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THE CIVIL WAR IN MADISON PARISH

From The Madison Journal Centennial Issue August 14, 1975, Section III pp. 1-8

(Slightly modified from original Ė Richard P. Sevier)

Preparation

March through Madison

Invasion

Battle of Milliken's Bend

The "Arkansas"

Reconstruction

War Shortages

Planters Return

Second Invasion

Northern Immigrants

Grant's Canals

Captain Hawkes

 

Madison 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 which.

The 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 Vicksburg.

Grant and Sherman - inventors of a new type of war unfamiliar to Madisonians. It was war which involved the unpitying destruction of civilian property.

Before 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 shooting stopped.

PREPARING FOR WAR

Even 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.

The 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"]

They 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.

Of 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.

One 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.

The 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.

Foreign 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.

Negro 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.

The 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.

By 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.

Although 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.

However, 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.

This 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.

A 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.

A 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.

All 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 enemy".

INVASION

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.

Vicksburg 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.

The 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.

The 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.

However, 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.

With 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.

The 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.

Twelve 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 Negroes flourished.

By 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 dig.

The 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.

THE "ARKANSAS"

Admiral 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 inches thick.

The 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.

For 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,.

But 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.

Shortly 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 fleet.

Farragut, 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 mosquitoes.

Swearing 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.

An 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 the shade."

This 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.

Williams 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.

The 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 "Yankee ingenuity."

More 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Incidents 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.

WAR SHORTAGES

As 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."

Prices 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 to Yankees.

For example, substitutes for flour that were tried included rice flour, cornmeal, hominy, pea-meal, sorghum flour, "pumpkin bread," acorns, persimmons, clover and lilies.

Madisonians made "okra coffee" out of okra seed, after experimenting with parched potatoes, parched pindars, burned meal and roasted acorns.

"Confederate 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 whiskey, added.

A 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."

She 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."

SECOND INVASION

While 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.

The 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.

Grant 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.

Sherman 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.

With 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.

A 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.

Sherman, 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.

Grant's 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.

With 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.

The 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 important position.

The 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.

David 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.

General 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.

A 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 unreasonable fears.

General 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.

As 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.

Grant, 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.

His 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.

Grant 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.

GRANT'S CANALS

As 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.

The 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 force.

McClernand's 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.

Thousands 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. "

If 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 up something."

Boyd's 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.

The 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 travel possible.

Thousands 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."

The 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.

The 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.

Work 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 Point."

There 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.

With 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,

The 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

This 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.

Grant 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.

The 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.)

The 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.

MARCH THROUGH MADISON

Grant's 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.

Troops 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.

The 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. .

Maj. 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, Somerset.

With 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

McClernand 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.

Shortly 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.

Despite 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.

The 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.

In 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."

This 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.

Grant 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.

Sherman's 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 here)

Throughout 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.

Taylor 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,

Brig. 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.

Walker 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.

This 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.

The 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.

The 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.

All 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.

Grant 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.

Walker's 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.

Mower 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.

The 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 Lincoln Street.

RECONSTRUCTION

On 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 had begun.

Most 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.

The 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.

The 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.

These 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.

Some 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."

Perhaps 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.,

The 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 lessee system.

Carpetbaggers 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.")

Few 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.

Many 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.

Thus, 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 masters.

Many 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.

Thievery 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.

To 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.

Legend 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."

Lea's 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 Capt. Lea.

Operating 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.

Lea 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.

REFUGEE PLANTERS RETURN

Some 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.

Kate 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.

"But 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."

The 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.

The 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."

Thomas 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.

But 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.

The 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.

One 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.

Most whites felt that nothing could be done about these problems until white political supremacy was restored and made this goal their chief ambition.

The 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.

The 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 ballots.

The 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.

It 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.

As 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.

The number of registered black voters would remain at zero for nearly a century. Madison had once again gone from one extreme to another.

NORTHERN IMMIGRANTS

Most 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.

One 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."

This 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.

Some 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 constituents.

Dennis 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.

He 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.

Gen. 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.

Friend 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 acres.

Monetary 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.

In 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.

CAPTAIN HAWKES

William 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.

"He 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."

It 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)."

Despite 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.

A 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.

Friends 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.

Without 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.

The 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.

On 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.

The 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.

These 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.

© 1999 Richard P. Sevier (dicksevier@gmail.com)