Saturday, October 23, 2010


A Louisiana Confederate officer
in Virginia in 1861. (A.C. Redwood
Century Magazine) 
By Mike Jones

      Edward Auguste Seton, a 20-year-old Confederate soldier from Lake Charles, Louisiana was lying on the ground in a plain canvas army tent when he took pen in hand on July 1, 1861, and began a remarkable series of 38 letters to his mother, brother and sister detailing his experiences in some of the nation's most historic events.
     The letters were carefully preserved by his descendants, the late Mrs. Violet Stone and her son, Layne Stone, who donated them to McNeese State University Archives in 1990, where they have been professionally preserved ever since. Lt. Seton was the brother of Mrs. Stone's grandfather.
     Seton was born August 20, 1840, in Opelousas, the son of Edward A. Seton and the former Bazilde Belome. His father, who died when Edward was a child, was reportedly related to the family of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born Catholic saint. His mother, Bazilde, was born Feb. 18, 1816, in Opelousas, the daughter of Gregoire Belome and the former Francoise Arnaud, both of New Orleans.
     Edward had one sister, Fanny Charlotte Seton, who was born Dec. 15, 1845, in Opelousas. She married Amedie Faruqe on Dec. 20, 1860, and in the collection there is also a wartime letter written by Farque, who served in Company B, 12th Battalion Louisiana Infantry.
     Seton's mother had been previously married to Joseph Spence, who died in September 1836. There were two sons from this marriage, John A. and Joseph Spence. Some of Edward Seton's letters were addressed to John, who was the oldest child in the family.
     John Spence, established the first newspaper and print shop in Lake Charles, the Calcasieu Press, in partnership with Judge B.A. Martel of Opelousas.
     Young Edward worked as a clerk in this early Lake Charles print shop. In almost every letter, Edward Seton mentioned his girlfriend in Lake Charles, Miss Doris Pithon.
     Edward seems to have been a popular young man in the community, and when a company was formed in mid-1861 to fight for the South, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant. He was later promoted to 1st Lieutenant.
     The unit became Company K (Confederate State Rangers), 10th Louisiana Infantry, and took part in most of the major battles in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
     Seton's first duty station was at a basic training camp, Camp Moore, in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. From there, on July 14, 1861, he wrote his mother, "At present we have our tents and equipments and all are satisfied. The boys like camp life."
      But he learned that as an officer he had to buy his own uniform and equipment, "It (has) taken all the money I had to get my sword and uniform -- $95."
     Edward's 10th Louisiana regiment was sworn into the Confederate Army on July 22, 1861, and sent by rail to Richmond, Virginia, a trip which took seven torturous days. The regiment missed the first major battle of the war, the First Battle of Manassas, Va., on July 21, 1861, but he soon had his first encounter with the enemy while on picket duty.
     In a letter dated Aug. 11, 1861, Seton wrote his mother, "I (have) taken up a yankee last night, or at least he gave himself up to me. He was a deserter of the 4th Main Regiment. He said he was in the engagement on the 21st. I delivered him up to Capt. Johnston, officer of the day. They are all put in jail or confined. They are suspected of being spies."
     Seton also wrote of an amusing encounter he had with a Virginia native. "The country men of Va. are much greener than our country boys. I asked one if he was an American and he said not, but he was a Virginian of some eastern county. I could not help laughing in his face."
     His regiment was assigned to guarding the Yorktown Penisula, where the Revolutionary War battle was fought. The 10th Louisiana received its baptism of fire at the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. Lieutenant Seton's letters dropped off drastically after this, as his unit was almost constantly marching and fighting for the next three months. Following Malvern Hill, they fought battles at Cedar Run on Aug. 10, the Second Manassas Aug. 28-30 and Chantilly on Sept. 1, all in Virginia, and Harper's Ferry on Sept. 15, and Sharpsburg (Antietam) on Sept. 17, both in Maryland.
      On Sept. 21, 1862, Seton finally got a chance to summarize his command's part in those great battles. "We have been in all the battles and have lost our best men. In Friday's fight at Manassas Dave Hargrave was killed and L.J. Ryan was wounded in Satirday's fight. At Bull Run Sergt. P(ierre) Vincent was wounded (and later died) and Lt. Isaac Ryan, P.F. McCormick, W.C. Bolin, F. Sack all wounded Friday. We drove them (the yankees) across the Potomac. From there were a week in Maryland and captured 14,000 men, 23,000 stand of small arms and 60 pieces of artillery. On 17th Sept. we had a battle in Maryland and have lost our best men. Our company had 15 men in the fight and but four came out safe. We held the field until the 19th and fell back across the Potomac, but we are expecting to cross again tomorrow. We have beat the enemy at every point."
     The armies in those days normally went into winter quarters, and waited until the following spring to resume any serious campaigning. Lt. Seton wrote many of his letters during these breaks, which was interrupted by the Battle of Fredericksburg Dec. 11-13, giving his views on life in the army, the progress of the war and the prospects for the future.
Gen. R.E. Lee at Chancellorsville
(Library of Congress)
     His next battle came in May, 1863, at a place now historic -- Chancellorsville. He was wounded there, and while recovering in a hospital, wrote the best battle description of all his letters.
     On May 13, he wrote his mothers, "Ere you will receive this you may hear of my being wounded and probably in a worst light than it realy is, for I am but slightly wounded through the calf of the right leg ranging upward. I will be alright in two or three months for another fray. I was wounded on the 3rd May, Sunday morning, in the first charge. After I was wounded, or at the time our brigade fell back some three hundred yards to the breasworks we had just taken, I was left between both fires for a long (time) until a yankee came and got me out. I was very glad for not three hours after the the woods caught on fire and burnt a great many. The yankees treated me kindly while I was in their hands."
    In his next letter, dated June 17, 1863, he gave more details of the fight, "Dear Mama I expect you have been living in great suspense for these last six weeks on account of having hear of my wound and probably of my death for such was reported for I had been taken prisoner after being wounded. Our company stood on the field to the last and fought with the yankees at 30 years distance.
     "They (his own men) did not leave until I told them to go. . .Poor Jim Reeves was killed to my left. I went to get his rifle to give to F. Sack whose gun would not fire and when I looked around to give Sack the gun, I seen, poor fellow, he was Killed also."
    Although his wound was worse than he first thought, and took longer to heal, Seton recovered and fought many more battles.
Confederate memorial obelisk, Finn's Point
National Cemetery, New Jersey (National Cemetery
 Administration Department of Veteran Affairs.)
     Seton's last letter, dated Feb. 9, 1864, was a short one in which he described a small skirmish on the Rapidan River. More serious fighting was to come at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, and at Spottsylvania Courthouse, May 12, 1864. At Spottyslvania Courthouse his entire division was overrun and many were captured, including the Lake Charles soldier. He was confined in a P.O.W. camp at Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. P.O.W. camps were notorious for their high death rates due to disease. Fort Delaware was one of the worst. First Lieutenant Edward Auguste Seton died there on Feb. 19, 1865 of typhoid fever. His remains now lie in a soldier's grave at Finn's Point National Cemetery on the New Jersey shore, just across the river from Fort Delaware.
     Seton's name is engraved on an 85-foot tall obelisk, along with 2,435 other Confederates prisoners who died at Fort Delaware.

Monday, October 18, 2010

150-Years-Ago: South Carolina Getting Ready for Secession

[Excerpt from UT Tyler Digital Archives]
A you Southerner wearing a secession
cockade. (9th plate ambrotype M.D. Jones

DAILY ADVOCATE [BATON ROUGE, LA], October 22, 1860, p. 2, c. 5

South Carolina is Arming.—We are glad to see the people of our State everywhere preparing for the crisis which is at hand. As an offset to the "Wide-Awakes" of the North, "Minute Men" are organizing in all the principal districts of South Carolina. Their object is to form an armed body of men, and to join in with our fellow citizens, now forming in this and our sister States as "Minute Men," whose duty is to arm, equip and drill, and be ready for any emergency that may arise in the present perilous position of the Southern States. In Kershaw, Abbeville and Richland Districts the organization is already complete and powerful, embracing the flower of the youth, and led on by the most influential citizens. The badge adopted is a blue rosette, two and a half inches in diameter, with a military button in the centre, to be worn upon the side of the hat. Let the important work go bravely on, and let every son of Carolina prepare to mount the blue cockade.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Yankee in Gray -- A Great Classic

"Yankee in Gray"
By Mike Jones
I've been into reading classic histories on  the War For Southern Independence lately, and just finished another one, "Yankee in Gray" by Henry E. Handerson (The Press of Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio). Handerson was a member of the Stafford Guards, Company B, 9th Louisiana  Infantry Regiment, one of the outstanding Pelican State units in the Army of Northern Virginia. Handerson started the war as a private, became a lieutenant and adjutant of the regiment, and then was promoted to captain and served on the staff of Brig. Gen. Stafford.

Despite being a native of Ohio, Handerson had spent  a longtime in the South and was working as a tutor to  a plantation family in Rapides Parish when the war started. He admits in his memoir that he had supported the Bell-Everett Constitutional  Union Party ticket in the 1860 election, and that he hadn't given  a lot of thought to the right of secession before the secession crisis after the election. However he was inclined to support his friends in the South for the establishment of a new, free and indepedendent Southern Republic. Handerson was as loyal and devoted as any other Confederate and served honorably throughout the whole 4 years of the conflict. He suffered mightily for the south during the war, suffering a serious wound and captivity in the last year. Handerson was one of the "Immortal 600," Confederate prisoners of war who were deliberately placed under the fire of Confederate artillery. However he survived it all to go on to become a distinguished medical doctor after the ward.

Pvt. Henry E. Handerson in
his early war uniform
 of Co. B, 9th Louisiana
Infantry Regiment.
(The Western Reserve
 University Press)
 The late, great, historian Bell I Wiley, wrote this of Handerson's memoir, "He was an unusually keen observer and wrote with exceptional frankness and honesty. Especially valuable and interesting  are his discerning remarks about Southern society in the late antebellum period, his comments on various military leaders, such as 'Rob' Wheat, Richard Taylor, and 'Stonewall' Jackson, his vivid depictions of battle and his surprisingly objective description of prison life. This unique account by an unusual soldier should have great appeal to anyone interested in the Civil War."