The Immortal 600: The Kindness of Jailers, Part 6

John Ogden Murray mentioned one Maj. Place, quartermaster of the post. All the prisoners would remember Federal Maj. Place. Once, Maj. Place took his men fishing with seines in the river. Later that night, Maj. Place gave a barrel full of fish to Capt. Ed Chambers of Alabama and told him to give the fish to men who could not move about. Another time, Maj. Place gave Capt. Chambers a half barrel of coffee which had been condemned.

As Murray wrote years later:

“God bless you Major Place! May you prosper in this world, and the world to come, for your goodness and humanity to our starving men.” [33]

Lt. Funk

Murray also wrote about Lt. Billy Funk, formerly of the Stonewall Brigade. He joined the army while still a boy and was captured at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in 1864. Lt. Funk was starving. But, he never complained. Funk’s messmate was Lt. Tom S. Doyle. They would give Funk their few crumbs to keep him going. But, it was not enough. Murray caught a fat cat one day. He cooked it and made a soup. With much coaxing, he prevailed upon Lt. Funk to drink it. He revived almost instantaneously. Murray continued to feed him rats and cats. But they soon ran out of cats. Murray lacked the money to purchase cats or rats from those who had them. Funk soon relapsed into his former state. The Confederate prisoners were eventually returned to Ft. Delaware, from where they had come in that September of 1864. Lt. Funk lived just long enough to die in the arms of his mother at Ft. Delaware. [34]

Thirteen of the Confederate officers died during their ordeal at Ft. Pulaski. They were buried outside its walls. All of the officers could have accepted the oath of allegiance to the United States and thereby have lessened their hardship. But, they refused. [35]

In early March, 1865, the Rebels prisoners believed they were about to be exchanged. But, no, they were simply to be returned to the Yankee prison from whence they came, Ft. Delaware. First, they were re-joined to the Hilton Head prisoners. There actually was an exchange pending between Gen. U.S. Grant and the Confederate agent for exchanges. But, that plan did not include the remnants of the Immortal 600. When the 600 returned to Ft. Delaware, the Confederate prisoners still ensconced at the prison were shocked at the condition of the returning 600. Some 60 of the Rebel officers went straight to the Ft. Delaware hospital upon their arrival. Some 44 in total died between their leaving Ft. Delaware and their return. Several died upon their return. Soon after their return to Ft. Delaware, Gen. Lee surrendered. The Rebel officers suffered immensely. But, they persevered under the worst conditions and showed who they were, The Immortal 600. [36]

In 2012, the Sons of Confederate Veterans placed a monument at the Ft. Pulaski site. It lists the names of the thirteen who died there, and includes the following inscription:

Brave on the Field of Battle

With Steadfast Loyalty to Country and Comrades

They Placed Honour above Life Itself

Lest we forget

Col. Brown became a baker after the war in St. Louis. He died in 1881 and was buried in Hamilton, New York, his home town. Today, in perhaps the fifth version of the “new South,” memories of the suffering of our Southern ancestors have long since faded. We are comfortable in our easy chairs watching the Saints or the Falcons every Sunday. But, for one select group of Southerners known as the Immortal 600, the kindness of at least two Yankee jailers never faded.


[33] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 96-97

[34] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 97-98

[35] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 99

[36] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 101-102, 106

The Immortal 600: Protein Supplement, Part 5

At Ft. Pulaski, the quarters of the prisoners were separated from those of the Union soldiers by an iron grate. The soldiers of the 157th Regiment adopted a few of the stray cats. The cats soon multiplied. The cats would travel at will through the iron bars between the two areas. Reduced to starvation, the Confederates started to catch the cats and consume them. They also feasted on the occasional rat. The prisoners generally cooked the cats one of two ways: fried in the cat’s own fat or baked with a stuffing made of the corn meal. [26]

One Federal soldier gave Capt. George W. Nelson a kitten. The Federal soldier asked Capt. Nelson, “I say, are you one of them fellers that eat cats?” Capt. Nelson replied that he was. “Well, here is one I’ll shove thro’ if you want it.”  “Shove it thro’,” replied the captain. Within minutes, the kitten was in the frying pan. Capt. Nelson would later write that he shared three cats with friends, and received small portions of others during his time at Ft. Pulaski. [27]

The Family Kittie

Col. Brown’s wife and daughter joined him at the fort. They brought with them their cat. One day, Col. Brown entered the prison area and spoke to the Rebels. He asked that his family cat be spared. By the time the prisoners left Ft. Pulaski, that family cat was the only cat still alive. The prisoners respected the colonel’s request. [28]

As the retaliation continued, the prisoners adopted a stance that they would complain among themselves, but would remain silent in the presence of the guards. By January, 1865, the sick list had assumed “alarming proportions.” Scurvy was prevalent. The Union doctor did what he could with what medicine Gen. Foster allowed him to use. The typical treatment for scurvy then consisted of antiscorbutics. The doctor could not use antiscorbutics, because Gen. Foster forbade its use. He prohibited its use, because it was not used at the infamous Andersonville prison. And, Andersonville did not have antiscorbutics, at least in part because the U.S. government had designated medical supplies bound for Confederate ports as contraband. [29]

As the scurvy progressed throughout the prison, many Confederates became unable to walk. Others meandered through the vaults of the fort, like living skeletons, gazing into each other’s faces with a listless, vacant stare. They were approaching lunacy. Their gums would decay and fall away. They started to lose teeth. In the more advanced stages, their limbs would contract and become immobile. Black spots began to appear on the legs and arms. One day when they were burying their dead, Col. Brown had his soldiers fire a military salute. But, this too was soon forbidden. The dead would then be buried, silently, disturbed only by the ever constant wind. [30]

Medical Inspection

At the end of January, 1865, Col. Brown went to Savannah, now in Federal hands, and returned with five or six medical officers. They doctors performed a close inspection of the prisoners. One of them told Lt. Henry H. Cook that he would not have believed a Federal officer was capable of such brutality. But, nothing changed.

Years later in the Official Record of the war, John Ogden Murray saw a letter from the Union officer in charge of the Savannah district. Union Gen. Grover reported to the U.S. assistant adjutant general that the Rebels at Ft. Pulaski were in “great suffering.” They lacked sufficient food and clothing. They also suffered from scurvy to a “considerable extent.” Gen. Grover urged the adjutant that their rations be increased, and that they be allowed to receive clothing and food from their families. But, again, nothing changed. [31]

No help came from the U.S. Army. But, individual members of the 157th did help, as they could. As Murray recorded, there were “lots of good fellows” in the New York regiment. They had often been under fire, said Murray, and respected the service of the Rebel officers. They would put a loaf of bread or a piece of meat on the end of their bayonet and dare any Confederate to take it off, always holding the rifle within easy reach. The New York volunteers likely viewed that act as not giving the Rebels food, but making it so the food could be taken. “They dared not disobey,” said Murray. [32]


[26] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 89

[27] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 89-90

[28] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 89

[29] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 89, 91-92

[30] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 93

[31] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 95-96

[32] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 96-97

The Immortal 600: Band of Brothers, Part 4

One prisoner, Capt. George B. “Fitz” Fitzgerald, grew addled with his opium addiction. Fitz had few clothes to wear. A few of the prisoners held a raffle to raise money with which to buy him some decent clothes and some food. Fitz was a West Point graduate, but was now the object of great pity by those who themselves possessed very little. Fitz had no shirt, no blanket, his pants were filthy. He was so lousy that the hospital would not accept him. He cried out to every passing prisoner for opium. The men were able to raise $5.25. He was down with pneumonia, but the hospital would not accept him. Shortly after he got his new pants, he was found dead in his bunk one morning. The Yanks, said one of the prisoners later, helped the Confederates give Fitz a decent burial. [19]

In November or early December, scurvy made its appearance among the weaker prisoners. One prisoner, Capt. Henry C. Dickinson estimated 100 prisoners had scurvy in those early weeks. About this time, Col. Brown determined that the fort held too many prisoners. He moved 200 to nearby Hilton Head Island on the beach. [20]

In early December, some 30 Confederate officers were selected at Ft. Pulaski for exchange. As the suffering of some worsened, a group of officers formed a relief association to try to provide aid to their fellow prisoners. As John Ogden Murray would later say:

“We who were true can speak of the comradeship of love to each other. It was born in suffering, cemented by the brutality of a civilized government controlled by brutes. Men, as a rule, become selfish; but this was not true of the majority of the six hundred. Of course, there were some selfish men in our number, but it can be truthfully said . . . . that there never was a grander lot of men brought together than the Immortal Six Hundred. The efforts of one prisoner to relieve the other were sublime.” [21]

Some of the Confederate officers who had been exchanged felt grateful to Col. Brown. He had treated them humanely and with respect. So, they published a letter in the Charleston newspaper thanking the commander. But, it would have been better had they not. The letter came to the attention of Gen. Foster, the Federal commander. Foster reprimanded Col. Brown for his leniency. Foster ordered Col. Brown to reduce the men’s rations and to cut off their access to the sutler. A sutler in 1864 was essentially the precursor to the modern PX. Sutlers sold various goods to the soldiers which were not otherwise available. [22]


As December drew to a close, Gen. Foster imposed further restrictions. Their ration was reduced to a daily issue of 10 ounces of cornmeal and pickles. The cornmeal came from old barrels and was generally rancid and infested with worms. One Confederate officer later recorded that of the ten ounces, usually three ounces were not edible. Gen. Foster imposed these actions as retaliation for the perceived abuse at Andersonville prison. Prisoners recorded that the cornmeal was issued in lumps as large as a man’s head, and hard as clay. It was filled with bugs and worms. Some prisoners found the pickles did more harm than good. Many refused the pickles. The Hilton Head prisoners received the same rations. [23]


Capt. Henry Dickinson recorded that the retaliation rations began on Dec. 31, 1864, a day that was “raw, cold, drizzling day, and one of damp gloom to all.” Col. Brown told the prisoners that he was ordered to issue them no more than twelve sticks per day for cooking fuel. The prisoners described Col. Brown and his men as gentlemen. The men of the 157th New York Regiment never failed to convey their “disgust” for Gen. Foster and his brutal corn meal order. In fact, when they first arrived, Col. Brown had told them he would treat them humanely as much as he could. He told them he and the 157th New York had served in the field and they respected the service of the Confederate officers. [24]

Indeed, the 157th New York had made a heroic charge on July 1 of the Battle of Gettysburg. They sustained some 300 casualties that day. See more about their charge here at civil war talk.

But, like many Federal regiments, the 157th also looted and burned the homes of unarmed civilians during the march through Georgia and South Carolina. [25]


[19] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 77=78

[20] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 79

[21] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 81-82

[22] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 85

[23] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 86

[24] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 87-88

[25] Karen stokes, South Carlina Civilians in Sherman’s Path (Charleston: History Press 2012), p. 58. Capt. Pierce of the 157th N.Y. Regiment forced an elderly Henry A. Middleton from his plantation home, after taking his bonds, money and other possessions, before firing the home. Before evicting the elderly man, Capt. Pierce told him, “You damn old rebel you, get out of your house this minute. I mean to burn it down and set you afloat in the world.”

The Immortal 600: His Funeral Dirge, Part 3

In October, one of the exchanged Federal officers from Charleston visited the Confederate prisoners on Morris Island. He noted they received much smaller rations than the Federals had received when incarcerated in Charleston. In response, Col. Hallowell increased the rations of the Confederates for a brief time. About that time, three Confederate officers died on Morris Island. One, Lt. Frank P. Peake of Kentucky, suffered from acute dysentery. It was obvious how ill he was. But, days passed before the prison doctor came to see him. By that point, it was too late. Lt. Peake died on Oct. 2, 1864. He was buried, said one of his comrades later, “In the twilight ….. while the shot and shells … sang his funeral dirge.” [14]

Capt. Emilio claimed in the Regimental history of the 54th that the Confederate prisoners received blankets upon their arrival at Morris Island. But, his account is contradicted by numerous first-hand accounts included in Stokes’ book, The Immortal 600. Capt. Emilio does concede their rations were initially reduced to one-half and later to less than that amount. Despite Col. Hollowell’s treatment of his own soldiers and that of the POW’s, he had some redeeming qualities. He did support the men of the 54th Regiment in numerous conflicts with upper echelons of authority over pay and in at least one instance of refusal to commission a black, but white appearing officer. A new commander refused initially to commission Lt. Swails, because he was black. But, Lt. Swails had light skin. Col. Hallowell suggested the young lieutenant go up the chain of command, which produced the hoped for result. [15]

Yellow-Faces Scoundrel

In late October, the 600 prisoners erroneously came to believe they were about to be exchanged. While marching out of the stockade in a column of fours, John Ogden Murray, a Virginia officer, saw the hated Col Hallowell. Thinking he would soon be free, Murray told the colonel he was a yellow-faced scoundrel, that he would soon be free, and that he hoped to find the colonel on some future battlefield. The colonel’s face turned red with rage. He shouted at a guard to shoot that man! But, the guard pointed his rifle at a different prisoner. Just then, a Negro sergeant ordered the soldier to put his gun down, saving the life of one unfortunate prisoner. Murray learned then the lesson to watch his temper. [16]

In late October, 1864, the 600 Confederate prisoners were not exchanged. Instead, they were simply moved to Ft. Pulaski, near Savannah, Georgia. Ft. Pulaski was like Ft. Sumter, a brick edifice with numerous gun vaults for artillery. A New York regiment, commanded by Colonel Philip P. Brown manned Ft. Pulaski. Having spent the past few months sitting on sand, the POW’s were pleasantly surprised to be quartered in brick gun emplacements, now gun-less. Georgia winters next to the ocean, however, could be very severe. Many of the Confederates lacked blankets. Col. Brown requisitioned blankets, which never arrived. The few who had U.S. blankets lost them when Col Hallowell took them away upon their arrival at Morris Island. [17]

Packages From Home

Col. Philip P. Brown hailed from Smithfield, New York. He graduated from Madison University in 1855. Prior to the war, he served as principal of a school in upstate New York. The 157th New York Regiment was largely recruited in Madison County, New York.

Col. Brown allowed the men to receive packages from their families. But, the brick walls and floor stayed damp and cold. Clothed in summer uniforms, if even that, the Confederates began to suffer. Cases of dysentery, bronchitis, pneumonia and scurvy began to develop. In retaliation for the lack of medicines at Andersonville, the prison doctor was not allowed to administer any medication other than pain-killers, including opiates. Some prisoners developed an addiction to opium. [18]


[14] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 65, 67

[15] Emilio, Brave Black Regiment, p. 194, 223, 224-225

[16] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 70

[17] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 76

[18] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 77

The Immortal 600: Morris Island, Part 2

The 600 Confederate prisoners arrived at Morris Island on Sept. 7, 1864. They came from Ft. Delaware, a Federal POW camp in the state of Delaware. They were placed inside a stockade between Batteries Wagner (now held by the Federals) and Gregg on Morris Island. They were guarded by the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, now commanded by Col. Edward N. “Ned” Hallowell. Hallowell, son of a Philadelphia abolitionist, was harsh. The Negro guards (to use the contemporary term for black soldiers) treated the Confederate prisoners kindly, but their commander, Col. Hallowell, did not. Over the next several weeks, the 600 Confederate prisoners were exposed to the spectacle of a long-range artillery duel between the two opposing forces. [7]

Perhaps encountering the enemy up close for the first time, Capt. Emilio described in his 54th Regimental history how the 560 Confederate prisoners appeared when they first arrived. He said some were “tall, lank mountaineers, and some were typical Southerners of the books – dark, long-haired, and fierce of aspect.” A smaller number appeared to Capt. Emilio to be city men of “jauntier appearance.” Capt. Emilio said the majority were “common-looking,” probably of the poorer class of Southerner, with a sprinkling of foreigners, mainly German and Irish.” Few of the men dressed alike. Some wore a suit of blue jeans, homespun or butternut. A few wore gray uniforms “more or less” trimmed. Their headgear included straw hats, slouch hats, and forage caps of gray, blue or red, decorated with braid. They had cavalry boot, shoes, or short boots, “in all stages of wear.” They included all ranks from lieutenant to colonel. [8]

Threats toward the Prisoners

The Confederates were given tents lined up in eight sections. A 54th Sergeant was assigned as warden for each section or “street.” [9]

The Yankee colonel would come into the pen on occasion and address the Confederate prisoners directly with threats. When the men complained about lack of food, he told them frankly he wished them harm. The Negro guards apologized to the prisoners for the lack of food. They hated their colonel as much as the POW’s did. For even slight violations of orders, Col. Hallowell would ride at the 54th soldiers, knock them and beat them with the flat of his saber. Or, he would draw his pistol and shoot at them. Capt. Luis F. Emilio, one of the white officers, wrote a history of the 54th during the war. He never discussed the leadership practices of Col. Hallowell – or of former Col. Robert Gould Shaw either. [10]

All the Wind They Could Inhale

Col. Hallowell was part of a Quaker family in Philadelphia. The Hallowell family provided shelter for escaping slaves. Their father, Morris Hallowell lost his business, due to his very public opposition to slavery. So many customers took their business elsewhere. Two of Edward’s brothers also served in the army. And another brother was a merchant in Boston. Col. Hallowell allowed the prisoners breakfast and dinner, but no supper. For breakfast, the men were issued four hardtack crackers, often moldy and rotten, and one ounce of fat meat. For dinner, they received one-half pint of bean or rice soup. For supper, said one prisoner, they were issued all the wind they could inhale. They obtained drinking water by digging in the sand until water would ooz forth. Dysentery soon set in among the men. And, of course, unlike other captured officers, they were not allowed to receive money or goods from their families. [11]

Decades after the war, former Morris Island POW, Capt. Thomas Pinckney reviewed the published Official Record of the war. He saw the official correspondence relating that the prisoners were supposed to be issued three-quarters of a pound of fresh beef, or one-half pound of salt meat, one-half pound of hard bread or one-half pint of meal, one-fifth pint of rice, the same with beans, and salt and vinegar. Capt. Pinckney denied that any such rations were ever issued. [12]

From September to October, 1864, the men only received daily three, sometimes four and sometimes two small crackers per day and one-fourth or one-eighth pound of meat and one gill (four ounces) of soup and one gill of cooked rice. [13]


[7] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 51-52

[8] Emilio, Brave Black Regiment, pp. 222-223

[9] Ibid.

[10] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 63; Luis F. Emilio, A Brave Black Regiment (Boston: Boston Book. Co. 1894), available on Google books at:

[11] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 63; Emilio, Brave Black Regiment, p. 4; John T. Galvin, “The Hallowells: Fighting Quakers,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 104 (1992), p. 44

[12] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 64

[13] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 64-65

The Immortal 600: The Federal POW’s, Part 1

The story of the Immortal 600 started with two Federal assaults on Battery Wagner outside Charleston, South Carolina. The second assault led by the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry was gallant, but unsuccessful. Charleston was protected by Ft. Sumter, Battery Wagner and other gun emplacements. Charleston was a prize long sought by the Union forces. It was seen as the hotbed of secession. Frustrated by the failures against Battery Wagner, the Union commander, Gen. Quincy Gillmore decided to bombard the city of Charleston itself. Gillmore sent a note to the Confederate commander, Pierre G.T. Beauregard telling him to evacuate the defenses at Ft. Sumter and Battery Wagner and the other gun positions, or he would bombard the city. Charleston was three and four miles from its defenses, so there was no clear military target in the city. But, that was Gillmore’s plan. He threatened civilians, so as to force a withdrawal. Beauregard replied that shelling a defenseless city was barbaric, but he could not prevent the shelling. [1]

Shelling Charleston

For the next several months, Gillmore’s batteries rained down projectiles on the defenseless city. In 1864, Gillmore was replaced as commander by Gen. John G. Foster. Beauregard was replaced, by Gen. Samuel Jones. Jones complained to Foster that his cannon were deliberately targeting non-military sites. Jones placed 50 captured Union officers in a house in downtown Charleston. Few of the Union shells landed near the house, but still, the Federals were not happy. Gen. Foster then requested an equal number of captured Confederate officers to be placed near the Union fort on Morris Island. [2]

Upon hearing of Foster’s request, five of the Union officers housed at the house in downtown Charleston, all captured general officers, sent a letter to Gen. Foster asking that Confederate officers be treated humanely, as they had been treated. In truth, the 50 Federal officers kept at the Charleston house lived well. As one Charlestonian remarked, the Federal prisoners had a large lot in which to walk around. The Confederate government installed gas lighting for the prisoners. The captured officers received many visitors and were a well-dressed lot. They had money to spend. They were all on parole, meaning they were restrained only by their word. There was one guard, but the prisoners had a great deal of freedom. They could buy sugar and coffee in the city, despite severe shortages. Local citizens would call on them and visit. [3]

The Parole System

Officer POW’s well into the Civil War could enjoy a substantial amount of freedom while on parole. That was part of a long-standing tradition. During the Napoleonic wars, it was common for captured British officers to enjoy the freedom of Paris, so long as their family could send them money. The captured British officers during the European wars simply had to swear an oath that they would not try to escape and then the freedom of the city was theirs. The captured Union officers enjoyed a similar level of freedom, likely because their families could send them money.

Gen. Foster obtained his 50 Confederate officers. But, they were soon exchanged for the 50 original Federal officers at the house in downtown Charleston. [4]

Later, in late summer of 1864, Confederate Gen. Jones was forced to accept a large number of Federal officers from the POW camp at Andersonville, Georgia. The Union POW’s were placed at Roper Hospital and the city jail in Charleston and in various houses in Charleston. Gen. Jones wrote to Gen. Wessels, one of the original captured 50 officers that he was sorry about having to place so many Federal officers in the city, but it was the only secure place where they could be guarded until they were moved to a more permanent location. [5]

In August, 1864, Federal Gen. Foster wrote to his superior that he knew the large number of officers were placed in Charleston while enroute to somewhere else, not with the intent to expose them to enemy artillery. Foster also stated that he knew the original 50 federal officers were safe, because he knew where they were and his gunners would avoid that area. [6]

Yet, Gen. Foster still requested 600 confederate officer prisoners. He planned to place them adjacent to the Union guns on Morris Island, directly in the line of fire.


[1] Karen Stokes, The Immortal 600 (Charleston, SC: History Press 2015), p. 35-36

[2] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 36-37

[3] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 39-43

[4] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 43

[5] Stokes, Immortal 600, p. 43-46

Women’s History Month: Women Waged the War The Men Could Not

The Civil War was unique in American history in one respect. It was the first and so far, the only war in which U.S. citizens (or former U.S. citizens) lost. That point comes home when we consider the experience of New Orleans. The city was lost with very little fight in April, 1862. New Orleans was not necessarily a hotbed of fire-eaters – the Southerners who sought or encouraged secession. But, the city had its share of patriots. When the Union forces occupied the Crescent City, however, the men could say or do nothing. The women, however, could and did. Some women were very critical of Southern men and their inability to defend the city. Once the outlying forts, Ft. Jackson and Ft. St. Phillip fell, there was no more fight. There was no last stand.

The Women of New Orleans

It was the women who refused to countenance the presence of federal troops in the City. As Pat Conroy said in his preface to a later edition of Gone With the Wind, the women did not lose the war. Gone with the Wind itself is a story told by women who believed the wrong side surrendered. [1]

In New Orleans, they would cross the street before having to pass Union officers on the sidewalk. That was no small sacrifice in a time when filth and animal dung proliferated on city streets. Some more genteel women simply stayed home rather than encounter federal troops. The women would deliberately turn their backs to federal officers. Gen. Benjamin Butler would quip that these women “know which end of them looks best.” Within weeks of federal occupation, the war became verbal and emotional. Thus, Gen. Butler issued his infamous General order No. 28, which provided that if a female was rude to a federal soldier, the authorities could assume she was a prostitute and treat her as such. That meant the Federals could approach women they did not know. That was no small thing in a time when decent men did not approach a woman on the street at all unless he already knew her.

Some women, such as Clara Solomon, had day-dreams about throwing a rope around “Beast” Butler and all the women of the City dragging him through the streets. Or, having him eat salty food and placing water in front of him just out of reach. This was a silent, but effective war waged largely by women

Hand-Sewn Flags

The Federal occupiers then arrested several women for offenses ranging from flying secession flags (the flag officially adopted by the CSA) to possession of a federal musket to threatening a federal officer. Gen. Butler took delight in confiscating the flags hand-sewn by the Southern women. The remarkable thing is that in that time, women were not allowed to have political opinions. But, now in occupied New Orleans, they could express their views. These were the same women who had tens of thousands of their loved ones deployed to war zones. Gen. Butler was telling these women they could not support their men.

Eugenia Levy Phillips

These incidents reached a climax of sorts with Eugenia Phillips, Jewish wife of a former Alabama Congressman, Phillip Phillips. Phillip Phillips was a close friend of Judah Benjamin, the CSA Secretary of War. Before the war, Eugenia had been a member of Pres, Benjamin Harrison’s “boudoir cabinet.” That meant she supported secession and supported the expansion of slavery. Gen. Butler, an experienced politician likely knew all this about his adversary. It was said of Butler that he did not like Jews.

The Phillips family had evacuated to New Orleans. When a funeral procession passed by Eugenia’s house, she loudly and ostentatiously laughed as the cortege passed by. On June 30, 1862, Gen. Butler said she was trying to incite a riot and ordered her arrest. During an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, her husband could only weakly protest against invectives aimed at his wife. Mrs. Phillips denied her laugh was directed toward the funeral. She was after all holding a party for her children at the time. But, she was arrested and sent to Ship Island.

On Ship Island, she lived in an abandoned railroad car, plagued by mosquitoes, bad water and musty food. And, of course, in July, the temperatures would have been high and the humidity heavy. She managed to send a few letters describing her austere conditions. She became a martyr to Southern patriotism. Hers became a cause celebre in New Orleans. Gen. Butler came to regret his impulse. He ordered her release after two and one-half months. He had been out-maneuvered by this one woman, this time. See more about Eugenia here.

One woman requested a pass to visit her ill daughter in another parish. The general refused, saying he had been fooled by prior requests. He added that he could never subdue the rebellious women of the city, but could manage the cowardly men. Gen. Butler likely enjoyed his cutting remarks, but it only deepened the wound for the New Orleanians.

The Handkerchief War

Washington eventually removed Benjamin Butler from his post in December, 1862. He had caused too many headaches for Washington. His replacement, Nathaniel Banks, was a better diplomat. Even so, when a group of Confederate officers were moved to be shipped out, several thousand residents jammed the levee docks to see the heroes off. Women carried flowers, waved handkerchiefs and hurrahed for Jeff Davis. The Federals called for troops with bayonets to drive the crowd back. As the crowd backed up two blocks, the women waved their handkerchiefs and parasols at the bayoneted rifles. During the scuffle, some women were injured. The Federals again looked silly. [2]

The handkerchief war led to this ditty:

Charge! Rang the cry, and on we dashed

Upon our female foes,

As seas in stormy fury lashed,

When o’er the tempest blows,

Like chaff their parasols went down, as our gallants rushed [3]

And, all that helps explain a story a friend told me many years ago in New Orleans. John, a scion of a prominent Jewish family, related how some of his ancestors were approached by a few Union soldiers on horseback at their home in New Orleans. The soldiers asked for a glass of water. The heat in New Orleans can be unbearable. Yes, said the mistress of the home. As each soldier handed her back the empty glass, the refined lady dashed each glass against the ground, indicating she would never use that glass again. The Confederate men could not make war, but the women could. That the family would maintain that story until it was shared with me in the early 1980’s reflects the anger of the time.

This reality that in the view of some persons, the Southern men did not serve as valiantly as they could have may help explain the universal movement to erect memorials and statues to the Confederate soldier after the war. Among the many motives for those memorials across the South, we must also consider that some women simply wanted to tell their men they believed in them.


[1] Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind (New York: Scribner, 2011), p. 11.

[2] Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber, ed., Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (New York: Oxford Univ. Press 1992), pp. 139-144.

[3] Marion Southwood, “Beauty and Booty” (New York: M. Doolady, 1867), p. 268

Michael Nolan, Commander, Part III

The Montgomery Guards were placed in the 1st Louisiana Infantry Regiment and on their way to Virginia by May 15, 1861. That was early in the war effort. That suggests they were simply ready sooner than the other militias. The Montgomery Guards were one of the two oldest Irish militias in New Orleans. Doubtless, they were able to recruit new members faster than the other militias. Some two dozen other militias were also recruiting in the very busy Spring and Summer, 1861. Militias were springing forth like mushrooms after a Spring rain.

Michael Nolan was a close friend of Fr. Darius Hubert before the war.  According to the 1860 U.S. census, Michael owned $30,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. For an Irish immigrant, he was doing very well. His brother, Thomas, could claim $1,000 in real estate and $350 in personal property. That was also not a small sum for Irish immigrant in 1860. Michael owned the store at Common and Robertson. He had a partner, William A. Beecher.  But, Beecher claimed no real estate in the 1860 census, suggesting Nolan was the sole owner of the store. Michael Nolan was the first commander of the 1st Louisiana Infantry. The Regiment was sent to Virginia, where it became part of the Louisiana Brigade and the Army of Northern Virginia.

Battle of Manassas

Lt.-Col. Nolan achieved some fame at the Battle of Manassas for his quick thinking. At particularly bitter fighting at the Deep Cut, his men ran out of ammunition. Nolan quickly rallied his men to hurl stones and rocks at the Yankees, then literally just a stone’s throw away. The Mostly Irish Confederates did indeed hurl the works over a railroad embankment, holding their position until reinforcements arrived. Fr. Sheeran, another chaplain from New Orleans, would record in his diary that after the battle, many Union soldiers were found with broken skulls.

Lt.-Col. Nolan was badly wounded at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). He was evacuated to a Richmond hospital and from there, he was sent on recruiting duty to Mobile. Many refugees from New Orleans and Baton Rouge had evacuated to Mobile at the time. His wife, Ellen, joined him in Mobile. He rejoined the First Louisiana Infantry Regiment just before the Battle of Gettysburg in July, 1863. Bravely, he led his men in an attack on Culp’s Hill. Almost immediately, he was cut down by a 12 pound artillery shell. He was killed within 24 hours of his return to his unit. What was left of his body was buried in a nearby orchard in a shallow grave. Soon afterward, through the kindness of a local Catholic woman, Isabella “Belle” Gubernator, and aided by the estimable Regimental chaplain, Fr. Hubert, Lt.-Col. Nolan was re-buried in consecrated ground at the nearby Conewago Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. LTC Nolan received a rare honor for a Confederate, a marked, Catholic burial.

Fr. Hubert

It was said that the death of Lt.-Col. Nolan was a blow to the kindly priest, Fr. Hubert. They were long-time friends. Another chaplain remarked upon hearing of Nolan’s death, “it was a great loss for Fr. Hubert.”  Later, after Gen. Lee’s surrender, Fr. Hubert remained in Virginia long enough to coordinate with Federal authorities the future removal of Lt.-Col. Nolan’s body to New Orleans.

A lengthy obituary was published in the nationalist Dublin newspaper, The Irishman, which suggests Lt.-Col. Nolan had a friendship with the editor.  He was apparently known to the editors of the The Irishman.

Re-Buried in New Orleans

Fr. Hubert and Fr. Sheeran, the two New Orleans priests who went to war, presided over the funeral.  After his death, his widow, Ellen faced serious financial issues. Michael and Ellen did not have any children. Ellen was among hundreds of others who were cited for failure to pay taxes in 1870, 1872, 1874, 1876, and 1878. She sold her property at a sheriff’s sale in 1879. The Southern economy was wrecked by the war and so was Ellen.

In 1869, Ellen re-married Thomas Egan. Thomas was also a native of Ireland. He was a grocery keeper with substantial real and personal estate. Ellen passed away Dec. 1, 1880. Like the rest of South, Ellen endured.


Cork Examiner, Aug. 9, 1848, p. 3, col. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 30, 1879, p. 4, col. 5

Dublin  Irishman, Oct. 24, 1863, p. 4, col. 1

Laura Kelley, The Irish in New Orleans (Lafayette, La.: Univ. of La. at Lafayette Press 2014), p. 48, 51, 55.

New Orleans Daily Picayune, May 20, 1847, p. 2, col. 6

New Orleans Daily Picayune, Sept. 1, 1909, p. 6, col. 6

Dublin  Irishman, Oct. 24, 1863, p. 4, col. 1

Jo Anne Corrigan, “Yellow Fever in New Orleans, 1853, Abstraction and Realities,” Journal of Southern History, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Aug, 1959), p. 342

New Orleans Daily Crescent, May 15, 861, p. 2, col. 3

Brendan O’Cathaoir, “The Rising of 1848,” History Ireland, Issue 3 (Autumn 1998), Vol. 6

King’s County Chronicle, Aug. 9, 1848, p. 2, col. 2

Tipperary Vindicator, Sept. 6, 1848, p. 2, col. 4

Louisiana Marriages, 1816-1906, Orleans Parish, Oct. 17, 1850; La. Death Records, vol. 168, p. 777

New Orleans Daily Crescent, April 9, 1856, p. 1, col. 3

New Orleans Daily Crescent, April 30, 1866, p. 9, col. 2

Plaquemines Southern Sentinel, April 12, 1856, p. 1, col. 2

New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 9, 1856, p. 3, col. 1

Baton Rouge Daily Advocate, April 10, 1856, p. 2, col. 3

New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 9, 1856, p. 3, col. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 24, 1856, p. 1, col. 7

Kathrine B. Jeffrey, First Chaplain of the Confederacy (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2020), p. 53, 73, 75, 99, 103

New Orleans Item, Dec, 2, 1880, p. 4, col. 5

Louisiana Parish Marriages, 1837-1957

Gen. Banks’ Red River Campaign

The Yankees occupied New Orleans and its surrounding environs from April, 1862 until the end of the Civil War. In 1863, Gen. Nathaniel Banks left New Orleans to start an advance toward Shreveport. He followed the Red River, then a busy inland commercial waterway. He was defeated and had to retreat. On the way back, his troops burned and looted their way back south. They burned literally every farm house and plantation between Shreveport and Alexandria, Louisiana. Alexandria, about midway between Baton Rouge and Shreveport was then a prosperous river town. The Unionists appeared to take particular delight in firing the town.

Of course, Gen. Banks issued orders that no looting or burning would occur,. But the orders were not enforced. As one Union soldier would write years later, “We were like the Israelites of old, accompanied by a cloud [of smoke] by day, and a pillar of fire by night.” One resident of Alexandria watched as the invaders poured in, helpless to stop them. They forced their way into every store, every house on Front street. The cases, windows, iron chests, shelves, and more were broken into and smashed. Officers and enlisted alike participated in the melee, grabbing whatever they could carry. The resident, E.R. Blossat watched, helpless to intervene, as two Federal privates grabbed the silver watch from his black servant. He then saw two Marines and a naval officer enter the Second Street home of Mrs. Caleb Taylor, grab the clock off her mantle, wrap it in her quilt and then dart out the door. Two other marines plundered the Episcopal church.

Still a Rebel

A little boy of four years old, son of a Confederate captain, loudly proclaimed before a crowd of Yankees that he was a rebel. One of the soldiers then wrapped a rope around his neck and drew him up, choking the boy and asked if he was still a rebel. Gasping for breath, the toddler insisted he was indeed still a rebel. He was again drawn up. Some by-standers then insisted the soldier release the boy.

The Catholic church, St. Francis Xavier, it is said, was almost burned during this infamous campaign. It was the only river front building that was not burned. The story is that the priest, Father J.P. Bellier, saw the Federals approaching his church to set it afire. Disguising his voice to impersonate Gen. Banks, he ordered that the church be spared. The soldiers then left the church alone. See waymarking post here.

Twenty two blocks of the river port were burned. Yes, the Federal troops violated the rules of war as they existed then and now.

See history of Alexandria here.


Walter Brian Cisco, War Crimes against Southern Civilians (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publ. 2016), p. 96.

The Irish as Troublesome Troops

The Irish were often seen as good soldiers, but as not the best disciplined soldiers. After the rebellion of the 1640’s ended in defeat for the Irish and then after the Williamite wars of the 1690’s again ended in defeat for the Irish, a great many emigrated to European countries. Many Irish served in the armies of Catholic countries, including Spain, France and Austria. In Spain and in France, these Irish soldiers became known as the “Irish Brigade.” In the 18th century, a regiment generally included about 1,000 soldiers. The regiment was commanded by a colonel. A brigade would include two or more regiments.

Before the wars in the 1600’s, the Dillon family owned tens of thousands of acres in County Meath and Roscommon. The Dillon family attained considerable fame in the French military. But, they were forced out of their country like thousands of other Irish. They contributed over 70 family members to the French army. Serving in the French army, these exiled Irish became known as the “Wild Geese.”

Like many Irish descendants, the cause of Irish freedom was always close to the heart of the Dillons. General Arthur Dillon spoke in 1792 to a meeting in Paris about the enslaved condition of the Irish. He said he hoped the time would come soon when he could devote his sword to the service of his own home, one day. He told the story how King Louis had once complained to him that of all his troops, the Irish gave him the most trouble. Arthur Dillon replied, “the enemy make the same complaint, Your Majesty.”

The Louisiana Sixth Regiment

So, it is perhaps not surprising that in the Louisiana Sixth Regiment, the most Irish of the many Confederate regiments, the new general, Richard Taylor felt it necessary to execute two Irishmen. Two of their comrades had been placed in the stockade. One night, Michael O’Brien and Dennis Corkeran, got drunk and tried to break out their fellow soldiers. Gen. Taylor, even though a new commander, decreed they must be executed. They were the first executions in the Army of Northern Virginia. The regiment was drawn up in a square and all were required to watch. They were shot by a firing squad. Half the members of the firing squad had blanks, so no one would know if they shot killed their comrade. One soldier recorded

“They fired, the two poor men fell down dead. They were picked up

and put in there [sic] coffin and buried at once. Most every fellow that was

standing around cride.”

The punishment struck many as an over-reaction to drunken behavior. One Northern newspaper said the incident showed the prejudice held by Confederate officers toward the Irish-born soldiers. As time would show, whatever bias Gen. Taylor may have held at the outset of the war all changed by the end of the war.


Stephen McGarry, Irish Brigades Abroad, (History Press, Ireland 2013), p. 216

James P. Gannon, Irish Rebels, Confederate Tigers, (DaCapo Press 1998), p. 14-15.