Friday, October 30, 2015

Lt. Cicero M. Allen: Adventures of a One Armed Scout

[Excerpted from Military record of Louisiana; including biographical and historical papers relating to the military organizations of the state; a soldier's story of the late war, muster rolls, lists of casualities in the various regiments (so far as now known), cemeteries where buried, company journals, personal narratives of prominent actors, etc , by Napier Bartlett, 1875, New Orleans, La., Pages 38-43.]

1st Lt. Cicero M. Allen
Co. A, 1st Battalion (Rightors) Louisiana Infantry
& the Briarfield Rebels
     Cicero M. Allen enlisted in Company A, Crescent Rifles, on the 15th
of April, 1861, for Pensacola. From this point they were ordered to
Virginia, and stationed at Young's Mill, on the Peninsula. Nothing
important occurred here, except the skirmish near Newport News, and
much hard marching in sand ankle deep, night and day ; and with no
rest for the wicked, or anybody else. In the skirmish at Newport News
Dreux was among the first killed. Allen and his twin brother, together
with Bailey P. Vinson and McVickor, participated in this fight, and
carried Dreux's body from the field. A small wagon was then obtained,
in which was placed the body of Col. Dreux and those of the other
members of the Battalion who had been killed (Private Hackett of the
Shreveport Grays, and others whose names are not known), and William
Beaufort of the Crescent Rifles, wounded.
     In February, 1862, Allen was promoted First Lieutenant in Colonel
Edmonston's Battalion but threw up his commission to join a company
of Louisiana Cavalry, raised in Carroll parish — the Briarfield Rebels.
Phifer's [Lt. Col. A.J. McNeill's] Battalion — just as they, with other Confederates,
were evacuating Nashville. He did duty with this company up to the time of his
last capture, and participated in most of the cavalry fights that occurred.
     At Britton's Lane, Tenn., the Confederates, under Gen. Frank Arm-
strong, had a hard fight with the Federal Cavalry. Allen was wounded
and his horse killed in the charge, and he himself made prisoner. He
was carried to the Federal Hospital, and had the wound in his arm, of
which he never afterwards recovered the use, dressed. This having been
done, Allen walked out of the building. The surgeon, then busily en-
gaged with his patients, had rode to the hospital on an elegant gray
horse, which he conveniently hitched outside. Allen, catching sight of
this, leaped into the saddle and rode rapidly off. The shades of night
soon after coming on, he safely made his way through the enemy's lines.
     At Farmington and Shiloh he was actively engaged, and in the latter
engagement he carried the battle flag of his regiment until ordered by
General Hindman to replace his twin brother, who had been detached,
on the evening of the battle, to act as aide- de- camp to General R. Gr.
Shaver, Commanding Hindman's old Brigade of Hardee's Division, and
who had been severely wounded. Here Allen displayed his soldierly
qualities, and the brothers were complimented for good conduct. After
this battle small fights occurred so constantly that they were almost of
daily occurrence.
      At Ponchatoula, La., where the Briarfields, with two companies from 
the first Mississippi Cavalry, Col. Pinson, had been ordered from North
Mississippi, with the view of picketing and watching the enemy, who
were threatening to advance on Port Hudson, Allen was elected 2nd
Junior Lieutenant. His first affair was with a small tin-clad Federal
gunboat, the Lafitte, which had been prowling around the Amite river
for the purpose of reconnoitering. With a small force of his company
and detachments from other camps, he attacked this boat, and made
matters so uncomfortable that, the Lafitte, in her efforts to get away, run
on a stump, and was abandoned and blown up.
      It having been discovered that she had a splendid globe-sighted rifled
gun on board when she went down, several officers, among them Allen,
managed to get possession of a small schooner, and recovered the gun.
This was accomplished by one of the men diving down and placing a
slip-knot around the piece. Allen was now left, with a detail of two
men, to bring the schooner and gun to where the piece could be shipped
to Port Hudson. While passing through Lake Maurepas, he was inter-
cepted by a yawl boat filled with nine Federals. Allen quickly run
his schooner into a small bayou near by; and, jumping ashore, prepared
an ambush. The Federals meanwhile came up, confident of an easy
prize. As they did so, they received a well directed lire from Allen's
small force, which effectually closed the career of one Sergeant Kline.
The balance hastily tumbled from the boat into the water, from which
they emerged to enter the woods. There they were speedily attacked ;
and, after retreating through the marsh for nearly a mile, the white flag
was hung out. Alien, fearing to disclose his real force to the enemy,
gave the command to " Cease firing then, calling upon several imag-
inary companies to " Halt," boldly marched forward and received the
surrender of the whole party. This consisted of two lieutenants and
five privates. Single handed, and after divesting the prisoners of their
arms and moving them to a convenient distance from the stack of guns,
he ordered his two men up, and marched his prisoners on board of the
Schooner and then to camp. Gen. Frank Gardner, who was then com-
manding at Port Hudson, sent an order complimenting Lieut. Allen on
his gallantry. 
       While the Company was doing duty at Ponchatoula, Allen took eight
men, crossed Lake Maurepas in a yawl, and leaving the boat in one of
the numerous bayous (near Pruniere), waded with his men waist-deep
through the swamp marsh He here crossed the railroad to Lake Ponch-
artrain, and there discovered two Federal schooners lying at anchor.
He now found a little dug-out, boarded the two schooners, made pris-
oners of the crews, and got away with his prizes to Madisonville. The
one on which Allen remained was safely brought to shore ; and a grand
blow out with the large quantity of fluids and commissary stores on
board, testified to the success of the expedition. The second schooner,
owing to the ignorance of the four men in charge about the manage-
ment of the centre-board, drifted too far to the leeward, and was recap-
tured by the Federals.
     On another occasion, while scouting with his command, he discovered
a picket of Federal Cavalry (1st Texas Regiment), which he quickly
charged. After killing three men and wounding another, he captured
the balance. He had many such affairs, and invariably handled his
men so as to scarcely ever have one hurt.  
     The Briarfields did some fine service during the siege of Port Hudson,
and were notably prominent in an attack on a Federal wagon train,
which Colonels Powers and Logan captured. The advance guard in
this affair was commanded by Allen's twin brother, who, though only a
private, had been mistaken for the Lieutenant by Col. P., who ordered
it. The brother, thinking there was a chance for a joke, and seeing his opportunity to get
a little surreptitious glory, rode rapidly off, and was soon engaged with
the enemy. Lieut. Allen, however, came up in time to pitch in on the
flank of the Federals and do excellent fighting with his detachment.
The skirmish resulted in the capture of one hundred wagons, four mule
teams, forty odd prisoners, with twenty of the enemy killed and wounded.
When the affair was over, and Lieut. Allen discovered the ruse adopted
by his brother to get command of the advance guard, his rage knew no
bounds. An excited interview occurred between him and his brother,
which was finally settled amicably by an agreement that the latter
should get a transfer to some other regiment.
        At daylight one morning the Colonel sent an order to Allen to take
a detail of men and pursue and capture some seven deserters. This
Allen did. After marching over forty miles in one day, the Mississippi
river was reached, only to find that the deserters idle had taken refuge on
the gunboat Rattler. While resting from the long, and squatted on
the side of the road, much disappointed at his poor success in recaptur-
ing the missing men, an old lady came riding by in her carriage. She
speedily informed them that the crew of the Rattler were daily in the
habit of landing in Rodney and holding high revel in the street, boast-
ing, at the same time, of their ability to thrash any number of butter-
milk cavalry, and do it with cornstalks. Allen thereupon camped in
the woods near Rodney. A watch was stationed in the graveyard just
above town ; and during the entire night the sentry's " All's well," as
the boat's bell struck the hour, was heard by the picket concealed
behind a time-worn tombstone. Sunday morning, at ten o'clock, a con-
siderable stir was visible on board the gunboat. Soon three boats shot
out from her side, filled with gaily dressed officers and marines. These
soon after landed and it now became evident that cornstalks would
have to come into play. Allen now mounted his men and ordered his
few followers forward, and rushed into the town at a gallop. The pop-
ping of pistols soon demonstrated that the work had begun. The Fed-
eral Captain and his Lieutenant were evidently men of pluck and
quickly getting their men into the church, attempted to barricade the
doors. But this move was foiled by the rapidity with which Allen dis-
mounted his men, and, pistol in hand, led them into the building
As he forced his way in, a marine met him, and their pistols went off
simultaneously. The shot of the marine cut through Allen's hat, and a
piece of percussion cap struck him across the nose, causing it to bleed
profusely. But, on the other hand, the marine was shot through the
body and fell in the aisle of the church. Meantime, the Confederates
had entered through another door, and the close proximity of the muz-
zles of their carbines decided the marines in surrendering. The number
of prisoners taken were fifteen marines, and the Captain and First
Lieutenant — the enemy having three killed. This little affair happened
while church service was being performed and a congregation assembled
for worship. It need hardly be stated that a terrible commotion existed
for a brief period, particularly among the fairer portion of the worship-
pers. Allen withdrew in safety with his prisoners, notwithstanding the
battery promptly opened fire upon the town.
     After a series of adventures and much hard fighting, Lieut. Allen at
last fell into the hands of the enemy, while on a scout in the Federal
lines, and was taken on board the steamer Iberville- While surrounded
by his guards, Allen leaped from the deck of the steamer and, after
desperate struggles in the water, being greatly retarded by his broken
arm, which was then unhealed, and notwithstanding the volley fired at
him, made his way to the bank, and thence to camp.
      On the hurried retreat from Colliersville, Tenn., by the Confederates,
the Briarfields were ordered to the rear, to hold the Federals in check
until the balance of the command could effect a crossing at a difficult
ford on the Coldwater river. Here, with his small command, Allen
made a most obstinate defence ; until the Federals, discovering the
smallness of his force, charged in largely superior numbers. They act-
ually rode over Allen, he having been thrown from his horse and again
he fell into their hands. He was then placed on the cars, en route
for the old Capitol Prison. The night was pitch dark, and the train
dashing along at the rate of thirty miles an hour. This, however, did not
prevent Allen, when near the city of Baltimore, from snatching the
guard's overcoat and leaping from the cars. He soon met with some
noble hearted Southern ladies, who aided him in crossing the lines.
       He was again captured before the final close of the war, and
once again did he escape. He reached the Confederate lines to find the
struggle ended. Hoping it would be continued on the Trans-Mississippi
side, he made his way to Alexandria, to find there also that the war was
nearly over. The Confederacy he loved so well was in its death throes
The South had played and lost, and the curtain fell; the great tragedy
of the Southern struggle was ended.
     Sadly retracing his steps, Allen reached New Orleans, promptly en-
tering the business walks of life. He endeavored to build up his shat-
tered fortunes; and, meeting with success, he embarked, in conjunction
with Capt. J. Frank Hicks, in cotton planting, near Lake Providence,
where he died. His remains are now interred in Greenwood Cemetery.

[Editor's notes: He was born about 1840 in Holmes County, Miss., and died at Lake Providence, East Carroll Parish, Louisiana Sept. 8, 1869. His twin brother was Columbus H. Allen. His older brother was Augustus Calhoun Allen, who was colonel of the 19th Texas Infantry during the war.]

No comments: