Sunday, August 29, 2010

150-YEARS-AGO -- 1860 ELECTION CAMPAIGN -- Breckinridge & Lane

(BATON ROUGE DAILY ADVOCATE, excerpt from UT Tyler digital archives]

Mansfield, La., Aug. 28th, 1860.

Vice President John C. Breckinridge
(Library of Congress)
Messrs. Editors—By request, herewith I enclose to you the proceedings of a mass meeting held in this place, on Saturday the 25th inst., for publication, which I hope will find place in your columns.

It was truly one of the largest political gatherings I ever witnessed in Northwest Louisiana. The Democracy of De Soto are "up and adoing" their level best for Breckinridge and Lane. Many Old Line Whigs, too, and some of them men of talent and influence, have come out boldly for Breckinridge and Lane.

The Douglasites are scarce indeed in this parish. Within the range of my acquaintance I know not one.

The Belleveretts are making some ado about a meeting they are to have in this place on Saturday next, the 1st September, but from the small force they have on parade, I think the largest show they can exhibit, will be the show bills they have posted around town notifying the Order that the Cow-bells are coming, etc.

It seems to all appearances in this parish, we have but little to do, but like faithful stewards, we wish to do that little well, and when the 1st of November comes, we will send up a majority for Breckinridge and Lane by hundreds larger than ever was given by this parish before.

B. F. J.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


THE CONSTITUTIONAL [ALEXANDRIA, LA], September 1, 1860, p. 2, c. 4

[From the the UT Tyler digital archives]
The Pole Raising.

Bell-Everett Flag (Library of Congress)
It was apparent to the most casual observers on Saturday last, that something unusual was about to occur to break in upon the dull monotony of our town. At an early hour in the day people commenced coming in from the country and by 12 o'clock quite a large and respectable crowd had gathered to assist in raising the Bell and Everett pole, announced to take place at this hour. . . .

Shortly after the conclusion of the last address, amid the shouts of the multitude and the booming of cannon, the pole was elevated to its position, and the national ensign was unfurled to the breeze, having inscribed upon it the names of Bell and Everett.

Upon the summit of the pole, 125 feet high, is placed a gilded figure of a bell. Some of our Democratic friends, with a puerile attempt to be witty, remarked that it has no clapper. Their favorite figure has been a rooster, but we never heard that the figure crowed, and now that the Democracy is divided, we have yet to learn which faction owns the famous rooster.

Our figure is but symbolical of that great National Bell which will ring out in November next, on occasion of the mighty resurrection of dry bones among which there is now such a shaking.

The proceedings of the day were characterized by much enthusiasm, convincing all that Bell and Everett have a deep hold upon the hearts of the people.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"I Rode With Stonewall" A Great Read

Maj. Henry Kyd Douglas,
By Mike Jones
It has probably been over 20-years since I last read Henry Kyd Douglas' classic war memoir, "I Rode With Stonewall." I purchased a vintage early hardback (a 1945 ninth printing) at the SCV Reunion in Anderson, S.C. last month. It had been so long since I read it, it was like reading it for the first time and I had forgotten why it was so good. Douglas was the youngest staff member on the staff of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Douglas is the source of much of what is known about Jackson's wartime activities and many personal anecdotes.

Douglas was born in Shepherdstown, West Virginia (then Virginia) in 1840, graduated from Franklin and Marshal College in 1860 and had just started his practice of the law as an attorney in St. Louis, Mo. when the war started. He returned to Virginia and joined Company B, 2nd Virginia Infantry as a private. The 2nd Virginia became a part of the brigade commanded by the soon be be famous Brig. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. By the time of the First Battle of Manassas, he was an orderly sergeant and took part in the battle as such. He doesn't got into a lot of detail about the battle, frankly admitting he knew only what came into his immediate vision. To the soldier in the ranks, he wrote it seemed they were being moved from place to place in a meaningless way.

"My  part of the line was driven back at first; then we went in again and fought it through, and found, when the smoke cleared and the roar of artillery died away and the rattle of musketry decreased into scattering shots, that we had won the field and were pursuing the enemy. This is not very historical but it's true," he wrote of the battle.

Douglas performed his first great service for history after the battle. In August he was made second lieutenant of his company and had the occasion to meet Jackson for the first time shortly after that. In November, when Jackson was promoted to major general and left the First (Stonewall) Brigade, he gave his first and only speech to his troops. With a remarkable sense of history, Douglas immediately afterwards went to his tent and wrote down Jackson's words as he remembered them. He then had other officers check his recollection for accuracy, and when satisfied, he sent a copy of the speech to Richmond Dispatch, which published it. That speech was used in one of the finest scenes in the movie "Gods and Generals." Actor Stephen Lang performed the role of Jackson giving the speech superbly.

(Gen. T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson)
Douglas soon joined the Jackson's military family as part of his staff and served in the capacity until shortly before the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, when he rejoined his old company as its captain. Following Jackson's death Douglas went on to serve on the staffs of a number of other generals taking part in many of the great battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, was captured and imprisoned at Johnson's Island, wounded six times, and near the end of the war promoted to colonel and commanded the Light Brigade in the Appomattox campaign. His troops fired the last shots and were the last to surrender their arms at Appomattox.

After he returned home to Shepherdstown, he was harassed by unionists and arrested and imprisoned for wearing his Confederate uniform for a photograph requested by a lady. Douglas then got snared in the investigation of the Lincoln assassination. A deserter from both Union and Confederate armies falsely testified that members of the Stonewall Brigade had something to do with the assassination. Douglas was arrested and had to testify but was easily cleared of complicity. He did get to see the conspirators on trial and had strong opinions of the unjust conviction and execution of Mrs. Mary Surratt.

Douglas returned to civilian life and built and successful law practice in Hagerstown, Maryland. He was devoted to Confederate veterans affairs and worked for memorializing Stonewall Jackson. He died in 1903. His excellent memoir, based on his wartime diary and letters, didn't get published until 1940. "I Rode With Stonewall" is one of the real classics of War for Southern Independence history. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tiger Rifles -- Zouave Uniform Mystery

A group of  Tigers Rifle zouaves can be seen
in the center of this  Harper's Weekly sketch from
the September 28, 1861 issue of the publication. It
done from life by a wartime artist.
By Mike Jones
The famous zouave uniform of Company B (Tiger Rifles), First Special Battalion (Wheat's) Louisiana Volunteers has long been a matter of debate due to the lack of a wartime photographic image that could answer a lot of the detail questions that have been raised over the years. Even if it was in black and white, we could at least tell the shape of the fez, if the jacket had tombeau (false pockets in a trefoil design), and design of the blue and white striped pantaloons and if  the pantaloons were in true zouave fashion or modified and the exact look of the blue and white striped socks worn under the gaiters. If the photograph had been tinted with color, we could see if it was blue or brown (both have been given in period descriptions) and shade of blue of the stripes on the zouave pantaloons. All the descriptions are consistent that they wore a red woolen shirt.

Surely in early war New Orleans, where the company was organized, there were plenty of photographers around the camps to take pictures of soldiers in the colorful uniforms. If pictures do still exist, they haven't come to public notice yet. Until that happens, we only have physical descriptions by eyewitnesses, and period sketches by war artists from Harper's Weekly and Captain Leon Fremaux of the 8th Louisiana Infantry. A very nice sketch by Confederate veteran and artist A.C. Redwood done in the 1880s for an article by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in the 1880s. In the 20th and 21st centuries , numerous renditions of the Tiger Rifle zouave uniform  have been rendered by artists reflecting all the various wartime descriptions. How close these drawings and and paintings have been is a matter of speculation and opinion, but surely those using the earliest wartime sketches and descriptions are the closest to accurate.

The Harper's Weekly  and Fremaux watercolor are very consistent in the general look of the uniform. They both show the Tigers wearing very traditional looking zouave uniforms, with the exception of the striped pants which were made of blue and white striped Hamilton mattress ticking material. The traditional uniform pants for the original French zouaves was red and white tropical climates. The Fremaux watercolor, which was done in September of 1861, has the color of the jacket a light brown. All the earlier descriptions of the jacket before the First Battle of Manassas have them in blue jackets. Later descriptions had them both in blue and light brown jackets. This has led to speculations that after Manassas, where they were fired upon by accident by the 4th South Carolina Infantry, that they made have dyed their jackets brown, or the jackets were bleached to a brownish color by exposure to the sun and elements, or that one platoon was originally outfitted with one platoon in blue jackets and the other platoon in brown jackets. Another possibility is that the company received a second issue of jackets, this time brown, after Manassas to correct the friendly fire problem.

The discovery in 1978 of what is believed to be the graves of privates Dennis Corcoran and Michael O'Brien, who were executed in December 1861, resulted in some concrete evidence of some elements of the uniforms. A scientific investigation of the few scraps of textiles in the graves led to the conclusion that the jackets were originally blue with red trim, the shirt in one grave red and the other white, porcelain buttons on one of the shirts and a silk cravat was worn by O'Brien. There was no evidence of lower body garments. It could not, apparently, be conclusively determined from the material scraps if they had tombeaux on their jackets or exactly what type of fez they wore.

The wartime sketches by Harper's Weekly and Fremaux make it appear they  may have worn the stiffer, military type fez worn by the Turkish army, rather than the looser, floppy type worn by the French army zouaves. These hats also had a red tassel hanging down from the top. Such a colorful, and unique zouave uniform garnered the Tiger Rifles a lot of attention, and no doubt added to their fame as a unit.

A Tiger Rifle drummer by A.C. Redwood
The Century Magazine, 1884.
A postwar sketch by Confederate veteran artist A.C. Redwood in Century Magazine in 1884 shows a drummer of the Tiger Rifles generally wearing the standard uniform of a zouave. This sketch generally follows the wartime  sketch appearance of the uniform. Of course the colors are not shown in the Redwood sketch and the uniform is not described in the article, which was by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard's reminiscence of the First Battle of Manassas. It has been much reproduced and is probably a pretty accurate representation of the uniform.

A charging Tiger Rifle from the Louisiana
Civil War Centennial brochure, map.
My favorite sketch of the uniform is one by an unknown artist for the Louisiana Civil War Commission's 1861 "Civil War" map and brochure about the war in the Pelican State. I like it not so much for the appearance, which may or may not be historicall accurate, but for the fighting spirit shown in the charging, screaming Tiger.

Many commercial artists are turning out excellent prints representing the Tiger Rifles and we have every reason to believe based on all of the historical research, that are probably pretty accurate representations of the uniform.
But until a wartime photograph of an enlisted man in the Tiger Rifles surfaces, this famous zouave uniform will  remain matter of opinion and speculation to a  large extent.