Wednesday, August 1, 2012

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Baton Rouge, Aug. 5, 1862

          In an attempt to regain control of the state, Confederates wished to recapture the capital at Baton Rouge. Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge planned a combined land/water expedition with his corps and CSS Ram Arkansas. Advancing west from Camp Moore, the Confederate land forces, coming from the east, were only ten miles away on August 4. They reached the outskirts of the capital early in the morning, formed for an attack in two divisions, and began to drive back each Union unit they encountered. Then, Union gunboats in the river began shelling the Confederates. The Arkansas could have neutralized the Union gunboats, but her engines failed and she did not participate in the battle. Federal land forces, in the meantime, fell back to a more defensible line, and the Union commander, Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams, was killed soon after. The new commander, Col. Thomas W. Cahill, ordered a retreat to a prepared defensive line nearer the river and within the gunboats’ protection. Rebels assailed the new line, but finally the Federals forced them to retire. The next day the Arkansas’s engines failed again as she closed on the Union gunboats; she was blown up and scuttled by her crew. The Confederates failed to recapture the state capital. (National Park Service)

Union: Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams (killed), commanding:
9th Connecticut Inf., Col. Thomas W. Cahill
21st Indiana Inf., Lt. Col. John A. Keith (wounded)
14th Maine Inf., Col. Frank S. Nickerson
30th  Massachusetts Inf., Col. Nathan A. M. Dudley
6th Michigan Inf., Capt. Charles E. Clarke
7th Vermont Inf., Col. George T. Roberts
4th Wisconsin Inf., Lt. Col. Stanley  Bean
2nd Company, Massachusetts Cav., Capt. James M. Magee
Indiana Battery, Lt. James H. Brown
2nd Massachusetts Battery, Lt. George G. Trull
4th Massachusetts Battery,  Capt. Charles H. Manning
6th Massachusetts Battery, Lt. William W. Carruth

Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge
Confederate commander.
(Library of Congress)
Confederates: Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, commanding
FIRST DIVISION: Brig. Gen. Charles Clark (wounded)
Second Brigade: Brig. Gen. Benjamin H. Helm (wounded)
5th Kentucky Inf., Col. Thomas H. Hunt
31st Mississippi Inf., Maj. H. E. Topp
31st Alabama Inf., Col. Jephtha Edwards
4th Alabama Bn., Lt. Col. John Snodgrass
Pettus's Flying Artllery, Mississippi, Lt. J. R. Sweaney
Fourth Brigade: Col.  T. B. Smith
Tennessee Battalion, Lt. Col. B. F. Moore
15th Mississippi Inf. (in reserve) Maj. J. R. Binford
22nd Mississippi Infantry, Capt. F. Hughes (mortally  wounded)
Kentucky Battery, Capt. Robert Cobb
SECOND DIVISION: Brig. Gen. Daniel  Ruggles: 
First Brigade, Col. A. P. Thompson (wounded)
35th Alabama Inf., Col. J. W. Robertson
3rd Kentucky Inf., Capt. J. W. Bowman
6th Kentucky Inf., Lt. Col. M. H. Cofer
7th Kentucky  Inf., Col. Edward Crossland
Sharpshooters, Lt. G. C. Hubbard

United States Navy Ships: Hartford, Westfield, Jackson, Cayuga, Katahdin, Brooklyn, Clifton, Sciota, Kineo, Essex.
Confederates States Navy Ship: Arkansas. 


Brig. Gen. Henry Watkins Allen,
commanding the Second Brigade.
(Library of Congress0

Second Brigade: Col.
 H. W. Allen (wounded)
4th Louisiana Inf., (Co. I, 39th Miss. attached)  Lt. Col. S. E. Hunter
30th Louisiana Bn., Col. Gustavas Breaux
Stewart's Legion (9th Bn. La. Inf.), Lt. Col. Samuel Boyd (wounded)
Confederate Light Battery, Capt. O. J. Semmes

Report of Col. H. W. Allen, Fourth Louisiana Infantry, Commanding Second Brigade, from Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 15, P. 100.

           East Baton Rouge, La., August 18, 1862.
          Sir: On the morning of the  5th instant, in pursuance to orders of Brigadier-General Ruggles, I formed the Second Brigade, Second Division, in line of battle, the left of the brigade resting on Bernard's fence, in the rear of Magruder's Institute, and the right resting upon the First Brigade. On the right was placed Colonel Breaux, of the Thirtieth Louisiana, and in the center was the battalion of Lieutenant-Colonel Boyd. At dawn of day I received orders to advance. The brigade was put in motion and advanced steadily through thick woods, underbrush, cornfields, and picket fences. In the midst of the forest we encountered a battery supported by infantry. We halted and delivered several volleys in quick succession; the enemy fled in ever direction, taking off his artillery with him. We started in pursuit, and after considerable desultory firing upon the retreating foe I discovered a battery on the extreme left ( said to be Nims'), supported by a large amount of infantry. It was evident that this was a flanking movement to be made to the left and advanced in the direction of the battery. At the command charge the whole brigade raised a shout and made as gallant a charge as was ever witnessed. Here I fell, my legs terribly shattered by canister shot. What transpired after this on the battlefield I do not know; the loss of blood and extreme pain had rendered me almost senseless. To my successor in command I must refer you for further particulars of the fight.
           The officers and soldiers of this brigade fought with much gallantry, and with few exceptions did their duty nobly. I have been informed that upon my fall the brigade could not be rallied. This has often happened with the best of troops and the bravest veterans, and should not attach any disgrace to the soldiers. No one charges that the brigade retreated from the enemy or even retired from the place of danger. The enemy had been whipped and had fled in every direction. Captain Semmes' battery came up, fired a few rounds upon the retreating foe, and all was over.          To my  adjutant, B. W. Clark, and to my voluntary aide, Lieut. H. H. Walsh, I am much indebted. They performed their duties with great gallantry, coolness, and bravery. Captain Blount was assigned to duty as inspector of the brigade. During the journey from Camp Moore he lost his horse and had been relieved from duty has inspector by the commanding general. He, however, secured a horse, and in the thickest of the fight reported himself for duty to me. I gave him from time to time several orders to execute, which he did in a very prompt in New Orleans. This is a mystery to me. Many acts of individual heroism  came under my eye, and I shall ever feel proud that I had the honor to command the Second Brigade in the battle of Baton Rouge.
      Among all the officers and men who distinguished themselves in that battle I shall mention only one by name - Private Seeders, of the West Feleciana Rifles, Fourth Louisiana Regiment. He took the colors from me as I fell and at the same moment received a terrible wound in the thigh.
      With respect, I am, truly, your obedient servant.
H.W. Allen,
Colonel Commanding Second Brigade, Second Division.
Captain Buckner, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Report of Col. Gustavaus A. Breaux, Thirtieth Louisiana Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
   Headquarters Second Brigade
Camp near Comite River, La., Aughst 8, 1862.
          Sir: Col. H. W. Allen, commander of the Second Brigade, [Second] Division, having fallen toward the close of the action of August 5, it becomes my duty as next in command to make the report, as far as my knowledge enables me to do  so. My attention was exclusively directed to the action of the Thirtieth Louisiana Regiment, which I commanded until the fall of the colonel commanding.
         At 4:30 a.m. our line was formed on the extreme left of the forces, in a point of woods adjoining open and cultivated fields; the group was broken. We advanced in conjunction with the entire line. As we were about passing out of a little field we met the enemy, who at once opened a brisk fire on us. We were ordered forward to a fence behind which sharpshooters lay in  ambush, harassing our flank, the Thirtieth Louisiana was constantly called on to dislodge them, which it did by occasional fires. We soon discovered that the enemy were in considerable force behind a fence awaiting our approach at a point from which they fired on our line at an angle of 45 degrees. We faced the Thirtieth Regiment to them and soon silenced  them by a well kept-up and directed fire. Meanwhile the Fourth Regiment and Boyd's battalion advanced, driving also all obstacles before them.
          It became apparent that the exact location of a battery of the enemy planted in our front was not known; the fog was too thick to enable us to see well. We, however, advanced, having changed the direction of the line to the left. The fire of the enemy soon revealed its exact position, and to the charge was sounded. The entire brigade advanced at a double-quick and in good order, notwithstanding the galling fire poured into our lines. The gallant Colonel Allen, whose bravery cannot be too much extolled, flew at the head of the men, flag in had, on to the battery, and was soon in possession of its guns, surrounded by  his men, while the right drove the infantry away by a destructive fire. Unfortunately Colonel Allen was wounded, and the shock was terrible among the men of the Fourth Regiment, whose confidence seemed to repose mainly on him, and they withdrew in disorder, bearing away their wounded chief. At a short distance I rallied them partially on the line formed by the regiment on the right of the brigade, but to no good, wince enough could not be gathered to push on our advantage.
         Some time previous to this charge, as I infer from not seeing him in it, Col. S. Boyd had been wounded and removed from the field. His  battalion, stripped of his influence, did not rally after the first charge on this battery. Previous to this the troops had all behaved with great gallantry.
          At this time a second Federal battery entered the field and was opportunely met by a  section of  Captain Semmes'  Confederate States battery. It affords me pleasure to bear testimony to the cool and effective response  made by Captain Semmes and Lieutenant West, whom the Thirtieth and Fourth Louisiana Regiments fell back to support in this encounter. After a brief and quick fire of the opposing batteries it was found necessary to withdraw it and the infantry left with it. From this time there was no more fighting on the left. Coming into command of the brigade at the close of the battle  and after it became disorganized, I am unable to give any particulars beyond those which refer to my regiment.
          I cannot close, however, without bearing witness to the bravery and gallantry  of  Colonel Allen, so conspicuous to us all.
         I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
         Gus A. Breaux,
Colonel, Commanding Second Brigade.

Report of Captain Thomas Bynum

[Here is the report of Captain Thomas Bynum on the Battle of Baton Rouge, from the Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 15, p. 105-107.]
Headqrs. Battalion of Infantry Stewart's Legion, Comite Bridge, La,, August 8, 1862. 
        Sirs: I herewith submit a report of participation of this battalion under command of Lieut. Col.Samuel Boyd, in the action of the 5th instant: Its force consisted of the following: One field, 3 staff, 9 company officers, and 190 enlisted men. They composed the center of Colonel Allen's brigade, the 30th Louisiana Regiment (Colonel Breaux), on the right, and the 4th Louisiana Regiment (Lt. Col. Hunter) on the left. 
         The line of battle was formed in the woods back and leftward of the residence of Capt. E.W. Robins,and about three-fourths of a mile to the rear of the central portion of Baton Rouge. As soon as the line was formed it was put in forward motion, feeling its way, slowly forward. Marching straight to the front through briars, hedges, and over picket fences, the brigade was halted in the face of a line of the foe drawn up to receive us and after giving them two well directed volley's charged upon them, when they fled. 
        The brigade, having paused a few moments, resumed its line as well as the nature of the undergrowth would permit, and marched some 200 or 300 yards forward in a left-oblique direction. Receiving reports of a battery of the enemy supported by a regiment right to our front, about 160 yards distant, our commander, after calling for three cheers for the Confederacy, ordered us to charge. Alarmed at our shouts and dash the enemy broke, taking off their battery, but leaving heaps of slain and wounded. It was here that Captain Chinn fell from a wound in the leg while gallantly responding at the head of his company to Colonel Allen's orders. 

Pvt. William C. Annis, Company  B,
9th Louisiana (Boyd's) Infantry Battalion.
fought in the battle. (Post-war picture, blog
author's great-grandfather)
             Resuming our course, we soon found ourselves upon the edge of an old field, on the opposite side of which is the Benton Ferry road and the inclosures of the race-track. Square in front was posted along the road-side a number of the enemy's skirmishers or sharpshooters, and to the outskirts of the corporation of Baton Rouge. A regiment (the Sixth Michigan) supported the battery, and its men were placed behind the fences, outhouses, and houses in the neighborhood of Hockney's. Colonel Allen, taking the colors of this command in his hand, rapidly drew up his command in line, who at his call and example rushed, under a galling fire of grape, canister, and Minie, across the field. 
             There was not a shrub even as a screen on it, and over 300 yards of the open space the foe sent many a missile of death and shaft of anguish within 100 yards of the cannon. Lieutenant Causey, of Buffington's company and commanding it, fell, shot through the brain. No victim in this great struggle against fanaticism and the principles of rapine and spoliation leaves to his family and friends a brighter memory for chivalrous courage and unsullied patriotism. A few yards farther on Lieutenant Colonel Boyd fell shot through the arm, and was borne off the field. 

          In a moment or so after the fled, leaving two cannon and a lieutenant and 8 or 10 privates prisoners in our hands. In passing beyond the fence inclosing Turner's house and getting partially into the street the gallant leader fell helpless from his horse into the arms of his trusty soldiers and was by them carried from the field. It completely paralyzed his old regiment (the Fourth), at whose head he was even in the moment of victory. Notwithstanding his repeated shouts to go forward, it became confused and muddied up, lost in a maze of stolidity and dismay. At this critical moment the undersigned first became apprised by Colonel Breaux, now commanding the brigade, that it was his duty to assume command of this battalion. With serious misgivings in his capacity in this emergency and sorrowful at the necessity he aimed to do his best in seconding the gallant, fearless, and conspicuous example of the commanding officer to save his troops from panic and to rally them into line. His efforts surpassed by the daring courage of Lieutenant Barrow, commanding Captain Chinn's company; by the energy of Lieutenant Barnett, of Captain Bynum's company, and by the cool and noble example of Lieutenant Brown, of the same company. 
         A partial success only rewarded their exertions -- we were saved a panic; but the annoying fire from the enemy's sharpshooters left them no other alternative but to fall back across the field to the shelter of the woods. Here another effort was made to rally the brigade into line, now massed confusedly. The commanding officer employed every incentive and expedient that courage could suggest, but with haggard results. The men made no response to his appeals. They were not cowed or panic stricken. They were exhausted -- hopelessly exhausted -- and seemed to be staggering under the half of that last ounce which breaks the camel's back of endurance. 
           Having been under arms more than sixteen hours; having neither supper, breakfast, nor sleep; having marched over 12 miles, and having gone through four hours' hard fighting, it is not a matter of surprise or of blame that they paid but little heed to the rallying cries of their leaders. Their conduct was, however,only in accordance with the example of troops who had been under fire and were reputed veterans. Many vicissitudes of this battle must remain unnoticed the undersigned was not called to command till a late hour, and many events doubtless noted by the experienced eye of Colonel Boyd must be chronicled because of his absence. 
            While Colonel Boyd was in command his promptitude and courage ably sustained the policy of Colonel Allen. His adjutant, Lieutenant Breeden, was conspicuous for daring devotions to duty throughout the trials of the day. The men generally behaved with coolness and courage. Upon returning to headquarters, near Ward's creek Bridge, the undersigned was relieved of his command by Lieutenant Barrow.
          I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
         Tom. Bynum Captain, Comdg. Battalion Infantry, Stewart's Legion

Report of Lieut. Col. S. E. Hunter, Fourth Louisiana Infantry. [OR, Series 1, Vol. 15, P. 102]

          Camp Near Comite, August 7,1862.
        Sir: At 9 p.m. of the 4th instant, pursuant to orders, I marched the Fourth Louisiana Regiment, left in front, from this place in the direction of Baton Rouge.
          Just before daylight I was ordered to halt in an open field. Only  a few minutes elapsed before firing began between our pickets and those of the enemy. We were then ordered to fall back behind a hedge where we remained a very short while, when we recrossed the hedge and marched by the left flank through a narrow strip of woods to a field inclosed by a thick and impassable hedge-fence. Here we formed our line of  battle and were joined by the remainder of the brigade. The word forward was given, and all moved off in gallant style. We had not proceeded far when we received a desultory fire from the enemy, which was promptly and effectually returned, causing the enemy to retire. The advance continued with occasional firing until we reached an open field on our left. Here the enemy was discovered in considerable force in front and to the left.  We were marched by the left flank until our brigade was nearly cleared of the woods, when we field, expecting to meet the enemy  at right angles to our original line, when a battery opened on us to our right and in front of the original line. The order was given to charge this battery, which was done in gallant  style, the brigade, being in sort of a wedge shape, gradually  assuming a line as it approached, the battery. A heavy  and galling fire was kept up on us by the enemy, who were concealed in the rear of the battery. When within a few paces of the guns of the enemy Colonel Allen, who was in front, bearing the colors of one battalion of the brigade, was severely wounded and fell from his horse. Seeing him fall, the line faltered and finally gave way, the troops on the right and center giving way first. The brigade retired in confusion across the field through which it had so  gallantly advanced. Here, after some little delay, may regiment was reformed and remained for some time. No  order to advance was given. A section of Semmes' battery came  up and prepared for action on our right and the right of the brigade. We were ordered to form in its rear to support it. After great exertion a line was partially formed, but at this point the enemy's artillery opened on us at short range. The right again gave way, followed by the whole line. The  confusion, and all attempts to rally them were fruitless. From this time no more fight was done by our brigade.
      I would not close this report without mentioning among the names of those among my officers who  were conspicuous for gallantry on the field. Lieutenant Corkern, who was in command of Company B, Lieutenant Jeter, of Company F, Sergt. Maj. B. S. Daniels, and Adjutant Clark. I hear of others who distinguished themselves, but only  these came under my special observation.
           S. E. Hunter,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Fourth Louisiana

No comments: