THE CIVIL WAR IN MADISON PARISH
The Madison Journal Centennial Issue August 14, 1975, Section III
(Slightly modified from original Ė Richard P. Sevier)
Parish, with itís planter aristocracy, cotton economy and complete dependence
on slave labor had as much to lose from abolitionism as did any other parish or
county in the Confederacy. A nine to one black majority-but no one needed to
see the Census figures. They knew what Lincoln's Republicans had to offer them
- a gun or a ballot In the hand of an illiterate former slave. It didn't matter
call was undeniable. Madison responded with money, fighting men and fervent
patriotism. Yet it was not prepared for the realities of war, or for the two
Union bloodhounds, Grant and Sherman, who descended the river sniffing after
and Sherman - inventors of a new type of war unfamiliar to Madisonians. It was
war which involved the unpitying destruction of civilian property.
Gettysburg, Atlanta, and Appomattox, the people of Madison Parish could see
what the war would mean for them. There wasn't going to be much left when the
before secession was formalized, the military companies were being organized.
Immediately after the secession convention, the state legislature set up a
military board and appropriated half a million dollars to equip and arm
companies with at least 30 men.
attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call to arms convinced many that there was
no hope for peace. Madison's sons began forming and joining companies in
droves. Most of them saw the war as "an outing for dashing young officers
in splendid uniforms, inspired to deeds of valor by patriotic maidens (in Dr.
Anderson's words)." [Note: Dr. Anderson edited the book "Brokenburn
- The Journal of Kate Stone 1861-68"]
were as eager for the promotions and prestige of being a soldier as they were
for serving their new nation. They knew the war could not last long. Yankees
were incapable of learning to use a gun or of mustering enough courage to
fight. Besides they were insolvent and could not pay for an expensive war. Many
young soldiers were driven by the fear that when the war was over, they would
not be able to say they had seen fighting.
course, there was many a farmer and overseer that "a rich man's son's too
good to fight the battles of the rich." They were partly correct, for some
planters, realizing the danger more than most, refused at first to allow their
sons to leave. But, all in all, Madison was one of a few parishes to furnish
both more men and more money than the state requested.
of the earliest companies to attract volunteers from Madison Parish was the
Carroll Guards of Carroll Parish. A number of companies were formed in Madison
Parish, a surprising act considering Madison's sparse white population. Some
better-populated parishes furnished only one company, or none at all. Units
formed in Madison Parish included the Madison Dragoons, Macon Cavalry, Madison
Infantry, Madison Cavalry, Madison Light Artillery, Madison Company, Millikenís
Bend Guards and Madison Tipperaries.
last group, the Madison Tips, no doubt upset some local notions about foreign
immigrants. It was made up of Irishman from Country Tipperary in Ireland. They
had been working on the levee until May, 1861, when a shortage of levee funds
threatened them with unemployment. They enlisted and formed the Madison Tips.
The Tips are said to have been famous fighters who "relished a melee for
its own sake." When not fighting the enemy, they fought each other. No
doubt they proved to be fearsome soldiers.
immigrants, whom so many Madison planters had feared, were some of the most
patriotic Southerners. Probably the most famous Confederate officer to emerge
from the parish was an immigrant, Dr. Henry Wirz.
slaves also went to the confederate side of the battlefield - not to fight, but
to relieve their masters of such domestic drudgery as cooking, washing, sewing
and caring for the horses. Occasionally the master would have to be left sick
or wounded at a country house; the slave would stay behind and care for him.
state could not financially support the every increasing number of military
companies. The Madison Parish Police Jury was one of those which came to the
aid of the state by helping equip companies. Individual planters contributed
large sums, and sewing societies helped furnish badly needed uniforms. After
cloth became scarce, they knitted gloves for the soldiers.
the end of 1861, most of the Madison men who wanted to fight -- and that was a
great many -- and were of age, had already left for the front. Their companies
were far away in Virginia, Missouri and other states. The threat to the
Mississippi River was becoming more apparent, and Madison Parish was left undefended.
this made the women and children very uneasy, it was no doubt a good thing. A
small contingent of stubborn local men fighting for their homes against the
inevitable Federal occupation would have made the destruction that did occur
take place sooner before Madisonians had a chance to prepare for it. Certainly
the lives lost would have equaled in magnitude the destruction of property.
the lack of "men folk" on the plantations created an immediate
problem: who was to handle the slaves, who naturally grew jumpy and
insubordinate with the real or imagined approach of Federal troops (from the
beginning of the war, many slaves were certain they would soon be freed). To
relieve this problem, the state provided that one white man on each plantation
could be exempted from military service.
made non-slave owners feel they were being discriminated against. To encourage
these people to volunteer the Police Jury offered $80 to anyone joining the
parish's new companies. An additional $15 was to be paid each month to the
soldier's family. Many parishes had bounty systems, but few were as liberal as
Madison's. It is doubtful whether the Jury continued its $15 payments for very
long. No one serving the Confederacy was regularly paid; few expected to be.
conscription law making all able-bodied white male citizens between the ages of
18 and 35 liable to serve in the Confederate army was passed by the Confederate
Congress on April 16, 1862. These conscripts were not eligible for bounties.
According to Kate Stone, author of Brokenburn, there were many
"stay-at-homes" in the parish who that it would not be enforced. Kate
hoped they were wrong, and angrily excoriated these "fireside
braves." She gained the reputation probably exaggerated, of refusing to speak
to anyone who wasnít a solider.
more bitter pill to swallow was the fall of New Orleans in April. Gov. Moore
ordered that all cotton in Madison Parish, and other areas in danger of enemy
occupation, be destroyed to keep it out o enemy hands. Some planters were able
to haul their cotton to safety west of the Tensas River and Bayou Macon. Most
did not have the time or means of transportation to do this, and they complied
with the governor's order.
along the Mississippi River, cotton fires lit up the skies. The slow-burning
bales were cut open and doused with liquor to help them burn. Kate Stone
watched sadly as $20,000 worth of her mother's cotton went up in smoke. It was
a grim reminder that soon Federal gunboats would be at their doorstep. "Fair
Louisiana," she cried, "with her fertile fields of cane, and cotton,
her many bayous and dark, old forests, lies powerless at the feet of the
smoke of the burning cotton had not quite died from the air when Natchez, MISS.
surrendered to Commander S. P. Lee of the Union Navy. Lee, with six gunboats
and troops under the command of General Thomas Williams, pushed on to
Vicksburg. He was joined there on May 18 by Admiral David Farragut; together
they demanded the surrender of Vicksburg. The city refused.
was furiously setting up defenses. Eight thousand Confederate soldiers had been
quickly drawn from Louisiana and Mississippi to man the citadel, and eight or
ten heavy guns were mounted on the high bluff overlooking the river. The people
of Madison Parish were delighted at the city's bold stand and hoped it would
fight to the last, but they did not understand the reason for it. They were
sure Vicksburg could not hold out for long.
Federals had more respect for Vicksburg than did the Confederates. General
Williams didn't think he had enough troops to attack the fortress. Admiral
Farragut, nervously eyeing Vicksburg's artillery, abandoned the idea of trying
to run past the city. Both officers returned downriver, leaving six gunboats to
harass the city.
Federals returned to Vicksburg in late June, bringing a fleet of gunboats,
mortars, and over 3,000 troops. On June 29 they attempted to run past the
Vicksburg batteries. Confederate gunners blazed away at the slow-moving fleet,
splintering masts, damaging hulls, and finding human targets, while befuddled
Union gunners fired more often at exploding shells than at real targets.
all except three ships had reached safety above the batteries by sunrise. They
had prayed that the section of the Mississippi by Vicksburg was not impassable.
Yet as long as the Vicksburg guns remained effective, the way was not clear for
any large-scale Union action on the river.
that realization, the Union began a series of engineering ventures which proved
to be some of the most costly and useless efforts of the entire war. General
Williams set his men to digging a cut-off canal a mile and a quarter long
across a peninsula of Madison Parish directly opposite Vicksburg. The ditch was
named Young's Point canal after the spot from which it began.
Union engineers believed that a ditch four to six feet wide and about five feet
deep would divert the channel of the river, and that the rushing waters would
dredge out a canal deep enough to admit any ship. There would be far less
danger in using this route than in sailing directly under the guns of the city.
If all went well and the expected "June rise" came, the course of the
Mississippi would be diverted and Vicksburg would be left an inland city, with
her batteries useless.
hundred Negroes were confiscated from nearby plantations and set to work
cutting down trees, removing roots and digging in the hard clay with shovels.
Though they had no shelter at night and little to eat, the Negroes laughed and
shouted at their work having been told that they were "earning their
freedom." While Williams' men wilted in the oppressive heat, the sweating
July 11 the ditch had reached an average width of 18 feet and was 13 feet deep,
or about one-and-a-half feet below the level of the river. Preparations to let
in the water were hastened, but suddenly the banks began to cave, and the work
had to be temporarily abandoned. After digging furiously for three days,
Williams was disheartened to find the river falling faster than his men could
General was determined to make the canal a success. He sent soldiers up and
down the parish gathering Negro workers, food and anything else they liked.
Some planters moved or sent their Negroes to Bayou Macon and beyond. Others
whiled away their time visiting, giving fish fries and picnics, and playing
chess, backgammon and cards, ignoring the presence of danger and the
nerve-wracking, continuous roar of the cannons at Vicksburg.
Farragut had much to worry him during the long, hot July days. The greatest and
most immediate menace to his fleet was the recently completed Confederate ram,
the "Arkansas"' which was. anchored up the Yazoo River. The Arkansas
was 160 feet long and 35 feet wide, and wore an armor of railroad iron 4.5
Arkansas entered the Mississippi River just above Vicksburg on the morning of
July 15. It ran through the gantlet of the combined forces of Commander Charles
Davis, Admiral Farragut, and the ram fleet under Col. Alfred W. Ellet. The
Union vessels were unable to build up sufficient steam to move and remained
anchored in their original positions, pouring their broadsides into the ram.
an hour the Arkansas drifted slowly down the long line of Union gunboats, rams,
mortars and allied vessels, taking their fire and returning it with full
measure. Miraculously, the Arkansas reached the protection of the upper
batteries and was now safe to move directly to Vicksburg. The entire lower
fleet panicked and fled downstream. One mortar caught fire and blew up.
Infantry regiments camped on the Louisiana shore set fire to their stores,
stampeded to their transports, and ran down the river,.
by that time the Arkansas was too damaged to attack. Its armor plate and one of
its engines had taken a severe beating. Frustrated and angry, Farragut devised
plans to finish it off. At dawn on July 22 he sent the formidable ironclad ram
"Essex," commanded by W. D. Porter, to strike the Arkansas.. The
"Essex" both inflicted and received damage, and finally was forced to
seek refuge with the lower fleet.
thereafter, the ram "Queen of the West," commanded by Col. Ellet,
appeared and ran head on into the Arkansas. It rammed the Confederate vessel
twice more, shaking up both ships but inflicting no real damage. By this time
the Queen had been struck over 20 times by shot and shells and was much cut up.
Col. Ellet abandoned his attack and made a run for safety back to the upper
humiliated by this lone Confederate ship, was ready to give up and return to
the Gulf. Meanwhile, Gen. Williams' first canal attempt had proven a failure,
and he was busy digging a new ditch. The unacclimatized Northerners continued
to suffer from the torrid midsummer heat and from swarms of malarial
men, alternately seared with burning fever and racked by chills, overtaxed
every hospital facility. Every inch of space aboard the transports had to be
used as a sick bay, and the supply of quinine was soon exhausted. For weeks the
men had nothing to drink except the muddy waters of the Mississippi, and
nothing to eat but salt pork and moldy hardtack.
army career man and a graduate from West Point, Williams worshipped discipline
and was disgusted with the frailties of his men. Determined to toughen them so
that they could weather the broiling sun, he ordered daily drills with full
knapsacks. Reported Captain O'Brien of the Ninth Connecticut: "I saw men
drop out of line exhausted, and when we returned many of them would be dead.
This drill and parading was done when the thermometer registered 110 to 115 in
conditioning exercise failed. By mid-July over 1,500 men (half the force) were
either dead or too sick to work. Men who died were wrapped in army blankets and
buried in the levee without any type of funeral ceremony. Finally the whole
project was given up. The entire Union force, including Farragut, Williams and
his emaciated men, left for Baton Rouge on July 24.
had promised Negro laborers their freedom. Many had gladly left wives and
children behind to work on the canal. Now the general went back on his word and
deserted them, leaving them gathered on the levee shrieking with woe as the
boats moved down the river.
citizens of Madison Parish had known all along that Williams' canal project
could not succeed. It had been started at a point where the river current
flowed away from the shore, and extended at the wrong angle. Even if the ditch
had been deeper than the level of the river, it still would not have diverted
the river's course. They had been highly amused at this dubious example of
mystifying was the Union forces' failure to attack Vicksburg while it had so
few men in its garrison. The city now had time to make itself almost
impregnable to assault. Such was the logic of war that Vicksburg would stand
another year against the Union forces and would cost thousands of lives before
it finally fell.
Confederates were once again in complete control of Madison Parish. The parish
was more or less safe for the rest of the year. Yet occasionally something
would happen to demonstrate the power of the Union forces over the area. On the
night of August 18, Federal gunboats slipped down the river and completely
surprised a Confederate steamer, the Fair Play, which was loading its cargo of
guns and ammunition at Milliken's Bend.
next day Federal gunboats landed above DeSoto (the terminus of the railroad,
directly across the river from Vicksburg) and sent a detachment over to
Tallulah to cut the railroad. They burned the depot of the V. S & T.
Railroad at Tallulah and captured Confederate supplies awaiting shipment. The
31st Louisiana Regiment stationed there fled for their lives.
like these caused many planters to pack up and move to Arkansas or Texas in
this interim. No one, however, could escape the effects of the Union blockade.
Madisonians were plagued with shortages of flour, molasses, clothing, medicine
and other essentials.
early as 1842, James M. Downes, editor of the Richmond Compiler, had
warned parish citizens of the danger of being economically dependent on their
potential enemies. They had not listened, and now had to pay the price.
"In proportion as we have been a race of haughty, indolent, and waited-on
people," wrote Kate Stone in 1862, "so now are we ready to do away
with all forms and work and wait on ourselves."
shot up phenomenally on everything, and some items could not be had in southern
stores at any price. Meanwhile, occupation forces challenged southern pride by
offering goods at ridiculously low prices. Of course the patriotism of some
Madisonians did not stand up under the temptation. Others did their best with
what they had, and what they came up with shows that ingenuity is not limited
example, substitutes for flour that were tried included rice flour, cornmeal,
hominy, pea-meal, sorghum flour, "pumpkin bread," acorns, persimmons,
clover and lilies.
made "okra coffee" out of okra seed, after experimenting with parched
potatoes, parched pindars, burned meal and roasted acorns.
ink" was made from the bark of magnolia, dogwood, red or white oak, the
rind of pomegranate, elderberries or green persimmons. Homemade shoe blacking,
"just as shiny as the old bought blacking," was a mixture of soot or
lampblack and molasses, egg whites, and vinegar, with oils and sometimes
shortage difficult for many southern women to accept was the lack of clothing. As
a whole, they were not exceptionally skilled in sewing; their clothes were the
best New Orleans had to offer. Now, as Kate Stone put it, "fashion is an
obsolete word and just to be decently clad is all we expect."
described the making of shoes: "We cut up an old pair of gaiters and
slippers for a pattern. We make the uppers of broadcloth, velvet, or any strong
black goods we can get, and the shoemaker for the Negroes puts on the soles.
They are not to say elegant looking but we are delighted be able to make them,
and they are far better than bare feet."
the remaining Madison families worried about shoes and other necessities, Union
leaders were making plans for the area. They wanted to split the Confederacy by
taking complete control of the Mississippi River, and they realized that to do
that, they would have to take Vicksburg.
first steps in devising a new strategy were taken in October, 1862, when
Admiral David Porter was placed in command of the Union naval forces on the Mississippi,
and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was given command of the Union land forces involved
in the effort.
held a conference with Gen. William T. Sherman that December. They worked out
plans for a combined move against Vicksburg. Their first plan was to attack the
city from the north and west. Grant would take his army down from Tennessee to
Jackson, Miss., and then move to the rear of Vicksburg. With the aid of
Porter's fleet, Sherman would descend the river to Chickasaw Bluffs north of
Vicksburg, and aid Grant when he finally arrived.
began his part of the plan on December 20. He had an armada of transports under
his command, including some fifty regiments, ten batteries, sixty guns, and
about 32,000 men.. Before dawn on Christmas day the troops landed in Madison
Parish at Milliken's Bend.
Sherman was a division under Gen. A.. J. Smith. Smith had orders to seize
control of the railroad opposite Vicksburg and stop the flow of supplies from
west of the river. On Christmas morning, part of Smith's command set out for
Dallas station, which was where Tendal is now. They destroyed the 200-foot
wooden railroad bridge spanning the Tensas.
small detachment destroyed the Delhi station and the bridge over Bayou Macon
the next day. Smith and his men returned to the river, having accomplished
their mission and having met no resistance anywhere. In all, they had destroyed
several cotton gins, railroad depots, bridges and the Negro quarters on one
plantation. In addition, they had captured 300 head of cattle, 200 horses and
mules, and 75 Negro slaves.
however, found it impossible to take Chickasaw Bluffs. The Confederate guns
stationed there forced him back each time he tried to break through. On Jan. 1
he turned his command over to General John McClernand.
strategy wasn't working either. His idea was to meet Confederate Gen. John
Pemberton, commander at Vicksburg, out in the field and defeat him, easily
taking over Vicksburg. But Confederate Generals Earl Van Dorn and Nathan
Bedford Forrest destroyed his lines of communication and supply. Grant had to
withdraw back to Memphis.
this withdrawal, Grant committed himself to a river campaign against Vicksburg.
Already denounced by northern newspapers, the general was under pressure to
prove his worth as a commander. The Union desperately needed a new victory.
Determined to give it one, Grant moved to Milliken's Bend to take personal
charge of the operations there. McClernand, Sherman, and James B. McPherson
were appointed. his corps commanders.
Union officers in Madison Parish wore a curious mixture of ambition, pride,
jealousy, resourcefulness and real fighting spirit. McClernand, for example,
was angry with Grant for taking over his troops and assigning him to a less
recently married general had brought his new bride along on the expedition to
share with him the honor of a brilliant victory over Vicksburg. He tried
Grant's patience with his delaying tactics and near insubordination. McClernand
spent most of his time honeymooning at Perkins' plantation.
Porter, Commander of the Union naval forces around Vicksburg, was given to
exaggeration and boastfulness. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton accused Porter of
being a "gas bag. - - , blowing his own trumpet and stealing credit which
belongs to others." He was reckless, resourceful, goaded by ambition, and
possessed abundant energy; these qualities, though occasionally getting him
into trouble, served him well in the trying time ahead.
Sherman, who later gained fame for his destructive march through Georgia, was
quite familiar with Louisiana. At the time of secession he was superintendent
of Louisiana Seminary of Learning, later known as Louisiana State University.
When the state withdrew from the Union he quit his post and returned to his
home in Ohio.
West Point graduate of 1840, William T. Sherman had had a speckled military
career. Having served as a colonel in Virginia and at a brigadier general in
Kentucky, he had yet to display any marked talents for leadership. He was
relieved from command in Kentucky for being beset by haIIucinations and
Sherman later began a new climb to success at Shiloh and Corinth under Grant.
Yet his continued advancement depended on the success of the Vicksburg venture
which had begun unfavorable.
a man, Sherman was an eccentric mixture of strength and weakness. Although he
was impatient, often irritable and depressed, petulant, headstrong, and
unreasonable gruff, be had solid soldierly qualities. His men swore by him and
most of his fellow officers admired him.
too, was on trial at Vicksburg. He was at the turning point of his career.
After outstanding victories at Fort Donelson and Shiloh in 1862, Grant had
fallen from public attention and favor. His retreat from Mississippi and rumors
that he was foundering in the overflowed lands of Louisiana, and would probably
fail at Vicksburg caused many people to assign Grant to a class with McClellan,
Buell, and other Union rejects.
critics besieged President Lincoln, accusing Grant of being a habitual
drunkard, of needlessly wasting men in battle, and of committing stupid
maneuvers. The President listened but chose to withhold judgement until after
Grant had been given sufficient time to prove himself. After all, Grant was a
fighting man, and commanders who were not afraid to fight were somewhat rare in
the Union army at that time.
was a modest, honest and judicial man, direct in all his thoughts and ways. He
never cursed nor seemed to lose control of his temper. Although quiet and hard
to know, he loved a humorous story and the company of his friends.
many leaders, military or otherwise, do when they are stuck in a troublesome
situation, Grant opted for the least dangerous course. Attacking the enemy
directly could lead to a few defeats which the general could not afford.
Instead, he provided the north with an engineering spectacle, the progress of
which the people could follow day by day, thus diverting their minds from
Grant's immediate, dismal prospects.
general sent McClernand to Young's Point, just above Delta Point. McClernand's
orders: resume work on the canal started by General Williams the summer before.
Realizing Williams' mistake in beginning his canal in an eddy, Grant directed
that a new opening be made where the current struck the bank with the most
men met much the same fate that Williams' men had met earlier. While Williams
fought intense heat and malaria, McClernand encountered cold winter rains,
smallpox and pneumonia. Tents were not issued to the troops because they were
within range of the Vicksburg guns, so the more enterprising men dug holes in
the levee and covered them with their black rubber blankets.
of soldiers fell sick, and soon the levee was lined with new graves. McClernand
turned the direction of the canal construction over to Sherman. Privately,
Sherman expressed his view of the project to a Jan. 28 letter to his brother,
John: "Here we are ... at Vicksburg on the wrong side of the river trying
to turn the Miss. by a ditch, a pure waste of human labor. "
Sherman was somewhat disillusioned, the men digging the canal were even more
so. Wrote Sergeant Cyrus F. Boyd: "I do not believe our commanders know
what we are here for. But they will keep the men employed until they can think
belief was justifiable, but it was not the entire truth. Theoretically the
project had a possibility of success. The annual spring rise was just
beginning, and water was flowing into and filling up the canal. Grant knew that
it was futile to try to make Vicksburg an inland city. His prime concern was to
find a way to transport troops below Vicksburg so they could attack the city
from the south.
entire countryside was flooded with two or three feet of water, making it
impossible to move troops through the parish by land. They could not be moved
by boat, either, unless a channel could be dug deep enough. A canal might bring
early success and make Grant a hero. If not, it would keep the men busy and
functioning as a unit until the water receded in April or May, making overland
of men were put to work on the project. Negroes were rounded up from as far
away as Lake Providence and transported to Young's Point to join the labor
force. Racial prejudice ran strong in the Union camp, especially among the
Western men. The men in our camp treat them (the Negroes) worse than
brutes," reported Sergeant Boyd, "and when they come into camp cries
of 'Kill him' etc. are heard on every hand."
canal at Delta proved to be a failure because not enough water emptied from the
river to make it navigable. Grant already had plans for other canals, as
several methods of getting to the rear of Vicksburg were suggested. One
prospect was a canal at Lake Providence, 60 river miles above, linking the
Mississippi with Baxter Bayou.
route would run through Baxter into Bayou Macon, then into the Tensas, Black
and Red Rivers, and finally returning back up the Mississippi. This route would
have been hundreds of miles long. It was also hopeless because of the miles and
miles of trees which would have to be cut in the bayous. In spite of all this,
Grant continued work on the canal through March.
on the Young's Point Canal was still going on when, on March 7, a sudden rise
of the river caused a protective levee to break. The men barely escaped with
their lives. The troops quit work on the project and moved up to Millikenís
Bend, which seemed like paradise compared to the "watery hell of Young's
were beautiful oak groves and lilacs, pecan and fig trees, dewberries in
abundance and, most important, dry land. Officers took over the abandoned
mansions for their own use. Negro quarters were used as hospitals for men still
iII from the grueling experience of Young's Point.
the Young's Point Canal abandoned and the Lake Providence ditch an acknowledged
flop, Grant tried again to gain: the advantage over Vicksburg with military
force. Three times in March he sent Sherman and Porter up the Yazoo River to
try to approach Vicksburg from the north; the expeditions were total failures.
The general turned again to canal-building,
new canal attempt, begun on April 1, was much more practical and sensible than
either of the others, it began at Duckport, -- a little river community a few
miles north of Young's Point in Madison Parish. This canal, only 300 yards
long, would connect the river with a system of bayous in Madison, rejoining the
river at New Carthage. The route would follow Walnut Bayou, Brushy Bayou,
Roundaway Bayou and Bayou Vidal back to the river
area was much healthier than Young's Point. It wasn't underwater to the extent
that the other area had been. Moreover, the surrounding countryside was rich
with plenty of food all the way to New Carthage. Morale Improved, and all
concerned saw this canal as the successful one. All the hand digging was
complete by April 12, and steam dredges were brought in to do the heavier work
of deepening the channels.
needed this route to transport his men to New Carthage. Supplies could be run
by Vicksburg in ironclads, if need be, but the slow moving troop transports
were too easy targets for the Confederate guns.
plan seemed to be working as several tugs and barges were run through the bayou
route. Then the river began a sharp fall, and the depth of water in some of the
bayous sank to only a foot. The boats that were running the route at the time
were trapped and grounded between Duckport and New Carthage. They were left to
corrode in the mud. (Some parish residents remember when the rotting hulks were
visible in Walnut Bayou. They have long since disappeared.)
Duckport canal, after such a promising start, also was a failure. Yet the fall
of the river was best thing that had happened to the campaign so far. It made
possible an overland route - actually the easiest route of all. Grant's methods
of biding time, placating the public - and the press, and keeping the troops
occupied, had at last paid off. By the end of April, the river had fallen
enough to begin the overland route.
plan was to march his troops to a point below the Vicksburg guns, ferry them
across to the Mississippi side, and from there proceed overland to the rear of
Vicksburg. A force under General McClernand had been sent to reconnoiter the
route from Milliken's Bend to New Carthage on March 29. The 69th Indiana and a
section of artillery under Col. T. W. Bennett arrived at Richmond on March 31.
from Maj. Isaac F. Harrison's 15th Louisiana Cavalry held the town. Bennett's
men crossed Roundaway Bayou in yawls and scattered the Confederates in a short
skirmish. The Union Engineers built a bridge 200 feet long across the bayou
three days later, tearing down log houses for building material.
advance party under Gen. P. J. Osterhaus moved on to New Carthage, occupying
the Stansbrough house and the Holmes' (now Trinidad) plantation along the way.
The Federals found that the bayou levee above New Carthage had broken in
several places, flooding the road-for two miles. Osterhaus, camped at Smith's
(Point Clear) Plantation, sent some men with Negro guides to seize a flatboat.
Harrison, commander of the Confederate forces in the vicinity, had a force of
only a few hundred men with which to hinder the Yankee advance. A small company
of planters fired unsuccessfully upon Osterhaus' men while they were towing the
flatboat back to camp. The next day, April 6, Osterhaus crossed the flooded
area and occupied New Carthage. Harrison had to retreat to Perkins' plantation,
the land route to New Carthage secure and the flood waters already falling,
Grant was ready by mid-April to make his combined land and river move. Porter
prepared his transports for passing the Vicksburg batteries by lining the decks
and machinery with bales of cotton and hay and sacks of grain. Barges loaded
with coal, forage and equipment were to be towed below by the transports.
operation began on the moonless night of April 16. With no lights showing and
with as little noise as possible, the boats got under way. Porter led off in
the Benton and was followed at 200-yard intervals by five other gunboats, three
transports and barges, with the gunboat Tuscumbia bringing up the rear.
lead boats had already passed the upper fort when they were discovered. The
Confederates, who were holding a grand ball at Vicksburg, were startled to hear
the hillside guns shattering the quiet of the night. A detail of Confederate
troops rowed across the river to DeSoto and quickly set fire to the railroad
depot and adjoining shacks. This was done to give the gunners on the hill a
clear shot at the boats outlined by the bonfires.
battle was an awesome spectacle for the dancers who had left the Vicksburg
ball. The view began to lose its appeal as Union gunboats laid shells in the
streets. The citizens were forced to flee the city or take refuge in caves.
Gen. Grant didn't miss the show either. His headquarters boat was anchored in
midstream as close to the upper batteries as possible. With him were his wife
and children, who had recently joined him at Milliken's Bend.
action raged for over two hours. The batteries bombarded the slow-moving
targets, but could do little damage to the well-protected vessels. All of the
transports except the Henry Clay safely reached New Carthage by two o'clock. .
No one had been killed, and only 14 had been wounded.
was moving the rest of his troops overland it this time. Muddy roads, bad
weather and surplus equipment slowed the troops down, so they didn't reach New
Carthage until April 25.
before the running of the Vicksburg guns, Confederate Gen. Harrison had
received 1800 reinforcements from Missouri. They attacked New Carthage and
James' plantation on April 15. They had the upper hand, until Union
reinforcements arrived to drive them back.
this harassment, Grant continued the movement of his troops. He ordered Gen.
McPherson at Lake Providence to move his men to Milliken's Bend and Duckport.
All sick, and disabled troops were to be left there while the rest of the men
marched to New Carthage.
Union soldiers had orders to collect all the supplies they needed, such as
corn, cattle and fodder, along the way. Many ransacked homes as well, and
engaged in wanton destruction. They slashed pictures and portraits, hacked
rosewood chests to pieces, ripped open feather mattresses with bayonets, and
sent crystal chandeliers crashing to the floor, while they danced madly around
laughing and shouting, inspired by the contents of a plundered wine cellar.
the end, the torch was set to many fine homes, often against the direct orders
of superiors. Many men had reasons other than recklessness and greed for their
actions. Chaplain Thomas M. Stevenson, who was arrested for burning down a
cotton gin, complained in his diary: "If all rebel property was destroyed
as soon as we came to it, this war would end much sooner than it will be the
way things are carried on now."
philosophy was shared in part by Gen. Grant, many of whose classmates. at West
Point had been southerners. He knew that the only way to beat the proud
Louisiana boys was to whip them in spirit. Yet it pained him to see beautiful
plantation homes burned for no reason.
set up headquarters at Point Clear plantation, a few miles above New Carthage.
He intended to direct the river crossing from there, yet flood waters made it
impossible to use New Carthage as a staging area. They eventually decided on
Hard Times Landing in Tensas Parish. McPherson and Sherman still had to cross
Madison Parish before action could be undertaken across the river.
troops were the last to arrive, having been temporarily detained at Milliken's
Bend to confuse the Confederate commander at Vicksburg, Gen. Pemberton. Half of
Porter's fleet was, left above Vicksburg for the same reason. Finally, Sherman
was ordered to move two of his divisions to Perkins' plantation, leaving the
rest of his men at Milliken's Bend, Young's Point and Richmond.
BATTLE OF MILLIKEN'S BEND (For additional details click
the campaign, Pemberton had been begging for troops to help relieve some of the
pressure on Vicksburg from the Louisiana side. Finally, Gen. E. Kirby Smith,
commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, responded in May, 1863 with
instructions to Gen. Taylor to move up the Tensas River to Madison Parish.
gave Gen. John Walker's Texas Division the job of disrupting Grant's supply
line from Milliken's Bend to New Carthage, reopening Confederate supply lines into
Vicksburg, and sending reinforcements over to Pemberton if possible. Walker's
division contained three brigades commanded by Gens. McCulloch, Hawes and
Randal. The plan was for McCulloch to attack Millikenís Bend, Hawes to attack
Young's Point, and Randal to remain in reserve in Richmond. Maj. Harrisonís
Confederate cavalry which had been in the area for sometime, unwittingly
alerted the Federals to the attack. While awaiting the arrival of the rest of
the Confederate forces, Harrison learned on June 6 that the Tenth Illinois
Cavalry was moving to Richmond from Milliken's Bend. With 100 men Harrison rode
out to intercept them. He charged their line three miles from Richmond, and the
Federal force fled back to Milliken's Bend,
Gen. Elias S. Dennis was commander of the Union garrison at the Bend. (Dennis
moved back to Madison Parish after the war, and served for several years as
Sheriff.) Believing that a major attack was in the making, Dennis asked for and
got two gunboats from Admiral Porter to help the troops.
arrived at Richmond later the same day to put the Confederate plan into effect.
At dawn the next day, June 7, McCulloch hesitantly attacked Milliken's Bend.
Dennis' defending forces numbered 1,061 men, both Yankees and inexperienced Negro
troops. McCulloch drove them to the levee; most of the white troops retreated
altogether, leaving Negroes to defend the position.
unusual battle was the first important engagement of the war in which black
troops fought under fire. Many of them knew little about handling a gun, having
had only a few days of drill. Yet they held their positions, fighting the
Confederates hand-to-hand with bayonets and clubbed rifles. Many Negro troops
cowered below their cotton works and were shot on the top of the head.
Confederates were finally dispersed by gunboat fire, which chased them back
into the woods. Hawes, who was supposed to have attacked Young's Point while
McCulloch was charging Milliken's Bend, had decided that Federal positions at
the point were too strong for his force. He had withdrawn without even testing
his strength. Thus, the whole Confederate operation was a failure.
Confederates were incredulous about the loss. "It is hard to
believe," wrote Kate Stone, "that Southern soldiers and Texans at
that have been whipped by a mongrel crew of white and black Yankees. There must
be some mistake." Union officers were equally disturbed by 100 white and
black bodies which lined the Milliken's Bend levee after the skirmish, and by
reports that white officers commanding Negro units absented themselves during
the thick of the battle.
Gen. Taylor could accomplish after the failure of the Confederate plan was the
destruction of plantations operated by the Federal government. However, In view
of Union losses at the Bend, it was decided (in Admiral Porter's words)
"not to let the rebels be enjoying themselves too much at Richmond."
Gen. Dennis was ordered to drive the Confederates out of the parish seat.
ordered Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Mower at Chickasaw Bluffs to cross the river with
his 6,000 men and reinforce Dennis. He was joined on the 15th just north of
Richmond by Brig. Gen. Alfred Ellet and his Marine Brigade of some 2,000 men.
The Rebels, with only about 4,000 men and six artillery, waited for the attack
behind a wide ditch fringed with willows.
Texans and Federals of the Fifth Minnesota skirmished for about 20 minutes.
Then, under cover of an artillery duel which lasted almost an hour, Walker
slipped his men across Roundaway Bayou, set fire to the bridge, and retreated
along the road to Delhi. Mower's cavalry pursued them for about six miles then
gave up as the Rebels were already too far ahead.
rebuilt the bridge over Roundaway and burned Richmond to the ground on June 15.
Richmond at the time had a courthouse, church, jail and at least one newspaper,
The Madison Journal. All were destroyed, and the town was never rebuilt.
Yet, some farsighted citizens had removed the courthouse records in advance and
hidden them in the back country.
records were later moved to a house owned by Joseph Hitchings near Tallulah
Station; they stayed there until 1868 when the parish seat was moved to Delta.
The street at which the house stood until 1960 was ironically, named North
Independence Day 1863, Vicksburg was forced to surrender. Grant had left
Madison Parish some time before, leaving a small occupation force. The Union
General had much more ahead of him as commander of all Federal armies. There
were many more battles to be fought before Appomattox Court House; but for
Madison Parish for all intents and purposes the war was over and reconstruction
plantation families left the parish during the Federal occupation. They took
what slaves and household goods they could carry, and fled to Monroe or the
hill country beyond, some going all the way to Texas, They left many of their
valuables buried on their plantations; some of these caches were never found
again and became in future years the whimsy of treasure hunters.
Union officers in the parish had forbidden these planters to leave, but could
not prevent them from going. They now had the immense problem of managing the
slaves and looking after the abandoned plantations until the War was over.
War Department' sent Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas into the area In April,
1863 to organize and supervise the "lessee system." Under this plan,
all slaves in the area were freed and the able-bodied men armed, and organized
into Negro units under white officers. The women, children and men unfit for
army duty were to be placed on the abandoned plantations.
plantations were leased by the government for one year to anyone who would
support the Negroes. The lessee plantations would be protected mainly by Negro
units, freeing the whites to fight. Speculators signed contracts with Union
agreeing to pick and gin the cotton for half shares. The black workers were
furnished by the army; the speculators agreed to feed and clothe them and pay
them one cent for every pound of cotton they picked.
of the fields still had thousands of bales of cotton just waiting to be picked.
Speculators and army officers rushed to get into the act, believing that their
fortunes could be made overnight. These people were of the type that came to be
known as "carpetbaggers."
the first carpetbaggers were the newspaper correspondents who were assigned to
Grant's canal projects. They found the protracted, "ditch digging" campaign
extremely boring to watch and even less lucrative to write about. Many of these
newsmen turned to the business of buying and selling cotton, and several became
rich in the process.,
Mississippi River was opened for trade in September, 1863. Cotton and other
products could be brought to military posts along the river. Madisonians
bringing goods to these posts were paid in bank notes or family supplies.
Treasury agents were sent in to supervise this trade and take charge of the
and scalawags could make immense profits by renting plantations. (A scalawag
was a reconstructed rebel who tried to improve his lot by cooperating with the
carpetbaggers. A Negro preacher defined the difference between a carpetbagger
and a scalawag: "A carpetbagger came down here from some place and stole
enough to fill his carpetbag, but the scalawag was a man who knew the woods and
swamps better than the carpetbagger did, and he stole the carpetbagger's
carpetbag and ran off with it.")
black were allowed to lease land; sometimes a dozen black families would lease
land and farm it together. There were 30 such black lessees around Milliken's
Bend by 1864.
carpetbaggers treated their Negro workers much worse than their former owners
had treated them. Those too old, too young, or too sickly were weeded out by
the Yankee lessees and sent to contraband camps where they suffered from lack
of food and clothing. Most lessees paid their workers only in food and
clothing, charging five times their normal value.
at the end of the year, when the Negro expected to be paid, he was told he had
nothing else coming. In fact, most were informed that they instead owed the
lessees money. Some lessees realized up to $80,000 profit a year, paid their
black workers nothing and then boasted of their ability to swindle the Negro.
Many of the Negroes came to hate the Yankees more than they had their former
of the Provost Marshals and treasury agents in charge knew what was going on
but kept their mouths shut, having been bribed by the lessees. The blacks, who
had thought they were free and expected the government to give them "40
acres and a mule," became totally frustrated and difficult to handle.
Troops often had to be called in to help control them.
among the blacks became a growing problem. Increasing numbers began to run away
and roam the countryside in gangs. These gangs stole what they wanted, and
killed anyone who got in their way - women and children no exceptions. By 1864,
the activities of the Negro gangs were taken over by the jayhawkers, which were
outlaw bands made up of southern draft dodgers, deserters, runaway Negroes and
other unsavory characters.
curtail the jayhawkers and cotton speculators, Gen. E. Kirby Smith, Confederate
Commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, sent two companies of guerillas
into Madison Parish. They were a part of Quantrill's Missourians who had been
driven from their home state, and were commanded by Capt. Joseph C. Lea.
has it that Lea was here earlier during the march through Madison by Gen. Grant
and his men. In a night raid upon the Federal camp at Milliken's Bend, Lea
tried to capture Grant (so it is said ) and nearly succeeded. Capt. Lea has
been described as a handsome man above six feet in height, "in the early
bloom of manhood."
guerillas raided Federal camps and the leased plantations, arresting and
hanging a number of speculators and spies. Col. A.W. Weber, whose 51st Regiment
of the U.S. Colored Infantry was stationed at Goodrich's Landing, sent a force
of 230 mounted Negro troops under Maj. C.H. Choppin to drive Lea out of the
area. Choppin raided innocent people's homes and left them burning behind him,
making destitute the people beyond the Tensas River, but he failed to catch
from his headquarters on Bayou Macon, Lea continued to make periodic raids into
Madison Parish. In September, 1864 he took a detachment to Lum's Plantation on
Willow Bayou. Nearby, in the nearly impenetrable cane and cypress brakes, hid a
band of jayhawkers who would rob, kill or capture anyone passing by on the
road. Their favorite targets were wounded or discharged Confederate soldiers on
their way home, but they were not particular about whom they killed.
dressed 60 of his men in captured Federal uniforms, knowing they could be hung
if captured. The leader of the jayhawkers, a huge black, welcomed the supposed
Federal troops. Suddenly, Lea's disguised men fell upon the surprised gang and
began to slaughter them. Lea rushed up with the rest of his command and in a
quick but bloody struggle killed 130 of the group. The few who escaped never
again returned to ravage the area.
of Madison's old white residents began to return in 1865. Almost everywhere
they looked, the countryside was scene. of desolation. Most of the beautiful
plantation homes had been burned, and all were shabby and in disrepair, and
stripped bare by Negroes and Federal troops. Wagons and plows stood rusting in
the rain; cattle and hogs roamed wild in the swamps; and, with the broken and
deteriorated levees, overflows had turned the fields into marshland.
Stone's reflection upon her return to Brokenburn exemplified the
feelings of many Madisonians: "The bare echoing rooms, the neglect and
defacement of all - though the place is in better repair than most-and the
stately oaks and the green grass make it look pleasant and cheerful, though
gardens, orchards, and fences are mostly swept away.
if the loved ones who passed through its doors could be with us again, we might
be happy yet. But never, never, never more echoes back to our hearts like a
funeral - knell at every thought of the happy past. We must bear our losses as
best we can. Nothing is left but to endure."
blacks, who had had nothing to start with, also suffered immeasurably during
this period. In their ignorance and wild hopes of sudden freedom they did not
know how to take care of themselves. The carpetbagger lessees, who often
ignored the blacks' basic needs, did not help any. Many Negroes died from
epidemics of communicable diseases and lack of proper food.
Union officers occupying the area recognized the need of getting the plantation
system going again under its former operators. Gen. Lorenzo Thomas testified in
1866 before the Joint Committee on Reconstruction: "For Negroes to farm
for themselves does not work very well. They have to have someone to direct
them. They do not like to work under Negro overseers, but will work under their
former masters that were not cruel to them."
also reported that most Madisonians desired "to be peaceful and quiet
citizens and obey the law. I observe little hostility. " He recommended
that troops be withdrawn from the area.
the whitesí lack of political power galled them. Before the war Madison Parish
had the second largest black population percentage wise (88 percent) of all the
parishes in Louisiana. This had been a sign of great wealth, but after the war
it put the political reigns entirely into the hands of the black voters, or
rather into the hands of the "Radical Republicans" and carpetbaggers
who controlled the black vote.
presidential election of 1868 is an example of the power of the blacks, and the
firm hold the Republican party had on them. In Madison Parish, 1,453 votes were
cast for Grant and only 163 for his democratic opponent. We can be sure that
none of the local whites voted for Grant - his vote came entirely from the
blacks and the carpetbaggers. Madison's representatives in the state legislature
and most other local officials were blacks.
can imagine the whites' stunned reaction to this reversal of fortunes. As they
struggled to get on their feet again, contending with overflows, boll worms and
impossible taxation, they were subjected to the raids of marauding Negro bands
and the ridicule and swindling of corrupt carpetbaggers.
whites felt that nothing could be done about these problems until white
political supremacy was restored and made this goal their chief ambition.
Ku Klux Klan was formed in the parish in the late 1860's . It was an extreme
reaction to extreme conditions, and was supported by many good people who would
not have dreamed they would be participating in such a group. They regarded the
Klan's activities a necessary evil, or even a positive good. Violence occurred
on more than one occasion during those years, including lynchings and killings.
1868 election had taken place in Madison without incident, though it was marred
by violence in most other Louisiana parishes. Yet, in subsequent elections in
Madison, violence and fraud became the rule, as both sides resorted to threats
and intimidation. The elections of 1872 and 1874 saw the balance of power begin
to swing back to Democrats, who managed to influence the returns by forging
general failure of the government's reconstruction efforts was recognized by
1877. President Hayes withdrew Federal troops from Louisiana, leaving the white
citizenry "on their honor" not to interfere with black voting rights.
By that time, Democrats had managed to draw some blacks over to their party by
convincing them that the Republican record in the parish and state demonstrated
that that party had done nothing for the Negroes.
could be easily shown that the Republicans had run the Louisiana government
solely for their own profit. The Democrats expounded that they were the true
friends of the Negro. Aided by both evidence of Republican corruption and
threats of Klan violence, the Democratic Party got a foothold into the black
vote, occasionally running token black candidates for political offices.
late as 1884, blacks in Madison Parish were voting and running for office.
Eventually, however, whites decided on the policy of total political supremacy.
Armed whites intimidated Negroes and kept them from voting until there was not
a single black voter left in the parish.
number of registered black voters would remain at zero for nearly a century.
Madison had once again gone from one extreme to another.
of the carpetbaggers and speculators left the parish when they were no longer
protected by Federal troops. Yet many Union soldiers, serving with Grant during
his action around Vicksburg, admired the beauty of Madison Parish and were impressed
by its rich alluvial lands. Some returned after the war and became Madison's
most valuable citizens.
of the most important was Gen. Elias S.
Dennis - the same Gen. Dennis who had fought Confederate troops at
Milliken's Bend. Dennis had served as U. S. Marshal from the state of Kansas
before the war, during the period when violent disputes over the slavery
question earned the state the appellation of "Bloody Kansas."
experience later proved to be invaluable in helping Madison emerge from
reconstruction as unscathed as possible. Many Madisonians distrusted Dennis at
first, but they soon realized that he was not a carpetbagger and his sympathies
lay with the Democratic Party.
prominent whites realized Dennis' value in being able to win the black vote and
treat whites fairly once in office. They supported Dennis in his election as
parish judge and later, as sheriff. Throughout his administration Dennis acted
with wisdom and moderation in mediating between his black and white
is said to have been a tall man with pleasant, delicate features and long curly
hair flowing over his shoulders. A local widow so much admired him that she
willed her plantation to him. However, the will proved to be defective and
Dennis received nothing from it when she died.
later married another prominent widow and lived in Madison until he was very
old. He then moved back to his native state of Illinois and lived the rest of
his days on a small farm with a son by an earlier marriage.
Frank Morey, also of the Union army, was a Representative in Congress from this
district, and made his home in Madison Parish for a number of years. He sought
re-election several times, but as a Republican he had no hope of winning after
reconstruction was over.
L. and Edward Maxwell, of Sullivan, Ind., were two of Grant's soldiers who came
to the parish after the war. They bought Killarney, Mound, California and
Mexico plantations; not on their army pay, of course. They had to work many
years, and struggle as their southern counterparts struggled to make a success.
F. L. Maxwell went bankrupt twice before he could make his mercantile business
at Mound work, but when it finally did, it made him enough profit to buy 12,000
ambition was not all that pulled Union soldiers back to Madison after the war.
Mrs. Frances Robinson told us of an old soldier she knew at Milliken's Bend,
Joseph R. Locke, who had landed at the Bend with Grant's army.
those days Federal officers occupying an area would stay in the homes of local
private citizens. Locke stayed in the boarding house of a Mrs. Dolan (Mrs.
Robinson thinks that might be the name), whose husband had been killed while
serving in the Confederate Army. Strangely enough, the two fell in love, and
Locke returned to Milliken's Bend after the war and married her. He ran a
grocery store at Milliken's Bend for years. Locke stayed long after the rest of
the town moved away, and died there in June, 1925. Mrs. Robinson still has a
cane that Locke gave to her father. It was made from the cue stick of a
riverboat, and has a gold head on it.
Murphy, in his "Notes From the
History of Madison Parish", told of a Captain Hawkes who drifted into
the parish during reconstruction. "No one seemed to know where he came
from, nor anything of his history, and he never spoke of his past. He was a
lawyer by profession, but enjoyed only a very small practice; and was usually
penniless and dressed in clothes that were threadbare or torn.
was a testy little man, quick to take offense and to resent affronts, real or
imaginary. Rumor had it that he was of aristocratic English family and this
theory apparently found some support in the fact that he kept and cherished a
book of the British peerage."
was believed that the Captain had never been married. He stayed with various
families in the parish. His favorite hobby was participating in the riots and
racial disturbances that occurred during reconstruction and following wherever
a riot took place; there Captain Hawkes was sure to be found in the forefront
of action. He was also fond of duels and was authority on the code duello; if
not able to participate as a principal, he would at least make an effort in any
affair of honor to act as a second (p. 14)."
his eccentricity, Hawkes managed to get himself elected to the Louisiana
Legislature. He served from 1888 to 1892, and firmly opposed the state lottery,
which was said to be "using money lavishly to control legislation in its
behalf". Hawkes may have been poor, but he could not be corrupted. A wagon
ran over and killed him in New Orleans shortly after the turn of the century.
whole new generation of Madisonians arose from the ashes of the Civil War, but
in the hearts and minds of parish residents they could not replace the lost
loved ones. One man who did not return from the war may serve as an example of
the deep sense of injustice which dominated the attitudes of Madison citizens
for many years after the war.
of Henry Wirz, a native of Switzerland, who lived at Milliken's Bend,
remembered him as a good doctor and a mild-mannered neighbor. Like so many other
foreigners who lived in the South, Dr. Wirz was a patriotic supporter of the
southern cause and joined the Confederate Army. Another Madisonian, Maj. George
Waddill, appointed the then Capt. Wirz to the command of the Confederate prison
at Andersonville, Ga.
the supplies to support even its own men, the Confederacy could not adequately
take care of its Union prisoners, especially the ones at Andersonville. One
fourth of the Andersonville prisoners, almost 13,000 men, died in the
Confederate prison under Cap. Henry Wirz.
horrible story of Andersonville was publicized throughout the North, and the
Union demanded retribution against Capt. Wirz. He was tried, during peace time,
by a military court. None of Wirz's alleged "co-conspirators" were ever
put on trial, and all except one of the Captain's lawyers quit the case,
stating publicly that the Court had predetermined the outcome.
evidence based on mistake and perjury, the Court convicted Wirz of
"maliciously causing the death of a large number of prisoners in violation
for the rules of war." He was hanged at Old Capitol Prison in Washington,
D.C. in November 1865 - the only Confederate executed after the war. Wirz had
been offered his freedom by the North if he would only accuse Jefferson Davis
of ordering certain crimes, but the Swiss immigrant refused.
story of Andersonville has been told in books, novels and plays, but few have
heard of the horrors at Union prisons during the war. At Elmira Prison in New
York where Confederates were confined, 14 per cent of the prisoners died; at
Point Look and Rock Island, 28 percent died; while less than 25 percent of the
Union prisoners at Andersonville died.
figures of course were not publicized In the North, but southerners knew them.
In the center of the town of Andersonville, Ga. they erected a tall obelisk
dedicated to Henry Wirz, the man from Milliken's Bend.
Richard P. Sevier ([email protected])