Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Two Louisiana Zouaves (Harper's Weekly, 17 August 1861)
By Mike Jones
The Tiger Rifles, Company B, 1st Special Battalion (Wheat's) Louisiana Volunteers, was one of most famous company level units in American military history. It gained its reputation for being Tigers both on and off the battlefield. It was this unit's early fame in the war that gave Wheat's Battalion the nickname "Wheat's Tigers" which soon became attached to all Louisiania infantry serving in the Army of Northern Virginia. Part of their fame, besides their fighting qualities, was their stand-out zouave uniforms. The Tigers were outfitted by wealthy New Orleans businessman A. Keene Richards before they left Louisiana for the seat of war. Unfortunately, there appears to be no known photographs enlisted men of the Tiger Rifles in their glorious zouave uniforms. There are only eye-witness descriptions, which tend to be highly contradictory, and two wartime sketches that give some idea of their general appearance.

One of the two sketches is by a Harper's Weekly artist who showed, from a distance, a group of New Orleans Tiger Zouaves standing around their camp after just arriving in Lynchburg, Va. in June of 1861. The sketch didn't run in Harper's Weekly until 28 Sept. 1861. The other is a water color sketch done by Captain Leon Fremaux of the 8th Louisiana Infantry. It shows two Tigers on a road with one giving the other a drink from his canteen. The color of the jackets is reportedly light brown. Presuming these sketches are accurate, they show the Tigers wore fairly traditional zouave uniforms, but with blue and white striped pants made of ticking material rather than red wool.

There is photographic evidence for the 1st Battalion (Coppen's) Louisiana Zouave Battalion. Coppen's Zouaves were photographed in Pensacola, Florida at the beginning of the war in two published photos, one with arms stacked and the other with them holding their arms at the "charge bayonet" position. The photos also show possibly the only known wartime image of a fully uniformed Confederate vivandiere, a woman who provided water and medical assistance. There is also a Harper's Weekly sketch of a group of Coppen's Zouave prisoners-of-war, which ran 27 July 1861. They were stationed on the Yorktown peninsula under Brig. Gen. John Bankhead Magruder while The Tiger Rifles were on the Centreville line with Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard.

The above sketch from Harper's Weekly of 17 August 1861 is identified only as two Louisiana Zouaves with no identification as to unit. The figure at left is wearing a long side knife, which was typical of the Tiger Rifles, who had 1841 Mississippi Rifles, with no bayonet. However he also has a bayonet on his other side,which would seem to be contradictory since the Tiger Rifles had no bayonets. The figure at right is holding a musket with attached bayonet. Coppen's Zouaves had bayonets for their weapons, but no long side knives as best can be determined from the known photographs. Both figures have striped pants, but is this just artist shading or a clear indication they were Tiger Rifles?

Of course the sketch could be a composite of both zouave units with embellishments such as bayonets and long side-knives to make it a more interesting picture. I think it fair to say they are good representative images of Louisiana zouaves. There were other company level units which also wore zouave uniforms or used the word zouave in their names , but the Tiger Rifles and Coppen's Battalion are the best documented.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


By  Mike Jones
     1st Lt. Edward A. Seton of Company K (Confederate States Rangers), 10th Louisiana Infantry Regiment, wrote a lengthy and very informative letter home to his mother in Lake Charles on 28 July 1861 that is filled with rich details about camp life, his officer's uniform and the flag that was flown over the large basic training camp.
Louisiana Republic Flag
(Photo by Mike Jones, author's collection)
     He mentions that a beautiful Louisiana flag was raised over the camp on that date. Although he didn't describe it, since he did identify it as the Louisiana flag, he was probably referring to the Louisiana Republic flag that was adopted by the state after it seceded on 26 January 1861. This flag design included a a colorful combination of Louisiana's French, Spanish and American heritage. In the canton, a single gold star was featured in a red field. On the fly, the flag had 13-stripes alternating between red, white and blue. A flag of this type was flying in New Orleans when Union invasion troops took over the city at the end of April 1862. Camp Moore also flew a 15-star First National Confederate flag at the camp. The lieutenant mentions a flag made by the ladies of Opelousas that was "worked all in silver and is quite heavy." Unfortunately he provides no further description but notes the major was talking of making it the regimental banner.
     In addition, Seton talks about the officier's kepi, uniform and sword that he had to buy. He says the kepi was red but doesn't say what color his long coat is. He does say that he couldn't have his picture made because he had to spend all of his money on his uniform and sword. That is too bad because there are no known photographs of Lt. Seton.
    The letter, so rich in detail, is below. The original is at the McNeese State University Archives.
Camp Moore July 28th 1861

Dear Mother

I have wrote you but a few days ago but we are now to move soon nearer to the field of action. Here we are in no danger but soon will be but sitll let not the courage fail you my deare mother for my arm is strong, our cause is a just one and God is watchful over the just. We have whipped the enemy at Ball Hill and at every other point, and you must pray to God and ask his blessings on our army. It makes my heart throb to think of the patriotic courage that you withstood the grief of my departure. You will receive my dearest thanks for learning and advisis you gave me, never be uneasy of my misconducting myself for I always think of you dear mother the only beloved parent I have left. Many a true son of Louisiana may fall. I might have to bite the dust with my companions and friends of the lake but my name will never be dishonored.

I will always be worth that which my mother gave me; not longer than yesterday I drempt of seeing you all. Would that I could but press you all to my heart before I leave Camp Moore.

We are to leave heare on Tuesday for Virginia. Our boys are gay and in good health and eager for to be on the field. I went in as Lieutenant of the guards the other day and went thrue my duty very well and also visited general Tracy and was recived very well by his lady and Miss Magnel and maid me a present of a manigere of fine thread and needles & a great many other things and also drank some good shampaign with the General. The ladys of Opelousas gave us a visit yesterday and brought us a flag the prettiest one on the hill. The Major is talking of taking it for the regiment baner it is worked all in silver and is quite heavy. The Louisiana flag has been raised heare to day it is very prety. We have but batalion drill at present and it is very hard to learn, officers are also drilled every day. I wish you could see all the regiment a drilling to gether at a support arms; you can’t look at the bayonets when reflecting in the sun. All the officers have to wear red caps it is very absurd you would think so if you would only see me with mine on and my large striped pants and long tail coat of 65$. If I would have any money I would send you my portrait my money is very scarce at present for I had to buy my own sword and uniform and I asur you it took all my money.

If Amidie could spare more than the fifty dollars I asked him to send it to Lobit & Sharprentier New Orleans and for them to send me a letter of credit to draw in any place one of the Lobits is in our caompany he joined us in the city. I have now to close my letter for it is late and the drum will soon beat for the lites to be put out as I told you we are to leave Monday probably not before Wednesday. I will try to write once more before we leave if possible. Once there it will not be as secure as here and will be a great dell more strict on our men than it has here for there we are in danger and are obliged to keep ready for a call all day and night and picket guard will be in some danger also. I have plenty more to say but cannot express myself so farewell once more. Take courage and pray for your deare son who is at or soon will be at the wars. Give all my friends and all my family my best respects especially to Doris. I sent her a letter in Amidies. Good night once more the drum is beating for me farewell.

Your Beloved Son

EA Seton

Sunday, June 6, 2010


The South's Defender's Monument was dedicated on 3 June 1915 on the grounds of the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Giving the dedication speech was a highly respected community leader and Confederate veteran, Hardy C. Gill. Below is his story and the speech. The monument was rededicated on 3 June 1995 after it was extensively renovated. At that time, the late Dr. John K. Griffith Jr., a member of Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390 in Lake Charles, read Gill's memorable speech. (Photo by Mike Jones)

H.C. Gill around the time he was
promoted to 2nd lieutenant.
(McNeese State University Archives
Maude Reid Scrapbook.)
Gill Dedicated Monument

     Hardy Coward Gill was the principle speaker at the dedication of The South's Defenders Monument on 3 June 1915. He was a veteran of Company B, 1st Louisiana Infantry regiment in the famous "Louisiana Tigers" brigade of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Gill was born 17 February 1844 in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and came with his family at a young age to what would become Vernon Parish, Louisiana in the western part of the state. He was educated at Mount Lebanon University in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.
     He was just 17-years-old when he enlisted on 2 August 1861 in New Orleans in Company B (2nd) (Red River Rebels) of Rapides Parish of Nelligan's 1st Louisiana. His original rank was second corporal and he was promoted by election to junior second lieutenant on 28 April 1862 at age 18. He was marked present for the following battles: 1 July 1862, Malvern Hill; 2 September 1862, Chantilly; 15 September 1862, Harper's Ferry; 17 September 1862, Sharpsburg; 13 December 1862, Fredericksburg; 2 May 1863, Chancellorsville; 3 May 1863, severely wounded at Chancellorsville; present 2-3 July 1863, Gettysburg; 27 November 1863, Payne's Farm; severely wounded 5 May 1864, Wilderness;  present 1 September 1864, Shepardstown; 10 September 1864, Smithfield; 18 September 1864, Winchester; captured 22 September 1864, Fisher's Hill. He was held a prisoner of war for the rest of  war and wasn't released until 14 June 1865, two months after Appomattox, when he finally agreed to take the oath. At that time he was described as 6 feet 1 inch tall, dark complexion, dark hair, grey eyes. He was 21-years-old.
     Following the war he married 31 December 1867 to Lillian A. "Martha" Smart and moved to Calcasieu Parish where they lived in the Bagdad community, now Westlake, and then moved to Lake Charles. The couple had seven children. Gill was in the real estate, mercantile, milling and livery businesses. He also was elected to be the clerk of court for Calcasieu Parish.
   Hardy C. Gill died 21 August 1921 and is buried in Orange Grove-Graceland Cemetery in Lake Charles.


at the

Unveiling of the Confederate



Lake Charles, Louisiana

June 3rd, 1915

Mr. Chairman, R.E. Lee Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Comrades, Ladies and my Fellow Citizens:

The Daughters of the Confederacy, having charge of these dedicatory ceremonies, have placed the responsibility upon me of responding on behalf of the veterans, and having closed all avenues of retreat there was nothing left me to do but capitulate.

An occasion of this kind is one of reminiscence. More than fifty years ago the North and South were seriously divided upon a great political and constitutional question. It has always seemed strange to me that the question was not appealed to the Supreme or some diplomatic court, but it was not. Every state in the Union appealed to arms, both sides with equal enthusiasm and patriotism lined up on the question, both sides called their witnesses and the argument was promptly opened at Fort Sumter. When Thomas Overton Moore, governor of this state, called to the colors its citizens, I claim those who responded performed as highly patriotic duty, as any man who responded to the call of Abraham Lincoln.

For more than four years the argument raged with tremendous energy and fury.

Looking backward a half century from the 9th of April last, we catch a vision of Appomattox. On that eventful and historic day two giant characters, two strong men, two great captains met on a patch of nature’s greensward, under an apple tree, in the full fruitage of flower, and without blare of trumpets, without noise, but in the simplicity of greatness, made a covenant honorable to both sides, and closed the argument forever. The commissary wagons were pulled in, refreshments were served and a plug of Brown’s Mule was passed and everybody took a bite, the blue and the gray withdrew to their homes to mend the broken and heal the wounds. How faithfully that covenant has been kept and how well the blue and the gray have wrought, you have but to observe today with what unanimity the hundred million of loyal Americans are standing behind and supporting our chief magistrate and his policies, and not enough Jingoes on the gunwales to rock the boat. Gathered under the shadow of this monument are veterans of the blue and the gray, that squatted on the greensward around the apple tree at Appomattox on the 9th of April, 1865. We have forgiven. Today we send our children to the same schools, we attend the same churches, have extended the right hand of fellowship and would eat chuck together if we had the chance. But we have not forgotten. Would you have us forget? This monument and every Confederate and Union monument in the land answers in one universal chorus — No. We stand for something.

Back in the eighties, when our western frontiers were infested and dominated by a restless, reckless, desperate, lawless, wild and woolly element of daredevil cowboys and rustlers, on one of their carnival occasions at the end of a gun play one of the gang quit the trail and they laid him in the little village cemetery. His friends erected a little modest memorial over his grave. Strolling through the little cemetery, and coming to the plain marble slab, I found this simple inscription: “Bill Boone,” and underneath this unique epitaph, “Bill always done his derndest.” Catching the inspiration of the thought that brought out that inscription I pulled off my hat to that epitaph, and my hat is off to it still.

Search the literature and classics of the world, could you find five words and group them that would give a higher or loftier encomium to human endeavor? If the drapery should be removed from that statue and there should be anything lacking to make it complete and I were called upon to supply it, I would say copy the epitaph in the little village cemetery, and write on that shaft “They always done their derndest.”

And now to this splendid band of women, the R.E. Lee Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, who have been so faithful and worked so hard, consistently, persistently and successfully to this end, and to every donor to the fund that has made this splendid memorial possible, on behalf of these veterans and on behalf of our fallen comrades, whose graves lie in the green bosom of every battlefield from the Rio Grande, and the Round Tops of Gettysburg, I sincerely, reverently and affectionately extend our thanks.

These veterans assembled here have all reached their three score years and ten and better, and in a few more years, at best, will be the lost generation. Their faces are turned toward the sunset of life, and as they move across the stage of action, with warped frames and halting gait, and whitening crowns and visions growing dim, you may catch the faint echo of their receding steps, as they enter upon their last campaign the thin gray line growing shorter and thinner and thinner and thinner as the years go by until they reach the border land and, as the rear guard of the heavy battalions straggle over the line, taps will be sounded, lights extinguished and the thin gray line will fade forever into a memory. The rear guard will cross over the river and mingling with the spirits of their comrades, who have gone on before, together they will lie down to rest under the shade of the trees, on “Fame’s eternal camping ground, the bivouac of the dead.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010


A dead Confederate at Gettysburg.
(Library of Congress)

Today, 3 June, is the official Confederate Memorial Day in Louisiana. It is important we continue to remember to courage and sacrifice of our gallant heroes in gray, who gave their all to defend their homes and familes. They were also fighting for the future of their homeland and us, their descendants. They gave all for us so that we might inherit a land where the principles of 1776 were still alive and well. In tribute to their memory, below is a most appropriate poem, "Bivouac of the Dead" by Theodore O'Hara. Although it was written to honor the dead of Kentucky in the Mexican War, it can apply to all soldiers in all wars. O'Hara served in the War For Southern Independence on the staff of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, former vice president of the United States during the administration of James Buchanan.

By Theodore O'Hara

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat

The soldier's last Tattoo;

No more on life's parade shall meet

That brave and fallen few.

On Fame's eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread,

And glory guards, with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

No rumour of the foe's advance

Now swells upon the wind;

No troubled thought at midnight haunts

Of loved ones left behind.

No vision of the morrow's strife

The warrior's dream alarms;

No braying horn, nor screaming fife,

At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shivered swords are red with rust,

Their plumed heads are bowed;

Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,

Is now their martial shroud.

And plenteous funeral tears have washed

The red stains from each brow;

And the proud forms, by battle gashed,

Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,

The bugle's stirring blast,

The charge, the dreadful cannonade,

The din and shouts are past;

Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal,

Shall thrill with fierce delight;

Those breasts that never more may feel

The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce Northern hurricane

That sweeps the great plateau,

Flushed with triumph, yet to gain,

Come down the serried foe;

Who heard the thunder of the fray

Break o'er the field beneath,

Knew the watchword of the day

Was "Victory or death!"

Long had the doubtful conflict raged

O'er all that stricken plain,

For never fiercer fight had waged

The vengeful blood of Spain;

And still the storm of battle blew,

Still swelled the glory tide;

Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,

Such odds his strength could bide.

Twas in that hour his stern command

Called to a martyr's grave

The flower of his beloved land,

The nation's flag to save.

By rivers of their father's gore

His first-born laurels grew,

And well he deemed the sons would pour

Their lives for glory too.

For many a mother's breath has swept

O'er Angostura's plain,

And long the pitying sky has wept

Above its moldered slain.

The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,

Or shepherd's pensive lay,

Alone awakes each sullen height

That frowned o'er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground

Ye must not slumber there,

Where stranger steps and tongues resound

Along the heedless air.

Your own proud land's heroic soil

Shall be your fitter grave;

She claims from war his richest spoil,

The ashes of her brave.

Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,

Far from the gory field,

Borne to a Spartan mother's breast

On many a bloody shield;

The sunshine of their native sky

Smiles sadly on them here,

And kindred eyes and hearts watch by

The heroes sepulcher.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,

Dear as the blood ye gave,

No impious footstep here shall tread

The herbage of your grave.

Nor shall your glory be forgot

While fame her record keeps,

For honor points the hallowed spot

Where valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone

In deathless song shall tell,

When many a vanquished age hath flown,

The story how ye fell.

Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,

Nor time's remorseless doom,

Shall dim one ray of glory's light

That gilds your deathless tomb.

[Below is from the National Park Service]
Written in 1847, O'Hara's stirring poem The Bivouac of the Dead was composed to honor American dead at the Battle of Buena Vista, fought during the War with Mexico. Born in Danville, Kentucky in 1820, Theodore O'Hara served as captain and assistant quartermaster with the Kentucky volunteers during that war and later volunteered to lead a contingent of Kentucky soldiers during the 1850 expedition to free Cuba, where he was severely wounded. While he recuperated, he became involved in journalism and edited a newspaper in Louisville. Military life still beckoned and he joined the US Army in 1855, serving for a year with the 2nd US Cavalry.

In 1856, O'Hara moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he became editor of the Mobile Register until the outbreak of the Civil War. He raised the "Mobile Light Dragoons" in the city and was elected company captain, before joining the 12th Alabama Volunteer Infantry where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He later served on the staff of General Albert Sidney Johnston and General John Breckenridge. After the war, O'Hara became a merchant in the cotton business until wiped out by a devastating fire. He retired to a friend's plantation in Alabama where he died in 1873 from malaria. The following year, his remains were re-interred in the military cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Dead Confederate at Petersburg.
(Library of Congress)