At Gettysburg with the Lousiana Tigers

By Robin Friedman
4/29/2010 • Cemetery Hill, Civil War 1863, Civil War Battlefields, Confederate Army, Confederate Generals, Confederate Soldiers, Gettysburg, Jubal Early, Reviews, Richard Ewell, Robert E Lee

The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign, June-July, 1863
By Scott L. Mingus Sr.,
Louisiana State University Press, 2009

The legendary Louisiana Tigers, one of the more feared units in the Army of Northern Virginia, get a welcome and comprehensive look in Scott Mingus’ new book. While the focus of the book is the critical role the Tigers played throughout the Gettysburg Campaign, Mingus gives us so much more by examining the complete history of the brigade and retelling the personal stories of many of its colorful officers and soldiers.

Originally known as “Wheat’s Tigers” after Chatham Wheat, their filibustering first commander, the brigade consisted from the beginning of hard-drinking, violent, undisciplined and rowdy soldiers who also happened to be superb fighters. Following Wheat’s death and the unit’s decimation during the Seven Days’ Battles in 1862, the Tigers reorganized as the 1st Louisiana Brigade under fiery General Harry T. Hays. Irish and German immigrants mostly filled the ranks, but other groups fought, too. Notably, the 5th Louisiana had a Jewish commander, Major Alexander Hart, and Private Charles Lutz of the 8th Louisiana was a free black.

With the reorganization of Lee’s army following the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Tigers became part of Jubal Early’s Division in Richard Ewell’s Corps. During Lee’s second invasion of the North in 1863, Hays and his Tigers overran a key Union fort in Winchester on June 14, clearing the way for the Confederates to cross the Potomac River into Maryland. On June 26, the Tigers created mayhem during Early’s brief occupation of Gettysburg as he headed for York, Pa. After occupying York on June 28-29, Early and the Tigers turned southwest to meet the Union forces moving toward Gettysburg. On the afternoon of July 1, the Tigers routed the Union XI Corps on the fields north of Gettysburg and pushed the corps through the town and onto Cemetery Hill.

Late on July 2, the Tigers, along with men from Colonel Isaac Avery’s North Carolinians (Hoke’s Brigade), mounted a desperate attack on East Cemetery Hill. The Tigers broke three Union lines, reached the top of the hill and momentarily captured key artillery positions before being compelled to retreat. With an almost Iliadic sweep, Mingus captures the violence, fury and heroism on both sides of the line that terrible evening.

Although the book includes detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography, complete casualty list and day-by-day summary of the Tigers’ activities during the Gettysburg Campaign, maps of the fighting on East Cemetery Hill would have been nice.

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