Saturday, February 22, 2014


Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor

[Excerpted from the war memoir Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War in the United States by Lt.Gen.RichardTaylor,1879,pages 152-155.]

The ensuing winter of 1863-4 was without notable events. Control of the Mississippi enabled the enemy to throw his forces upon me from above and below Red River, and by gunboats interfere with my movements along this stream; and as soon as the Lafourche campaign ended, steps were taken to provide against these contingencies. Twenty miles south of Alexandria a road leaves the Bœuf, an effluent of Red River, and passes through pine forest to Burr's Ferry on the Sabine. Twenty odd miles from the Bœuf this road intersects another from Opelousas to Fort Jesup, an abandoned military post, thence to Pleasant Hill, Mansfield, and Shreveport. At varying distances of twelve to thirty miles the valley of the Red River is an arc, of which this last-mentioned road is the chord, and several routes from the valley cross to ferries on the Sabine above Burr's. But the country between the Bœuf and Pleasant Hill, ninety miles, was utterly barren, and depots of forage, etc., were necessary before troops could march through it. With great expenditure of time and labor depots were established, with small detachments to guard them; and events proved that the time and labor were well bestowed.
Movements of the Federals along the west coast of Texas in November induced General Kirby Smith to withdraw from me Green's command of Texas horse, and send it to Galveston. This left me with but one mounted regiment, Vincent's 2d Louisiana, and some independent companies, which last were organized into two regiments—one, on the Washita, by Colonel Harrison, the other, on the Teche, by Colonel Bush; but they were too raw to be effective in the approaching campaign. Mouton's brigade of Louisiana infantry could be recruited to some extent; but the Texas infantry received no recruits, and was weakened by the ordinary casualties of camp life, as well as by the action of the Shreveport authorities. The commander of the "Trans-Mississippi Department" displayed much ardor in the establishment of bureaux, and on a scale proportioned rather to the extent of his territory than to the smallness of his force. His staff surpassed in numbers that of Von Moltke during the war with France; and, to supply the demands of bureaux and staff, constant details from the infantry were called for, to the great discontent of the officers in the field. Hydrocephalus at Shreveport produced atrophy elsewhere. Extensive works for defense were constructed there, and heavy guns mounted; and, as it was known that I objected to fortifications beyond mere water batteries, for reasons already stated, the chief engineer of the "department" was sent to Fort De Russy to build an iron-casemated battery and other works. We shall see what became of De Russy.
In the winter there joined me from Arkansas a brigade of Texas infantry, numbering seven hundred muskets. The men had been recently dismounted, and were much discontented thereat. Prince Charles Polignac, a French gentleman of ancient lineage, and a brigadier in the Confederate army, reported for duty about the same time, and was assigned to command this brigade. The Texans swore that a Frenchman, whose very name they could not pronounce, should never command them, and mutiny was threatened. I went to their camp, assembled the officers, and pointed out the consequences of disobedience, for which I should hold them accountable; but promised that if they remained dissatisfied with their new commander after an action, I would then remove him. Order was restored, but it was up-hill work for General Polignac for some time, notwithstanding his patience and good temper. The incongruity of the relation struck me, and I thought of sending my monte-dealing Texas colonel to Paris, to command a brigade of the Imperial Guard.
In the first weeks of 1864 the enemy sent a gunboat expedition up the Washita, and Polignac's brigade, with a battery, was moved to Trinity to meet it. The gunboats were driven off, and Polignac, by his coolness under fire, gained the confidence of his men, as he soon gained their affections by his care and attention. They got on famously, and he made capital soldiers out of them. General Polignac returned to Europe in 1865, and as he had shown great gallantry and talent for war while serving with me, I hoped that he might come to the front during the struggle with Germany; but he belonged to that race of historic gentry whose ancestors rallied to the white plume of Henry at Ivry, and followed the charge of Condé at Rocroy. Had he been a shopkeeper or scribbling attorney, he might have found favor with the dictator who ruled France.
All the information received during the months of January and February, 1864, indicated a movement against me in the early spring; and in the latter month it was ascertained that Porter's fleet and a part of Sherman's army from Vicksburg would join Banks's forces in the movement, while Steele would coöperate from Little Rock, Arkansas. This information was communicated to department headquarters, and I asked that prompt measures should be taken to reënforce me; but it was "a far cry" to Shreveport as to "Lochow," and the emergency seemed less pressing in the rear than at the front.
The end of February found my forces distributed as follows: Harrison's mounted regiment (just organized), with a four-gun battery, was in the north, toward Monroe; Mouton's brigade near Alexandria; Polignac's at Trinity on the Washita, fifty-five miles distant; Walker's division at Marksville and toward Simmsport on the Atchafalaya, with two hundred men under Colonel Byrd detached to assist the gunners at De Russy, which, yet unfinished, contained eight heavy guns and two field pieces. Walker had three companies of Vincent's horse on the east side of the Atchafalaya, watching the Mississippi. The remainder of Vincent's regiment was on the Teche.
Increased activity and concentration at Berwick's Bay, and a visit of Sherman to New Orleans to confer with Banks, warned me of the impending blow; and on the 7th of March Polignac was ordered to move at once to Alexandria, and thence, with Mouton's brigade, to the Bœuf, twenty-five miles south. Harrison was directed to get his regiment and battery to the west bank of the Washita, gather to him several independent local companies of horse, and report to General Liddell, sent to command on the north bank of Red River, whence he was to harass the enemy's advance up that stream. Vincent was ordered to leave flying scouts on the Teche and move his regiment, with such men as Bush had recruited, to Opelousas, whence he afterward joined me on the Burr's Ferry road. At Alexandria steamers were loaded with stores and sent above the falls, and everything made ready to evacuate the place. These arrangements were not completed a moment too soon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

150-years-ago -- BATTLE OF NEWBERN, N.C. FEB. 1-3

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
Feb. 12, 1864

Soldier in North Carolina uniforn
(Liljenquist Family Collection/
Library of Congress)
Kinston, N. C., Feb.8.
            It was hard on to four o'clock in the morning when the battle actually begun, although random shots had been heard for an hour or more. It was very dark and foggy, with every prospect of rain. When daylight came the artillery opened in good earnest, and roared through the woods a spiteful greeting to the foe, while every few moments a rapid fire of musketry rattled along the line. Lying upon a small island, our boats hauled up under the tall sedge and grass which fringed the bank, bivouac fires smouldering — just enough to give us a little warmth, without showing smoke to the enemy — wearied and worn by nights of hard work and wakefulness, the men lay and slept or listened to the noise of the fight as Pickett drove the Yankees before him. Nearer and nearer grew the battles until it was abreast of us — beyond us — and we heard the guns of the fortifications open upon the victorious advance guard. Bachelor's creek, a small, deep, and tortuous stream, runs across the country a few miles above Newbern, and finally empties into the Neuse. Some five or six miles from the town the railroad crosses it, while still further on is the Trent road, leading towards Kinston. At this point the Yankees had erected formidable field works, and beside them a strong block-house. Here were their reserves, living securely in pleasant encampments, and beyond, pushed out three or four miles, the advance. So quietly had Gen Pickett managed his troops, the enemy was entirely without knowledge of this approach of any body of men, although the proximity of the pickets told them the Confederates were pushing upon them. Some four miles beyond Bachelor's bridge the fight began. Straggling shots were fired about two in the morning, but Pickett held back until daylight, when he turned loose upon them, and began "driving them"in Stonewall Jackson style. Retreating into the fortifications across the creek, they made a fierce stand, and opened a heavy fire from the block-house and the works. No use, however; for, advancing steadily up to them until within easy distance, Hoke and Clingman carried the forts in fine style, and scattered the Yankees in every direction. Then came a race. Gen. Pickett pressed close upon them, and kept them moving towards the railroad, where another reserve had been drawn up to await his approach. Here, too, was a railroad battery, which, mounting some heavy guns, had been run out from the town. Driving the Yankees across the embankment, a battery was sent down to engage the iron monster, and in a few moments it was driven back, and the rails torn up to prevent another advance. A sharp fight now occurred; but in a short time the enemy was forced to retreat, their line broken, and Pickett had them on the race. Following close upon them, pouring the shot into them whenever they endeavored to form, our troops pressed them into a run, and for a few miles they made "amazing tracks" to get under cover of the guns of the forts built around the town. Regiments became disorganized and scattered through the woods, and men and officers, with the shout of "sauve qui pent," threw away knapsack and rifle and ran for their lives. By three in the evening the enemy had taken shelter within the fortifications, and stood awaiting the anticipated attack upon the town; but straggling bands were found scattered through the woods, and were every moment being brought in by our men.
           During all this brilliant little affair only two brigades were engaged. Gen. Barton, with the pick troops of the division, had been sent to the south side of the Trent, and his approach was looked for with great anxiety. Gen. Pickett listened anxiously for the sound of his guns, expecting every moment to hear him open upon the town in the rear; but the day wore away and nothing was heard from him; evening came on, and still no news. Just across the Neuse, hardly three-quarters of a mile from Newbern, was Fort Anderson, and this, to prevent the garrison assisting in the fight, and also to keep reinforcements from coming on from Washington, had been closely invested. Col. Dearing, with a brigade of infantry, three battalions of cavalry and two batteries of artillery, had completely surrounded it, and kept the men under arms, expectantly waiting an attack. This, however, was almost impossible from the land side; for the place was remarkably strong, the fort 14 feet high, mounting 11 guns of large calibre, with a ditch from 4 to 6 feet deep and 12 feet wide. The garrison, under Col. Anderson, was composed of 860 infantry, with some heavy artillery. The most that could be done was to keep this force engaged, and at the same time to threaten the Washington road to prevent reinforcements. This Col. Dearing accomplished.
          For some two miles around Newbern the forest had been cleared, and the guns of three large forts, together with two parks of field artillery stationed in the town, had a clear sweep, and would have played havoc with our advance. Evidently the attack must come from the rear. Night was fast coming on; and still no news of Gen. Barton. Just as the sun was sinking behind the tree tops word was brought that the enemy was endeavoring to make a demonstration on the extreme right. Gen. Pickett was standing under a tree, in full sight of the town and its fortifications, his staff lying upon the ground around him looking anxiously towards the Trent, twirling his sword knot around his small white hand, or, as if in perplexity, fastidiously biting his finger nails. I knew he was thinking of Barton. Just then rode up the soldier Hoke, and, dismounting, explained the movement on the right. Evidently to feel the force, being securely near the forts, some cavalry, artillery and infantry had advanced, but the cavalry had been easily repulsed by his pickets, and the whole column had halted.--"They must be driven back," said Gen. Pickett; "Can you do it?" "Yes, " replied Hoke, brightening up, "with my own brigade;" and vaulting into the saddle he rode away. Half an hour afterwards we heard the humble of artillery towards Newbern, and knew the Yankees were retiring. When the sun set the enemy was confined within their fortifications; but still no news from south of the Trent. Gen. P. looks more perplexed than ever, and twists his sword knot more rapidly, and bites his nails persistently. Presently he disposes of the troops for the night and turns away from the field. As he passes the tired soldiers who have fought all day rise to greet him, smiles cover their dusty faces, caps wave, and we know that hearty cheers would follow but for the proximity of the enemy.
           The day's fight was ended. Still, as the daylight lingered, small bands of prisoners were brought in, until between 180 and 200 had been collected, and the whole put on the route to Richmond. Besides the prisoners was some artillery, several wagons, a quantity of stores, together with sundry plies of private baggage. And this is all I know about the battle. What occurred south of the Trent I do not know, and I do not care to speak from hearsay or to draw any inferences. The conduct of Gen. Pickett, Hoke, and Clingman, won my entire admiration, and I think all will concur as far as affairs were pushed. The loss was very small on our side. Col. Shaw was killed on the field, and Gen. Clingman slightly wounded.--"Thirty- five," I believe, is a number which will cover all casualties.
            When night came, as I said in my previous letter, we made preparations to go again in search of Yankee gunboats, and this time through a reconnaissance in the evening, the position of one was marked. The other had gone higher up the Trent. About 11 o'clock we dropped down the stream, and pulled to where the river widened into an estuary just off the town, the lights of which twinkled through the dark. The stars were shining brightly, and the first blush of the rising moon began to appear. Winding down in two long black lines for another half hour, the boats were again brought alongside for prayers — instructions were issued, and once more we were on the way. Pulling around into the Trent, Captain Wood arranged the boats in two divisions opposite the "Under writer," whose lights were now visible, and each was instructed to board in its own position, one forward and the other aft. Five bells struck as we were gradually nearing the side, and soon followed the watchman's call, repeated again as he sprang the rattle which summoned the men to quarters. We were then upwards of four hundred yards away and had to give way strongly for it, to prevent the Yankees slipping the lines and giving her a turn ahead. Lieutenant Loyall's boat was first at the side, just aft the wheelhouse, then came Capt Wood amidships, while forward came up Lieuts. Hoge, Korr, Gardner, Goodwyn, Porcher, Roby, and Wilkinson, in quick succession, tumbling on board as soon as the grapnel was made fast. The fight I have spoken of before.--Lasting about ten minutes only, but in that short time the enemy was overpowered, the decks in our possession, and the prisoners secured. The engineers, with the exception of poor Gill, who fell upon the deck, took possession of the engine-room, the fireman rushed below, Lieut. Gardner was stationed at the Captain's cabin, and Hoge at the guns. Throughout the ship each man went immediately to his post. Finding the fires out, the water shoal, and everything against getting the steamer out, it was determined to burn her, and almost at the same time a shot from the shore damaged the upper machinery and put her hors du cumbat.
          Well, there is little more to be said We burned her and retired, under fire from the shore batteries and also from a volley of musketry which whistled along the water. All the prisoners were secured but three or four, who jumped into a small boat and made for the shore. Captain Westervelt was one of this number. We could hear the cheers of the soldiery as they struck the bank. The morning of the attack the "Underwriter" had been hauled in shore as far as possible, and had her guns on the land side, trained upon the Neuse road, by which it was supposed we should advance. The other gunboat taking the alarm made up the Trent as fast as her steam would carry her, and, luckily for us, did not dare take part in the fight. Westervelt was slightly wounded in the leg by a ball which passed through his cabin. His officers say he was not upon the deck during the engagement, and accuse him of cowardice. When the shell exploded on the decks he leaped overboard, and, I dare say, will appear next as a Munchausen story teller in the Northern press. Although the navy did not accomplish all it anticipated, enough was done, in cutting out a gunboat under Yankee batteries, moored to a shore bristling with cannon, to show the spirit which animates it, and which only awaits opportunity to display itself in more glorious colors.
           In conclusion, I may say, quite a quantity of provision was obtained from the county, and a company of disloyal people--North Carolina "Buffaloes," they call them — captured. They were deserters from our army, caught in arms against us, and the example of hanging them, after sentence of court martial, had a good effect upon the army and the people. I am confident, from observation and information received during two weeks sojourn in the Old North State, that too many false tales are circulated about growing dissatisfaction. Wherever I went, the people, almost without exception, were loyal and true to our Government. I saw no evidence of dissatisfaction, and heard nothing which could induce one to think such a thing existed. The action of a few traitors alone has brought this general accusation against the State, and I am sure it is repeated quite too often.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform
and musket. (Liljenquist Family Collection,
Library of Congress)
The Richmond Daily Dispatch
Feb. 9, 1864.
--The Twelfth Va. Regiment has re-enlisted for the war. Upon dress parade the following order from Major J. R. Lewellen, commanding, was read to the regiment
Headquarters 12th Va. Infantry, Feb.3, 1864.
General Orders, No. 18.
           Comrades: In this and the other armies of our Confederacy a movement is being made which, if successful, will offer to the world the most sublime moral spectacle of the age.
          The veterans, east and west, of those armies whose gallantry has made our plains histories, are pressing forward to renew their views of devotion to our cause, and I feel it to be my duty, this evening, to call upon you to be the first Virginia troops to speak.
          Too intelligent to render explanation of the results of such action necessary — too patriotic to need exhortation — you will, I am sure, respond unanimously to the call.
           When peace has crowned our efforts, and we look back on trouble as a forgotten dream, this victory over hardship and self love will be reckoned first among the triumphs of the war.
          Soldiers: the old flag that has been your battle star since Seven Pines, is planted on the thresh-hold of a new — a more determined struggle — raily to it as in the past.
By order of 
J. Richard Lewellen,

Major Commanding 12th Va. Reg't.

After the reading of the address the regiment in a body re enlisted for the war.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

150-years-ago -- CHARLESTON, S.C. UNDER FIRE

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
Feb. 1, 1864
Charleston, South Carolina. Ruins of Circular church,
 St. Philips Church in the distance.
(Library of Congress)

           A correspondent of the Augusta, (Ga.) Constitutionalist, writing from Charleston, gives the following picture of that city under the bombardment of the enemy:
           The limited destruction of property by the protracted rain of shells, is as wonderful as the small loss of life. I walked through the streets where the effect of the she is is most apparent. Here a cornice is knocked off, there is a small round hole through the side of a building, and at remote intervals the earth is torn where a shell exploded, and looks like the work of a porker in search of some hidden treasure. Venders of the staples of the market sit serenely by their little stores, unmindful of the pyrotechnic salutations of their Yankee deliverers. I bought delicious apples and cakes at one-fourth the price charged two hundred miles away in the interior, where abundance and extortion seems to go hand in hand.
            In reply to a question if she were not afraid, one of these old women replied, "Lor mars, we no feered now — we's used to em. Dey make lig noise and fro trash all about — dat's all — de good Lord pertects us." Thus is the reliant trust of these people exemplified even in the spirit of this simples African. I confess that I could not feel thus indifferent to these missiles of destruction, and as they came screaching across the bay, I felt an instinctive inclination to change my base of observation. Extending my ramble to other portions of the city, the track of shells was here and there discernable, but they have not effected a tithe of the injury sustained by the great fire of two years ago, whose blackened outline stretches across what was once the heart of the city. In only two or three instances have fires been occasioned by them, and then the loss was rifling. In localities most exposed to the shells the old tide of business is suspended.
Unidentified soldier in South Carolina
 militia uniform with sword and pistols.
(Library of Congress}
          Here and there a pedestrian moves hurriedly along, and the rattle of a cart or dray is heard for a whole square. The blinds are closed, vases of rare exotics droop and on the lonely window sill, because there is no tender hand to twine or nourish them. The walk glistens with fragments of glass, rattled thither by the concussion of exploding shells, and little tufts of bright green grass are stringing up along the pave once vocal with the myriad tongues of busy trade. If this be food for exultation to the malovelent foe, he is welcome to the tender morsel. I do not mean to say that any part of the city is abandoned. Here and there stores are opened, machine shops are active, and labor incident to the public defence is pushed vigorously forward, even in the most exposed districts. Still many branches of ordinary business, and most of the residents are removed, because it would be foolhardy for those not impelled by special duty to remain.
          The Mills House and Charleston Hotel — those princely abodes of comfort and good cheer are closed; the Pavillion still invites the sojourner to its hospitable roof; most of the habitues of Hayne and parts of Meeting and King streets abandoned the merchant's desk for the camp, or transferred their wares to points secure from Yankee guns.--That part of the city to which the cowardly vengeance of the toe has not penetrated is "a map of busy life" The newspapers, post office, express office, banks, and many business houses are in successful operation, and streets present a scene of animation not at all suggestive of a state of siege.