2nd  Regiment Louisiana Native Guards

Union Assault on Pascagoula

Col. Nathan Daniels and Major Francis Dumas of the 2nd Regiment circa 1863
Courtesy  C. P. Weaver

Report of Col. Nathan W. Daniels, Second Louisiana Native Guard

APRIL 9, 1863.--Skirmish at Pascagoula, Miss.

Ship Island, Miss., April 10, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to report that I embarked with a detachment of 180 men of my regiment on U.S. transport General Banks, and yesterday at 9 a.m. made an attack upon Pascagoula, Miss. Landed my force, took possession of the place, and hoisted the American colors upon the hotel. I immediately thereafter was attacked by the Confederate cavalry, some 300 strong, and one company of infantry. Repulsed them after a severe fight, killing 20 or more, and wounding a large number, capturing 3 prisoners and the Confederate colors. Held the town until 2 p.m., frequent skirmishes occurring meanwhile, when I withdrew my forces to the boat, learning that large re-enforcements had arrived from the camp up the Pascagoula River. Loss in battle, 2 killed and 5 slightly wounded. In covering the return of the troops to the transport, the U.S. gun-boat Jackson, which accompanied the expedition under orders not to take part in the attack, supposing we were repulsed, unfortunately threw a shell directly into the column moving out the wharf, killing 4 men and seriously wounding 5 of my force. The expedition otherwise was a perfect success, as the enemy were in every attack repulsed, a large number killed and wounded; prisoners and their Confederate colors captured with the slight loss of two men. The expedition has also materially changed the plans of the Mobile forces, as they were about sending the weight of their numbers to Charleston, S. C., this attack causing them to send heavy re-enforce-ments toward Pascagoula. I forward this dispatch in great haste by transport General Banks, which leaves immediately, and will send report of details by next opportunity.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Nathan Daniels
2d Regt. Louisiana Native Guards, A. D., Comdg. Post.


                                                             Pascagoula water front in 1860's. Building on far right was the site the 2nd Regiment attack


MOBILE, ALA., July 30, 1863

A gentleman who left Vicksburg on Friday states that Grant is still in Vicksburg. Is repairing road to Jackson. Expect bridge over Big Black to be ready for transportation of cars in about thirty days. There is great and increasing sickness in the army, and their expectation is that It will be sixty days before they will move to Jackson. They propose to go to Meridian, to Demopolis, and to Selma, and then invest Mobile.
They were actively organizing negro regiments, which they threw across into Louisiana as fast as organized. No large force has been sent up the river. Those sent were of Burnside's corps and troops whose time had expired. McPherson in command at Vicksburg; Parke at Snyder's Bluff. Informant is person of intelligence and veracity, with peculiar opportunities of information. Another officer Just in from New Orleans with prisoners states that Banks' force has been recently increased from Grant, and that they propose soon sending one portion of Banks' army over into Louisiana, and another, 20,000 strong, to Pascagoula. Grant is collecting immense supplies of stores at Vicksburg.

Major-General Commanding.

Black Troops in combat north of Vicksburg at Milliken's Bend on June 7, 1863     


 The following material is part of an historic resource study taken from US military records, compiled by historian Edwin C. Bearss for  the National Park Service,Gulf Islands
National Seashore                                                                                                                    

General Benjamin Butler


A.     General Butler Organizes the Louisiana Native Guards
In mid-August 1862, General Butler, following the recoil from Vicksburg and the repulse of the Confederates at Baton Rouge, became convinced that the enemy was massing an army for an attack on New Orleans. Butler's forces coincidentally had been weakened by loss of men from disease and the discharge of those whom nine months of service had shown to be unfit for duty. To fill many of these empty billets, Butler had enlisted a thousand men locally, and was organizing another 1,200 Louisiana whites, who favored the Union, into the newly constituted 1st Regiment of Louisiana Volunteers, National Guard, and two companies of cavalry.  Relaying this information to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Sutler boldly announced plans to avail himself of the services of the "free colored men who were organized by the rebels into the Colored Brigade. . . . They are free; they have been used by our enemies, whose mouths are shut, and they will be loyal."

Butler, in calling for reinforcements to enable him to cooperate with the Navy in its projected attack on Mobile and at the same time to defend New Orleans, would "call on Africa to intervene." Such a call, he believed, would not be in vain. On August 22, to implement his decision, General Butler issued 3eneral Order No. 63, announcing plans to organize a force from Native guard veterans to take service in the volunteer forces of the United States and be enrolled and organized to "defend their homes from ruthless invaders," to protect their wives and children and kindred from wrong and outrage, to shield their property from being seized by bad men, and to defend the flag of their native country as their fathers did under Jackson at Chalmette against Pakenham.

Relying on their "well-known loyalty and patriotism," Butler directed that all Native Guard veterans and all other free men of color who "shall enlist in the volunteer service of the United States" are to be organized by "appointment of proper officers and accepted, paid, equipped, armed, and rationed as are other volunteer troops of the United States, subject to the approval of the President of the United States." Men desirous of enlisting were to report at the Touro Charity Building, on Front Leeve Street. There, they would be met and mustered in by officers designated by General Butler

 The War Department, upon being informed of the proposal to organize and arm the Native Guards, wrote Butler that the subject was left to his discretion.
When the blacks were recruited, "no one asked whether slave or free," and some fugitive slaves probably joined. Butler's order to expropriate the property of pro-Confederate foreign nationals, living in and around New Orleans, and to enlist their slaves into the Union Army was an additional inducement to recruiting. By September 1, so many free men of color had answered the call that Butler boasted, "I shall . . . have within ten days a regiment, 1,000 strong, of Native Guards . . . the darkest of whom will be about the complexion of the late Mr. Webster.

B.   The 2d Regiment of Louisiana Native Guards
  1.      Its Organization and Muster In
During the weeks between August 22 and mid-October  thousand "free men of color" were mustered into service at Touro Barracks New Orleans. They were introduced to their officers, appointed by General  organized into companies; and issued arms, accoutrements, and forms. On September 27, ten companies were organized into the 1st regiment of Louisiana Native Guards; on October 12, ten additional companies were organized as the 2d Regiment of Louisiana Native Guards; and, on November 24, after additional recruiting in the La Fourche, the 3d Regiment of Louisiana Native Guards was constituted and mustered in.

One of these regiments, the 2d, was destined to be associated with the history of Ship Island. The regiment's field officers and staff were: Nathan W. Daniels of New Orleans, colonel; Alfred G. Hall, late of the 9th Connecticut, lieutenant colonel; Francis E. Dumas, major; Samuel M. Willis of the 26th Massachusetts, surgeon; Elijah K. Proutz of the 8th Vermont, adjutant; Charles Sauvinet of New Orleans, quartermaster; and Stephen A Hodgman, chaplain. All the company officers, except one, were blacks or mulattos. The company commanders were: Company A, Pinckney B. L. Pinchback; Company B, William B. Barret; Company C, Hannibal Carter; Company D, Edward P. Chase; Company E, Monrose Merrillion; Company F, Samuel W. Ringgold; Company G. Joseph Villevert; Company H, Arnold Bertonneau; Company William Belley; and Company K, Samuel J. Wilkinson. Eight of the captains listed New Orleans as their place of residence and two, Pinchback and Barret, hailed from Ohio.

A review of the enlistment books for Company E reveals certain data about the enlisted personnel. Of the 89 men, 29 listed their complexion as black, 38 as fair, 7 as brown, and 18 as griff. The occupations represented were: cigarmakers, 18; shoemakers, 10; bricklayers, 8; carpenters, 7; masons, 3; coachmen, 2; laborers, 29; and engineers, plasterers, teamsters, bakers, coopers, cartwrights, printers, slaters, painters, brickmasons, and mattress makers, one each. All the men resided in New Orleans but one, and he was from Franklin Parish. The oldest recruit was  John B. Ferrand, 56; and the youngest Francois Johnson, 17.5  While the Native Guards were in training, their activities aroused much interest. The streets and open spaces around the barracks and nearby Camp Strong were crowded with visitors and onlookers, particularly from the free black sector of the populace, who enjoyed the afternoon dress parades. On October 24, Frank Barclay, editor of L'Union, a French language newspaper catering to the free people of color, watched and wrote about an evening dress parade. He described the good discipline of the troops, neatness of the camp and barracks, and the skill with which the Native Guards handled their arms and performed military evolutions.

2.      It Goes into the La Fourche
The 2d Regiment remained at Touro Barracks until October 30, when it was ordered into the field to reinforce Union forces that had taken the offensive in the La Fourche, to the west of New Orleans. Crossing the Mississippi, the troops bivouacked at Gretna. Early on the first day of November, Colonel Daniels formed his regiment and turned it into the road paralleling the New Orleans, Opelousas & Great Western Railroad. Nightfall found the blacks, after an 18-mile march, going into camp at Boutte Station. During the next 48 hours, Colonel Daniels, in accordance with orders from Brig. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel, posted his ten companies at key points along the 15 miles of track between Boutte Station and Raceland.

The regiment, besides guarding the vital New Orleans, Opelousas & Great Western Railroad against forays by Rebel partisans, carried out a number of patrols, and confiscated supplies from Confederate sympathizers which were forwarded to the New Orleans quartermaster and commissary depots.
On November 5, General Weitzel wrote Butler's headquarters that he could not continue to command the blacks because slaves outnumbered whites in the region, and he feared the possibility of a servile insurrection precipitated by the Native Guards. There had also been complaints of stealing, plundering, and other crimes perpetrated by the black soldiers.

Although Weitzel was his protege, Butler had little sympathy for his carping. Weitzel was ordered to retain the Native Guards in his command, because "these colored regiments of freemen, raised by the authority of the President, and approved by him as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army must be commanded by the officers of the Army of the United States like any other regiments." Butler further reminded Weitzel that recall of two regiments would not necessarily prevent a servile uprising, and also pointed out that there had been no criticism of the blacks for failures in their previously assigned tasks, for disobedience to their officers' orders, or that they had "committed any outrage or pillage upon the inhabitants."
It seemed to Butler that Weitzel should be more concerned with advancing Union war aims than with protecting "the wives and children" of the armed enemies of our Nation "from the consequences of their own rebellious wickedness." While Weitzel was fretting about the camp, highway bridges.
Company B at Boutte Station; Company C at Raceland; Company D at Boutte Station; Company E at Jefferson Station, guarding five miles of the right-of-way; Company F at St. Charles Station; Company G at Milladon's plantation; Company H three miles west of Bayou des Allemandes; Company I at Boutte Station; and Company K at Boutte Station. Security of Mrs. Braxton Bragg and other terrified ladies of the La Fourche, General Bragg was "at liberty to ravage the homes of our brethern of Kentucky because the Union army of Louisisana is protecting his wife and his home against his negroes.

 3.      Pressure Builds to Redeploy the Regiment
Soon after the beginning of the new year, Colonel Daniels was alerted that his men were to be recalled from the La Fourche and given a new mission. The change in assignment was triggered by a decision by General Banks, who had relieved General Butler as commander of the Department of the Gulf on December 15. To calm fears voiced by many whites concerning the ramifications of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, to take effect in one week, General Banks, on Christmas Eve, issued an address "To the People of Louisiana." Slaves were advised to remain on the plantations until "their privileges shall have been definitely established." Leaves of absence from camps of both white and black units would be granted only in emergencies. Soldiers recruited in the Native Guards regiments would not be "allowed for the present to visit the localities of enlistment nor will visitors be received unnecessarily in their camps."  
 Then, on January 3, Col. Spencer Stafford of the 1st Regiment wrote General Banks, requesting that his men be used for combat. If they were unfit to fight, they were equally unfit for guarding the New Orleans, Opelousas & Great Western. He received no reply.  
 Coincidentally, General Banks, having been apprised of the Union defeats at Fredericksburg and Chickasaw Bayou and the terrible fight at Stones River, determined to take measures to bolster the New Orleans defenses. The garrisons at the forts below the city and on Ship Island would be reinforced. 12 To accomplish this goal, while farther separating Colonel Daniels' regiment from the area where it had been recruited, the people at General Banks' headquarters determined to redeploy the 2d Regiment of Native Guards from the La Fourche to the defenses of Mississippi Sound.  
  4.      Seven Companies are Sent to Ship Island
Accordingly on January 9, 1863, the regiment was relieved by General Weitzel and returned briefly to the New Orleans area, going into camp at Algiers. There, Colonel Daniels learned that he, accompanied by Companies B, C, D, F, G, l, and K, was to proceed to Ship Island. Companies A, E, and H commanded by Colonel Hall were to take position at Fort Pike.
On the 11th, the seven companies slated for service on Ship Island embarked on the steamer Northern Light, and the next day went ashore on the barrier island. As soon as Colonel Daniels had reported to Colonel Rust, "a camp site was selected and tents pitched.
Nine days, however, passed before Rush formally transferred command of the post to Colonel Daniels and sailed for the mouth of the Mississippi. Rust's battalion (Companies D and E, 13th Maine) remained behind. The. Mainemen, as Rust had feared, refused to knuckle under to Colonel Daniels and to soldier in harmony with the blacks. By February 12, relations had deteriorated to where Daniels was compelled to place all the battalion officers and most of the enlisted men.

Official Records, Series l, Vol. XV, p. 641.
Muster Rolls & Returns, 74th USCT, NA, RG 94; Official Records, Series I, Vol. LIII, p. 546; Rust's Journal, Jan. 11-12, 1863, MHI. The 1st and 3d Regiments continued to guard the railroad until transferred to Baton Rouge in mid-March. Relaying this information to General Banks, Daniels complained, as now situated the Maine battalion's services were "useless to the post," and he urged that it be transferred to "some place where they thus could be of some avail to the govt." In any event, he deemed the seven companies of Native Guards sufficient for defense of the island.
General Banks agreed. On the 13th, the Army cut through red tape to defuse a potentially explosive situation, and the Maine battalion departed Ship Island aboard New Brunswick en route to their new station at Fort Jackson.

5.     Soldiering on the Island
The blacks, like the men of the 13th Maine, discovered that soldiering on Ship Island consisted of drill, guard duty, and working parties. Daily there was a guard mount, and the non commissioned officers and enlisted men detailed to guard the military convicts and the few remaining political prisoners during the next 24 hours turned out and paraded. Throughout their first weeks on the island, large drafts reported to Lieutenant Palfrey of the Engineers. These men toiled long hours throwing up and, assisted by sailors from Vincennes, in arming several sand batteries. Three of the seven (D, G, and I) companies were then assigned to man the big guns and had to master the school of the heavy artillerist, in addition to that of the infantryman.
 The daily routine, during the winter, called for: reveille, 1st call, daylight, and 2d call, 15 minutes later; police call, 30 minutes after reveille; breakfast, 7; surgeon's call, 7:30; drill, 8; recall, 9; guard mount, 1st call, 9:20; adjutant's call, 9:30; drill, 10:30; dinner, 12; battalion drill, 2; recall, 4; dress parade, 1st call, 5; adjutant's call, 5:35; supper, 6; tattoo, 8; and taps, 8:30.

 The East Pascagoula Raid: April 9, 1863
At the beginning of the second week of April, there was a brief interlude in the garrisons monotonous routine of guard, drill, and fatigue. On the 8th, the steamer General Banks arrived from New Orleans. She tied-up at the wharf and was boarded by Colonel Daniels and 180 officers and men of Compabies B and C, 2d Regiment Louisiana Native Guards. One of Vincennes' 12-pounder boat howitzers was also sent aboard, and at 2 P.M. the transport cast-off and got underway and anchored for the night near Horn Island. Soon after daybreak, on the 9th, John P. Jackson rendezvoused with General Banks. The two vessels then crossed the sound conning a course toward East Pascagoula. The gunboat sent her crew to "General Quarters," cast loose her guns, and anchored 1,200 yards offshore. General Banks then ran in against the long wharf, and Colonel Daniels and his men landed and took possession of the village.

Several of the blacks hastened to the large frame hotel and unfurled the United States flag.As soon as they had recovered from their surprise, the Confederates launched a counterattack aimed at driving the invaders into the sea. The Native Guards more than held their own, and the Southerners were driven back with the loss of a number of dead and wounded, three prisoners, and a stand of colors.
At 2 P.M., Colonel Daniels, having learned that Confederate reinforcements were approaching, recalled his men. Upon retiring, the soldiers made for a short wharf, to the west of the long wharf. J. P.

Regimental Books, 74th USCT, NA, RG 94.
Jackson, to cover the retreat, opened fire. A projectile. from the rifled 6-inch Sawyer fell short, exploded with a roar, and killed 4 and wounded 5 of the soldiers. To evacuate the soldiers from the short wharf, boats from Jackson and General Banks were employed. The blacks, despite the accident and hurried evacuation, did not panic. As soon as the men were aboard, General Banks, escorted by the gunboat, returned to Ship Island, the two companies going ashore immediately. The 2nd Regiment thus became the first black unit on the Gulf Frontier, during the Civil War, to meet the Confederates in, battle and to suffer and inflict casualties. The honor of being the first black Civil War unit to engage the Rebels belongs to the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, which fought the foe at Island Mound, Missouri, on October 29, 1862.

John P. Jackson & Vincennes Logs, April 8-9, 1863, NA, RG 24; Official Records, Series I, Vol. LV, pt. I, p. 61; Post Returns, Ship Island, April 1863, NA, Microcopy M-617; Muster Rolls & Returns, 74th USCT, NA, RG 94. In the skirmishing preceding the evacuation, the battalion lost 2 dead and 5 wounded. On the 10th, the 12-pounder howitzer was returned to Vincennes and General Banks returned to New Orleans.
 Special Order No. 384, War Department, Aug. 27, 1863, NA, Regt. Papers, 74th USCT; Daniels' Military Service Record, 74th USCT, NA, R G 94.



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