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, January 26, 2015

176th New York in Louisiana, Part 1

The 176th New York Infantry "Ironsides" Regiment served in Louisiana from January 1863 to July of 1864. Found several news articles on the "Ironsides" that provide detailed accounts of its role in Louisiana in several of its campaigns.

A brief account of the 176th New York in Louisiana is drawn from The Union army: a history of military affairs in the loyal states, 1861-65 -- records of the regiments in the Union army -- cyclopedia of battles -- memoirs of commanders and soldiers. Madison, WI: Federal Pub. Co., 1908. volume II.

"It left the state under command of Col. Nott on Jan. 11, 1863, and embarked on transports for New Orleans. On its arrival it was stationed in the defenses of New Orleans for several weeks and was attached to Augur's division of the 19th corps, when that corps was organized. It formed part of the garrison of New Orleans during the siege of Port Hudson, and took an active part in repelling the advance of the enemy under Gen. Taylor. During June, 1863, detachments of the regiment participated in the skirmishes at Pat-tersonville, La Fourche crossing, Thibodeaux, Fort Buchanan, Bayou Boeuff and Brashier City. In the action at La Fourche crossing, the regiment was commanded by Maj. Morgan and behaved most gallantly; in the actions at Fort Buchanan, on the Atchafalaya, and at Brashear City, the regiment met with serious disaster, over 400 men being captured. This disaster was not due to lack of bravery on the part of the men. There was no one in command, but the men fought with all the bravery that could be expected. The loss of the regiment in the above actions amounted to 464 killed, wounded and captured or missing. In the spring of 1864, attached to the 3d brigade, Grover's division, 19th corps, it took part in Banks' Red River campaign, being engaged at Mansura and Simsport. In July it returned to Virginia..."

This following newspaper article is posted at the New York State Military Museum - an amazing collection of Civil War material relating to New York. This letter was written from Houma, La on May 6, 1863 from the 176th New York: 

CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE SOUTHWEST.A Letter from one of the 176th Regiment.PARISH OF TERRA BONNE,HOUMA, LA., May 6th, 1863.To the Editor of the Times:Knowing the great interest you take in the affairs of our Nation, and supposing that it would be interesting to you to receive & few lines from the Pelican State, I will give you a brief history of my experience since I left home. You will remember that I was left behind lame when the Ironside Regiment sailed for New Orleans. As soon as I was able I came on in the ship West Point, and when I reached New Orleans I was sent by mistake to Baton Rouge, where my regiment was at the time supposed to be. I arrived there soon enough to be a distant spectator of the night bombardment of Port Hudson, and to witness the destruction of the frigate Mississippi. While on the way up the River, and at the city of Baton Rouge and vicinity, I had a good chance to become acquainted with the real condition of national affairs in this State. The whole country has resting upon it the gloom of political death, for the few white people that still remain here are mostly the aged, the widows, children, and the infirm. Scarcely a healthy white man seen, and the few pretended loyal people remaining have a dishonest hang-dog look, that stamps them as villains [sic], hypocrites, and traitors, as soon as you see them. The only real friends the soldier finds here are the poor contrabands, who, deserted by their masters, to starve in the hour of danger, are in the fullness of their grateful hearts ever ready to help us. I thought, with a great many other's, that the Emancipation Proclamation would only increase the troubles of the country and be of no material benefit. But I am glad to find that the Copperheaded idea is erroneous in every particular. The colored men of this State enlist very willingly. There are now five regiments. They learn fast, take a great interest in doing their duty, and do not manifest as brutal and as savage a disposition toward their former masters as our peace Democrats and Copperhead traitors have predicted. I find the colored men a far more intelligent race than I supposed. Brought up as they have been, they would in most cases, if left to themselves, have before now devastated this entire section of country, and would have spread terror on every side. But either led by the hand of God, or possessed of a full knowledge of the position of affairs, they seem to assimilate themselves with the new order of things. They grasp eagerly after knowledge. The primmer is seen in the hand of the colored soldier and he learns his A, B, C's at the same time that he does his military evolutions. Here there is a great field for men who have true American hearts to benefit themselves, their country, and at the same time elevate a long down-trodden and oppressed race. I never before felt how really this is a war of freedom. But it surely is not only to the Blacks, but also to the Whites, for the spirit that influences the slaveholder has no feeling in common with his fellow man. It has been truly said of it that it is the sum of human villany [sic]. I could fill a quire of paper, had I the time, with cases of outrage of the most terrible character, and each of which could be verified in this parish of Terre Bonne. But it is useless to add to already existing proof. Let the political grave in which this beautiful country will soon be buried cover its crimes; a glorious resurrection awaits it.  
After I left Baton Rouge, I came out to this parish, where I found our regiment on the New Orleans and Opelousas Railroad, under General Weitzel. We were soon ordered to Berwick's Bay, opposite Brasher City. Our forces were found to be too weak to hold the position, as the rebels observing General Banks advancing on Port Hudson, prepared to attack Berwick and retake the railroad. Weitzel fell back with two companies of the Ironsides and covered the retreat for 48 hours. One of our reconnoitering parties, returned with the gunboat Diana, and was captured. General Banks immediately moved his whole force from Baton Rouge, passed rapidly to Berwick Bay, crossed over towards Bayou Teche, and in a series of engagements during the past three weeks has defeated and driven the Rebels 150 miles, recaptured the Diana, Queen of the West, and destroyed the Rebel fleet on the Atchafalaya. He also captured 2,000 Rebels, and thousands of horses, mules, cattle, cotton bales, sugar, etc., and destroyed important salt works. To-day we hear the retreating Rebels have made a stand at Washington, La., where they are being reinforced from Texas. If so, reinforcements must be sent to Banks, for we have to hold all the important places taken, which spreads our forces over a great extent of country. A desperate conflict, I think, will take place soon, somewhere on the route to Texas, as the Rebels will suffer more from the loss of supplies from that direction than they would from the loss of Richmond or Charleston at the present time. But after another grain harvest in the States east of the Mississippi, Texas would be of less value to them, as they could get supplies from there. At present those States have nothing to spare. 
Our regiment now does the Provost duty over a large extent of country, holding confiscated plantations, guarding the Blacks at work on them, scouting the country to prevent the operations of guerrillas, enforcing the laws of the United States, etc. The mail closes. I will write more fully and take time to inform you of passing events. Yours, respectfully, The Ironsides Regiment.

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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