Louisiana Tigers was the common nickname for certain infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...
troops from the state of Louisiana
Antebellum Louisiana was a leading slave state, where enslaved Africans and African Americans comprised the majority of the population through the eighteenth century. By 1860 47% of the population was enslaved. The state also had one of the largest free black populations in the United States...
in the Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...
during the American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...
. Originally applied to a specific company
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...
, the nickname expanded to a battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...
, then to a brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...
, and eventually to all Louisiana troops within the Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...
. Although the exact composition of the Louisiana Tigers changed as the war progressed, they developed a reputation as fearless, hard-fighting shock troops
Shock troops or assault troops are formations created to lead an attack. "Shock troop" is a loose translation of the German word Stoßtrupp...
The Original Louisiana Tigers
The origin of the term came from the "Tiger Rifles," a volunteer company raised in the New Orleans
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...
area as part of Major
In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, major is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel...
Chatham Roberdeau Wheat
Chatham Roberdeau Wheat was a Captain in the United States Army Volunteers during the Mexican War, Louisiana State Representative, lawyer, mercenary in Cuba, Mexico, and Italy, adventurer, and major in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:Born in...
's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Volunteer Infantry (2nd Louisiana Battalion). A large number of the men were foreign-born, particularly Irish American
Irish Americans are citizens of the United States who can trace their ancestry to Ireland. A total of 36,278,332 Americans—estimated at 11.9% of the total population—reported Irish ancestry in the 2008 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau...
s, many from the city's wharves and docks. Many men had previous military experience in local militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...
units or as filibusters
A filibuster, or freebooter, is someone who engages in an unauthorized military expedition into a foreign country to foment or support a revolution...
. They (and the regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...
s that later became known as the Tigers) were organized and trained at Camp Moore
Camp Moore, north of the Village of Tangipahoa near Kentwood, Louisiana, was a Confederate training base and principal base of operations in eastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi. The base was named for Louisiana Governor Thomas Overton Moore and operated from May 1861 to 1864 during the...
Originally, Company B of Wheat's Tigers wore distinctive uniforms similar to the French zouave
Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962. The name was also adopted during the 19th century by units in other armies, especially volunteer regiments raised for service in the American Civil War...
, with straw hats or red cloth fezzes
The fez , or tarboosh is a felt hat either in the shape of a red truncated cone or in the shape of a short cylinder made of kilim fabric. Both usually have tassels...
, blue-striped chasseur
Chasseur [sha-sur; Fr. sha-sœr] is the designation given to certain regiments of French light infantry or light cavalry troops, trained for rapid action.-History:...
-style pantaloons, and short dark blue jackets with red lacing. The Tiger Zouaves apparently wore the fezzes in camp and straw hats while in the field. As time went on, this garb was replaced by Confederate uniforms and what clothing the men could purchase or otherwise obtain from civilians. Within months of arriving in Northern Virginia
Northern Virginia consists of several counties and independent cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in a widespread region generally radiating southerly and westward from Washington, D.C...
, Wheat's entire five-company battalion began to be called the Louisiana Tigers.
Soon after Louisiana seceded from the United States and joined the Southern Confederacy, Roberdeau Wheat, commander of the battalion, returned to New Orleans from the battelfields of Italy with the intent to raise a company and then a full regiment for Confederate service. And once he proved his mettle in battle, he’d no doubt gain a brigadier’s star. As such, on April 18, 1861, just a few days after U.S. Fort Sumter was attacked by Confederate forces in an expression of their sovereign rights, the New Orleans Daily Crescent carried the following announcement:"We understand that our friend, Gen. C.R. Wheat, is about to raise a company of volunteers, to serve in the Army of Louisiana. His headquarters are on 64 [Saint] Charles [Street], where we advise all friends of a glorious cause to repair and enlist." (As cited in Schreckengost, Gary: The 1st Louisiana Battalion: Wheat's Tigers in the Civil War).
Wheat called his company the Old Dominion Guards to commemorate his native state’s recent secession from the United States and adjunction with the Southern Confederacy. With the help of Obedia Plummer Miller, a well-established New Orleans attorney, Wheat quickly recruited fifty or so men to his company, mostly expatriate Virginians, men like Henry S. Carey, a relative of Thomas Jefferson’s, Richard Dickinson, who would become Wheat’s adjutant, and Bruce Putnam, a towering man who became Wheat’s intimidating sergeant major. While Miller, Carey, Dickinson, and Putnam continued recruiting for the Guards, Wheat was able to attract four already-forming companies to his banner—Captain Robert Harris’s Walker Guards, Captain Alexander White’s Tiger Rifles, Captain Henry Gardner’s Delta Rangers, and Captain Harry Chaffin’s Rough and Ready Rangers—which were assembling a few blocks away at Camp Davis on the grounds of the “Old Marine Hospital/ Insane Asylum/Iron Works” between Common and Gravier Streets at South Broad (today’s Camp) Street. Many of the men of these precocious units, unlike those from the more upscale Old Dominion Guards, were former filibusters who had served with Wheat or Walker in Nicaragua. Since the late campaigns, they had slipped back into their old jobs as shiphands, stokers, dock workers, watermen, draymen, screwmen, stevedores, or simple laborers on the New Orleans waterfront. As such, they were considered as being the lowest members of white Southern society. One disgusted observer proclaimed that many of Wheat’s recruits were “the lowest scum of the lower Mississippi...adventurous wharf rats, thieves, and outcasts...and bad characters generally.” (As cited in Gary Schreckengost).
When work was available, these men, mostly recent Irish immigrants, were often relegated to do the most dangerous of tasks, such as servicing decrepit steam engines on Mississippi River packets or digging canals or drainage ditches in the fetid swamps of the lower Mississippi because slaves were too valuable to lose. “The Niggers are worth too much to be risked,” recounted one calculating steamboat pilot. “If the Paddies are knocked overboard or get their backs broke nobody loses anything.” Another boat pilot explained that the reason why slaves were not used as stokers on the aged packets was because “every time a boiler bursts [the owners] would lose so many dollars’ worth of slaves; whereas by getting Irishmen at a dollar-a-day they pay for the article [the Irish worker] as they get it, and if it’s blown up, they get another.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
In this social hierarchy, Irish laborers, stevedores, and dock workers were at the very bottom. Immediately above them were the ship hands, watermen, and stokers, followed by the draymen who hauled bales of cotton or barrels of sugar, molasses, pork, or flour from the Mississippi docks to the numerous warehouses of New Orleans. Because screwmen were skilled laborers, they received higher wages than stevedores or ship hands and were considered to be at the top of societal ladder. Working in gangs of five, many of them exclusively Irish, the screwmen went into the holds of the cotton ships where they used large jackscrews to compress the bales into the smallest possible size. This was a dangerous way of earning a living, for in the cramped quarters below deck a screwman had little space to dodge a wayward bale. Broken limbs were common and occasionally a heavy bale crushed the life out of a worker. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The Walker Guards were raised under the auspices of Robert Harris, one of Wheat’s former comrades in the Filibuster Wars. As the name denotes, many of Harris’s recruits had “smelt powder…saw the elephant…[and] felt bullets” in Nicaragua. Since the late war, Harris reportedly became the operator of a bawdy gambling establishment along the waterfront. The Tiger Rifles, the Delta Rangers, and the Rough and Ready Rangers, however, Wheat’s other cohorts, made no special claim to fame. All that is known about them, other than the fact that they were largely Irish ship hands, dock workers, stevedores, or draymen, is that the commander of the Rangers, Henry Gardner, had signed a petition which called on the governor of Louisiana to convene a secession convention and declared that the intrepid commander of the Tiger Rifles, Alexander White, was a known felon and river pilot. Similar to William Walker in stature, the fiery “White,” if that was his real name, was reportedly “the son of a one-time Southern governor,” supposedly from Kentucky. During a game of high-stakes poker in his youth, White claimed that he had shot a man who accused him of cheating. Through the influence of his supposed family, he was able to escape prosecution as long as he left the state and went underground. Fleeing to New Orleans, the vast Southern metropolis where it was easy to get lost, White most probably gambled, conned, and boozed his way through life until the War with Mexico when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy to pilot men and material down to Corpus Christi, Tampico, or Vera Cruz. After his five-year enlistment was up, he settled down, got married, and became the captain of the steamer Magnolia, which hauled goods between New Orleans and Vicksburg. During this time White once again lost his temper, severely pistol-whipped a passenger on his steamer, was arrested and convicted, and as a result, ended up in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Baton Rouge. By March 1861, with Louisiana’s secession and the subsequent U.S. blockade, White began to form a company of volunteers around his crew and was even able to rent prime space for a recruiting station at 29 Front Levee, between Gravier and Poydras streets, near the Custom House and Camp Davis. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Wheat, using his gentlemanly appeal, was apparently able to talk Harris, White, Gardner, and Chaffin into forming a battalion under his command with the assurance that all involved would better be able to control their destinies if they acted as one. And with Wheat’s eminent stature as a Mexican War veteran, a Southern partisan, a former assemblyman, and a general officer in two foreign armies, they would no doubt get the choice assignments and equipment. As such, on April 23, 1861, the Daily Crescent carried the following announcement:
Gen. C.R. Wheat, with reference to raising a battalion, invites such of our friends and citizens generally, as feel an interest in the cause, to call at No. 29 Front Levee Street, where they will find the material for the first battalion of the States, and one that will make its mark when called upon. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Formation and Uniforms
With the deal cut, all commands, including the Old Dominion Guards (which was originally assembled across from the prestigious St. Charles Hotel), moved their constituent recruiting stations to Captain White’s on Front Levee Street and recruitment became a shared task. To attract even more bellicose souls to his nascent battalion, men who “were actuated more by a spirit of adventure and love of plunder than by love of country,” or who filibuster General Henningsen once proclaimed “thought little of charging a battery, pistol in hand,” Wheat christened his command “the Tiger Battalion.” He then extolled his volunteers, led by Captain White’s large company of Tiger Rifles who had “painted a motto or picture of some sort on [their]…broad brimmed…hat[s] such as: A picture of Mose, preparing to let fly with his left hand and fend with his right, and the words, ‘Before I Was a Tiger,’” to continue to comb the docks, thoroughfares, alleyways, hotels, poor houses, and jails of the New Orleans waterfront for more recruits. Other slogans that the Tiger Rifles painted on their hats included: “Tiger Bound for Happy Land,” “Tiger Will Never Surrender,” “A Tiger Forever,” “Tiger in Search of a Black Republican,” or “Lincoln’s Life or a Tiger’s Death.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
While the men of the ad hoc battalion continued to attract more recruits—and in some instances impressing “known Yankees” into service, shaving their heads—Wheat worked through the Ladies Volunteer Aid Association of New Orleans to help uniform the Walker Guards, the Delta Rangers, and the Old Dominion Guards in red flannel “battle” or “Garibaldi” shirts and jean-wool trousers “of the mixed color known as pepper and salt.” For headgear, the men apparently retained their own broad brimmed hats of various earthy tones (except Henry Gardner’s Delta Rangers who were reportedly presented with gray or blue wool kepis and white cotton havelocks). Harry Chaffin’s Rough and Ready Rangers were ostensibly uniformed in light gray wool jackets and trousers with matching kepis. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The Tiger Rifles received their uniforms from A. Keene Richards, a wealthy New Orleans businessman. Because he was “so impressed by their drill and appearance” at Camp Davis, Richards elected to outfit White’s company in the Zouave fashion, viz.: dark blue wool Zouave jackets with red cotton trim (no sereoul), distinctive triangular red flannel fezzes with red tassels, red flannel band collar shirts with five white porcelain buttons, and outlandish “Wedgwood blue and cream” one-and-one-half-inch vertically striped cottonade ship's pantaloons that would become their signature. They were also provided with blue and white horizontally striped stockings and white canvas leggings. Because the pantaloons were not tucked into the leggings, the striped socks were shown. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Most of the lieutenants and captains of the battalion more than likely uniformed themselves in dark blue wool single breasted frock coats or short jackets with matching trousers, red or blue wool kepis with stiff black leather bills, red officers’ sashes, and white canvas leggings worn over or under the trousers. The officers of the Tiger Rifles most probably wore blue wool single-breasted short jackets with red or blue wool trousers, white canvas leggings, and red wool kepis. Wheat chose to wear the uniform of a field grade officer in the Louisiana Volunteer Militia, viz.: a red kepi bedecked with appropriate Austrian gold lace, a double-breasted dark blue wool frock coat with brass shoulder scales, and red wool trousers. He also sported a buff general’s sash, no doubt to commemorate his past commissions in the Mexican and Italian armies. (As cited in Schreckengost).
While Wheat, Richards, and the ladies were gathering the uniforms, the company commanders arranged to have guidons, banners, or full-blown battle flags made for their units. The Walker Guards’ banner was made of “blue silk with a white crescent in the center.” The Tiger Rifles’ flag consisted of a “gamboling lamb” device with “Gentle As” written derisively above it. The Delta Rangers’ flag, which became the battalion’s color at the battle of Manassas by “the luck of the draw,” was a rectangular silk “Stars and Bars” with eight celestial points in a circular pattern. (As cited in Schreckengost).
As the five companies were being filled and uniformed, Wheat moved his volunteers to Camp Walker at the Metaire Race Course/Fairgrounds in the center of the city near Carondolet Canal and Bayou John. On May 10, 1861, Wheat was elected major by his fellow company commanders (Obedia Miller becoming captain of the Old Dominion Guards) and state officials officially recognized his battalion. On May 14 the battalion was moved eighty miles north by rail to Camp Moore in Saint Helena Parish, near the town of Tangipahoa and the Mississippi border. The encampment, named after Louisiana’s secessionist governor Thomas Overton Moore, was the central depot for organizing, training, and mustering Louisiana volunteer units for Confederate service. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Upon arrival, the Tigers were issued newly-fabricated Louisiana Pelican Plate or fork-tongue belts, cartridge boxes, cap boxes, and knapsacks which were manufactured by the New Orleans-based Magee and Kneass or James Cosgrove Leather Companies. They were also issued their weapons. While the Walker Guards, the Delta Rangers, the Old Dominion Guards, and the Rough and Ready Rangers seem to have been issued either M1842 muskets or aged M1816 conversion muskets with socket bayonets, the men of the Tiger Rifles, Wheat’s chosen skirmishers, were issued the coveted M1841 “Mississippi” Rifle, made by the Robbins and Lawrence Gun Company of Connecticut. Governor Moore’s insurgents had seized these accurate weapons, among the best in service at the time, from the Federal Arsenal at Baton Rouge in January 1861. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The M1841, originally manufactured in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, was America’s first military percussion rifle and had many different names. Its most famous, “Mississippi,” was derived from its successful use in repelling a full-scale Mexican attack at the battle of Buena Vista by Colonel Jefferson Davis’s 1st Mississippi Regiment (and then charging with Bowie Knives). The rifle was also called the “Windsor Rifle,” the “Harper’s Ferry Rifle,” and the “Yaeger Rifle.” The M1841 was a muzzle-loading, percussion cap, .54 caliber rifle that measured 48.5 inches in length and weighed about ten pounds. Since it was designed to be a light infantry or skirmishing weapon, the barrel was browned and no bayonet lug was affixed. To offset their absence of bayonets, the Tigers were either issued or brought along their own Bowie-style knives, implements which were described as “murderous-looking…with heavy blades…twenty inches long with double edged points…and solid long handles.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
With their weapons and equipment in hand, the men of Wheat’s Battalion were trained in the latest light and heavy infantry techniques by the Old Filibuster himself in the pine stands which surrounded Camp Moore. Once their exhausting and sometimes frustrating sessions were over, many of the Tigers often drank, played cards, and got into fights with themselves or other units. One man scoffed that the Tigers were
the worst men I ever saw…. I understand that they are mostly wharf rats from New Orleans, and Major Wheat is the only man who can do anything with them. They were constantly fighting with each other. They were always ready to fight, and it made little difference to them who they fought.
Private William Trahern of the up-country Tensas Rifles (soon-to-be Company D, 6th Louisiana) claimed that he once heard Wheat declare: “If you don’t get to your places, and behave as soldiers should, I will cut your hands off with this sword!” One man was in fact so afraid of Wheat’s belligerent filibusters that he stayed as far away from their encampment as possible. He later wrote:
I got my first glimpse at Wheat’s battalion from New Orleans. They were all Irish and were dressed in Zouave dress [sic.], and were familiarly known as ‘Tigers,’ and tigers they were too in human form. I was actually afraid of them, afraid I would meet them somewhere in camp and that they would do to me like they did to Tom Lane of my company—knock me down and stamp me half to death. (As cited in Schreckengost).
As the Tiger Battalion meshed at Camp Moore, five other men with less military experience than Wheat were commissioned colonels and their assembled companies were mobilized into regiments for Confederate service. No doubt embarrassed and frustrated, Wheat was spurred to desperate action. On June 6, 1861, he made a creative deal with the state to officially commission him a major of volunteers and to recognize his five companies temporarily as the “1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Volunteers.” With the special or temporary status secured, Wheat hoped to attract four or five more companies and become the colonel of the soon-to-be organized 8th Louisiana Regiment. (As cited in Schreckengost).
In the political wrangling that followed, Wheat’s rowdy dock workers seem to have repelled potential allies to their cause as Henry Kelly, a retired U.S. Army officer from northern Louisiana, became the commander of the Eighth Regiment. With Kelly’s ascension, on or about June 8, Captain Jonathan W. Buhoup’s company of Catahoula Guerrillas voted to leave Kelly’s command and threw in its lot with the Tiger Battalion. As the Guerrillas were primarily the sons of native-born planters or were doctors, lawyers, farmers, overseers, or artisans from Catahoula Parish in northern Louisiana, they were complete social opposites from the majority of the members of Wheat’s Battalion. Originally intending to become part of a cavalry regiment, the Guerrillas outfitted themselves in gray wool short jackets, matching mounted trousers, gray wool kepis, riding boots, and, like the Tiger Rifles, were armed with stout Mississippi Rifles, looking much like dismounted dragoons. Buhoup had lobbied hard for John R. Liddell, a prominent Catahoula Parish planter, to be colonel of the 8th Regiment with himself as its lieutenant colonel. When he and Liddell failed in their bids to gain field commissions, however, Buhoup used what was left of his political leverage to have his company transferred to the Special Battalion where he hoped to gain a field commission once it was converted into a full regiment. (As cited in Schreckengost).
With six companies now under his belt—an interesting cross-section of Louisiana society—one which David French Boyd of the soon-to-be organized 9th Louisiana perceptively described as being
a unique body, representing every grade of society and every kind of man, from the princely gentleman who commanded them down to the thief and cutthroat released from parish prison on condition he would join Wheat….Such a motley herd of humanity was probably never got together before, and may never be again,
Wheat resolved to get his menagerie to Virginia, the seat of war, as soon as possible. Six other Louisiana infantry formations, the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Regiments, had already been dispatched from the Pelican State to the Old Dominion and Wheat did not want to miss the grand battle that was supposed to win Southern independence in one fell swoop. (As cited in Schreckengost).
On June 13, 1861, not a week after his battalion’s formal organization, Wheat loaded five of his six companies (the Rough and Ready Rangers were retained at Camp Moore because it failed to sufficiently fill his ranks) aboard a freight train that was bound for Manassas Junction, a major staging area for the gathering Confederate army in Virginia. In so doing, Wheat gave up his bid to form a regiment from the special battalion, at least for the time being, and his unit was officially named the “2nd Battalion, Louisiana Volunteers” by the state. To the officers and men of the battalion, however, they would always be known as the “1st Louisiana Special Battalion,” “the Special Battalion,” “Wheat’s Battalion,” “the Tiger Battalion,” “the Star Battalion,” “Wheat’s Louisiana Battalion,” “the New Orleans Battalion,” or simply as “Wheat’s Tigers.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
En route, the Special Battalion passed through Holly Springs, Jackson, Granada, and Corinth, Mississippi; Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee; and Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Gordonsville, and Culpeper, Virginia. Their first battle would not only be a test of moral and physical courage, but would also propel the “motley herd” to become true heroes of the Southern nation. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The Battle of First Manassas
The battalion first saw combat during the First Battle of Manassas, where it anchored the left flank on Matthews Hill for several hours until reinforcements arrived. During this action, the Tiger Battalion conducted several brazen attacks, with Roberdeau Wheat himself suffering a horrid wound. Wheat's Official Report:
With the Federal rout at Manassas, the men of the Special Battalion were able to supplement their Louisiana-made equipment with Yankee-made packs, blankets, gum blankets, canteens, and haversacks that were discarded during their retreat. One reporter from the New Orleans Daily Delta, for example, stated: “[I noticed] that the knapsacks and haversacks of our Bengalese friends were all marked in large letter ‘U.S.’ I inquired what the letters meant. ‘A few weeks ago,’ was the ready reply, ‘they meant ‘Uncle Sam,’ now they mean ‘us.’” (As cited in Schreckengost).
During the next several weeks, the Tigers and others performed picket duty north of Manassas. It was during this time that the Tiger Rifles, upset that they had borne the brunt of friendly fire not only on Matthews’ Hill, but also while on dangerous picket duty, decided to bleach out the indigo blue dye from their jackets, making them take on the color of a “rotten peach” (i.e., a dull tan-grey with blue splotches). By fiat, the red trim was lightened into a pinkish color. (As cited in Schreckengost).
And as for Major Wheat, he did indeed defy the doctors’ grim prognosis of death and slowly recovered from his horrid wounds. Francis Shober, Wheat’s brother-in-law from North Carolina, was the first to reach the Old Filibuster’s bedside in a cabin not far from the railroad depot at Manassas. Arriving on July 25, Shober found Wheat “still improving and…rallying very rapidly….His life seems to be a charmed one and he is still full of vitality and strength.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
While bed-ridden, the Tiger commander received a steady flow of visitors, consisting mostly officers and men from his battalion. On one occasion, he saw a Tiger Zouave peering through a window into his room with “an expression of great anxiety on his face.” Wheat invited him in and when the Tiger came to his bedside, the Old Filibuster, struggling to raise his right hand, said: “Come here my Royal Bengal, and let me shake your paw.” General Beauregard also visited the bed-ridden filibuster, assuring him that the gallant actions of he and his men at Manassas “will not be forgotten.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
While Wheat recovered from his wounds in Camp Pickens, “a serious rift” arose between Captain Alexander White of the Tiger Rifles and Captain William McCausland of Colonel Evans’s staff. McCausland apparently called White a coward for failing to rise from the ground when “his horse was shot under him” during the Tigers’ charge up Henry Hill. White of course denied the accusation and called McCausland a liar. McCausland retorted, and the argument escalated to the point where White answered McCausland’s slander by challenging him to a duel. The weapons chosen for the subsequent test of honor were “Mississippi rifles at short range.” White, the faster of the two, mortally wounded McCausland who was “bored through the hips.” Briefly arrested for the matter, White was quietly sent back to New Orleans to not only reduce tensions within the brigade, but to also escort the wounded Obedia Miller back to his home and recruit more idle but patriotic lads to help fill the ranks of the now-famous Tiger Battalion. (As cited in Schreckengost).
On August 3 Wheat was well enough to be moved to Culpeper, thirty miles below Manassas, for his convalescence. This he spent in the home of James Barbour, an old family friend. While there, Barbour and Wheat had several discussions concerning Roberdeau’s military service. Barbour believed that Wheat could serve the Confederate cause in a much greater capacity than as major of a battalion of infantry. On August 12 he wrote to Virginia Governor John Letcher to press the Confederate government to promote the Old Filibuster to a rank more commensurate to his abilities. He writes:
Major Roberdeau Wheat who was severely wounded in the battle…at Manassas…will be ready for active service in a week or two. As he is a native of our state…it is appropriate to present to you…the past career of this remarkable man…. An intense ambition for military distinction has been the controlling influence in his life and has made his life a career of rich and bold adventure.…He was educated at the Military High School under Reverend now Colonel Pendleton. He served in the Mexican War under Scott as a Captain of Cavalry. He commanded a Louisiana regiment in Lopez’s expedition against Cuba. He was for ten years a brigadier general in the Mexican Service. He held an artillery command in Walker’s Nicaraguan Expedition. He was with Garibaldi in Italy being volunteer aid to Avezano second in command to Garibaldi. He raised a battalion in New Orleans and came to Manassas…where it was his fortune to open the last battle…. In the thick of the fight he received a wound which was at the time considered mortal…. A man only 35 years of age of his intelligent courage and energy has vast capacity for public service in these strange wild scenes that surround us. He is a man of fine abilities and good education…. A chance for noticeable service is all that he asks. He has earned promotion by his skill and courage and his blood…. President Davis, General Beauregard, and the Secretary of War know him and can suggest more in his favor than I have said if attention be called to his case. The rank which he now holds is not sufficient to offer him much opportunity for the distinction for which he yearns. Promotion is sought not for the honor which it confers but for what it may enable him to win. I am sure that it cannot be necessary to say more to enlist you in his interest.
Very Respy and Truly, Jas. Barbour (As cited in Schreckengost).
While the Old Filibuster recovered from his wounds in Culpeper, politicking for a higher position, Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac and Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah were merged into one force under the overall command of Johnston. The unified army was subsequently divided into four divisions with at least three generally state-specific brigades each. As such, all of the Louisiana infantry units which had been assigned to the Army of the Potomac, Roberdeau Wheat’s Special Battalion and Isaac Seymour’s Sixth, Harry Hays’s Seventh, Henry Kelly’s Eighth, and Richard Taylor’s Ninth regiments were assembled into one brigade, the “Louisiana Brigade,” and put under the command of Brig. Gen. William H.T. Walker of Georgia, “a man of command military experience.” The Louisiana Brigade was then assigned to Maj. Gen. Richard “Old Baldy” Ewell’s division along with the brigades of Arnold Elzey and Isaac Ridgeway Trimble. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The hard-hitting 6th Louisiana, much like Wheat’s Battalion, consisted mostly of Irish or German immigrant dock workers from New Orleans with a sprinkling of up-country farmers and such from Union, Sabine, Tensas or St. Landry Parishes. They were “hardy fellows, turbulent in camp and required a strong hand, but responded to kindness and justice and readily followed their officers to the death.” The “Irish Sixth,” as the regiment was popularly known, was commanded by 57-year-old Yale graduate and Seminole and Mexican wars veteran Isaac Seymour who had been, at the outbreak of this war, the editor of the New Orleans Commercial Bulletin. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The 7th Louisiana or the “Pelican Regiment” was commanded by Harry Thompson Hays, a 41-year-old Mexican War veteran and New Orleans attorney. It consisted mostly of bourgeois New Orleans Creoles, many of whom belonged to the prestigious Pickwick Club which helped organize the annual Mardi Gras. The 8th and 9th regiments, commanded by Colonels Henry Kelly and Richard Taylor, respectively, unlike the 6th and 7th regiments, which principally hailed from southern Louisiana, consisted of farmers, laborers, and planters’ sons from northern Louisiana. Many of these men, coming from the more “Southern” part of the state, felt especially apprehensive about being brigaded with the lowly “wharf rats, thieves, and outcasts” from the Tiger Battalion. They apparently feared them worse than the Federal army. Richard Taylor, commander of the 9th Louisiana at the time, remembered:
With the army at this time was a battalion...commanded by Major Wheat.… So villainous was the reputation of the battalion that every commander [in the brigade] desired to be rid of it.
Private Henry Handerson, a soldier in Taylor’s regiment, echoed his commander’s sentiments when he wrote:
Considerably to our horror, in the formation of the brigade encampment, Wheat’s battalion, was located immediately next to the 9th Louisiana Regiment, and, indeed, just alongside of my company.
Private William Trahern of the 6th Louisiana said of the Tigers:
A greater lot of thieves and cut-throats never trod this hemisphere…[they had] gorgeous uniforms and fairly good drilling [to fool the people to think that they were] men of great courage and bravery…. [But] they possessed neither of these qualities…. [They were in fact] cowards and wharf rats drawn from the low down population of every human race known.
Private Randolph Abbott Shotwell of the 1st North Carolina Battalion, Trimble’s brigade, said of them,
Major Bob Wheat’s famous battalion of New Orleans ‘Tigers’ (composed of the dregs of that great city, and certainly not ill-named, for a more fierce, ruffianly, ferocious set of desperadoes are rarely assembled in a civilized country) were encamped near Manassas, and were the terror of the neighborhood; even their own officers could not always restrain them.
Captain William Oates of the 15th Alabama, Trimble’s brigade, remembered that the Tiger Rifles of Wheat’s Battalion,
with their half savage uniform, made the observed of all observers. They were composed mainly of adventurous wharf rats, cut throats, and bad characters generally; and although they fought with reckless bravery…they were actuated more by a spirit of adventure and love of plunder than by love of country. They had neither respect nor fear of any man, but one, and he was Major Wheat, their commander. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The Tigers’ fame and reputation quickly spread throughout the rest of the Confederacy. Mrs. Sallie Putnam of Richmond, for example, wrote:
The battalion of ‘Tigers’ from New Orleans, commanded by the intrepid Wheat, were, as their name denotes, men of desperate courage but questionable morals. They were well suited to the shock of battle, but wholly unfitted for the more important details of the campaign. Among them were many of lawless character, whose fierce passions were kept in abeyance by the superior discipline of their accomplished commander…. Educated under influences the most pious and refining, he was gentle, easy, grateful and dignified in society; toward men in his command he was kind, but grave and reserved, and exacting in the performance of duty; in battle he was fiery, impetuous and resolute.
In short, one Virginian wryly proclaimed, “The wild, looting Tigers of Major Bob Wheat made not a pious crew, but they fought.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
In August and September, many of the Tigers, as with others in Johnston’s army, stuffed in crowded, muddy, and bug-infested camps around Manassas, came down with the dreaded “camp fever” that always tended to plague armies of the period. In Wheat’s Battalion alone, of the 390 soldiers listed as being present in August 1861, a full 239, well more than half, were on the sick rolls. To help alleviate the crisis, in late-September, Johnston sent his divisions out to create their own encampments and Ewell’s division was dispatched north to build “Camp Beauregard,” a new fortified encampment around Centreville. (As cited in Schreckengost).
With the Star Battalion snuggled in with the rest of the Louisiana Brigade, and with Wheat still convalescing in Culpeper, General Walker placed the Tigers, who had been nominally commanded by Captain Harris of the Walker Guards since the battle, under the tutelage of a known disciplinarian, Lt. Col. Charles de Choiseul of the 7th Louisiana. De Choiseul did not relish his new assignment, however, as evidenced in a letter he wrote to Emma Louise Walton on September 5, 1861:
I have become a ‘Tiger.’ Don’t start. I am the victim of circumstance, not of my own will…. Whether [the] Tigers devour me, or whether I will succeed in taming them, remains to be seen. What is more likely, is that they will remain in their high state of undiscipline. For the officers, or at least the majority of them, are worse than the men. (As cited in Schreckengost).
It did not take long for the raucous Tigers to test out their new commander. “The whole set got royally drunk,” de Choiseul remembered, and a nasty brawl ensued soon after he took command. When the colonel sent his staff to quell the disturbance, one of Lieutenant Adrian’s fiery Zouaves apparently grabbed his rifle, pointed it at one of de Choiseul’s lieutenants, and “snapped the lock at him.” This was an act of extreme insubordination and insolence, and the Tiger was quickly arrested and thrown into the brigade stockade. Later that same day, several Tiger Zouaves reportedly beat up and robbed their washerwoman—after she was no doubt paid—and de Choiseul also had them arrested. (As cited in Schreckengost).
In spite of this crackdown, however, the drunken brawls continued. Private Randolph Abbott Shotwell of the 1st North Carolina Battalion, Trimble’s brigade remembered,
[Colonel de Choiseul] was said to have used his pistols now and then to quiet some outbreak. Unfortunately, he left camp on one occasion, and many of the worst characters became so drunk and unruly, that the officer of the guard undertook to maintain order, but was set upon, badly beaten, and forced to fly in peril of his life, pursued by the mutinous ‘Tigers.’ So great was the tumult that the 7th Louisiana, the nearest regiment adjacent, was called to overawe the mutineers. Several men were injured more or less in the fray.
It was also during this period that eighteen men were listed as deserting from the Special Battalion and before the year was out, Lieutenant E.B. Sloan of the Walker Guards resigned his commission. (As cited in Schreckengost).
It did not take a battle to create casualties in the Special Battalion, either. Sergeant Joseph Cooper of the Tiger Rifles, for example, was “killed by accident, September 23, 1861.” Private James Purcell, from the same company, was “killed accidentally by Thomas Riggs of Company D on October 4, 1861.” On October 20, Private John Travers of the Tiger Rifles reportedly murdered a fellow Irishman, James McCormack of the 6th Louisiana—probably during a drunken brawl—and once members of the Sixth hunted him down, he was thrown in the brigade stockade to await trial. Inactivity, the lack of Wheat’s towering presence, alcohol, and cultural proclivities, hearkening back to their days along the docks of New Orleans, seemed to be the root causes of the mayhem. Captain James Nisbet of the 21st Georgia, Trimble’s brigade, remembered one particular rumble in which alcohol played a pivotal role. He writes:
[One day] I was reading by a comfortable fire in my quarters, when I heard a tremendous racket down in the company quarters. On looking out, I saw a fight going on between ten or twelve [Tiger] Zouaves and men of my company. I ran down there and commanded the peace, which the sergeants restored after much difficulty. Several of Wheat’s Tiger Rifles were lying on the ground, having been knocked down by my men. They said they had been robbed of their whiskey, by some boys of [my] company, who met them, and asked for a drink, and then ran off with the bottles; that they had followed them to get satisfaction. I said, “You seem to have gotten it, from the looks of your bloody heads.” I ordered the sergeant to take them to my quarters and give them water and towels, and after they had washed, I got them a drink all round, and said I was sorry they had been robbed; that if such disorders were reported to men, I would punish the perpetrators, but to come into that company for a row, was a dangerous business. “These men would have killed some of you if I had not stopped em,” said I. And they went off, saying: “We are much obliged, sor [sic, sir], but Wheat’s battalion kin [sic, can] clean up the whole damned 21st Georgia any time.” They were Irish; and of course, loved a scrap. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The in-camp shenanigans, plus the fact that the battalion was not being converted into a full-blown regiment as Wheat had promised, spurred Captain Buhoup—who had originally joined the battalion with the understanding that he would gain a field commission—to petition to have his Catahoula Guerrillas transferred out of the battalion. Without Wheat around to dissuade or stop him, Buhoup’s incessant politicking worked, and by October the Guerrillas were assigned to the 7th Louisiana Battalion and later the 15th Louisiana Regiment. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Soon thereafter, Wheat, who was barely fit for service and certainly not well enough to tame his rowdy Tigers, rejoined his now-dishonored battalion and Colonel de Choiseul was relieved of his burden. One Tiger reported:
Maj. Wheat is with us again, but looking badly. He came back Saturday. It would have done anyone good to have seen the boys on Friday evening. We came in from a hard drill of about three hours and were cooking something to eat when [Lieutenant John Coyle from the Walker Guards] told us that Major Wheat was coming. We fell in ranks, and with the rest of the battalion went to meet him, singing and shouting. We marched about two miles, only to be disappointed, for the Major had stopped on the road, too weak to come farther. There are not many officers who could get a reception as he did on Saturday. We went out again, and escorted him in, and he then made us a speech. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Upon his return to active duty, Wheat undoubtedly replaced the blood-stained blue uniform that he wore during the late battle with a bluish-gray wool double-breasted frock coat as per Confederate army regulations. His blue collar would have sported a single golden star, denoting the rank of major, and he probably would have had a double braid of Austrian knot running up his sleeve. He reportedly retained his distinctive red kepi. (As cited in Schreckengost).
In early November, Ewell’s division was moved to “Camp Florida,” about a half mile from Centreville, where General Walker was dubiously transferred from the Louisiana Brigade and Colonel Richard Taylor of the 9th Regiment was promoted to take his place. Needless to say, Taylor’s promotion to brigadier general was controversial. For one, General Walker was simply brushed aside, and, more importantly, Taylor was the junior-most colonel of the brigade. Colonel Seymour, a veteran of the Seminole and Mexican Wars as well as the recent battle of Manassas, was not only the most senior officer in the brigade, but was also arguably the most qualified. In fact, of all the colonels in the brigade—Seymour, Hays, and Kelly—Taylor had the least combat experience (none). Many within the brigade therefore felt that Taylor was promoted only because of his famous father, President Zachary Taylor, and his relationship with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who was once married to his bereaved sister. Colonel Seymour, the man who probably should have gotten the job in the first place said,
I never stood a ghost of a chance for [brigade command]; I never expected it and of course, I am not disappointed—because—I can not be used as a politician.” Private Henry Handerson of the 9th Louisiana, Taylor’s old command, felt that the St. Charles Parish sugar planter was promoted because he was a “a regular martinet in the line of discipline…who cared nothing for the men but for his own advancement. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Whatever the reasons for his promotion, Taylor was challenged by General Johnston to whip his Louisianans, especially Wheat’s seemingly out-of-control Tigers, into shape. To do so, Johnston promised to support Taylor “in any measures to enforce discipline.” On October 28, just a few days after Taylor’s elevation, a gang of drunken Zouaves from the Tiger Rifles, apparently led by Privates Dennis Corcoran and Michael O’Brien, made the terrible mistake of testing Taylor’s resolve when they attacked the brigade stockade, knocking the officer on duty to the ground and seizing the guards’ weapons. The mob then proceeded to break fellow Tiger John Travers, who was being held on a murder charge, out of the jail. During the scuffle, one of the Zouaves reportedly struck Colonel Harry Hays of the 7th Louisiana. Enraged, several other men of the brigade, who had had it with the Tigers, quickly squashed the riot and Corcoran, O’Brien, and their Tiger brethren were subsequently arrested and thrown into the stockade to await trial. (As cited in Schreckengost).
This little episode led to the first executions in the Confederate Army of the Potomac. In an effort to enforce discipline, the government had given general court martials the power to execute soldiers convicted of capital crimes such as murder, treason, or mutiny. General Taylor, as well as most of the other officers of the brigade who were sick and tired of the depraved activities of the Tigers, agreed that Corcoran and O’Brien were among the more caustic men of the battalion (albeit the army), and decided to make an example of them. Because the riot at the guard house and Hays’s subsequent thrashing were considered to be acts of mutiny, the two men were court martialled the next day, November 29, found guilty, and sentenced to be shot by members of their own company, “for the sake of the example.” (As cited in Schreckengost).
The highly publicized execution took place a week later on December 6, 1861, in a “little hollow or depression forming a natural amphitheater, upon the slopes of which a vast multitude of soldiers assembled at 10:00 A.M.” It was witnessed by Ewell’s entire division which was drawn up on three sides of a hollow square, facing inward, with Taylor’s brigade in the center, Elzey’s on the right, and Trimble’s on the left. Members of the press and other onlookers watched from vantage points in some trees or surrounding hills. Once the division was formed, a covered wagon, escorted by two companies from Colonel Kelly’s 8th Louisiana, slowly drove into the open portion of the square where it stopped in front of two large stakes, “driven into the ground about ten feet apart.” Beside the stakes were “two plain wooden coffins and matching grave sites, stark reminders of the business at hand.” Soon after the wagon stopped, six men got out, Corcoran and O’Brien, still in their distinctive bleached Tiger Zouave uniforms, a Catholic priest, Father Smoulders of the 8th Regiment, who was dressed in a “long black cassock and three-corned cap,” and three officers. At the same time, twelve files (24 men) from the Tiger Rifles marched forward toward the stakes which were “awaiting their occupants.” Private Randolph Shotwell of the 1st North Carolina Battalion, Trimble’s brigade, remembered:
Bright and beautiful was the morning; the sky unclouded; the air crisp and unbracing, and all nature looking fresh and buoyant as if in contrast with the gloom that rested upon the hearts of the thirty thousand spectators gathered upon the hillsides. The solemnity of feeling became so deepened into intense silence as slowly toward the fatal spot approached the funeral cortege; the brass band mournfully playing the dirge 'Death March' from 'Saul,' the doomed men with a priest, and the guards following the musicians, and being followed in turn by the 'firing party' of 24 men of the same company to which the offenders belonged. The procession halted at the graves. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The condemned men were led forward to the stakes when Colonel Kelly rode up and read the charges with which they had been found guilty and the accompanying sentence which condemned them to death. Once done, Corcoran and O’Brien’s hands were tied behind their backs and they were led backward a short distance where they were “made to kneel with their backs resting against two strong posts driven into the ground, about twenty or thirty yards apart.” As this was done, Father Smoulders went back and forth between the condemned men, “comforting them and preparing them for the awful death.” Once situated, Kelly read Corcoran and O’Brien’s supposed last statement to their comrades:
We acknowledge the justice of our sentence. May the rendering up of our lives prove a benefit…and a lesson to all to guard against the vice of drunkenness…we die a soldier’s death [to the] alter of military order and discipline…. Don’t grieve for us! We are going to a better world! Do not mangle us; shoot at our hearts if you love us! Boys, God bless you, and good-bye! (As cited in Schreckengost).
Kelly next signaled Father Smoulders to move away, to have Corcoran and O’Brien blindfolded, and to have the firing squad prepare to carry out their duty. Little did the Tiger executioners know that a company from the 8th Regiment was not far behind, ready to gun them down if they failed to carry out their assigned mission. Major David French Boyd of the 9th Louisiana remembered:
There had been some reason to suspect that the firing squad of the Tigers, as detailed, would at the critical moment disobey orders and refuse to fire on their comrades. To meet this contingency, firm old Henry Kelly, colonel of the 8th Louisiana Regiment, was relied on, with but few in the secret. He had his men load their guns in camp before marching. Why they never knew, only they thought it was a matter of course somehow at an execution. A trusted company merely happened to take position immediately to the rear of the firing party of Tigers, their captain with the secret orders to fire on them should they prove mutinous and fail to fire. (As cited in Schreckengost).
All doubts were removed, however, when Lieutenant Adrian, who was wearing a “long scarlet tunic,” dryly hammered out the appropriate commands of “Ready,” “Aim,” and “Fire!” In the subsequent volley, Corcoran and O’Brien were “killed instantaneously, falling forward on their knees, riddled with bullets.” Overwhelmed with emotion, Private Daniel Corcoran broke from the Tiger Rifles’ formation and ran up to his dead brother’s body and held it, sobbing. A Richmond Dispatch correspondent wrote:
The most affecting part of this scene was immediately following the discharge of musketry. One of the men [who was executed] had a brother in the crowd, who, before the smoke of the volley cleared from the spot, ran to his side and supported him as his life-blood ebbed away, and felt the last quiver of mortality as the soldier’s body fell into his arms...It was heart-rending, to see the poor brother’s agony…. The death of the criminal was borne with stolidity, but the simple sight of such heartfelt, brotherly grief moistened every eye. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Once the bodies were cut away from the posts and loaded into the coffins, they were lowered into their graves and covered up. Afterwards, some curious soldiers combed the execution site for pieces of the stakes or other macabre relics until some men from the Star Battalion, led by Daniel Corcoran himself, angrily dispersed the foragers with fixed bayonets or Bowie Knives. Sergeant Zachary Gilmer of the 18th Virginia, witness to the execution, wrote:
Today I witnessed the most effecting [sic, affecting] sight and heart rending affair that has transpired during the campaign. It was the public execution of Denis Cochrane [sic., Dennis Corcoran] and Mik O’brian [sic., Mike O’Brien] (two of the New Orleans Tigers)…They met their fate without a sigh, without a murmur. They neither feared God, man nor the Devil…These two men I think are the first that have been shot and I hope the last. My idea of this decision is that the men are now going into winter quarters and to prevent them slipping off home, for they thought they would have to make an example of some one and they concluded this the best time and it fell to these poor Tigers to share such an unfortunate lot. Yet perhaps they deserved it for they are the lowest scrapings of the Mississippi and New Orleans and fear not death itself. Court Martials are always formed entirely of officers. Never have a single Private. (As cited in Schreckengost).
After the executions, things apparently began to calm down. “Punishment, so closely following offense,” Taylor snidely proclaimed, “it produced a marked effect.” Besides, winter was setting in, alcohol was strictly forbidden, and Ewell’s division was moved to Camp Carondolet, about three miles east of Manassas atop Willcoxen Hill, to build cabins for the winter. It was also during this time that Wheat’s long lost company, the Rough and Ready Rangers from New Orleans, was finally sent up from Camp Moore to join the battalion. Wheat put the company under Captain Atkins, his Irish aide-de-camp who was recently commissioned by the Confederate government for his actions at Manassas. Atkins renamed the company Wheat’s Life Guards and it officially became Company E, 2nd Louisiana Battalion. (As cited in Schreckengost).
With the addition of the Life Guards, the Louisiana Tiger Battalion took on its permanent organization. The Old Dominion Guards, formerly Company E, became Company D, taking the Catahoula Guerrillas’ old slot. Wheat’s Life Guards, the new addition, became the new or second Company E. The Walker Guards remained Company A, the Tiger Rifles Company B, the Delta Rangers Company C, and Major Wheat remained the battalion’s commander, Captain Harris acting as his second. Lieutenant Charles Pitman of the Delta Rangers replaced Lieutenant Richard Dickinson who was seriously wounded at Manassas as the battalion adjutant. Lieutenant Samuel Dushane of the Tiger Rifles remained the battalion quartermaster, Bruce Putnam, the battalion’s original sergeant major, was promoted to lieutenant in the Life Guards and Sergeant John Wrigley of the Walker Guards took his place. Sergeant H.H. Tabor of the Delta Rangers was appointed as Wheat’s ordnance specialist; Dr. William Love remained the battalion’s surgeon; and Solomon Solomon, the Jewish merchant from New Orleans and Obedia Miller’s business associate, remained the battalion’s sutler. Lieutenant William Foley, with Obedia Miller’s return to New Orleans, became the commander of the Old Dominion Guards until the battalion was disbanded in 1862. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Also around this time, the Louisiana Brigade received a generous uniform issue from its state government. For the first time since the war began, every man in the brigade, except those from Captain White’s Tiger Rifles, who elected to retain their signature Zouav d’Afrique visage as best they could, gained a uniform appearance. The standard issue consisted of two shirts, one checked and one flannel, two pairs of drawers, two pairs of wool socks, a bluish-gray jean-wool jacket with nine Louisiana State buttons, epaulettes, and trimmed with black cotton tape; a pair of matching trousers, a pair of white canvas leggings, a blue-gray jean-wool kepi with a stiff black leather bill and black wool band, and one jean-wool overcoat of various shades. The men of the Tiger Rifles didn’t refuse the general issue, mind you, but wished to simply retain their distinctive Zouave trappings as a matter of pride. As such, they most probably looked like an eclectic band of brigands from Barataria—Wheat playing the part of Jean Laffitte— or a drunken group of outlandish hooligans who were celebrating Mardi Gras, as they continued to wear either their original but now bleached Zouave jackets or the gray jean-wool issue jackets that were modified to more closely match their original uniforms. For trousers, they apparently wore-out their blue-and-white-striped ship pantaloons and replaced them with their newly issued jeans with or without the white canvas leggings. For headgear, they would have donned with pride, if still available, their straw hats of Manassas fame, broad brimmed felt hats of various earthen tones, or issue kepis. Most men from the other companies seemingly retained their red battle shirts. The battalion colors, which had been soiled by Wheat’s blood at the foot of Dogan’s Ridge, were replaced by what eventually became known as an Army of Northern Virginia battle flag with yellow edging. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Once the New Orleans Battalion settled into its winter encampment, well under Taylor’s heel, Wheat felt comfortable enough to host several “Tiger dinners” to entertain friends and impress dignitaries in order to polish his own and the Tiger Battalion’s tarnished reputations. Major David French Boyd of the 9th Louisiana remembered:
Wheat gave what was known as 'The Tiger Dinner' to many of his friends, including the leading officers of the army. Beauregard and Dick Taylor, our brigade commander, suspecting what might occur, prudently excused themselves. A more brilliant set of clever men, military or civilian, perhaps never sat around a board during the war…. Wheat was the prince of hosts and entertained royally. He had a superb dinner for his distinguished guests within his large marquee, and gave a more plebeian feast to his Tigers on the outside. But all were filled with plenty and good cheer. The choicest of liquors and wines were served within the tent; the Tigers stole all they wanted from the outside, and all were happy. A fine band enlivened the occasion with its sweetest strains. And while the Major and his guests within were toasting and responding, reviving old memories and dreaming of glorious careers, the Tigers were having fun, too, on the outside. To the music of the band, mounted on the horses of the generals; two big Tigers on Joe Johnston’s big bay; they rode around and around, circus fashion, and ran races up and down the road as long as they were sober enough to stick on….At about two o’clock in the morning Wheat and his guests were well hors de combat, and the commander [Joe Johnston] was hauled to his headquarters in an ambulance; maybe his horse was too tired! (As cited in Schreckengost).
Similarly, Wheat and Major Frederick Skinner of the 1st Virginia Regiment were supposedly engaged in a friendly contest to see who was better at creating gourmet meals in the field. Major Skinner wrote:
[I found it] difficult to compete with Wheat’s cabeza de buey al ranchero; an ox head, with skin and horns intact, covered in a pit of coals and baked like a potato. To prepare the meal, Wheat decapitated an ox, sewed loose skin over the neck cut, and buried the head in the coals at tattoo. The next morning, the head was dug up and brought into [a] tent covered with ashes and dirt. [It was] as repulsive an object as my eyes ever beheld, but giving a most appetizing odor. The dirt and ashes were brushed off and the skin and horns [were] speedily and skillfully removed, and lo! A metamorphosis occurred. We had before us a dish as grateful to the eyes as to the nostrils. (As cited in Schreckengost).
The Tiger dinners seem to have eased the trepidations of many at Camp Beauregard and a good relationship was in fact forged between the Special Battalion and the 9th Louisiana, a regiment that was initially abhorred by the Tigers’ presence. Private Harry Handerson remembered:
We never had the slightest difficulty with [the Tigers], and in fact the regiment and the battalion got along together so well that they were often jestingly called 'the happy family'…. Major Wheat and [Colonel] Stafford [of the 9th Louisiana] became warm friends, and in this way we saw quite a little of the renowned filibuster and free-lance. (As cited in Schreckengost).
Jackson's Valley Campaign
In early 1862, Wheat's Tigers were assigned Brig. Gen.
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...
Richard Taylor was a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was the son of United States President Zachary Taylor and First Lady Margaret Taylor.-Early life:...
's First Louisiana Brigade in the army of Stonewall Jackson
ຄຽשת״ׇׂׂׂׂ֣|birth_place= Clarksburg, Virginia |death_place=Guinea Station, Virginia|placeofburial=Stonewall Jackson Memorial CemeteryLexington, Virginia|placeofburial_label= Place of burial|image=...
. They participated in his 1862 Valley Campaign
Jackson's Valley Campaign was Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's famous spring 1862 campaign through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia during the American Civil War...
, proving instrumental in Confederate victories at the battles of Front Royal
The Battle of Front Royal, also known as Guard Hill or Cedarville, was fought May 23, 1862, in Warren County, Virginia, as part of Confederate Army Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Campaign through the Shenandoah Valley during the American Civil War...
, Winchester, and Port Republic
-References:* Cozzens, Peter. Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8078-3200-4....
The Seven Days
In late spring, Jackson's force was sent eastward to participate in the Peninsula Campaign
The Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War was a major Union operation launched in southeastern Virginia from March through July 1862, the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. The operation, commanded by Maj. Gen. George B...
. Following Wheat's death at the Battle of Gaines' Mill
The Battle of Gaines's Mill, sometimes known as the First Battle of Cold Harbor or the Battle of Chickahominy River, took place on June 27, 1862, in Hanover County, Virginia, as the third of the Seven Days Battles of the American Civil War...
and with but some 60 officers or men under Capt. Harris, the Tiger Battalion was merged with Coppens' Zouaves within the Army of Northern Virginia. The combined unit was heavily depleted during the Northern Virginia Campaign
The Northern Virginia Campaign, also known as the Second Bull Run Campaign or Second Manassas Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during August and September 1862 in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. Confederate General Robert E...
and the subsequent Maryland Campaign
The Maryland Campaign, or the Antietam Campaign is widely considered one of the major turning points of the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was repulsed by Maj. Gen. George B...
, where its leader, Colonel
In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, colonel is a senior field grade military officer rank just above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general...
Auguste Gaston Coppens, was killed. The amalgamated battalion was disbanded shortly after the Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam , fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000...
and the men dispersed among other units.
Hays' "Louisiana Tiger" Brigade
By then, the nickname "Louisiana Tigers" had expanded to encompass the entire brigade, which was commanded by Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays
Harry Thompson Hays was an American Army officer serving in the Mexican-American War and a general who served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War....
following Taylor's promotion and transfer to the Western Theater
This article presents an overview of major military and naval operations in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.-Theater of operations:...
. By the Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside...
in late 1862, Hays' Brigade was composed of the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Louisiana, and was a part of the division
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...
of Maj. Gen.
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...
Jubal A. Early.
During the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign
The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The...
, Hays' Brigade played a crucial role in the Confederate victory at the Second Battle of Winchester, seizing a key fort and forcing the withdrawal of Union troops under Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy
Robert Huston Milroy was a lawyer, judge, and a Union Army general in the American Civil War, most noted for his defeat at the Second Battle of Winchester in 1863.-Early life:...
. During the subsequent invasion of southern Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...
, much of the populace feared the thievery and drunkenness often associated with the colorful Louisianans. At the Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...
, Hays' Brigade stormed East Cemetery Hill
Cemetery Hill is a Gettysburg Battlefield landform which had 1863 military engagements each day of the July 1–3 Battle of Gettysburg. The northernmost part of the Army of the Potomac defensive "fish-hook" line, the hill is gently sloped and provided a site for American Civil War artillery...
on the second day
The Battle of Gettysburg, Second Day was an attempt by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to capitalize on his first day's success. He launched the Army of Northern Virginia in multiple Gettsyburg Battlefield attacks on the flanks of the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George G...
and seized several Union
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...
Field artillery in the American Civil War refers to the important artillery weapons, equipment, and practices used by the Artillery branch to support the infantry and cavalry forces in the field. It does not include siege artillery, use of artillery in fixed fortifications, or coastal or naval...
before withdrawing when supporting units were not advanced.
In the autumn of 1863, more than half the brigade was captured at the Battle of Rappahannock Station
-References:* by the National Park Service* *...
, and 600 men were shipped to Northern prisoner-of-war camp
A prisoner-of-war camp is a site for the containment of combatants captured by their enemy in time of war, and is similar to an internment camp which is used for civilian populations. A prisoner of war is generally a soldier, sailor, or airman who is imprisoned by an enemy power during or...
s, many to Fort Delaware
Fort Delaware is a harbor defense facility, designed by Chief Engineer Joseph Gilbert Totten, and located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. During the American Civil War, the Union used Fort Delaware as a prison for Confederate prisoners of war, political prisoners, federal convicts, and...
. Most would be paroled and would later rejoin the Tigers. The replenished brigade fought in the Overland Campaign
The Overland Campaign, also known as Grant's Overland Campaign and the Wilderness Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864, in the American Civil War. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union armies, directed the actions of the Army of the...
at the Battle of the Wilderness
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–7, 1864, was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, a harbinger of a bloody war of attrition by...
and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania , was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged...
, where General Hays was severely wounded.
During the subsequent reorganization of Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....
's army in late May, the much depleted brigade of Tigers was consolidated with the "Pelican Brigade," formally known as the Second Louisiana Brigade, which had also lost its commander, Leroy A. Stafford, a long-time Tiger. Zebulon York
Zebulon York was a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was among a small group of Northern-born Confederate generals.-Early life:York was a native of Avon, Maine...
became the new commander.
The nickname Tigers came to encompass all Louisiana infantry troops that fought under Lee. Nearly 12,000 men served at one time or another in various regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...
s that were destined to be part of the Louisiana Tigers. The name was at times also used for other Louisiana troops, including Levi's Light Artillery Battery and Maurin's Battery, but it was the infantry that is most often associated with the term.
York's consolidated brigade of Tigers fought in Early's army during the Battle of Monocacy
The Battle of Monocacy was fought on July 9, 1864, just outside Frederick, Maryland, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864, in the American Civil War. Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early defeated Union forces under Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace...
and several subsequent battles in the Shenandoah Valley. In late 1864, the Tigers returned to the Army of Northern Virginia in the trenches around Petersburg, Virginia
The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War...
. By the Appomattox Campaign
The Appomattox Campaign was a series of battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that culminated in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E...
, many regiments were reduced to less than 100 men apiece, and Brig. Gen. William R. Peck
William Raine Peck was a wealthy American plantation owner, politician, and soldier who served as a general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War...
had become the Tigers' final commander.
Following the Civil War, many former Tigers joined the Hays Brigade Relief Association, a prominent New Orleans social and political organization. Harry T. Hays
Harry Thompson Hays was an American Army officer serving in the Mexican-American War and a general who served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War....
, by then the local sheriff, mobilized the association during the 1866 New Orleans Race Riot. A company of former Louisiana Tigers joined the Fenian Invasion of Upper Canada on June 1, 1866 and fought the Canadian militia the next day at the Battle of Ridgeway
The Battle of Ridgeway was fought in the vicinity of the town of Fort Erie across the Niagara River from Buffalo, NY near the village of Ridgeway, Canada West, currently Ontario, Canada on June 2, 1866, between Canadian troops and an irregular army of Irish-American invaders, the Fenians...
The nickname Louisiana "Tigers" lives on with the athletic teams of the Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most often referred to as Louisiana State University, or LSU, is a public coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name...