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A Wisconsin Yankee in Confederate Bayou Country

The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General

Halbert Eleazer Paine

Publication Year: 2009

General Halbert Eleazer Paine, commanding officer of the 4th Wisconsin Regiment of Volunteers, took part in most of the significant military actions in the lower Mississippi Valley during the Civil War. Nearly forty years after the conflict’s end, Paine—a former schoolteacher and attorney who would become a three-term congressman—penned recollections of his wartime exploits, including his involvement in the Vicksburg campaign, the operations that resulted in the capture of New Orleans, the Battle of Baton Rouge, the Bayou Teche offensive, and the siege of Port Hudson. Now available for the first time, A Wisconsin Yankee in Confederate Bayou Country provides Paine’s reflections and offer his excellent eyewitness account of the complexities of war. Paine describes in detail the antiguerrilla operations he coordinated in southern Louisiana and Mississippi and his role in the defense of Washington, D.C., where he commanded a portion of the line during Confederate General Jubal Early’s 1864 movement against the city. His experiences shed light on the daily struggle of the common solider and on the political and legal debates that dominated the times. In one striking episode, he describes his arrest for refusing to return to their masters fugitive slaves who entered his lines. He discusses the occupation of New Orleans and the relations between Federal soldiers and local slaves and provides definitive commentary on dramatic incidents such as the burning of Baton Rouge and the destruction of the ironclad ram C.S.S. Arkansas. A departure from most accounts by Union army veterans, Paine’s story includes less celebration of the grand cause and greater analysis of the motives for his actions—and their inherent contradictions. He sympathized with the many “contrabands” he encountered, for example, yet he callously dismissed a reliable servant for suggesting that the rebels fought well. Despite expressing kind feelings toward certain southern families, Paine all but condoned his troops’ “excessive looting” of local homes and businesses, which he viewed as acceptable retribution for those who resisted Federal authority. After the war, Paine also served as commissioner of patents, championing innovations such as the introduction of typewriters into the Federal bureaucracy. With a useful introduction and annotations by noted historian Samuel C. Hyde, Jr., A Wisconsin Yankee in Confederate Bayou Country reveals many of the subtle advantages enjoyed by the troops in blue, as well as the attitudes that led to behavior that left a violent legacy for generations.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: Revealing Less Spoken Motives for War

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pp. ix-xix

Interpreting the American Civil War remains ever a challenge. A well-considered appraisal not only offers perspective on the complicated social and political issues that fomented the conflict and determined its course, but also gives insight...

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1. Camp Utley to the Eastern Shore of Maryland

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pp. 1-14

On the 26th of April, 1861, I was engaged, until the adjournment of court, in the trial of a cause in the circuit court, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I resided. I was resisting the foreclosure of a mortgage on Upmann’s Hotel. The presiding...

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2. Baltimore to Ship Island

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pp. 15-32

On the 19th of February 1862, we embarked at Baltimore, under sudden orders from Gen. Dix, to report to Gen. Wool, at Fortress Monroe, for Gen. Butler’s New Orleans expedition, which was to rendezvous at Ship Island.15 On the 20th we...

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3. Aboard the Ship Great Republic to New Orleans

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pp. 33-53

Off Ship Island, April 16, 1862: It was the purpose of Gen. Butler that we should weigh anchor last night. But the little...

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4. From Frenier Station to Vicksburg and New Orleans

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pp. 54-76

We are steaming up the Mississippi. The voyage is not as full of interest as was our ascent from the Southwest Pass to New Orleans, in which we met, at almost every moment, evidences...

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5. My Time of Service Under Arrest

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pp. 77-97

A man appeared at my guard line with a written order of Henry H. Elliott, lieutenant and acting assistant quartermaster directing me to permit him to enter my camp and search for his alleged slave. He alleged that his slave had come down...

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6. In Command at Baton Rouge

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pp. 98-115

The General gave me full and specific instructions as follows: to burn Baton Rouge, including the State house, but excluding the library, paintings and statuary, which it contained, excluding also the charitable institutions; to remove from the State...

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7. Sundry Operations and the Teche Campaign

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pp. 116-136

On the 21st of August we arrived at Camp Parapet near Carrollton and I turned over the troops, contrabands and material to Brig.-Gen. J. W. Phelps, commander of the post...

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8. Operations Connected to the Siege of Port Hudson

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pp. 137-153

On the 13th of May 1863 I assumed command of the third division of the nineteenth army corps at Alexandria, Louisiana in place of Gen. Emory, who went to New Orleans and took command of the defenses of that...

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9. Humorous Anecdotes, Miscellany, and Farewell

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pp. 154-160

At one time during our occupation of Baton Rouge, Lieut. Payne my adjutant used a small unoccupied house for his office and quarters. Riding past there one day with my orderly, a very young soldier, I observed that the adjutant...


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pp. 161-171


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pp. 173-180

E-ISBN-13: 9780807135013
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807134184

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2009