Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Confederate rations in the Siege of Port Hudson

A typical Port Hudson Confederate, Pvt. L. Cormier of Boone's Battery
(Courtesy PHSHS)

[National Park Service]

     New York native Howard C. Wright was a newspaperman in New Orleans, Louisiana, when the Civil War began. He joined the 30th Louisiana Infantry Regiment when it was formed in 1862 and became a lieutenant. Captured at the surrender of Port Hudson, he was imprisoned with other officers in New Orleans. He wrote an account of the siege which was originally serialized as Port Hudson: Its History from an Interior Point of View in the Daily True Delta less than a month after the surrender. Wright's account was printed in book form for the first time in 1937 by the editor of the St. Francisville Democratand republished in 1978 by The Eagle Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The following excerpt is taken from that printing (p. 51).
     The last quarter ration of beef had been given out to the troops on the 29th of June. On the 1st of July, at the request of many officers, a wounded mule was killed and cut up for experimental eating. All those who partook of it spoke highly of the dish. The flesh of mules is of a darker color than beef, of a finer grain, quite tender and juicy, and has a flavor something between that of beef and venison. There was an immediate demand for this kind of food, and the number of mules killed by the commissariat daily increased. Some horses were also slaughtered, and their flesh was found to be very good eating, but not equal to mule. Rats, of which there were plenty about the deserted camps, were also caught by many officers and men, and were found to be quite a luxury--superior, in the opinion of those who eat them, to spring chicken; and if a philosopher of the Celestial Empire could have visited Port Hudson at the time, he would have marvelled at the progress of the barbarians there toward the refinements of his own people.
     Mule meat was regularly served out in rations to the troops from and after the 4th of July, and there were very few among the garrison whose natural prejudices were so strong as to prevent them from cooking and eating their share. The stock of corn was getting very low, and besides that nothing was left but peas, sugar and molasses. These peas were the most indigestible and unwholesome articles that were ever given to soldiers to eat, and the reason that such a large quantity was left on hand was probably accounted for by the fact that most of the troops would not have them on any consideration. To save corn they were issued out to horses and mules, and killed a great many of these animals. All of the horses and mules which were not needed for hauling or other imperative duties, had been turned out to graze, where numbers of them were killed or disabled by the enemy's cannonade and rain of Minie balls, and the rest nearly starved to death.
     The sugar and molasses was put to good use by the troops in making a weak description of beer, which was constantly kept at the lines by the barrel-full, and drank by the soldiers in preference to the miserable water with which they were generally supplied. This was a very pleasant and healthful beverage, and went far to recompense the men for the lack of almost every other comfort or luxury. In the same way, after the stock of tobacco had given out, they substituted sumac leaves, which grew wild in the woods. It had always been smoked by the Indians under the name of killickenick, and, when properly prepared for the pipe, is a tolerably good substitute for tobacco.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Maj. Gen. Franklin Gardner, Cmdr. at Port Hudson, La.
(Louisiana State Museum)
 [National Park Service]
    Port Hudson was the site of the longest siege in American history, lasting 48 days, when 7,500 Confederates resisted some 40,000 Union soldiers for almost two months during 1863. Realizing that control of the Mississippi River was a key military objective of the Union, the Confederacy in August 1862, had its forces erect earthworks at Port Hudson. In 1863, Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks moved against Port Hudson. Three Union divisions came down the Red River to assail Port Hudson from the north, while two others advanced from Baton Rouge and New Orleans to strike from the east and south. By May 22, 1863, 30,000 Union soldiers had isolated 7,500 Confederates behind 4 ½ miles of earthen fortifications. On May 26 Banks issued orders for a simultaneous attack all along the Confederate perimeter the following morning. The first Union assault fell on the Confederate left wing, which guarded the northern approaches to Port Hudson. Timely reinforcements from the center allowed the Confederates to repulse several assaults. The fighting ended on the left wing before the remaining two Union divisions advanced against the Confederate center. Here the Confederates repulsed the Federal advance across Slaughter's Field, killing approximately 2,000 Union soldiers. Union casualties included 600 African-Americans of the First and Third Louisiana Native Guards. Free blacks from New Orleans composed a majority of the First Louisiana Native Guards, including the line officers. Former slaves commanded by white officers composed the Third Louisiana Native Guards. Led by Captain Andre Cailloux, a black officer, the two regiments made their advance on the extreme right of the Union line. Captain Cailloux was shot down as he shouted orders in both French and English.
     Another attempt to take Port Hudson failed on June 13, when the Confederates inflicted 1,805 casualties on the Union troops while losing fewer than 200. The Confederates held out until they learned of the surrender of Vicksburg. Without its upriver counterpart, Port Hudson, the last Confederate bastion on the Mississippi River, lacked strategic significance and the garrison surrendered on July 9, 1863. Today, the Port Hudson State Commemorative Area encompasses 889 acres of the northern portion of the battlefield, and has three observation towers, six miles of trails, a museum, a picnic area and restrooms. Four thousand Civil War veterans are buried at the Port Hudson National Cemetery, which stands just outside the old Confederate lines.
     The Port Hudson State Commemorative Area is located at 236 Highway 61, in Jackson. The park is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, there is a fee for admission. Groups are requested to call 1-888-677-3400 in advance. Visit the park's website for further information.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lt. Col. E.M.S. LeBreton: Captured at Port Hudson, La.

Lt. Col.E. S.M. LeBreton
(Immortal 600)
       Lieutenant Colonel Emile Bartholomew St. Mesme Le Breton des Chapelles was serving as the aid to the chief of heavy artillery at Port Hudson when he was captured by the Yankees when the Confederate bastion  on the Mississippi surrendered on July 9, 1863, The heavy artillery was under the command of Colonel Marshall  J. Smith. Major  General Franklin Gardner was in overall command at Port Hudson. Here was his record as a prisoner of war of the U,S Army:
     Lt. Col., F. and S., 4th La. Inf. Federal Rolls of Prisoners of War, Captured Port Hudson, July 9, 1863. Sent to New Orleans, La., on Str. Zephyr, July 13, 1863. Forwd. to Johnson's Island, Ohio, from Fort Columbus, N. Y. Harbor, Oct. 13, 1863. Recd. at Fort Delaware, Del., from Pt. Lookout, Md., June 25, 1864. Released on Oath of Allegiance to United States. July 24, 1865 by order of the President. Res. Jefferson Parish,

complexion fair, hair brown, eyes gray, height 5 ft. 8 in.
     For about a month, between September and October 1864, he was one of 600 Confederate officers who were transferred to Morris Island, S.C., fed starvation rations and held under fire of Confederate guns in Charleston. Three of the prisoners actually died there of starvation. The men became martyrs for the cause of Southern Independence and famous throughout the south for refusing  to take the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S.
    LeBreton was born in  1833 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Bartholomew St. Mesme LeBreton St. des Chapelles and Marie Celeste Roman. LeBreton was a lawyer in New Orleans and his family owned extensive tracts of land in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He was married to Margaret Irene Abbott and they had four children. He died January 11, 1908 in New Orleans and is  buried at the historic St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in  New Orleans.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lee-Jackson memorialized with inspiring talks

Shane Kastler, author of Nathan Beford Forrest's Redemption, gave an inspiring talk
about "The Ongoing Persecution of Lee and Jackson," at the annual Lee-Jackson
Banquet of Capt. James. W. Bryan Camp 1390, Sons of Confederate Veterans, at
Pat's of Henderson Restaurant, Jan. 20, 2008. (Photo by Mike Jones) 
      LAKE CHARLES, La. -- Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390, Sons of Confederate Veterans, memorialized the great Southern heroes, generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson with inspiring talks at its annual Lee-Jackson Banquet Saturday, Jan. 20, 2008 at Pat's of Henderson Restaurant. Shane Kastler, author of Nathan Bedford Forrest's Redemption (Pelican Publishing, 2010), gave the keynote address. Tommy Curtis paid tribute to General Lee and the Rev. Ben Lyons to General Jackson.
      Kastler's topic was "The Ongoing Persecution of Lee and Jackson" in the current widespread witch hunt against everything Confederate. He said his book, which highlights Forrest's transformation to a sincere and devout Christian later in life, was both praised in a resolution by the Tennessee State Legislature, and criticized by the New York Times. In his talk, he also detailed the devout Christianity of both Lee and Jackson and how unjust it is for politicians and people with a modern political agenda to be demonizing two very honorable Christian gentleman. In response to critics who don't understand why some Southerners defend their Confederate ancestors, Kastler noted it is all about family. He said most people would stand up for their family members, be they a father, grandfather or great-grandfather, who are being unjustly defamed by those with a political agenda that includes attacking past heroes of American history.
      While the current situation may seem bleak, he said he has hope because both individuals and organizations, such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, are staunchly defending Confederate monuments and heroes such as Lee and Jackson. Kastler said he was surprised and pleased by President Trump defending Lee, Jackson, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who are being attacked by those wanting the change deny true American history.
      Curtis spoke in tribute of Lee, noting that he was one of the most honorable and decent men in American History, who should be praised and honored, not demonized. He encouraged the group to keep sincerely, and with knowledge of their subject, defending their Confederate history and heritage. He ended his talk with a number of inspiring quotes by Lee. Rev. Lyons reviewed the life of General Jackson, who had a difficult childhood and was an orphan at seven. By dedication  and hard work, he overcame his difficulties and became a graduate of West Point, a Mexican-American War hero, and a successful professor at the Virginia Military Institute. His military genius came out in the War for Southern Independence, but he personally maintained his humility and devout Christian values until his death May 10, 1863 from a mortal wound at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
     Other members of the SCV camp then paid tribute to their individual Confederate ancestors. Camp Adjutant Luke Dartez made a bereavement presentation of a Confederate memorial flag and certificate to the survivors of the late Nathan Curtis, a long time camp member who died in November. Survivors there included son and daughter, Tommy Curtis and Phyllis Curtis, and his widow, Mrs. Nathan Curtis. Officers for 2008 were also installed. Michael Wayne Clanton, the outgoing camp commander, and Charles Richardson, the incoming commander, presided over the meeting.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


      Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390’s annual Lee-Jackson Banquet 2018 will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, with our social at Pat’s of Henderson Restaurant, 1500 Siebarth Drive, Lake Charles, La. The program will get underway at 7 p.m. Our keynote speaker will be Shane Kastler, author of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption (Pelican Publishing, 2010) and pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Lake Charles. His timely topic will be on “The Ongoing Persecution of Lee & Jackson.” He will talk on the current attacks on Confederates, what the goal of such attacks are, the danger of erasing history, as well as encouraging developments.
      Compatriot Kastler is a native of Oklahoma and a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M. Div.) and Northeastern State University (B.B.A.). He writes a weekly column for the Linn County News (KS) and has appeared on the Church & State Program on KELB (100.5 FM) in Lake Charles. He is a member of Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390 in Lake Charles. He and his wife Erin have three children.
      The cost of the banquet meal will be the same as last year, $30, which includes the appetizer, entrée, dessert and iced tea and gratuity. Cocktails are not part of the price. Here is the menu:

Appetizer: Bitesize
Catfish/Popcorn Shrimp
Main Entrée: (Select One)
Fried Shrimp
Crawfish Fettuccine
Stuffed Red Snapper
10 oz. Ribeye Steak (cooked medium)
Seafood Platter (fried Shrimp, Oysters, Catfish, Stuffed Shrimp, Stuffed Crab & Frong Leg)
Dessert: (Select One)
Pecan Pie
Cheese Cake (topped with blueberries or strawberries)

    The above menu is served with a baked potato, dinner salad, dinner rolls & soft drink or iced tea.

     Please make your remittance by check payable to SCV Camp 1390. Mail the check to Luke Dartez, 908 Henning Road, Sulphur, La. 70665-7673, by Jan. 16 so he can give the restaurant a notice of how many to expect. We are not set up to take debit or credit cards. Again, the price is all inclusive of meal, drink and gratuity.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Confederate Image Identified


        A descendant, Dan McCollum, saw a copy of this photo of Private John M. Sellers of Company G, 16th Louisiana Infantry in the June issue of Calcasieu Greys, which was then unidentified,  and contacted Archie M. Toombs, commander of Capt. J. W. Bryan Camp, and identified it as being his relative. Another descendant, Robert Albanese, a great-great-grandson, provided the excellent quality copy seen at left.
            According to Mr. McCollum, Sellers is listed in the Soldiers and Sailors of the Confederacy of the National Park Service system, as a member of the 16th. Mr. McCollum said Sellers was living in north Alabama, where his family comes from, when the war started. He left Alabama and went back to Louisiana where he had been living and enlisted. After the war he returned to Alabama and died there June 8, 1895 in Blount, Alabama.
          According to Sellers military  service record, he was present for  the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862, and was wounded in action at the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee on December 31, 1862.
           Sellers was absent in the  hospital recovering from his wound and he returned to duty in July, 1863. He was then present for the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863 where nearly one-third of the regiment was captured. Sellers then fought at the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863. He was then absent in the hospital from January 6, 1864 until May 1, 1864 when he  returned to duty.
          Sellers was then present  for the Atlanta Campaign and fought at Mill Creek Gap, May 7; Resaca, May 14-15; and New Hope Church, May 25-28.  He was also present when his regiment participated in the  battles of Atlanta, July 22, Ezra Church, July 28; and  Jonesboro, August 31. The 16th helped capture Florence, Alabama on October 30, 1864 and  Sellers was in the Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864.
          The regiment was then stationed as part of the garrison of Mobile, Alabama in February, 1865. Sellers was present for duty on the last roll of the war from April 20-30, 1865. John M. Sellers  was truly a faithful soldier and a Southern hero.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Beauregard battle flag

Beauregard's personal Confederate battle flag in the Louisiana State Museum
(Photo by Mike Jones)

[From the Lake Charles American Press, Dec. 27, 1992, page 5.]
Museum's Civil War battle flag was prototype
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Civil War expert! believe a Confederate battle flag stored for years at the Louisiana State Museum in the French Quarter is one of the first three or four such flags made for the man who designed the banner.
Ken Legendre, a Gretna letter carrier and Civil War buff made the discovery earlier this month when he visited the museum's flag collection at the historic Jackson Square building known as the Presbytere.
Museum personnel didn't know the significance of the flag but Legendre recognized it as one of the first flags made for Gen. P.G.T Beauregard. The museum piece isn't for sale but Legendre believes it could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The battle flag is perhaps the symbol most identified with the confederacy.
It was designed after Confederate officers found that it was difficult to tell the South's flag — three broad bands of red and white with a circle of white stars on a blue field — was difficult to tell from the Union's stars and stripes.
In 1861, Beauregard was in command o the Army of the Potomac. He decided or what became know as the "Southern Cross" a blue diagonal cross on a red field with stars on the blue bars representing the Southern states.
Some accounts say the very first battle flag was made under Beauregard's director by two Richmond women and later was possessed by the 5th Company of the Washington Artillery, an elite New Orleans unit.
But the prototypes that became most famous, and that were soon honored throughout the Confederacy as the first three battle flags, were made by Constance Cary Harrison of Richmond, Va., and her cousins Hetty and Jennie Cary.
Each made a silk flag for a top general: Beauregard, Joseph E. Johnston and Earl Van Dorn.
Beauregard sent his flag to his wife in New Orleans. When Union forces occupied the city in 1862, she sent it by foreign ship to Havana. Beauregard reclaimed it after the war and in 1883 donated it to the Washington Artillery.
It reportedly stood above the general's coffin when he died in 1893, and four year earlier it may have covered Confederate President Jefferson Davis' coffin at his funeral in New Orleans.
The flag's fate thereafter is unclear. But in " 1941, according to museum records, the Washington Artillery gave it to the museum. Whether museum personnel ever realized its significance isn't known. If so, the flag's history was forgotten over time.
"I had heard of this flag for many years, but as far as I knew it was missing. To all of a sudden gaze upon it was quite a treat,'"
Legendre said. Legendre's identification of the flag has since been seconded by Keith and Glen Cangelosi, experts with Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans.
State Museum Director James Sefcik said the museum will seek money to conserve the fragile flag. The cost is expected to be several thousand dollars. The other two Cary flags can be seen at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va.