Wednesday, April 7, 2010


By Mike Jones
The first contingent of Lake Charles men to leave for the War for Southern Independence made history with the two great Confederate generals, General Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

Sgt. Joseph C. LeBleu was one of the
34 Lake Charles men who left for the
fighting front in 1861. (Dan Jones Photo)
When the 34 men left from the Lake area in July of 1861 for the Confederate basic training camp of Camp Moore in Tangipahoa, they would become part of the Confederate States Rangers, Company K, 10th Louisiana Infantry Regiment.

If their send-off was typical, it included patriotic speeches and a handmade battle flag from the ladies of Calcasieu Parish. At their first duty station, Camp Moore, the company was sworn in to the Confederate service on 22 July 1861. They also received uniforms, arms, and basic training.

After about a month, they boarded trains and were sent to Richmond, Virginia, where they were assigned to man defenses under Colonel John Bankhead Magruder on the Yorktown Peninsula.

They had already missed the first battle of the war, which occurred 21 July 1861, at Manassas, Virginia, so they settled in for a long winter of adapting to army life.

The first fatalities the Calcasieu Parish men experienced occurred long before their first battle. Diseases such as typhoid fever, measles, and dysentery were rampant in the unsanitary army camps.

Corporal Nathan J. Davis, 24, who had been the village blacksmith in Lake Charles before the war, became the first fatality from the Calcasieu Parish contingent. His record states that he died of sickness in Richmond, Virginia, on 8 September 1861.

Others became seriously ill and recovered, but were unable to resume their duties and received medical discharges. Corporal William L. Hutchins, 20, a farmer in civilian life, received a discharge for physical disability in October 1861, and Corporal Henry W. Newton, 36, also a farmer, was discharged for the same reason in March 1862.

By the spring of 1862, the 10th Louisiana was facing its first test in combat. They were caught up in the Peninsular Campaign in which a massive Union Army was invading Virginia through the Yorktown Peninsula.

The Calcasieu Parish men suffered no casualties in their first two" engagements, a skirmish at Dam No. 1 on the Warwick River on April 16, 1861, and the Battle of Williamsburg on May4,1861.
Other more major battles soon followed — Seven Pines and Fair Oaks and then the Seven Days battles from June 24 to July 1 — but their regiment was held in reserve until the last day.
It was on July 1 at Malvern Hill that the 10th Louisiana established its reputation for being one of the hardest-fighting units in the army. Led by Col. Eugene Waggaman of New Orleans, the regiment was ordered to charge a seemingly unassailable Union position. The men double-quicked up a hill and into the muzzles of 33 enemy artillery pieces. Despite a storm of shell and bullets, they overran the advanced Union position, but those who made it to the main line of entrenchments were nearly all killed, wounded or captured. The regiment was forced to fall back. In all, 127 of the 272 men who made the unsuccessful charge became casualties. The Confederate States Rangers suffered a loss of four wounded, including Calcasieu Parish residents Pvt. Patrick Coyne and Pvt. Joseph D. Farque.
For the next three months, marching and fighting were almost non-stop, and the casualties quickly mounted. Assigned to Stonewall Jackson's command, their next battle came at Cedar Run, Va., on Aug. 10, 1862, but the Confederate States Rangers suffered no casualties.

The story was different later that month at the Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run), Aug. 28-30. On the second day of the battle, Capt. Henry Monier recorded in his diary, "The woods to the front blue with Federals. Capt. Perrodon's (sic) company (K-Confederate States Rangers) picketed and hold their ground until the commands, 'Fall in, fix bayonet,' are given." The following day, Monier wrote, "So desperate was this day's fight that at one time the Confederate and Yankee standards were not 20 feet apart."
Company K suffered heavy casualties in the battle — two killed, six wounded and two missing. Both of the dead were Calcasieu Parish men — Sgt. Pierre Vincent, from the Vincent Settlement family, and Pvt. David Hargrove. The wounded included 2nd Lt. Isaac Ryan and Pvt. Joseph Lawrence Ryan, both sons of Jacob Ryan, the "Father of Lake Charles."

But the worst was yet to come, on Sept. 17, 1862, at Sharpsburg, Md., along and near the banks of Antietam Creek. More Americans were killed and wounded on that day than any other single day in all of U.S. History. The North lost over 12,000 men and the South more than 10,000.

The 10th Louisiana was part of Stonewall Jackson's Corps, and their part of the battle occurred early, at 6:45 a.m. at West Woods and at a split rail fence bordering the Hagerstown Road. Lieutenant Isaac Ryan had recovered enough from his Second Manassas wound to lead the company. Capt. August Perrodin and 1st Lt. Eward Seton were on the sick list. When the casualty lists were tallied, Confederate States

Rangers losses amounted to three killed and at least two wounded. One of the fatalities was Cpl. Joseph Auge, 24, who bad been a Lake Charles farmer prior to the conflict. Pvt. Asa Ryan, another son of Jacob Ryan, was wounded and captured. His left leg later had to be amputated. Pvt, Dupre Marcantel was wounded in the head and foot and disabled. In the only other major battle in 1862, Fredericksburg, Va., on Dec. 9, the 10th Louisiana was not heavily engaged and suffered only light casualties.

After a winter lull in the fighting, the campaign resumed in late April with another Union invasion of Virginia, under Major General Joseph Hooker, Confederate General Robert E. Lee moved his army to check the invasion, with a major battle clash occurring on May 2,1863 at Chancellorsville.

As part of Stonewall Jackson's Corps, the 10th Louisiana took part in one of the most famous tactical maneuvers in military history. Lee detached Jackson's entire corps on May 2 and sent it in a forced march to the left to strike the federal army's flank and rear.

The maneuver was a success and the Union army was routed. But fighting was severe on both May 2 and May 3, when six color-bearers of the 10th Louisiana were killed in action. The Confederate States Rangers lost four men, including Sgt. James Reeves of Lake Charles, and 12 were wounded, including First Lt. Edward A. Seaton, Second Lt. Isaac Ryan (his second wound of the war), Sgt. James Benjamin .Kirkman (whose left leg had to be amputated), Pvt. Thomas E. Stringer, Pvt. Isaac Reeves (the brother of Sergeant Reeves), and Pvt. Jacob Ellender.

The Gettysburg campaign quickly followed. The 10th Louisiana, which was then part of Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell's corps, was among the first units to head for Pennsylvania. On the way, they fought a battle at Winchester, Va., on June 15, 1863, in which the Union forces were routed, then invaded the state of Pennsylvania as the vanguard for the rest of the army.

The Louisiana men were in Chambersburg, about 30 miles away, when the battle started on July 1. They marched the 30 miles to Gettysburg in the July sun, arriving late in the day and were immediately thrown into the battle line. As part of the extreme left of the Confederate line, the 10th Louisiana assaulted Culp's Hill on both July 2 and July 3, taking heavy casualties. Unable to break the northern line, the Southerners began a slow retreat back to Virginia on July 4.

Of the 50,000 casualties in the three-day battle, the Confederate States Rangers lost two men, seven were wounded and four were missing. The Calcasieu Parish men included in those losses were Cpl. Isaac Reeves, killed; Sgt. Joseph Harrington, Pvt. Joseph L. Strange, wounded, and Sgt. Joseph P. Granger, missing.

Before the end of 1863, the 10th Louisiana was in one more fight, on Nov. 27 at Payne's Farm near Moore's Run, Va. Local men wounded there included Pvt. Valain LeBleu, 23, who suffered a severe disabling wound to the left leg, and Pvt. Thomas E. Stringer, 24, who had just recovered from his wound at Chancellorsville, was wounded again, this time in the thigh.

The two armies went into winter quarters, but when they emerged in the spring of 1864, the fighting became worse than ever.

On May 5, the Battle of the Wilderness occurred in response to the latest Union drive on Richmond. Sgt. Joseph Harrington was again wounded, along with Pvt. Joseph L. Strange, who had been exchanged after being wounded and captured at Gettysburg Pvt. Thomas E. Stringer was captured and spent the rest of the war at the infamous Elmira, N.Y., prisoner-of-war camp where 25 percent of the inmates died of disease.

As bad as the Wilderness was, the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 12 was practically a holocaust for the 10th Louisiana. In that battle they were holding a crucial position called the "Mule Shoe" and were overwhelmed by massive Union forces. Most of the men were killed, wounded or captured.

Most of the regiment was captured, including Calcasieu residents 1st Lt. Edward A. Seton, Second Lt. Isaac Ryan, Ordnance Sgt. Joseph Granger, Pvt. Benjamin Ellender, Pvt. Maxille Marcantel and Pvt. Walter F. Moss. Lieutenant Seton died in captivity on Feb. 11, 1865, at Fort Delaware, as did Sergeant Granger on Jan. 11, 1865 at Elmira. Lt. Ryan was exchanged and the rest of the men spent the remainder of the war in Elmira.

The fighting continued almost non-stop. On June 3, Pvt. Joseph L. Strange was again wounded at Cold Harbor, Va. Quartermaster Sgt. Oliver Ryan Moss and Sgt. Joseph Harrington were both captured on Oct. 19 at Cedar Creek, Va., and confined in Elmira for the rest of the war.

The final tragedy for the Calcasieu men occurred March 25, 1865, when their regiment was chosen to spearhead the last desperate major Confederate assault of the war on Fort Steadman, which was part of the Union siege line at Petersburg, Va.

The Confederates were trying to break through the besieging Union line. The ever-faithful soldier, Second Lt. Isaac Ryan led Company K in the attack and became the last man from the company to be killed in action — just two weeks before the war ended.

Of the 34 men in the Confederate States Rangers who left Calcasieu Parish for Virginia in 1861, only Pvt. Jacob Ellender and Pvt. William Reaves were present for the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. The rest of the men were dead, recuperating from wounds, discharged for physical disability, captured or transferred to other units.

Several of the returning soldiers became leading citizens in Calcasieu Parish after the war. Joseph C. LeBleu was a longtime police jury president and later served as a major of cavalry in the Spanish-American War period.

Oliver R. Moss became a postmaster in the parish. Dr. William H. Kirkman was a prominent figure in the medical field. Joseph Lawrence Ryan was prominent in agriculture, and William Hutchins became a businessman. Although their cause was lost, the veterans remained proud of their service and sacrifice and were, honored by their community until the end of their days.


dan said...

Dear Mike. Thanks for doing the research and for the great writing!
Dan Jones

dan said...

Dear Mike,
I am still fascinated by Calcasieu Parish history.
Thank you for sharing the results of your research and your great writing skills with us.
Dan Jones