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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

4th Louisiana at Shiloh Part. II

The following letter is the rest of Thomas Chinn Robertson's letter of Company C "Delta Rifles" of the 4th Louisiana Infantry of his experience at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). His letter appeared in the Woman's Enterprise on April 7, 1922. The below post is of Robertson's experience on April 7, 1862:

The next morning you should have seen us, not expecting a battle that day, we loaded ourselves with every thing that we could lay our hands on. To give you an idea of what we had, I will give you an inventory of my pile: I had a fine blue cloth suit, entirely new, which fitted me admirably (the coat had a pair of very

neat pretty epanlets), an oil cloth to spread over my blanket, a fine overcoat, a haversack full of parched coffee, one full of soda crackers, cheese and boiled ham, another filled with gild-edged paper, envelopes, two ambrotypes, love letters, a copy of McClelland's Tactics and all sorts of little mementos, a canteen and a splendid Enfield rifle. When we were ordered to fall in, we were all hoping  it was to march back to our Camp at Monterey, but the booming of cannon and whistle of shells told us that we had more bloody work to perform. 

Our brigade was soon pushed forward and ordered to charge a battery which was playing with terrible effect on our lines. In order to do this we were obliged to march double quick through a swamp and then cross two open fields, all the time exposed to a raking fire.

Between the two fields was a deep ravine. We crossed the swamp and the first field, crossed the ravine, andin two minutes would have taken the battery at the point of the bayonet, had not General Ruggles countermanded the order. Six times we were ordered to take the same battery and every time we got to the top of the ravine the order was countermanded. We were in this ravine two hours and a half, just half way between our battery and that of the enemy, consequently, we had a good view of it. I have not the slightest doubt, but it excelled the famous duel of artillery at Manassas. Finally the Federal's battery was silenced by ours, and we were sent to another part of the field, where the battle was raging between the infantry. When we arrived General Beauregard rode up to us, with a smile on his face, looking as cool and collected amid the hail-storm of minie balls as if he had been in a drawing room, taking off his hat to us as he passed, he said: "Men, the day is ours, you are fighting a whipped army, fire low and be deliberate." With three cheers we rushed into he midst of the bloody fray. And though before this, all of us were tired and worn out yet the sight of our beloved General refreshed everyone of us. How he escaped is a wonder to me, for at one time when some of our men were breaking, he seized a battle flag, and rushed almost to the very ranks of the enemy, and yet he escaped unhurt. For three hours the battle raged in this spot. Both sides fought with desperation.Our troops were worn out with long marches and two days fighting, while their's were perfectly fresh.

About 4 o'clock P. M. Gen. Breckenridge took up a position about a quarter of a mile in our rear and we fell back behind him. We waited some time for the enemy to renew the attack, but they retreated to their gun-boats. Gen. Breckenridge slept on the battle field, and burned the enemy's tents. Our brigade fell back to our camp and thus ended the bloody battle of Shiloh.

The first day the prisoners and wounded asserted that they had one hundred and twenty-five thousand men. This was confirmed by their immense encampment, which extended seven miles on the banks of the Tennessee river, and three or four miles into the country. Besides this we found the commissary's report showing that they drew provisions for one hundred and fourteen thousand men. Sunday night McClelland reenforced them with -thirty thousand, and Monday Buell brought up thirty five thousand more. We had between fifty and seventy-five thousand. With regard to the killed, wounded and prisoners, I refer you to the newspaper. In Monday's fight I of course, had to throw away everything except my canteen and Enfield rifle and some paper and envelopes, which I put in my pocket. I also brought off a Bible.

Our brigade being on picket at the time, our tents, knapsacks and cooking utensils are still at Monterey, and as the roads are almost impassible it will be some time before we will receive them. In the meantime we have nothing at all. No one can imagine the suffering we have endured during the last week and yet not a word of grumbling is heard. We started from Monterey yesterday about 12 o'clock, and arrived here at about five o'clock. Those were twelve of the longest miles I ever traveled. The road was almost impassible, I assure you. I am not exaggerating when I inform you that all the way the mud was knee deep, and we were obliged to wade several streams which were waist deep. I have lost everything but one suit of clothes, which was badly torn by the bushes during the battle. I forgot to state that the casualties in our regiment the 4th Louisiana, are 274. We went into battle with 500.
Your affectionate son,


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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