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.

Monday, December 26, 2011

1st Louisiana at the Battle of King's School House

This story from the Richmond Daily Dispatch was advanced to me by Terry L. Jones (
Lee's Tigers, Campbell Brown's Civil War: With Ewell and the Army of Northern Virginia, The Civil War Memoirs of Captain William J. Seymour: Reminiscences of a Louisiana Tiger). This is a great story on one of the more obscure Louisiana regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia. 


The Seven Days Campaign began on June 25, 1862, when Union General George B. McClellan advanced his line outside Richmond, Virginia—a day before Robert E. Lee attacked McClellan’s right flank at Mechanicsville and started driving the Yankees back.  As part of A. P. Wright’s brigade, Lt. Col. W. R. Shivers’1st Louisiana helped stop McClellan’s advance on June 25.  In the fierce fighting known as the Battle of King’s School House, the Louisianians captured a battle flag from Daniel Sickles’ famed Excelsior Brigade but lost many men in the process.  Colonel Shivers was shot through the arm and a total of 16 of the regiment’s 27 officers were killed or wounded, along with 128 of the 328 men.  Two days after the battle, the Richmond Daily Dispatch ran a story describing the 1st Louisiana’s role in the fight.

Believing an attack was imminent, Gen. Wright ordered up the 48th North Carolina (Col. Rutledge's) regiment, which moved up the road and took position to the left of it, in an open field, with dense woods on their left flank. The right of the road was occupied by the 1st Louisiana, and to their right were the 22d and 4th Georgia. The North Carolinians were in an exposed position, but maintained their ground without flinching, losing not less than 100 killed and wounded. The position of the 1st Louisiana was equally disadvantageous.  Before them was a thick chaparral, in which the enemy were strongly posted. Behind this, also, several brigades were drawn up, their flanks extending beyond, so that they kept up a continual fire upon the Louisianians, inflicting sad loss. Being ordered to charge, the 1st advanced nobly, with the "Butler! and New Orleans!" and at the first dash drove the enemy forth with great havoc. But emerging into the open field behind, they were astonished to discover not less than three brigades opposing them, viz: Thomas Francis Meagher's Irish brigade, Sickles's Excelsior brigade, and another one, the name of which we could not ascertain. Bravely holding their ground, the Louisianians maintained the unequal contest with great dash and boldness, the enemy quailing and retiring before their steady and deadly fire. To their right, however, things were progressing favorably, where the 4th and 22d Georgia were hotly engaged with the enemy, who, after some two hours hard fighting, slowly and reluctantly retired. Comparisons are odious, but it is admitted that the conduct of the 48th N. C., 1st La., and 4th Ga., was beyond all praise. The first of these regiments was perfectly fresh from home, and had never been under fire before; yet there they stood, in open field, waiting for the cowards to advance, and although Col. Rutledge reports a loss of 100 killed and wounded, his brave fellows never gave an inch of ground, but kept up a murderous fire upon the foe, who suffered so much that, although five to one, they did not dare to leave the woods. The Louisianians went into action with 300, and lost 144 killed and wounded. These figures are more than enough to demonstrate their conduct in the fight — for every second man fell! The 4th Georgia, it is said, acted like very devils, and fought and charged three regiments three several times!--and, more than this routed them, losing not less than 50 in killed and wounded. The 22d Georgia lost some ninety odd in killed and wounded, and behaved splendidly.

We would conclude by mentioning the heroic conduct of Private James Henderson, Company A, First Louisiana. This brave fellow had undergone the severe fiery ordeal with his regiment in the morning, and when it was ordered to fall back he voluntarily moved to the front to assist the wounded, as there were neither surgeon nor stretcher bearers with his regiment. Henderson brought off Col. Shivers from the field on his back, returned and recovered the same officer's sword and other equipments, and whenever finding a wounded man sufficiently strong to be removed, he carried him from the field on his back, despite the repeated vollies which the cowardly enemy fired upon him. More than this — when the enemy had posted their pickets, this fine soldier stole through the grass upon his hands and knees, and actually stole our wounded men from under the enemy's guns! We always delight to record the deeds of privates, but can any words of ours add to the honor of such a brave fellow as Henderson? There are, doubtless, many who did as well, in some capacity or other, but we regret that none will advise us of their names and deeds.

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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