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.

Friday, March 2, 2012

174th New York, Siege of Port Hudson

A Letter from a member of the 174th New York Infantry during the Siege of Port Hudson. This letter is posted at the fine site New York State Military Museum:

From Bank's Expedition.

We publish the following extracts of a private letter from a soldier of our town, in the 174th regt., dated Baton Rouge, La., May 1: 

Dear Friends: —Since my last letter we have been on a picnic up the river to Port Hudson, with two divisions of infantry commanded by Gens. Anger and Grover, one or two batteries, &c., the whole under General Banks, in person. The gun boats moved up the river at the same time. After driving in the enemies pickets we halted for the night —then the ball commenced. We lay all night snug in our blankets, listening, those that were not too sleepy, to the whistling of the shells over our heads from the gun boats trying to pass the batteries at P. Hudson. Two boats passed up, and joined Farragut's fleet above. The Mississippi was disabled and set on fire. She blew up, killing, wounding and drowning many; I believe the loss was pretty severe; the next morning we started back. Gen. B. said we had accomplished all that we came for; well, he was satisfied, so was I.—Col. Clark of Banks' staff was shot while making a reconnoisance; no other loss of note with us. We went back within five miles of Baton Rouge, halted, and next day went out foraging, got plenty of beef, sheep and fowls. That night it rained awful all night. I awoke about 12 o'clock and found myself afloat, about six inches of water in the hold, blankets wet, every thing wet. Next day we were all right, the sun came out hot and we dried and cleaned our guns and accoutrements. Now for a good night's rest—we collected plenty of moss and leaves, spread our blankets, and were about to turn in when the sheep skins commenced beating. We were drawn up in line of battle, when the 174th and 161st regts. were ordered to get two days rations and be ready to march in fifteen minutes under command of our Col. Parmlee. We started about dark, the mud up to our knees. We reached Baton Rouge about ten o'clock, marched through down to the river; some of the inhabitants asked, "Where are you bound for now?" Reply, "don't know." Well, we embarked on board of two steamboats and started up the river. We landed at Winter's plantation, on the west side of the river. Port Hudson was in sight on the east side. We had the signal corps along and learned we were to make a detour through the swamp in order to signal to Farragut's fleet above Port Hudson; started and went about two miles and came to the swamp; then came the tug of war. Have you any idea of a Louisiana swamp? I think not. There was no use talking about marching, it was get through the best way you can; mud and water, old logs and underbrush every step, taking us in up as far as one leg could go at a time, and in some places there were long vines under the mud to catch our feet and. trip us up. O, it was beautiful. In this way we traveled for three miles and came put on firm ground; went on about four miles and halted. We had gone far enough for the corps to operate, and while they were at work a company of cavalry who led the advance fell in with and captured about a dozen guerillas, who appeared to be knocking around loose. We now started on the back track through the swamp again and found a battery of artillery on the edge who had tried to follow us, but could not of course, on account of the roads. We stopped up here about a week. Gen. Dudley came up with the rest of the brigade. All the large plantations were deserted, fine houses splendidly furnished, large sugar houses with hundreds of hogsheads of sugar and molasses, some with their heads knocked in, all lying there without an owner. Soon the negroes commenced flocking in, all descriptions, big and little; some pretty well dressed, some scarcely dressed at all; each with a bundle of something. Another big crowd for Uncle Sam to take care of. They appear to be perfectly delighted with their holiday, thinking, I suppose, that it is a play got up for their especial benefit, so do I--may the d---I fly away with the whole lot. Yours, J. M. M.

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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