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1863 June 13: Capture of Fort Burton at Butte a la Rose, and other News from Louisiana

June 19, 2013

The following news from Louisiana is from The Polk County Press of June 13, 1863.

A New Southern Source.

FROM THE N. O. [New Orleans] ERA.

We are indebted to the politeness of a friend for a copy of the Opelousas Courier of the 25th to a very readable Southern paper, which seems to be unflinchingly Union.  We give below a taste of its quality:


Capt. SeemesC. S. Light Artillery, and Com. Fuller² C. S. Navy, with a large number of other officers, are on a visit to New Orleans, where they will be the guests of Gen. Bowen [John S. Bowen], the gentlemanly and accomplished Provost Marshall [sic] General.  We understand that some of them are anxious to return, but their buisiness [sic] engagements are of such a character as will propably [sic] render their stay in the Cressent [sic] city one of some duration.


We copy the following from the Alexandria Sentinel of last week, received through a Southern source.


ON THE ROAD from Berwicks Bay to Alexandria the following articles:

Two battles.
Several skirmishes.
Three gunboats.
Twenty guns.
About 1,500 prisoners
Eight transports.
One Butte a la Rose.
One salt mine.
About 5000 beef cattle.
About 5000 horses.

A large lot of camp equipage,  Quartermaster’s stores, lumber, amunition [sic], &c. &c.

Also a PRESITGE, highly colored of no use to any one but the owner.

The finder will be thankfully rewarded by returning them to me, somewhere on the road to Texas or Arkansas, or by giving such information as may lead to their recovery.

R. TAYLOR,³ Major General.

(See footnote 4)

(See footnote 4)


Butte a la Rose.  Taken April 20, with all its garrison, armament, and stores by the United States.  It is the key to the Atchafalaya, and Gen. Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks] has turned it.4


Two hundred of the fifteen hundred Confederate soldiers turned over by Major General Taylor to Major Gen. Banks have voluntarily taken the oath of alegiance [sic] to the United States.

Col. Chickering,5 of the 41st Mass. Regiment, has been appointed Military Govenor [sic] and Provost Marshal of Opelousas.

1.  Oliver John Seemes (1839-1918) was born at the Northfolk Navy Yard. Seemes entered the Civil War as a 2nd lieutenant in the Confederate Infantry after his father, Confederate Admiral Rafael Semmes, wrote letters for him to Secretary of War L. P. Walker and President Jefferson Davis. Seemes organized the Semmes Battery. At the battle of Franklin (part of the Bayou Teche Campaign), where he was commanding the steamer Diana, Seemes surrendered and was taken prisoner on April 14, 1863.  While being sent to Fort Delaware, Seemes and fifty other officers escaped. At the end of the War, Seemes left as captain of the 1st Regular Battery of the 1st  Confederate Light Artillery. After the War, he served as judge of the City Court for the city of Mobile, Alabama.
2.  E. W. Fuller was a veteran  gunboat commander and the captain of the Queen of the West after she was taken by the Confederates. Like Seemes, Fuller was taken prisoner and sent to New Orleans before being shipped off to Fort Delaware. Fuller will die before reaching Delaware.
3.  Richard Taylor (1826-1879), the son of U.S. President Zachary Taylor, served as his father’s military secretary during the Mexican War, but had to leave due to rheumatoid arthritis. After his father’s death in 1850, Richard Taylor inherited a sugar cane plantation in Louisiana. When the Civil War started, General Braxton Bragg, who had known Taylor from before the War, thought his knowledge of military history would help him organize and train the Confederate forces. Taylor had been opposed to secession, but accepted the appointment. While serving in that capacity he was commissioned colonel of the 9th Louisiana Infantry and served at the First Battle of Bull Run. In October 1861 Taylor was promoted to brigadier general. He served in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and the Seven Days Battles. When Taylor was promoted to major general in July 1862, he was the youngest major general in the Confederacy. He was ordered to Opelousas, Louisiana, to conscript and enroll troops in the District of Western Louisiana. Unfortunately, attacks of rheumatoid arthritis left him crippled for days at a time and unable to command in battle. During 1863, Taylor directed an effective series of clashes with Union forces over control the Bayou Teche region in southern Louisiana.
4.  The Union Army captured Fort Burton at Butte a la Rose on April 20, 1863. This map is from the History of the Sixteenth Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers, by Luther Tracy townsend (Washington, D.C.: Norman T. Elliott, 1897): 154. Chapter 8, the “Capture of Fort Burton, at Butte á la Rose,” is an extensive account of the battle. Available digitally on the Internet Archive.
5.  Thomas Edward Chickering (1824-1871) was the owner of Chickering and Sons piano manufacturing company in Boston. Before the War, he commanded a company of state militia–the New England Guards, and on September 15, 1862, he was placed in command of 41st Massachusetts Infantry. His regiment was sent to New Orleans in November of that year as part of General Banks’ Louisiana expedition, and the 41st garrisoned Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during the winter of 1862–1863. During April and May 1863, the 41st Massachusetts was part of an expedition to Opelousas, Louisiana, to forage for supplies and gather freed slaves as recruits for the Union Army, and Chickering was appointed military governor of Opelousas. In June 1863, the 41st Massachusetts was consolidated with three companies of cavalry and became a mounted unit, the 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry, which fought at the Siege of Port Hudson and the Red River Campaign. Chickering commanded the 3rd Cavalry until September 1864 when he resigned from the army.

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