Battle of Baton Rouge by Marin Steinbach*

Battle of Baton Rouge by Marin Steinbach*

*Interpretive Ranger at Port Hudson State Historic Site

The story of the 9th Battalion Louisiana Infantry begins at the capitol building on January 26, 1861, the day that fateful, irrevocable decision was made when Louisiana severed it’s connections with the United States. By a vote of 113 to 17 the convention declared Louisiana to be a “free” and “independent power.” The citizens of Louisiana spent several months in a holiday mood with parades, parties, and speeches undaunted by threats of war.[1]

The bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, April 12 through the 14th set off a mounting fury in the north that could be resolved only by a shooting war. On April 15th, when Fort Sumter was surrendered, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. President Davis met the challenge on the 16th by requesting the Confederate states furnish 32,000 men. Louisiana was asked to ready 5,000 troops for immediate use as her quota. These volunteers were sent to combat the Yankee armies in other regions and states; such as, Tennessee and Virginia. Louisiana was virtually left unprotected and ripe for Yankee invasion.[2]

On May 2, 1862 the Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported that during the whole day Federal troops were arriving by the shiploads; the reporter stated vessels such as, “The sailing ship Idaho, also full of troops was anchored in the stream, and the steamer Diana, and other vessels, were bringing them in large numbers, up to their landing places. Including the boats used for towing, nearly thirty craft of various sizes must have arrived in our waters yesterday; and the number of troops brought by them we should estimate at some five and six thousand.”[3]

This stark invasion required an immediate decision of the military age men of Louisiana for making a commitment to one side or the other, North or South,. That was especially true of Southeast Louisiana where their home area was being physically occupied.[4] On April 25th, Governor Thomas O. Moore began moving the state government. On April 29th, Admiral David G. Farragut of the United States Navy ordered Commander James S. Palmer to secure the state’s capitol at Baton Rouge. Palmer made his way up the Mississippi River and arrived on the evening of May 7.

Finding the city abandoned by both Confederate troops and state government, Palmer sent a landing party ashore early the next morning and seized the Capitol Building, Pentagon Barracks, and Baton Rouge Arsenal without firing a shot. On May 10, Farragut arrived with a force of 1,500 infantry troops, and they quickly secured the city. Shortly thereafter, this force began a series of destructive raids all around Baton Rouge.[5]

Shortly after the arrival of the Yankee army in Baton Rouge, the 9th Battalion Louisiana Infantry began forming. Company A, the Campaigners (East Baton Rouge Parish), Company B, Baton Rouge Invincibles (East Baton Rouge Parish), Company C, Lemmon Guards (East Baton Rouge Parish) and a cavalry company, the Plains Store Rangers (East Baton Rouge and East Feliciana Parishes) were mustered into service as part of Stewart’s Legion. They moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where they were ordered to Camp Moore. The companies were organized into the 9th Louisiana Battalion on May 15, 1862.[6]

On July 26, 1863, Major General John C. Breckinridge was given orders by Major General Earl Van Dorn to join forces with Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles and dislodge the enemy from Baton Rouge and the vicinity.[7]

General Breckinridge’s force was hastily rushed by rail from Vicksburg to Jackson, Mississippi. From Jackson they changed trains and headed for Camp Moore. Wednesday morning, July 30th, Breckinridge’s force numbered four thousand men, plus another thirteen hundred at Camp Moore. Breckinridge had plenty of generals with him at Camp Moore so he divided his force into two divisions; one under General Charles Clark and the other under General Daniel Ruggles. Ruggles’s division was divided into two brigades, The 9th Battalion Louisiana Infantry was assigned to General Ruggles Second Brigade under Colonel Henry W. Allen of Baton Rouge and Ruggles’s First Brigade came under the command of Colonel A.P. Thompson.[8]

The 9th Louisiana was put in Colonel Allen’s brigade at Camp Moore before they started the march to Baton Rouge. Allen would have been a familiar person to many of the men. He was a prominent and well known citizen and wealthy sugar planter of West Baton Rouge Parish.

When Allen organized his brigade before the Battle of Baton Rouge, he wisely put the 9th Battalion Louisiana Infantry in the center, with the veterans of the 4th Louisiana on the left and the experienced soldiers of the 30th Louisiana on the right. The 4th and 30th had many combat tested veterans of Shiloh and Vicksburg, while the 9th Louisiana was almost entirely made up of raw recruits who had been in the army for only a few months. It proved to be a wise move on Allen’s part to have two veteran units on either side to bolster the many youngsters in the middle who would be facing hostile fire for the first time.[9]

After a hard march lasting several days Breckinridge poised his troops to attack the Federal invaders and occupiers.

The Confederate attack commenced in a thick fog just at daylight on August 5th on the Federal left. The Federal center and right was assaulted by Ruggles’s brigades. Allen’s brigade was fighting troops of the 21st Indiana Infantry supported by the 6th Michigan Infantry on the extreme Federal right. The 9th Louisiana entered the battle with a total of 202 rank and file. Marching into the battle line of the opposing soldiers the brigade fired two well directed volleys and charged upon the enemy and they fled. They found themselves at the edge of a field stretching about 300 yards long with no cover. The enemy was posted behind fences, outhouses and houses. Captain Tom Bynum of Company A recalled, “Colonel Allen, taking the colors of this command in his hand, rapidly drew up his command in line, who at his call and example rushed, under galling fire of grape, canister and Minie [balls], across the field. There was not a shrub even as a screen on it, and over the 300 yards of that open space the foe sent many missles of death and shafts of anguish within 100 yards of the cannon.[10]

Private William Tull of Company B recalled, “In this terrible charge our flag went to the ground four times,” during this charge, the members of Colonel Allen’s brigade struck with such fury that the enemy broke and the battalion overran the enemy artillery. Captain Bynum stated, “In a moment or so after the enemy fled, leaving two cannon and a lieutenant and 8 or 10 privates prisoners in our hands.”

As a result of the attack, the enemy had retreated and not counterattacked, the condition of the men was one of fatigue and thirst, these men suffered from a lack of drinking water, many had been wounded, they were simply exhausted. The men of these brigades had been under arms more that 16 hours, and had not slept or eaten, marched over 12 miles in the August heat and had just been through four hours of heavy fighting.

General Breckinridge pulled his men back and reformed them but the federals fell back towards the river under the protection of their gunboats. Breckinridge realizing that the Confederate ironclad CSS Arkansas would not arrive to assist his troops, he withdrew his army back to the Comite River while leaving an observation force at Baton Rouge.[11]

Of the 202 rank and file soldiers of the 9th Battalion that participated in the Battle of Baton Rouge, the official records show, 5 men were killed, 27 wounded, and 17 were missing for a total of 49, which translates to 24% of the battalion becoming casualties. Historian Thomas Richey, in his research, found additional casualties for a total of 55, including at total of 8 killed.[12]   This figure increases the percentage to 27%.

After the retreat from Baton Rouge, General Ruggles’s divisions moved towards Port Hudson, the 9th Battalion garrisoned Baton Rouge and eventually found themselves fighting the Yankee invaders at Port Hudson, that is another story.


Bergeron, Arthur W. Jr. Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865. Baton Rouge and London, 1989.

Jones, Dan Michael. 9th Battalion Louisiana Infantry in the Battle of Baton Rouge and Siege of Port Hudson. Self published. 2014

Richey, Thomas H. The Battle of Baton Rouge. College Station, 2005.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, 1886; rpr. Harrisburg, 1985.

Times-Picayune. Published as The Daily Picayune. May 2, 1862.

Waddell, Walter Earl. The Plains Store Rangers: Riding in a Company of Brothers. Ego Propono, Columbia, 2014.

Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Louisiana State University Press, New Orleans, 1959 rpt. 1965.

Winters, John D. The Civil War in Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1963.

[1] John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana (Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1963) 5.

[2] Ibid, 21.

[3] Times-Picayune (Published as The Daily Picayune.) May 2, 1862.

[4] Michael Dan Jones, 9th Battalion Louisiana Infantry in the Battle of Baton Rouge and Siege of Port Hudson (2014) 5.

[5] Walter Earl Waddell, The Plains Store Rangers: Riding in a Company of Brothers (Ego Propono, Columbia, South Carolina, 2014) 19.

[6] Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865 (Baton Rouge and London, 1989) 161-162.

[7] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, 1886) reprint 1985, 786.

[8] Thomas H. Richey, The Battle of Baton Rouge (College Station, 2005) 61-63.

[9] Jones, 23-24.

[10] Ibid, 31-32.

[11] Ibid, 38.

[12] Ibid, 39.

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