Recollection of Richard Taylor, Battle of Bayou Bourbeau, November 3, 1863

    Source citation
    Richard Taylor, Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879), 150-151.
    Date Certainty
    Transcription adapted from Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War (1879), by Richard Taylor
    Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    The following transcript has been adapted from Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War (1879).

    In October [1863] the Federals moved a large force of all arms up the Teche, their advance reaching the Courtableau. I concentrated for a fight, but they suddenly retired to the Bayou Bourbeau, three miles south of Opelousas, where they left a considerable body under General [Stephen] Burbridge. On the 3d of November [General Thomas] Green, reënforced by three regiments of [General John] Walker's division, was ordered to attack them, and they were beaten with the loss of six hundred prisoners. This was the first opportunity I had had of observing the admirable conduct of Walker's men in action. Green's pursuit was stopped by the approach of heavy masses of the enemy from the south, who seemed content with the rescue of Burbridge, as they retired at once to the vicinity of New Iberia, fifty miles away. Green followed with a part of his horse, and kept his pickets close up; but one of his regiments permitted itself to be surprised at night, on the open prairie near New Iberia, and lost a hundred men out of a hundred and twenty-five. So much for want of discipline and over-confidence. General Banks's report mentions this capture, but is silent about Bourbeau.

    The prisoners taken at the Bourbeau were marched to the Red River, where supplies could be had. The second day after the action, en route for Alexandria in an ambulance, I turned out of the road on to the prairie to pass the column, when I observed an officer, in the uniform of a colonel, limping along with his leg bandaged. Surprised at this, I stopped to inquire the reason, and was told that the colonel refused to separate from his men. Descending from the ambulance, I approached him, and, as gently as possible, remonstrated against the folly of walking on a wounded leg. He replied that his wound was not very painful, and he could keep up with the column. His regiment was from Wisconsin, recruited among his neighbors and friends, and he was very unwilling to leave it. I insisted on his riding with me, for a time at least, as we would remain on the road his men were following. With much reluctance he got into the ambulance, and we drove on. For some miles he was silent, but, avoiding subjects connected with the war, I put him at ease, and before Alexandria was reached we were conversing pleasantly. Impressed by his bearing and demeanor, I asked him in what way I could serve him, and learned that he desired to send a letter to his wife in Wisconsin, who was in delicate health and expecting to be confined. She would hear of the capture of his regiment, and be uncertain as to his fate. "You shall go to the river to-night," I replied, "catch one of your steamers, and take home the assurance of your safety. Remain on parole until you can send me an officer of equal rank, and I will look to the comfort of your men and have them exchanged at the earliest moment." His manly heart was so affected by this as to incapacitate him from expressing his thanks.

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