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Chapter 27:

  • Appomattox
  • -- Louisiana infantry and artillery at the surrender -- after Appomattox -- the President's bodyguard -- the State's total enrollment -- the Chaplalns -- the Sacrifices of the women -- conclusion.

At midnight of April 2, 1865, the army of Northern Virginia turned from the lines of Petersburg it had so long and heroically defended. What remained of it passed over the pontoon bridges, each man sternly watching for the enemy in his rear. The army reached Appomattox Court House on April 8th. In its ranks of scarred and maimed veterans were the Louisiana troops, who held together in brigade organization, and the artillery with their guns.

The Washington artillery at the last sacrificed their guns when what was doing in Major McLean's house was flashed through the armies, not yet quite through with fighting here and there. Gordon and Sheridan had passed the forenoon in filling the air of Appomattox with noise of battle. On April 9th the artillery battalion went up to Longstreet on the hill for orders. ‘Turn into that field on your right and park your guns,’ said Longstreet. The battery so long in their hands, so often an instrument of power and defiance, was parked in ‘that field on the right,’ there to be forever separated from its gunners, to whom each gun was dear as friend and noisy comrade.

The Louisiana brigade was at Appomattox—all there was of it! Lieut.-Col. W. M. Owen had been ordered with his guns to report at the Brown house, where General Gordon was. Gordon said: ‘Major, you are from Louisiana; [281] I will send you the Louisiana brigade to support your guns.’ Naturally the fittest support of a Louisiana battery would be Louisiana infantry. Now, through the pines the Louisiana brigade comes marching, with the stalwart Col. Wm. R. Peck striding at their head. Can these be Louisiana's two brigades?—this gathering of men too proud to hide their ranks? Only 250 men out of that superb organization which had carried upon their bayonet spikes far and wide the valor of the Louisiana infantry! The men still marched with a swing, but there was no covering, no hiding, no pushing out of sight the shortness of the jagged line. All changed—numbers, organization, faces also, gallant fighters once there no longer here—all, all, save the great unconquered heart of the Louisiana brigade which had contained them all! To this same brigade, under Gordon's command, fell the signal honor of making the last infantry charge at Appomattox Court House. Ordered to advance upon a swarm of enemies, they stemmed with their weakness the assaults so successfully that Gordon, in calling them back from the slaughter, complimented them upon the courage displayed under circumstances so adverse. The spirit so triumphantly shown at Cemetery hill had passed into that slender line and for one supreme moment made it irresistible.

A still higher compliment was paid by one who, himself a distinguished Georgia soldier, had often seen them in action. This was Brig.-Gen. Clement A. Evans, for some time their division commander. General Evans from ‘Headquarters, Appomattox C. H., April 11, 1865,’ addressed the Louisiana brigade, through Colonel Waggaman, commanding, in terms eloquent with feeling and expression. Coming from one whose courage and skill had become known on every field in Virginia, and presented at a time when the curtain was falling for the last time upon the cause and upon those who loved it, his words touched to the quick the sensibilities of brave men: [282] ‘To you, Colonel, and to my brother officers and brother soldiers of Hays' and Stafford's brigades, I claim to say that you can carry with you the proud consciousness that in the estimation of your commanders, you have done your duty. Tell Louisiana, when you reach her shores, that her sons in the army of Northern Virginia have made her illustrious upon every battleground from the First Manassas to the last desperate blow struck by your command on the hill of Appomattox; and tell her that, as in the first, so in the last, the enemy fled before the valor of your charging lines.’

The record of the services of both Louisiana infantry and artillery is now made out to their last battle. That record cannot be safely impeached. The ceremonies of surrender were simple but most impressive, by reason of their very simplicity. With the carnage of the whole four years behind them stand the representatives of two mighty armies. On this day, April 9, 1865, a chasm long yawning was filled. Between Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant rose, supreme, the humanities of God!

President Jefferson Davis, having left Richmond on the night of April 2d, proceeded to Charlotte, N. C. While in that city, the news of President Lincoln's assassination came to fill him with horror—a horror which he never ceased strongly to express during the remainder of his long and eminent life. He finally resolved to cross over to the Trans-Mississippi department. On his way to Washington, Ga., he was protected by a bodyguard of honorable veterans drawn from every State in the Confederacy. Each man of the escort felt himself honored by the high trust confided to his sense of patriotism. It was after his separation from his escort that the President was captured by Wilson's raiders. Fidelity, when extended to him to whom it is justly due, resembles the ‘stars of Friedland’ that shine best in the blackest night. Each member of the President's bodyguard [283] could claim a part of this fidelity. One of Louisiana's representatives in this guard of old soldiers was Theodore J. Dimitry, of New Orleans, in war a fearless member of the Louisiana Guard artillery; in peace an honored citizen. The following papers attest the services done by Mr. Davis' bodyguard, with the names of the Louisiana members thereof:

Washington, Ga., May 4 1865.
T. J. Dimitry, Louisiana Guard Artillery.
Dear Sir:—In transmitting to you the enclosed letter of thanks from President Davis, for your services with him, it affords me much pleasure to join him in your praise. While under my command as a part of the President's escort, you have always given that ready and willing obedience to all orders which becomes the soldier and the gentleman; and I thank you for it. In this dark hour of our history it is pleasant for you to have the proud satisfaction of knowing that you have done your duty to your country to the very last, until relieved by her chief magistrate himself.

Again thanking you for your kind consideration toward me as your commander, and wishing you prosperity and happiness in life, I remain,

Yours truly,

C. H. Brown, Lieut. Comdg., President's Escort.

Washington, Ga., May 3, 1865.
Lieutenant Brown, Washington Artillery.
My Dear Sir:—The President requests me to return to you his heartfelt thanks for the valuable services rendered him by yourself and the gallant men under your command as part of his escort.

Very truly yours,

Wm. Preston Johnston, Col. and A. D. C.

Names of the Louisianians of President Davis' bodyguard: Charles H. C. Brown, lieutenant commanding Washington artillery; W. G. Coyle, sergeant Third company; J. F. Lilly, corporal Fourth company; T. J. Lazzare, [284] R. McDonald, R. N. Davis, and Webster, privates of Fourth company; R. K. Wilkerson, J. B. McMullan, W. A. McRay, privates of First company, Washington artillery; L. D. Porter, W. R. Payne, C. A. Louque and T. J. Dimitry, of the Louisiana Guard artillery.

We know how the Louisiana troops fought from Bull Run to Appomattox hill, losing a man here and another there, each man's loss making a gap. We have seen through how many fields they passed in victorious peril. We have told more than once of the ‘forlorn hope’ which fell to the Louisianians from trusting commanders, always leaving broads gaps in its train. We know how at Malvern Hill, with Waggaman at their head, in that awful ascent they went up, like Gants Glacees in the war of the Fronde, sweeping on while guns plowed into them from the hill with terrible carnage! We have seen them in that deadly charge at Cemetery hill. We have seen the Louisianians, whenever called upon, make answer, present!1 and charge reckless of danger and laughing at death. Take Manassas as the epoch of Hays' greatest strength, 1,400 men! Now compare Manassas with that thin line which moved triumphantly up Appomattox hill. Only 250 men to speak there, on the crest, for the two brigades which Death had struck so often!

We have, now that the war drums have ceased to beat, and memory alone makes it clear, the contrast to the recapitulation from official sources, which showed how full-ranked with eager youths was the Louisiana contingent of 1861. Then, no gaps were in the ranks.

Recapitulation: Total original enrollment of infantry, 36,243; artillerists, 4,024; cavalry, 10,046; sappers and [285] miners, 276; engineers, 212; signal corps, 76; the New Orleans State Guards, 4,933; grand total, 55,820.

It would be unjust to conclude this work without some mention of those two arms of service which did as much for the Confederacy as the men who fought.

Not a word has been given to that noble body of God's men who were of the army, though not in its ranks. Exposed to the viciousness of bullets, yet never once their object, the priests and ministers of religion should not be left out of any picture of our civil war. Need we write here the name of Fathers Darius Hubert and Turgis; of that prayerful giant, Rev. B. M. Palmer; of the beloved Markham, Purser, Bakewell, and a long and shining line of others? To speak of Confederate battlefields is to invoke their presence. Their spirits haunt them all to bless them, and to sanctify the ground once given up entire to slaughter.

Our women were the unmustered militia of the State. On no roster did eyes see their names for war service; yet never did war's roster contain names of those who would have done more for the cause and its demands. Brave as their brothers they stood forward, cheering them, and in a hundred sweet ways keeping their enthusiasm at boiling point. They did not ‘go out to the war,’ but without them the army would surely have been without many of its heroes. Could it have become necessary that upon one man depended the performance of Confederate duty, be sure that a Flora McIvor would not have been found wanting in Louisiana. Bred in luxury, reared in refinement, circumstances as a rule called out the more womanly forms of courage. Yet in many of our Louisiana girls, city-bred and country-born alike, lay, undetected under their charm, the strong, patriotic purpose of a Helen McGregor.

When war raised a loud cry for need, Beauregard was calling upon his sisters who spoke French and his other sisters who spoke English to send him metal for his guns. [286] Quick to the melter and blacksmith's forge! Are these your fretted brass candelabra, madame? Brought across seas and handed down from one generation to the next, you say? What of that? Beauregard calls, his need will not brook delay. This tall, slender, lily-cupped candlestick, too, in the young girl's chamber, let it be brought out! and those massive polished andirons Dorcas has been so proud of. From the house to the quarters one very short step. Take down the metal bell that rings the plantation signals! Look well around now; perhaps you have some sonorous ram's or cow's horn to echo through the quarters? That might do duty instead.

And how these women prayed! Just Heaven! The churches might open early, but our women were earlier. In the dawn, see the anxious souls. Anxious—yes, their hearts outstrip the hour to claim Heaven's protection for the soldier son, husband or father! Before the altars the candles used to burn brightly and steadily as the faith that placed them there, and the burden of prayer that rose from the heart of the kneeling worshiper, and went up with the burning incense, was evermore the same: ‘Ay de mi! ay de mi! God guard our beloved ones and bless our cause!’

The men to-day are only the youth that went out a generation ago. The years added have capped them with honors which Time gives to all true men. With hair whiter than black, we meet our veterans daily on our streets. Their step is still firm; their eye still clear; the grasp of their hands and the roll of their voices as natural as the lads' who went to fight.

From Memorial Hall on Camp street, raised by the munificence of Frank T. Howard, a veteran's son, has sprung a noble tree of brotherhood, with four stalwart branches. Call them the Army of Northern Virginia, the Army of Tennessee, and the Ex-Confederate Cavalry. See them swelling with the quick sap of brotherhood! [287]

With these, since June 10, 1889, the United Confederate Veterans were organized for purposes ‘strictly social, literary, historical and benevolent.’ Gen. John B. Gordon, of Georgia, who was the first commander of the new organization, is still happily in command. Since his appointment, the Louisiana division of the order has elected each year a major-general for the State. The list has been W. J. Behan (twice), John Glynn, Jr., John O. Watts, B. F. Eshleman, W. G. Vincent, John McGrath, E. H. Lombard.

Each year the sturdy tree of ex-Confederates rises higher and broader in the city's sky. In its tinier upper branches we recognize hopefully the ‘Sons of Veterans,’ who are proud of what their fathers did. These lads, clear-eyed and cheery-voiced, will keep that tree fresh while loving ‘Old Glory’ with ardent young heart. Nor will they fail to recall, with a subtle feeling of blood-ownership, that battleflag which in days of storm fluttered, star-crossed, over charging lines sweeping to victory; or, nailed to the masthead, went down in the bloody waves with the Alabama, off Cherbourg. It went down not in shame, but in honor, broad as the world which had looked on amazed. In birth, a foundling; in age, a child; in strength, a giant greater than Pantagruel; in glory, it was what the gray-coats who died where it floated had, full of love for it, made it. ‘It hath no speech nor language,’ but, had either been given to it, it would thus speak to the world:

Not long unfurled was I known,
     For Fate was against me;
But I flashed over a Pure Cause,
     And on Land and Sea
So fired the hearts of Men into Heroism
     That the World honored me.
Within my folds the Dead who died under them
     Lie fitly shrouded;
And my tattered Colors,
     Crowded with a thousand shining Victories,
Have become,
     For the People who love me,
A Glorified Memory.

1 Even as these words are written, a call flashes from the Potomac to our battalion of Washington artillery. That word has met prompt response from gallant volunteers, eager to fight under their country's flag in the dense thickets of Cuba. No coincidence can furnish a nobler lesson of patriotic hope than this. As the fathers fought against the Stars and Stripes, so will the sons, with equal ardor and singleness of zeal, load their pieces for the flag.

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