Affair at Bayou Teche

bayou-techeUnion navy Master’s Mate Ansel Allen Delano spent a portion of his Civil War experience aboard the gunboat Carrabasset in the West Gulf Coast Squadron. His story appears in the current print edition of the Civil War News, and is now available on Faces of War. An excerpt:

The Carrabasset arrived within a mile of Bayou Teche later that night. The infantrymen disembarked and marched through the darkness with Williams as a guide. They soon arrived at the Williams homestead. According to an official report filed by Simon Jones, the colonel and commander of the Ninety-third, “The family of Mr. Williams, for peculiar and domestic reasons, could not be induced to come with him.”

Colonel Jones noted, “While at Bayou Teche, a party of from twenty-five to thirty of the enemy rode down to the bayou on its southern bank, and dismounting, fired a number of shots at my detachment.”

Jones’s men fired back and drove the enemy away. Then they reconnoitered the area in search of more enemy forces. Back on the Carrabasset, it may have been these same rebels that attacked the ship and crew. Lt. Leonard acted quickly after fire from his guns scattered the enemy. Then he ordered a detachment of sailors in pursuit. Delano may have been placed in charge of the landing party, as it was common practice for the master’s mate to perform this duty.

Book Talk at Reynolds Community College

ghazala-ronI’m overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of the fine team at Reynolds who made last night’s book talk a reality. Heartfelt thanks to Lisa, Ashley, and especially my good friend Ghazala Hashmi (pictured here). The friendship Ghazala and I share extends all the way back to high school, and I’m so happy to reconnect with her after so many years. She and I caught up over dinner at a local Thai restaurant before the talk.

The event took place in the Massey Library auditorium on campus and was well attended. I was delighted to see a number of young faces in the audience, and applaud the teacher who gave one group of high school students extra credit for attending the presentation. I was also impressed with the raffle—four copies of “African American Faces of the Civil War” were given away, and another four copies of the book written by the author who will appear at the next event. In all the talks I’ve participated in, the book raffle is a first.

All of this happened on my birthday, and at the end of the presentation, event coordinator Lisa Bishop stepped up to the podium and asked everyone to wish me a happy birthday on the count of three. That was icing on the cake!

After the event, we all walked out into the lobby of the library for refreshments and a book signing. I met and signed books for a number of attendees, including Wendell, a teacher who planned to use the book in his class.

Great day!

Latest “Faces of War” Column: A Missouri Slave Transforms Into a Studious Sergeant

A Missouri Slave Transforms Into a Studious SergeantMy latest Civil War News “Faces of War” column is now available. 1st Sgt. Octavius McFarland was born a slave in Missouri, and he was illiterate like most of his comrades. The senior officers of his regiment, the Sixty-second U.S. Colored Infantry, published a series of orders to teach McFarland and the rest of the rank and file to read and write.

An excerpt:

The senior commanders of the Sixty-second U.S. Colored Infantry issued a variety of general orders to the rank and file during its 27 months as an organized force. Perhaps the most unique of all is General Order No. 4. Enacted on Jan. 25, 1865, it announced a contest to recognize the best writers in the ranks.

A committee of officers was appointed to judge the entries and pick thirty winners—a sergeant, corporal and private from each of the regiment’s ten companies. The standard 100-man company included one first sergeant, four sergeants, eight corporals and eighty-two privates.

Results would be announced on Independence Day 1865. Winning corporals and sergeants would each receive a gold pen, and privates a good book.

Read the full profile.