Battle at the Escambia River

Algernon Sidney Badger was a shop clerk in Milton, Massachusetts before the war. With talent and drive, he had risen to a Captain of union Cavalry. In 1865, as the war was drawing to a close, Capt. Badger’s squadron was sent toward Mobile, Alabama, in preparation for the attack on that Confederate city. They ran into the remnants of two dismounted Alabama cavalry regiments. It was near the end of the war and the Confederates were in pitiable condition. Capt. Badger’s squadron was part of the 1st Louisiana Federal cavalry, comprised of mostly Negro enlisted soldiers.

The First Louisiana Cavalry was raised in New Orleans during the Yankee occupation. It had seen much action. It served in the smaller battles in South Louisiana as well as in the Red River campaign of 1863. As a cavalry unit, it was heavily involved in the burning and pillaging of the Southern farms and plantation, and most infamously, of the burning of Shreveport and Alexandria in 1863. I previously wrote about the Red River campaign here.

The past two years had seen meager rations and poor supplies for the Confederates. The Federals were far stronger and fitter. But, still, the Confederates, recalling the fate of Alexandria and Shreveport, sought to protect their homes. The Federals charged. The Alabamians broke and ran. Discarding everything that might impede their escape, they tossed rifles, shirts and equipment. In retreating they came upon the Escambia River bridge which had been burned. Seeing no hope for escape, several rode their horses over the high bluffs into the swollen river to certain death. They preferred death to surrender.

That day, Capt. Badger’s men captured many Confederates who preferred to live, one general and one set of colors. This was a battle that stayed with the young Capt. Badger for the rest of his life.

Justin A. Nystrom, New Orleans: After the Warr, Vol. 9 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press 2010), p. 37