Recollection of Joseph Blessington, Battle of Bayou Bourbeau, November 3, 1863

    Source citation
    Joseph Palmer Blessington, The Campaigns of Walker’s Texas Division (New York: Lange, Little & Co., 1875), 139-144.
    Date Certainty
    Transcription adapted from The Campaigns of Walker’s Texas Division (1875), by Joseph Palmer Blessington
    Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    The following transcript has been adapted from The Campaigns of Walker’s Texas Division (1875).

    After a tiresome and laborious tramp, they marched through the town of Opelousas to the tune of "Dixie," as daylight was dawning, on the morning of the 3d. They halted near General Green's headquarters to cook breakfast. After breakfast, a general advance of the cavalry and infantry forces was ordered by General Green. On arriving within three miles of the enemy's camp they halted to rest. While the troops were resting, General Green held a consultation with his field- officers, after informing them that General Dick Taylor had ordered him to attack the enemy's rearguard, then encamped on the west bank of Bayou Bourbeaux (Boggy Creek), eight miles south of Opelousas. Close by the enemy's camp was a skirt of timber, about six hundred yards wide, running through the prairie. A large body of the enemy, consisting of part of the 13th Army Corps, under command of General Burbridge, were encamped: their forces consisted of about five or six thousand veteran troops of the Northwest. They were the rearguard of Franklin’s army, who were encamped four miles further south …

    Very soon our infantry skirmishers came upon our cavalry pickets, who were amusing themselves, as it were, in shooting down a wide lane, one and a half miles long, at the enemy's pickets, who were firing back in return. The infantry skirmishers continued to advance, followed by the brigade. Majors' cavalry had already gone on towards their position, and here Bagby's cavalry turned off obliquely to the right. General Green and staff followed after. General Green, beholding his cavalry pickets wasting their ammunition without' any effect, at once ordered Colonel Roberts to clear the lane. That heroic and indefatigable officer, who was on his way home to recover his broken health, hearing that his regiment was ordered to the front, hurriedly returned to lead his gallant men to victory.

    Though very pale and feeble, his dark eye was lit up by martial music; his frail form appeared -full of vigor and vitality. Imagine the old veteran colonel of Walker's Division at the head of his column, with his sword drawn, gallantly leading his men to victory ! Soon the lane was cleared of the enemy, driving them before him. After getting through the lane, he formed his men in line of battle, in the edge of the timber, and moved steadily forward, driving the enemy's outposts into their camp. Seeing some trees cut down near the camp, he anticipated that probably the enemy might have some masked batteries behind the trees ; he halted his brigade a few moments, until he could learn the facts. Hearing from his sharpshooters, who were some distance in advance of his brigade, that no artillery was placed behind the trees, he ordered his brigade to advance in the direction of the enemy's camp. Nearing the enemy's camp, he beheld them in line of battle, ready to give the Texans a warm reception on their arrival. Nearer his brigade advances, showing a bold and solid front to the enemy. His sharpshooters fire, and stop to reload again ; then moving forward, nearing their camp, they meet with a large body of the enemy. Upon which they fall back gradually, and rejoin their command. Soon the war-worn old veteran gave the command, in his sonorous voice, "Charge them, boys!" which was quickly done, notwithstanding the enemy was formed in a ravine, anticipating a charge from the Texans. They placed their artillery so as to bear on our troops, from the edge of their camp. Fortunately, their shots passed over our men, doing no harm.

    In the meantime a large body of the enemy's cavalry had been forming to charge our infantry in their rear, by forcing the passage of the bridges, in opposition to a force under Major Carroway, of the 11th T. V. Infantry, who had been sent there by Colonel Roberts, aided by a cavalry company, under Captain Jack Waterhouse. Now the battle raged in all its fury. All of the field-officers, except Colonel Roberts, dismounted and led their commands with undaunted firmness. The voices of the brave officers, encouraging their men, could be heard, loud and distinct, amidst the crash and roar of a continued fire of small arms and artillery. Men fell thick and fast on both sides…..

    This battle, from the first to the last firing, lasted fully three hours. It is impossible, in a short sketch of this kind, to do justice to the gallant conduct of the officers and men. It would afford the writer great pleasure to do so. Our forces lost, in the infantry brigade, twenty-one killed; wounded, eighty-two; taken prisoners, thirty-eight. Our cavalry and artillery lost in killed, three; wounded, twenty. "We captured about six hundred prisoners, and killed and wounded about two hundred. Most of the prisoners were captured by the cavalry, and, doubtless, many feats of bravery were performed by them on that occasion, which would deserve a commendable notice if they could be detailed.

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