Monday, March 15, 2010


[Ed. Note: From an 1993 article in the Lake Charles American Press]
EDGERLY -- The veterans of the War Between the States are long gone, but far from forgotten.

George Franz, a native of Edgerly now living in Texas, diligently searched for and found the grave of his great-great-grandfather, Louis Emile Bellome, a Confederate veteran, in the historic Big Woods Cemetery.

When he discovered the grave was unidentified, with the help of the caretaker of the cemetery and Scott Thorn, commander of the local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, he was able to locate the final resting place of his ancestor. Franz then obtained an official Confederate veteran grave marker from the Veterans Administration.

Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390, SCV, held a special dedication ceremony on May 1 for the marker. A uniformed honor guard made up of Confederate living history reenactors fired musket and cannon salutes to mark the occasion. Other SCV camps represented were Maj. Jesse W. Cooper Camp of De-Ridder, Maj. Dick Dowling Camp of Beaumont, Texas, and Col. Ashley W. Spaight Camp of Jasper, Texas.

In spite of the threat of rain, dozens of descendants of Bellome, who served as a sergeant in Company A, 28th (Thomas') Louisiana Infantry regiment, gathered for the occasion. Many met for the first time relatives who came from as far away as Baton Rouge and various towns in Texas.

Louis Emile Bellome was born in St. Landry Parish on Aug. 18, 1841, and by occupation was a cobbler. After the war began, Bellome joined a volunteer military organization called the ''Creole Rebels.''

The group was mustered into the Confederate Army in May, 1862, as Company A of the 28th Louisiana at Camp Moore in Tangipahoa.

Bellome had joined the army at a critical phase of the war. Two Federal armies were being massed to invade the deep South. One, under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, was poised in Tennessee near the Mississippi border and the other, under the command of Gen. Benjamin ''The Beast'' Butler, was gathering on Ship Island in the Gulf of Mexico, preparing to attack New Orleans.

Confederate Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, a Louisiana native, in early 1862 issued a call for volunteers to protect their homes from the invaders. Bellome and his compatriots were responding to that call to arms.

Bellome's regiment was made up of volunteer companies which, like his, were from south Louisiana. Two of the companies, Company F and Company I, were predominantly made up of Calcasieu Parish men. The commander of Company I, the ''Calcasieu Tigers,'' was Captain James W. Bryan, who became the first mayor of Lake Charles, and for whom the local SCV camp is named.

The 28th Louisiana was organized too late to save New Orleans from military occupation and the harsh rule of ''Beast'' Butler, but it was sent to Vicksburg, Miss., to help garrison that strategically located city.

Bellome progressed well in his regiment and his leadership ability was awarded with an appointment to corporal in August 1862. He was later promoted to sergeant.

He was present for the first land battle to capture Vicksburg, known as the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, which took place Dec. 28-29, 1862 to the north of the town.

In the battle, Union troops under Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who later in the war gained notoriety for burning Atlanta on his march through Georgia, attacked the well-entrenched Confederates.

Sgt. Bellome and his unit were stationed at a crucial ford of the bayou and were attacked by wave after wave of bluecoated opponents.

Although outnumbered, the 28th Louisiana repelled the attacks and held its ground. One historian likened the stand of the 28th Louisiana to the ancient Greek Battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans held off the entire Persian Army.

For the Union Army, the battle was a disaster. Sherman's men suffered around 2,000 casualties. However the Confederate casualties were comparatively light at a couple of hundred.

Sgt. Bellome survived the battle unscathed and the gray-clad troops returned to the trenches of Vicksburg.

The 28th Louisiana remained in Vicksburg while Gen. Grant with his army crossed from Louisiana into Mississippi south of the city and fought a lightning campaign which succeeded in cutting off the garrison.

Grant scored a string of victories at Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson and Champion's Hill, Miss., before he drove the Confederate Army back into Vicksburg.

Sgt. Bellome and his regiment were stationed on the northern end of the defenses and helped turn back attempts to break the line on May 19 and May 22, 1863.

In the May 22 attack, the 28th Louisiana was called upon to reinforce General Forney's troops, which were under severe pressure from the attackers, farther south.

Following the failure of the May 22 assault, Grant began one of the classic siege operations in military history.

Soldiers on both sides of the line suffered terrible casualties from sniping and constant bombardment. An attempt by the Union soldiers to blast their way in was tried on June 25 when an underground mine was detonated underneath the 3rd Louisiana Redan. But the Confederates were ready for the blast and quickly sealed off the breach in the line.

The siege dragged on for seven weeks with the Southerners being forced to resort to eating horse, mule and even ''trench squirrel,'' a euphemism for rats.

Finally, on July 4, 1863, the Confederate commander, Gen. John C. Pemberton, surrendered the garrison to Grant.

Sgt. Bellome and the other enlisted men were quickly paroledthat is, they gave their word they would not engage in further hostilities until officially exchanged for a Union prisoner of war. They were then allowed to return to their homes.

It would be over a year before the men of Bellome's regiment were officially exchanged, and by that time the war had passed them by.

After the war Bellome returned to civilian pursuits and ran a store in Millerville, a town he helped found. He was married to Celine Odile Bertrand April 8, 1864.

In later life, Bellome moved to Calcasieu Parish near Vinton where he lived until his death on June 20, 1930.

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