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Eugene Waggaman. [from the New Orleans Picayune, April 25, 1897.]

Colonel 10th Louisiana Infantry, C. S. Army. A Sketch of this gallant and useful life.

A massive figure in Louisiana history passed peacefully out of this life, in this city last night, a massive figure in the history of the gigantic struggle between the North and the South.

Colonel Eugene Waggaman died, venerable, and crowned with the honor of one of the greatest records of the late war. If Malvern Hill had had the poet who immortalized the Six Hundred, Colonel Waggaman would not be less known throughout the world to-day than they, and as long as history conserves the names of the brave, his name will make the Louisianian proud.

The Colonel's death was quite sudden. Two days ago he was enjoying better health than usually falls to the lot of a man of seventy years. He was stopping at the home of one of his children, at No. 5340 Pitt street. When his coffee was handed him yesterday morning, before he had gotten out of bed, his head was seen to droop and blood gushed from his mouth. It was soon discovered that he had suffered another stroke of apoplexy, and the physicians said he could not live through the night. Something like six months ago he was stricken, but he had recovered entirely from the effects of the stroke, and up to the time of this seizure he was enjoying good [181] health. He had an iron constitution, and it is thought that, had he not exposed himself too much of late years, he would have lived out possibly, a century of existence. He had never known what it was to suffer an ache of disease through his long life.

Colonel Waggaman was born in this city on September 18, 1826. He was born on the identical spot where the Solari grocery now stands, at the corner of Royal and Customhouse streets. He came from a family both titled and historic for generations. His ancestry is traceable back into the nobility of Europe. Baron von Brouner, who, after an eventful career, came to Louisiana to settle, was his great-great-grandfather. The baron came to Louisiana with a commission from the king of Spain. He was a Swiss soldier. He commanded a regiment of Swiss infantry and saw service under three kings. The first of these kings was Amedee I, of Italy. He conferred upon the Baron his title. In testimony of esteem he further presented the great-grandfather of this sketch, with a medalion, a gold snuff box, containing the King's portrait and ornamented with diamonds, and other tokens which remained heirlooms in the family for generations.

Stanislaus, of Poland, next commanded this historic soldier's services, and then the Baron came to Louisiana under commission of his majesty of Spain.

As his bride, the Baron brought to America, Christine Carbonari, of the celebrated Spinola family. Two daughters were born to this union. One of them married Cyril Arnoult, a merchant of Flanders, who settled in this city, and who participated in the battle of New Orleans. Their daughter, Camille Arnoult, married George Augustus Waggaman. Mr. Waggaman was a Marylander. His forefather, Bartholomew Ennals, had settled in Dorchester, Maryland, shortly after the foundation of the colony by Lord Baltimore.

George Augustus Waggaman, the father of the subject of this sketch, speedily became prominent in this State. He was a lawyer and became a judge of the Federal courts. He was then made Secretary of State and held that office for three successive terms. Finally, in 1861, he was elected to the United States Senate for a term of six years. He was a whig, and the leader of his party in this State. He took an active part in all the exciting political occurrences of his time, and participated in a fatal duel as the result of politics. The democrats here in those days were led by Dennis Prieur, and it was with this leader of the opposite political faith that the encounter took place. The duel was fought under ‘The Oaks.’ [182] The story is related that Senator Waggaman intended only to wing his antagonist, and it resulted fatally for him. He missed his aim, but Prieur's bullet was more accurate, striking the senator in the leg and severing the femoral artery. The senator never recovered from the injury. He refused to permit the amputation of his leg, and died of gangrene on March 22, 1843. The duel had occurred on the 20th. Had he lived six months longer he would have been sent as minister to France, for such appears to have been President Tyler's intention.

Senator Waggaman's children were: (1) Henry St. John, who became a lawyer and died at an early age; (2) Christine, who married Sanfield McDonald, the first prime minister of Ontario, Canada, and who refused the order of knighthood offered by Queen Victoria; (3) Eugene, the subject of the present sketch; (4) Mathilde, who married Judge Henry D. Ogden; (5) Eliza, who married John R. Conway, and (6) Camille, who died in youth.

Eugene Waggaman was educated at Mount St. Mary's College, Maryland, and graduated from there as valedictorian of the class of 1846.

Returning to this State from school, he took charge of his mother's and his own sugar plantation in Jefferson Parish, and at the age of twenty-five years married Miss Felicie Sauve, the daughter of Pierre Sauve, of the same parish. During the years 1858-59 he was a member of the State Legislature which called the Constitutional Convention. In the next year the war had come. With the martial blood of his ancestors tingling in his veins, he at once prepared for the fight. He raised in his own parish a company of cavalry known as the Jefferson Chasseurs. These were the young men of the plantations, accustomed to the saddle from infancy and perfect masters of their animals. Being chosen their captain, he went on to Montgomery, the seat of the Confederate government, and offered the services of his company.

The value of cavalry was not appreciated by the new government. The Virginia campaigns had not yet happened to teach them the lesson. The cavalry was declined as too costly to support, and Captain Waggaman was compelled to return and so declare to his men. But he was determined. He asked the company to fight on foot, but not one man complied. Coming to New Orleans he enlisted as a private in the 10th Louisiana Regiment, commanded by his cousin, Colonel Mandeville Marigny. Before the regiment left he became captain of the Tirailleurs d'orleans, a company composed in large measure of [183] foreigners—Greeks, Italians, Indians, Spaniards, and representatives of all the southern European nations. To drilling and molding this strange mass he devoted himself with telling effect, and to the end they were amongst the most loyal to the cause.

The 10th Louisiana went to Virginia and shared in all the battles of the retreat. Promotion was rapid in the regiment, where, out of the forty officers allowed it at one time, thirty-one were killed or wounded. So not many months of active service had been seen by the regiment before Captain Waggaman was made lieutenant-colonel, commanding the 10th Louisiana.

On the 1st of July, 1862, came the battle of Malvern Hill, and with it came glory and fame to the 10th. The story of the battle is well known, but the account of ‘that charge, less famous, but equally as desperate as that of Balaklava,’ will bear repetition. The following narrative of it is taken from the ‘Military Record of Louisiana,’ by the late lamented Napier Bartlett, published some fifteen years ago, viz:

‘A daring attempt in the first place had been made to flank Malvern Hill, but this movement had been met by a superior flanking party of the enemy. The brigade now pressed forward across the open field fronting Malvern Hill, with the ardor of young soldiers panting for their first laurels, and ignorant of the madness which had doomed so many of their numbers to cruel wounds or certain death. As they advance the troops on the flank give way, though all of Semmes' brigade continued on gallantly, in spite of the waning light. When within 500 yards of the Federals, the brigade reformed, and the desperate cry rang out: ‘Fix bayonets—charge!’—commands almost equivalent to a death sentence. But with the natural ardor of the troops from the Pelican State, the men labored up the crest of the plateau, immediately in front of thirty-three pieces of artillery. Up the hill they go at a double-quick. Colonel Waggaman jumping imprudently far in advance of the regiment, but the men tearing on after him. On the last fifty yards of the charge comes the strain. It lasts but five minutes. In that time 127 men are lost out of 272. So withering was the storm of shell and bullets with which they were received, that at one time they walked over a whole regiment who were lying down, colors and all, and who appeared in the dusky twilight to be so many corpses. Onward still the little band pursued its way, although unsupported by other troops, until it crossed bayonets with the Federal infantry.’ [184]

It thus happened (one of the rarest occurrences of the war) that the whole of the 10th Louisiana engaged in a bayonet struggle along almost the entire line, with a force fifteen times greater than their own number. The advanced line of the Federals having been driven back the 10th finds itself among the cannoneers. While Dean, a brave Irishman, was receiving his death wound at the side of the leader of the 10th by a bayonet through the neck, the latter succeeded in knocking up the muskets in his immediate front and in cutting a path as far as the second line of the enemy's artillery. His death seemed inevitable. Cries of ‘kill him,’ ‘bayonet him,’ sounded on all sides. His command, which it may be said in passing, had been ordered forward by a military error, and never for a moment had a ghost of a chance of success, were of course nearly all killed or captured by the formidable line in their immediate front. Those of the 10th who succeeded in stumbling back over the bodies of their fallen comrades owed their escape to the darkness.

Colonel Waggaman was captured and with some sixteen others, including Captain I. L. Lyons, was taken to Fort Warren, near Boston, where they remained until exchanged. They were everywhere treated with courtesy, and one pleasant incident, at least, mingled softening remembrances with those of his imprisonment. Just before his capture he had thrown away his sword to prevent surrendering it. This was a weapon valuable both for the quality of its steel, its make and the fact that it had been in use by the family for over 150 years. At the exchange this sword was returned to him by Assistant-Adjutant-General Thomas, who had been specially commissioned to do so.

After the exchange Colonel Waggaman was sent back to Louisiana as a recruiting officer, but was shortly afterwards recalled to Virginia by special order of General Lee. He took Stafford's command of the 2d Louisiana Brigade. He did brilliant fighting in the second valley campaign. He was wounded in the forearm at Winchester, but even while suffering from his inflamed wound continued in command. At Petersburg he led the 2d Brigade in another desperate charge, and again saw perilous action when the brigades were covering the retreat.

Then Appomattox and surrender came. There it was Colonel Waggaman's sad honor to surrender all that was left of the 16,000 men who composed the Louisiana brigades. When they had been drawn up in ranks for the ceremony Colonel Waggaman begged of them the privilege of becoming the depository of a piece of the brigade's [185] battle-flag. This was willingly granted. The flag had to be surrendered, but a piece could be taken from it. With that sword which had saved his life at Malvern Hill he cut a section, including the lateral side and two stars. This he has sacredly preserved, with the same old saddle-bag and papers in which it was placed, to be transmitted as his most valuable heirloom to his children. Only one person has ever induced him to part with a portion of it. That one was the daughter of his old commander—Miss Mildred Lee. He gave her, some twelve years ago, a small piece, including one of the stars, and in return received a splendid portrait of her father.

At Appomattox every respect was shown the Louisiana soldiers. At the surrender they marched with heads as erect as ever. When they impinged on the line of the conquering enemy the victors shouldered arms with grave faces, on which was neither smile nor cynicism, nor suggestion of the defeat of their adversaries.

Colonel Waggaman returned to New Orleans with the remnant of the Louisiana troops. His fortune was shattered, but he set manfully to work to repair it. He was elected at one time to the office of civil sheriff of this parish, and always took an active share in politics as a becoming citizen.

His wife and four sons and two daughters survive the deceased. The sons are William, Albert, Charles and Frank, the first two mentioned being married, and the daughters are Mrs. Thomas E. Waggaman, of Washington, and Mrs. Mamie Birne, of Wilmington, Delaware.

For the past year or so of his life, the Colonel was engaged in experimenting upon a small farm he possessed near Lake Charles, in the hope that he might make it profitable, and it was during this period that he exposed himself injudiciously to the weather, and to too great hardships for a man of his age. The experiment was not successful, the railroad being too far away from his farm to enable him to operate it to advantage.

One of the touching incidents of his late years happened at the time of the Veteran Reunion in Houston. One of the men who had been in his command at Malvern Hill proposed to go to this reunion and one of the great plans he had in connection with it, was to wear the sword his chief had thrown away at Malvern Hill, rather than have it captured. The Colonel accomodated him, but he said: ‘Only once in its history since I have had it, has it parted company from me. Take it, and be sure that it gets back to me safe. I could hardly refuse it to one who had followed it so gallantly as you. But,’ [186] added the Colonel, with emphasis, ‘if it doesn't come back to me safe, be careful that you do not come back.’ His old soldier comrade lived in a distant parish, and so impressed was he with the earnestness of his former commander's words, that he was afraid to trust it to the express company or any messenger, and it was only when one of the Colonel's sons by accident happened to be in his portion of the State, that he hunted him up and asked if he was quite sure that he could bring the sword safely back to the Colonel, if he were entrusted with it. [From the Richmond (Va.) Enquirer, May 10, 1871.]

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