Sunday, February 26, 2012


Daily Iberian reporter Patrick Flanagan, left, interviews Michael
Dan Jones, about his book, The Tiger Rifles: The Making of a Louisiana Legend,
 at his presentation Saturday, Feb. 25, at theYoung-Sanders Center for the Study
 of the War Between the States in Louisiana, in Franklin, Louisiana. Flanagan's
article can be found at the Daily Iberian.
(Photo by Susan Jones)
          FRANKLIN, La. -- The Tiger Rifles were the "toughest" fighting men in the War for Southern Independence, according to Michael Dan Jones, the author of The Tiger Rifles: The Making of a Louisiana Legend.
          Jones was the guest speaker at the Young-Sanders Center for the Study of the War Between the States in Louisiana, Saturday, Feb. 25.
          The author noted that the book has a number of examples of just how tough they really were. "Not only could  they trot along for miles and then go right into battle, they also charged the enemy  numerous times and carved them up with their bowie knives. In addition, there is at least one instance of "Tiger" soldier chewing the face of a Yankee soldier to 'jelly,'" Jones said.
         However, the speaker also noted that the men weren't just mercenaries fight for the love of it. He said the mottoes on their hats also show that they really believed in the cause of Southern Independence for which they were fighting. Jones cited such mottoes on their hats as "Lincoln's Life or a Tiger's Death" and "Sure Death to  Lincoln" and "Abe's Tiger."
        Jones said he highlights the South's "Cause" in the books. He noted that they were fighting for Southern Independence because they  really  believed in the  Doctrine of States Rights, as espoused by Thomas Jefferson and further developed by John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis.
        The author also highlighted the leaders and men of the unit. He said Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat was the commander of their battalion, the 1st Special Battalion (Wheat's) Louisiana Volunteers. The commander of the company, Company B (Tiger Rifles), was a man with a rather shady past, Captain Alexander White, but who was also a charismatic leader of men.
        With regards to the enlisted men, he said their unique "Zouave" uniforms  set them apart from other Confederates, as well as their fierce fighting abilities. He said most of the men were Irish immigrants working on the docks of New Orleans, and the steamboats of the Mississippi River. Others were from Germany, many northern states, southern states and at least two possible "free men of color." He said there were also four women soldiers in the Tiger Rifles, called "vivandieres," who wore a feminine versions of the Zouave uniform, and provided first aid for the soldiers in battle.
          Jones also highlighted the Tiger Rifles heroics in the battles they were in, the First Battle of Manassas, Front Royal, Middletown, Winchester, Port Republic, Gaines' Mill and Malvern Hill. He said in most of those battles they played key  roles in bringing about Confederate victories.
          Click here for more information about the Young-Sanders Center.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

150-Years-Ago -- C.S.S. Cruiser Sumter

The Sumter running the blockade of Pass à l'Outre, by the enemy's Ship Brooklyn, on the 30th June, 1861

(Library of  Congress)

The dashing Sumter —— how she Duped the Iroquois.

A letter from Gibralvarodate Jan. 20, gives a most interesting account of the dashing cruiser's doings in the Mediterranean:

You will have already heard by telegraph of the arrival of the Sumter in this bay. On Friday night a message was received here saying that she had left Cadiz, but that her course was not known. As the wind was
favorable for the passage of vessels through the Straits to the westward, it was thought not unlikely that she would steam for Gibraltar with the object of intercepting the many Federal merchantmen homeward bound. On Saturday morning signal was made from the lookout on the summit of the rock that the Sumter was six miles to the eastward, capturing two large Federal ships. The news, as may be imagined, caused he greatest excitement, and every body rushed out to catch a glimpse of the privateer and her prey.

Captain Raphael Semmes
The seizure was accomplished simply enough; no defence could be made. A boat's crew was sent on board, the Federal flag hauled down, and the thing was done. The cruiser was evidently used to her work. No time was lost in searching the prize, the few valuable effects were removed, the match was lighted, and in another moment the blazing ship was fast drifting away with the current. When evening closed the flames were still visible, darting upward in final flashes on the eastern horizon. The first ship taken was laden with sulphur, consigned, as the master endeavored to make out, to Baring Brothers, but as Capt. [Raphael] Semmes afterward remarked, sulphur being the principal ingredient of gunpowder, and its exportation from England being just this time prohibited, it was considered as well to destroy it, especially as the master had no papers to show.

The other vessel taken, a large bark, proved to be laden with an English cargo, so she was released, and came in here yesterday. In the evening of Saturday the Sumter anchored in this bay. On Sunday I went on board, most anxious to see the celebrated craft that has led the Federal navy a dance over so many miles of ocean. When going alongside, I could scarcely believe that so poor a vessel could have escaped so many dangers. She is a screw steamer, with three masts, a funnel strangely out of proportion to her size, and a tall, black hull, so high out of water that she gives you the idea of being insufficiently ballasted. Four 32-pounders peeped from her sides, a large 8-inch pivot gun was on her main deck forward. Before she was fitted for her present work she was a passenger ship, running between New Orleans and Havana. Her unsightly appearance arises from the alterations that have been in her decks.

In order to afford more accommodation, and give more cover to the engines and guns, a light, temporary flush deck has been built over what was originally the only deck of the ship. This raises her an additional ten feet out of water, and at the same time dwarfs her masts and funnel. She is crank and leaky. Her engines are partially above the lower deck, and, with the object of preserving them from the effects of gunshot, they are surrounded by a cylindrical casing of six-inch wood, covered with half-inch iron bars — a very poor protection against an eight-inch shot. Her officers and crew number ninety in all. The latter are a hardy, devil-me-care set of fellows, ready for any work — men who would stick at nothing — They are of all nations — even the Irish brogue was among them.

The commander, Captain Semmes, is a reserved, determined looking man, whose left hand knows not what his right deeth. He received me most courteously, and took me over his ship. I expressed my astonishment at his escape from Martinique, who, with great clearness, and with the assistance of a disgrace, he showed me how he had run the blockade, deluded the request, Capt, Palmer may be surprised to learn that he was beaten at his own weapons. The Confederates discovered the nature of the signals that were to be made from the shore when the ship got under weigh, and the trap was laid accordingly. As the evening gun fired, the cable that held the Sumter to the wharf was loosed, and she darted out under the shadow of the land, to the southward.

At the first turn of her screw the signal blue lights blazed from the shore, and at Iroquois, at full steam, made for the southerly harbor to intercept her. Keeping near the land for a few miles, Capt. Semmes suddenly put his ship about and ran in a northerly direction, while the Iroquois continued her course and in three hours, the two vessels were many miles apart. The French ship which, it will be remembered. Capt. Palmer mentions as being left the harbor at the same time, which will be happy to learn, no other than the doubling back to the northward.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

150-years-ago -- THE SPIRIT OF THE SOUTH

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
12 February 1862

Pvt. John Jones of Alabama's look of
stalwart determination is emblematic
of the South's determination to win
Southern Independence in 1862.
(CDV, Blog Author's Collection)
 We predict that the recent disasters which our arms have suffered will have more effect in stimulating the volunteer spirit than could be accomplished by any other cause. It was in the darken bear of our fortunes that we saw the greatest rush of our population to arms, and if their zeal has since diminished, it was in consequence of that succession of brilliant victories which led them to despise the enemy and believe that all danger had past. We are now paying the penalty of this blunder, but we feel sure-paradoxical as it may appear, that our cause is safer in the moment of evident danger than in that of apparent security. If we do not altogether mistake the character of the Southern people, the most intense eagerness will now be manifested by every human being in the Southern Confederacy to retrieve our fortunes, and to have vengeance upon this insolent and bloody ice.

The people of the South have only one thing to ask, and that is that their patriotism and courage shall be as intelligently and prudently directed as they are cheerfully and disinterestedly offered. They are determined never to be subjugated by the Yankees.-- "never, never, never." If they take our cities, that is no more than the British did in 1776, and even in 1812, when they captured the capital of the Republic. In the Revolution, Richmond itself was taken by the Yankee traitor in British pay, Benedict Arnold; New York was not only taken, but held six years, and never given up till peace; whole States were overrun and occupied by the enemy. But the spirit of the people could not be conquered, and, unless the South has degenerated, it cannot be conquered now. If she held out then for seven years, against the British Lion, ought she not to hold out seventy against a nation which has so far fallen from its first estate that the faintest roar of the Lion has thrown it into convulsions? But there must be no more apathy — no more false security; every man must act as if upon him alone depended the destinies of the Republic. The North is about to make its last and greatest effort. Let us summon all our energies, and by all that is glorious in our past, and that is worth living for in the future — by the graves of our dead, and the homes of our living, let us have victory and vengeance.