The Yankees at the Gates

Clara Solomon wrote a wonderfully detailed diary during the Civil War in New Orleans. She was born in 1844. Her family were Sephardic Jews from South Carolina. Her father was Solomon Solomon who made a good living as a merchant. After the Civil War, his finances would reverse. But, for now, they were solidly middle class.

The Provost Marshalls

The war was never far from Clara’s thoughts or activities. But, on March 15, 1862, Clara felt fear when the Confederate Army (i.e., Maj-Gen. Lovell) declared martial law in New Orleans. She commented that the news “startled the timid,” but on seeing the Provost Marshals, confidence was at once restored. The marshals were as follows

Wm Freret                               First District

Cyprien Dufour                       Second District

Hon. Pierre Soule                   Third District

Col. H. D. Ogden                    Fourth District

Capt. Norbert Trepagnier       Algiers

Judge Victor Burthe                Jefferson Parish

And, well they should have confidence. William Freret was the man for whom Freret street is named. He had served as mayor of the city in the 1840’s and was a strong supporter of the school system.

Pierre Soule was one of those persons in Louisiana politics who was a household name. He had served as senator from Louisiana and as ambassador to Spain. He has been described as  a “fire-eater,” meaning he was an ardent secessionist. He was a lawyer in New Orleans, known for defending the filibusterer, William Walker. Soule had a colorful past. He published in France an article critical of church and state. He was sentenced to prison, but left for the United States. Later, during the Yankee occupation, he will be arrested for allegedly provoking unrest. He will be sent to prison in New York, but will escape. For more about Pierre Soule, see Dictionary of Louisiana Biography here.

Cyprien Dufour had studied law in the office of Pierre Soule. He later served as District Attorney for Orleans parish and as assistant Attorney General for the state of Louisiana. These were the heavy-weights in New Orleans political circles who were still in town. Everyone else was off at war.

Martial Law

Martial law also meant the city’s coffee houses and saloons would close at 8 pm every night, recorded the young Clara. Not mentioned by Clara, there would also be a system of passports issued which would restrict egress and ingress into the city.

The Federal fleet had appeared at the mouth of the Mississippi on March 13, 1862. The Confederate commander, Maj-Gen.Mansfield Lovell, had been begging for reinforcements. Now, all that was too late.

Sources:

Elliott Ashkenazi, ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 290.

New Orleans Daily Crescent, March 15, 1862, p. 1

Half a Hundred Tipperary Throats

The Union Army had its famed 69th Regiment, all Irish. The South too had its Irish Brigade. The Sixth Louisiana Infantry Regiment was largely Irish. A key component of that Regiment was a company sized unit known as the Louisiana Tigers. They were commanded by the remarkable Maj. Roberdeau Wheat. Traveling from New Orleans to Virginia at the outset of the war, the Tigers and the Fourteenth Louisiana Regiment, mostly Irish, started a riot in Grand Junction, Tennessee. The commander had to shoot seven soldiers, killing them and wounding another nineteen to stop the riot.

I previously wrote about the Sixth Louisiana Regiment here and wrote about Roberdeau Wheat here.

But, in the heat of the action, the Irish always distinguished themselves. Gen. Richard Taylor commanded the Sixth Regiment for some time during the Shenandoah campaign under Stonewall Jackson. Taylor was a former Know-Nothing. In Louisiana, the Know Nothings caused riots that killed a few Irish immigrants. At least initially, Gen. Taylor was skeptical about his Irish charges. But, during the Shenandoah campaign they performed exceedingly well. In that campaign, Gen. Jackson had to march his “foot cavalry” over dozens of miles over several days. The Irish always responded. Even today, Infantry would not be expected to march more than 12-15 miles in one day. During the Valley Campaign, they marched 20 miles in one day and 30 the next.

In May, 1862, the Louisiana Brigade, which included the 6th Regiment, made an exhausting march to Strasbourg, Virginia in the oppressive May heat. Union cavalry pressed them and caused them to panic. The Irish provided a rear guard, which helped restore order. Retreat is one of the most complicated military maneuvers. Even the most experienced units can collapse. But, the Irish then refused to be relieved throughout the night, insisting they would protect the rear. The weather poured that night, dropping hail the size of “hen’s eggs.” Occasional artillery fire would not dissuade them from their duty. They cried out, “We are the boys to see it out!” This loud assurance “from half a hundred Tipperary throats”prompted Gen. Taylor, the former Know-Nothing, to comment years later that ever since, his heart “warmed to an Irishman since that night.”

David T. Gleeson, The Irish in the South, 1815-1877 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press 1995), p. 144-145.