the ground behind me. It must have gone within an inch or less of the plank, and right where I sat. It is reported that General Dow and Story were recaptured last night by our cavalry. We hope for Story's sake it is true. An orderly rode in a few minutes ago with an order for troops, saying the Rebels had attacked Springfield Landing. The Zouaves and the 162d New York have started, and probably others from farther up the line. All our stores of supplies are there. The Essex has up with her anchor and gone down there and if there is any righting we shall hear it soon. If our supplies are captured we will have to fight on empty stomachs or be captured ourselves. How the Rebs would laugh at us if such a thing should happen, and who could blame them!

July 3, 1863.

Friday. It was only a scare. The troops came back before midnight. A guerrilla squad attacked a wagon train and were fought off by the guards. But it gave us something new to think and to talk about at any rate. If General Banks hoists the stars and stripes in Port Hudson to-morrow, he will probably begin getting ready to-day. No doubt for some of us it will be our last celebration. Who will be taken and who will be left none of us know, and what a blessed thing it is we don't! Now we can each think it will be the other fellow. We have never had any great love for our head surgeon, Dr. Cole, and to-night we hate him more than ever. Yesterday Corporal Blunt of Company K went to him for an excuse from duty, as he was sick. He told him he was able for duty and he went back into the rifle pit and died. How we wish it had been the doctor instead. Just at night a pair of oxen were discovered in the bushes near by and Smith Darling and I were sent out to capture them. We got near enough for a shot without being discovered, and each got his ox at the first shot. The mules came and dragged them out where they are handy and to-morrow we expect a beef stew. The officers will have beefsteak, of course, but we are not particular about the part so long as we get some. Three of the Zouaves, who were captured during the fight on May 27, made their escape and came in to-night. They had got into the river and swam down, coming in as naked as they were born, and almost starved.

July 4, 1863.

Saturday. Company K lost another man by sickness to-day. There are a good many sick. The health of the I28th has, up to a very recent time, been good. We have had hard usage but seemed to thrive under it until this terrible hot weather came on. Two of Company B go to the hospital to-day, and several others are grunting. Out of the eleven hundred we set out with we have only three hundred and fifty now, and the other regiments can tell the same sort of a story, and some of them even a worse one.

Being a sort of jack-at-all-trades, I help out in any way I can, for so many being laid off, makes double duty for some others. I have been filling out the last two months' pay and muster rolls to-day and that gives me a chance to know about my own company and regiment. So far as we know, General Banks did not take Port Hudson to-day. If I were he I wouldn't set any more dates. It has been a very quiet Fourth of July. Have heard a bigger noise at the "City" many a time.

July 5, 1863.

Sunday. Something wrong with the pay rolls, and I have been all day trying to find out what it is.

Captain Giffbrd, of Company A, who was captured when the Slaughter buildings were burned, came in to-day. He escaped last night, swimming the river and getting here about naked. He says from all he was able to discover, the bulk of the enemy's forces are in front of us, here on the left. Where is that storming party? Somewhere on the right, I suppose, unwinding red tape. I'll bet, if every officer in Banks' army, and General Banks with them, was tied up in a bag and dumped in the river, the privates could take Port Hudson in the next twenty-four hours.

July 6, 1863.

Monday. Another hitch in the pay rolls, though made out as they always have been since I had anything to do with them. The figures are right, but the form is not. This time they are according to the new form and I suppose will stay put. The Rebs are getting real saucy again. They have taken to shooting at the men who carry rations to the men in the rifle pits. Last night a darkey was carrying a kettle of coffee to Company E and a ball struck the rim of the kettle, knocking one side against the other, and also knocking down the darkey and spilling the coffee all over him. Narrow escapes are an every-day occurrence. To-day a man took off his hat to scratch his head. That brought the hat up in sight and a rebel bullet went through his fingers, crippling his hand. Four men died from sunstroke to-day. The weather is very warm though we have no way to tell just how warm.

July 7, 1863.

Tuesday. Hip, hip, hurrah! Vicksburg has surrendered. The news has just reached us, although the place surrendered on Saturday at 10 o'clock. The gunboats got the news some way. The first thing was three cheers from the men, and then three broadside salutes. Next, we have shouted ourselves hoarse, and the news is passing along up the line to the extreme right. The Rebs sent out a flag, to know what ailed us, and were told the joyful news. Someway they didn't seem as glad as we are.

Afternoon. Our regiment and the Sixth Michigan have got marching orders. I wonder what is up now.

Later. The Rebs have again threatened Springfield Landing and the I28th New York, the Sixth Michigan, and the Gray Horse Battery have gone off on the double quick. We hear that 27,000 men and over 200 guns were surrendered at Vicksburg. There is no doubt about it now. Details are coming in all the time, and a whole lot of powder has been burned celebrating. The Rebs on our front seem as glad as we, for they know Port Hudson must surrender or be smashed between the forces of Banks and Grant. The detail sent out towards Springfield Landing has come in and reports the trouble all got along with. They didn't fire a gun. We are happy to-night, about as happy as if Port Hudson was ours. In fact it is ours, for they must give up now or catch it from front and rear at the same time.

July 8, 1863.

Wednesday. A flag of truce came out this morning, and after a short council went back. We don't know what it means, but can guess it is the beginning of the end of the siege of Port Hudson.

Later. The flag was to ask for twenty-four hours cessation of hostilities, looking to a surrender. A few hours were given them to think it over, and we put in the time comparing notes with the Johnnies on our front. They are hard up for tobacco, and for bread. They have plenty of corn meal and molasses, but very little else. I have given away and swapped off everything eatable I have, and am going to make a johnnycake, for a change. The meal is as much of a treat for us as our hard-tack is for them.

Afternoon. Port Hudson has surrendered and possession is to be given at once. The story goes that only a few regiments will go in with the staff officers to receive the surrender. We are so in hopes our regiment will be one of that few. I am dying with curiosity to know what the ceremony of a surrender is like, and I also want to see what the inside of Port Hudson is like. The outside I know all I care to know of, but to go away and not see or know how the place looks after the banging it has had, is too bad. But there is no use thinking about it. Some higher power will decide, and we have only to put up with it.

July 9, 1863.

Thursday. In Port Hudson. Just as I was wondering what regiments would be taken in to receive the surrender, and was worrying for fear ours would not be one, the order came to pack up and go. We marched up to General Auger's headquarters, and slept in the road last night. There was a drizzling rain most all night, but this morning was bright and we soon dried off.

We marched on towards the right until we came to a road that entered the fort, but which did not show signs of recent usage. Here we formed in the order we were to go in, the storming party at the head, then came the n6th and 75th New York, and then the I28th New York. After us were several regiments, about six I think, for I have seen members of that many regiments here to-day. At eight o'clock we marched in, and I should say went three-quarters of a mile, when we found the Rebs in line. We marched along their front and halted, faced to the left, and stood facing each other, some twenty feet apart. Both lines were at "order arms." The officers held a short confab, and then took their respective places, as if on parade. Our regiment was directly opposite "Miles' Legion," or what is left of it. The commanding general then gave the order, "ground arms." This was repeated by the company commanders, and then for the first time I felt sorry for the brave fellows. If their cause is not just, they have been true to it, and it must be like death itself for a brave fighter to lay his arms down before his enemy. However, I did not see any signs of tears. A detail was made to collect and take care of the guns and ammunition, and the order came from both sides to break ranks. In a twinkling we were together. I met the man I had the com meal from, and we put in some time together. The Rebs are mostly large, fine-looking men. They are about as hard up for clothes as we are. What clothing they have on is gray, while ours is what has been a sickly blue, but is now nearly the color of the ground on which we have slept so long. Some of them are glad the fight is over, and others are sorry, at least that is the way they talk. They are asking all sorts of questions about the thousand men who were to storm their works. They think it the biggest kind of a joke. They have known all along much more about what went on outside than we did about the inside. Their scouts have been right among us, wearing the clothes of those they captured on May 27. The officers, without an exception, appear like gentlemen, in spite of the ragged clothes they wear. They have treated the prisoners as well as they could, giving them the same sort of food they ate themselves. Provisions are very scarce, and the men say they have had no meat but mule beef for some time. A whole wagon-train loaded with provisions has come in and they eat as if famished. There are acres of fresh looking graves, showing that they have suffered as well as we. They say, however, that few have been killed, considering the many efforts made to kill them, but there has been a great deal of sickness, which has caused the greatest destruction among them. There are about 500 in the hospital, sick and wounded together. They have suffered for medicines. The wounded had to be operated on without chloroform, and many died while being operated on.

The rebel soldiers are to be paroled, but what will be done with the officers I have not learned. Some of the men say they will fight again as soon as they have a chance, and others say they have had enough. The majority of them that I have talked with feel that their cause will finally lose, and they are for ending it now. There is a large space covered with barrels of sugar and molasses and there is quite a quantity of corn left. They have a curious mill for grinding the corn. A locomotive stands on the track with the drivers jacked up clear from the track. On the driver is a belt which turns a small mill and it looks as if it would grind a grist as quick as any other mill. I have been hunting about the place all day, and have seen many curiosities, or at least things strange to me. The earth is honeycombed with cellars and tunnels where the men hid themselves from our shot and shells. Along the bluff facing the river are several savage-looking guns, made of logs, smoothed off and painted so as to look exactly like cannon. The real guns were all needed for use against the besieging army. We are looking for a good night's sleep to-night. The guns that have made our nights so miserable are all under guard. Things are settling down for the night and I must stop writing. I have written every minute I could get and the half is not told yet. If all goes well I will try again to-morrow.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

14th Louisiana Goes to War Pt. VI

The following write up comes from Wayne Cosby. It is a first hand account of Private W.P. Snakenburg of Co. K, 14th Louisiana Infantry. Wayne informed me that the original source of Snakenburg's letter is unknown but his account was printed in 1984 in the Amite News Digest. This piece covers the Overland Campaign in early 1864 and stops at Snakenburg's capture at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The next and last post (Pt. VII) will cover Snakenburg's experience as a prisoner and will end the series on his letters.

In the winter Gen'l Meade had been relieved of his command and Gen'l Ulysses Simpson Grant had been given command of the Yankee army. He crossed the river again in the wilderness, not far from the place where Gen'l Jackson had been wounded the year before. He crossed on May 4th and 5th, 1864, with a heavy force - over 200,000 men. On Thursday, May 5th, our Division (Johnson's) attacked his right flank and rear after he had formed his line in the Wilderness. Our Louisiana Brigade and (Brigadier General James Alexander) Walker's were on his flank, the rest of Johnson's Division led a charge on his front and drove them back, their flank was exposed to our Brigade (Stafford's) and the way we poured lead into them was a sin. We were placed on a high ridge and we could see every move they made, also, Johnson leading his line when they made the charge.

The enemy's ranks were as thick as blackbirds in the field and there was no reason for any man in our line to throw away any bullets. All could see where to shoot. We fired as long as they were within sight, then fired into the woods where they had gone. We were so busy shooting at those in our front, that the enemy got a line of battle in our rear, and fired a volley into our ranks before we had any idea that the enemy was behind us. By that volley many were killed and wounded in our line, among them was our Brigade General, Leroy Stafford. We faced about and fought them as they came up on the ridge, but they were too many for us. The right of the line gave way and left the ridge.

My Company, going on the extreme left, did not know that our lines were broken and gone. When I found it out, I was called by Private James Mullen of my Company and told. Then we started to get out of the scrape as fast as possible. There were only three of us left, Con Mullen, James Mullen and myself.

The Yankees line of battle was less than 50 yards when we ran down the side of the ridge into a road cut through the hill. James Mullen ran down the road to our right and was captured. Con Mullen and myself crossed the road and into a large open field, the one that Johnson had led the charge after the enemy, and ran toward our colors, more than a quarter of a mile away. We had not run far before Con falls and says: "My God, I am killed." I saw that he fell forward on his face then threw his hand to his breast dead. I kept on at angles to the enemy's line of battle, with their balls cutting all around me, and why I was not hit I will never know. When I got near my Company, several of the boys ran to me, taking hold and wanting to know where I was wounded. I answered that I was not hit and for a while I could not make them believe it. They said that I fell down and they were certain that I was wounded. They saw the Yankee line of battle shooting at me and the balls cutting the dirt all around me and never understood how I ran nearly parallel to a line of battle, the distance that I ran and never be hit. I told them that if I fell while before the line of battle, I did not know it. They saw Con Mullen fall and knew that Jim was caught a prisoner.

Part 5 - October 11th, 1984

We then formed another line of battle and threw up some breastworks and stayed on that line until Sunday morning early, and as Grant moved, we also moved. When we got our position on Grant's right on the 5th, we rested in the woods until the skirmishers went out forward to engage their skirmishers, and while there a red fox was disturbed and ran down our line between our line of battle and the skirmish line and right behind him came a large snake. I laid down my gun and got a pole to kill the snake, when it coiled up and made a hissing sound before I could strike. One of my Company hollered out to me to get away from him, that the snake was a rattler. I dropped my pole and jumped in a hurry, and let his snakeship alone and got my gun and in less than three minutes was in the fight hot and heavy going forward.

On Friday night, May 6th, Brigadier Gen'l John B. Gordon made a night attack on Grant's flank and drove his right into his center. Grant then moved to the left in the direction of Spotsylvania Court House, we followed, and on Sunday night got in his front at Spotsylvania and threw up breastworks.

Thursday, May 5th, 1864 was the longest day, it seemed many of the troops and many times the sun looked at and wished that it was night. Long after the war it has been said by the soldiers that that day the sun was hung up. Here the works in our front were laid off in the shape of a horse-shoe. Our Brigade was placed in the toe of the shoe. The trees in our front were cut down and the tops felled from the works, or in the direction of Grant's troops. Our sharpshooting was in front of the works, on the side of a road, on the opposite of which there was a large open field some 250 yards wide, then a deep woods, where the enemy were posted.

Monday we worked on our breastwork and cut off the boughs of the trees that were down in our front, making the ends of the limbs sharp.

Tuesday evening the 10th, our Company went out on the skirmish line for the night and had a fight with their skirmishers for two hours, and while we were busy, there was a heavy fight a short distance on our left. At that place the enemy succeeded in charging over the works, but were driven out by Gen'l Gordon's Division with heavy loss.

On Wednesday we had more works to throw up on the right and left of our Company, as the enemy had succeeded in planting batteries of cannon, so as to throw shell on the flanks. We made arrangement to go on the skirmish line again on Thursday morning and got up very early so as to get in the line before light. On account of having to travel through so large an opening, we tried to go early, so as to run as little risk in losing our men as possible.

About the time we were ready to start for the skirmish line, those on the line commenced firing very fast and soon came running into the works, saying that the enemy were advancing. We went into the works, but on account of a very heavy fog we could not for some time see anything, but waited until all the skirmish line had got in our works and the enemy had come near enough to be seen, we commenced firing on them.

On Tuesday night, while on the skirmish line, 10th, while on the skirmish line, we were informed that a spy was in our line and if possible to catch or kill him if he attempted to go out by us. He did not go out that night, but we learned afterward that he did get out on Wednesday night and told of the disposition of our troops.

On Wednesday evening a Brigade of troops were moved from the line on our right and taken to a position on our left where it was thought a heavy fight would be. A twelve gun battery was also moved out of the works late Wednesday evening and taken to the rear so as to let the horses graze during the night, and before they got in position in the morning the enemy had charged and come over the works. There were no troops placed where the Brigade was taken out the evening before, but those in line were ordered to spread out to fill their place, so the line was very thin and the spy saw it all and suppose he told of all the movement. They came over the works where they were thin and then down behind our division before we knew anything. I was on the parapet and fired a number of times, as those of my Company behind me kept loading and passing me their guns.

The day before the fight, I had gotten a number of small balls and cleaned and loaded an extra gun with 21 of them and set in the works, and after I fired a bullet and passed the gun back for another, I found the Company gone. I then picked up my extra gun and fired it at the New York and United States color bearers in Gen'l Winfield Scott Hancock's corps who made the charge in our front and threw colors to the ground. Before I had time to get my gun down, I found that I was a prisoner and the enemy all around me coming from behind and was told to go over the works. I did not know whether the color bearers were killed or not. This was the last shot I fired in the service of the Confederate States. I was a prisoner until the end of the War. On the works in front of my Company was an oak tree growing several inches through that was cut down by bullets fired at us from three directions. The tree was cut off just above the works. The artillery that was taken out of the works the night before came back to their position just in time to be captured, only two of the guns getting in position in time to be fired and they but once each. Gen'l Ed Johnson fired the gun and Brigadier Gen'l George Hume Stewart was standing close to him. I was near enough to them to have touched them with my gun by reaching forward.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

John McGrath, "In a Louisiana Regiment" Part II

John McGrath began his military career as a Sergeant in the Delta Rifles of the 4th Louisiana Regiment. We have several of his accounts posted at Louisiana Civil War documenting his role in the 4th Louisiana. McGrath also took the time to write the New Orleans Picayune and include a brief write up of his early days in 13th Louisiana. He actually focuses his attention on joining "Avegno's Zouaves" as a Lieutenant. The six companies of the Governor Guards' Battalion ("Avegno's Zouaves") combined with four independent companies to form the 13th Louisiana in September of 1861.

In a Louisiana Regiment.

New Orleans Picayune, Aug. 2, 9; Sept. 6, 1903

...The tattered old flag, discolored by the destroying hand of time, shorn of its beauty, hangs in Memorial Hall, a dingy and silent reminder of the past, with few to gaze upon it who know what it once represented or whence it came. With the exception of one or two others, the writer is the only survivor of the officers of the Avegno Zouaves, at least of those residing in Louisiana. All others long since answered the last roll call and laid them down to sleep in God's eternal bivouac.

Long years have passed since the time of which I write, and yet it seems but yesterday, with bands playing stirring quick steps, arms aslant and steady, warlike tramp, we entered the sacred portals of St. Louis Cathedral, of New Orleans, that the venerable bishop might bless the banner, now drooping languidly, infirm with age, like unto the survivors of those who once wildly swore to defend it and bring it back in triumph to the Crescent City.

Alas! the victory was not ours, nor would anyone recognize the once strong battallion in the few war-worn and weary veterans who came straggling back at the end of four long, bloody years.

The official language of our battalion was French; we were drilled in French, commanded in French, and orders were issued in French, and as I was the only officer who did not understand the language, you can well imagine my awkwardness. However, I soon became familiar with the commands most frequently used, and it was not long before I could get my company through dress parade in a more or less creditable manner. Orders came after awhile from General Twiggs to discontinue the French language and to adopt English, and matters went along more smoothly as far as I was concerned. The company to which I was assigned was composed principally of Irishmen, who resented the change quite fiercely. One of our fellows, who enlisted under the name of Jones, but whose name was [106] Branagan, while somewhat more than half drunk, approached the writer, and, touching his kepi, said: ‘Leftenant, I don't know what oi'll do. You want us to drill in English, and the divil a wurd I know but French.’ Absurd as it may appear, he spoke the truth. He had never been a soldier before, and when he had learned to drill by French commands, they were all the military terms he knew. ‘Right shoulder shift arms’ was something far beyond his comprehension and he was forced to learn anew.

As the battalion was formed by the enlistment of recruits who were assigned to companies without regard to their wishes or desires, and as no two men had ever seen each other previous to enlistment, there was only one thing in common between them, and that was to get all the fun and all the whiskey possible, and this they did to the great annoyance of the officers. It must not be understood that by this statement that the men were low vagabonds, for they were not. They were simply young and wild and were going to war, probably never to return, and when the clash of battle came none were braver, none more loyal to the cause, and none more easily handled in fight or controlled in quarters. There were bad men among them, but good soldiers predominated.

We had barracks at the foot of Conti street, where recruits were sent as enlisted, and where uniforms and blankets were issued to them, and from whence they were sent under guard to the old Pontchartrain Depot for shipment to Mandeville. They were not guarded to prevent desertion, but simply as a precaution against straggling and drunkenness. Among others, I was sent upon recruiting service, and selecting Baton Rouge as the point of advantage, opened office and secured some thirty-five or forty recruits. There were a few young Baton Rougeans left behind by the many volunteer companies which from time to time had left for the seat of war, so I was compelled to depend upon strangers, with four or five notable exceptions. There were a few who, for one reason or another, had remained at home, and among those was one who had joined and quit almost every company raised in the parish. He was a drunken, reckless little scamp, whom the police and citizens were anxious to get rid of, and I was early approached and begged to enlist him. Objecting at first, I finally consented, and the Chief of Police hunted him up and brought him before me. ‘Do you wish to become a soldier,—?’ I asked, and receiving a favorable response, I informed him that if he enlisted I would compel him to go; that he would not be permitted to back out, as he had been doing. ‘All [107] right, Cap.; I want to serve my country. Just give me your list and I will sign.’ ‘Oh, no, my boy; we don't manage in that way; but just step across the street to the office of the justice of the peace and take the enlisting oath, and I will attend to the rest,’ said I. ‘Ain't you going to give me something? Gim'me a dollar,’ said the dodger. Handing him the money, we entered the office of the venerable Judge Walker, and the young fellow was shortly after a Confederate soldier. As soon as he had taken the oath, he remarked, a smile of cunning on his face, that he would meet me next day in time to catch theNew Orleans boat. ‘No,’ I said. ‘There will be no more parting. The constable will take you down under the hill where the other recruits are quartered, and there you will remain strictly guarded until we leave.’ The smile instantly vanished; he was sobered by the intelligence, and quietly remarked: ‘Well, I'll be d——d if I ain't trapped!’ He had a father and several sisters whom I had not taken into account, who soon came weeping and begging for the release of the worthless vagabond. I thought of the great relief of the taking off of the fellow would be to the townspeople, and remained obdurate and hard-hearted. Besides, I had no right to discharge an enlisted soldier. The boat was due about noon, and not caring to march on board at the head of my Falstaffian army, I appointed a corporal from among my embryonic heroes, with strict instructions to take——on board, whether he would or not. Hearing the boat's whistle shortly after, I started for the landing. What a picture presented itself to my vision! Some forty men, most of whom were drunk as lords, were marching two by two, singing ‘Dixie,’ while the rear was brought up by three of the strongest, partly dragging and partly carrying the only native among my recruits, and those in turn were followed by an old father and the sisters imploring the men to turn ‘Buddie’ loose, and when tears and prayers failed to soften the hearts of the soldiers, they showered imprecations good and strong upon their heads. ‘Buddie’ was taken aboard and seated upon the capstan by a big raftsman detailed for the purpose. ‘Set thar, sonny, and stop your whimpering, er I'll turn you up an spank ye,’ said the big fellow. Buddie heeded not, but gazing ashore at his weeping relatives and familiar scenes of his childhood, exclaimed: ‘Well, I'll be d——d. They have got me off to the war at last, and I wouldn't give a picayune for my life.’

My recruits reached camp in due time, and most of them proved excellent soldiers, and many finally fell in the front ranks in battle, and are now sleeping in unknown and unmarked graves. Buddie was an exception all along the line. He spent most of his time in the guard-house or in the hospital, and was an unmitigated, all-around scamp. Knowing it would only be a matter of time before he would be sent in chains to work upon the fortification, I went one night to the guard tent, where he was a prisoner, and, taking him aside, informed him that I would secure him his release if he would desert. Agreeing, I gave him money to pay his way home and have never laid eyes on him since. Was I justified in encouraging desertion? I believe I was in this case.

I have dwelt longer than I should have done in relating this incident, but I had two objects in view—one was to show the trouble and annoyance frequently experienced by recruiting officers, and the other to emphasize the fact that respectable, law-abiding citizens invariable make the best soldiers.

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