Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Civil War Comes to Louisiana

Belle Tisdale, Frank Tisdale, belletisdale.blogspot.com
Cased Tintype
Belle and Frank Tisdale, c1862

A New Baby Brother

In 1860 Belle Tisdale had a new baby brother. Her mother Eliza gave birth to twins on 15 March 1860, but only one infant survived.  Eliza's older sister, Frances Ann Pratt McCaughey, registered the birth of Benjamin Franklin Tisdale, always called Frank, on July 21 in New Orleans, recorded in Volume 26, page 749, Orleans Parish, Louisiana Birth Records. 

Perhaps Belle's Grandma Bernice Pratt and her Aunt France came down from Baton Rouge to help Eliza. Eliza's widowed sister, Frances Pratt McCaughey, was remarried sometime after 1860 to Henri Anthoine of New Orleans. Eliza's older brother, Marion Franklin Pratt, was also living in New Orleans at the time with his new bride, Emily Doyle. 

Belle and Frank Tiisdale c1862, belletisdale.blogspot.com
Tin Type plate
Belle and Frank Tisdale, c1862

Judging from the ages of the children, this cased tintype was probably made in early 1862 when Belle was 7 and Frank was almost 2.  Tintypes were made using the same collodion process as the Ambrotype. (See last week's amended blog post.) It is a silver image on blackened iron. They were made as early as 1856, but peak years were 1860-1863. It never caught on in Europe and was known there as "The American Process." Tintypes were durable, light, cheap, and popular with Civil War soldiers. (Original in possession

of J. S. Sarradet)

I cannot find B. F. and Eliza Tisdale in the 1860 census, but B. F. Tisdale is listed in the 1861 New Orleans City Directory which was printed in December 1860. He is working for John B. Murison & Co., Commission Agents, located on Calliope Street north of Dryades. His brother N. O. J. Tisdale is also listed in the 1861 city directory as
Treasurer of the New Orleans Gas Light Company.  
Belle's cousin Nathan Tisdale is listed as living across 
the river in Algiers.

The 1860 Presidential Election

That summer New Orleans was full of parades and fireworks displays put on by supporters of the three candidates for President, Stephen Douglas, the Democrat; John Breckenridge, the Southern Democrat; and John Bell, the newly formed National Constitutional Union party. The Republican Abraham Lincoln was not on the Louisiana ballot. (Winters, p.5)

We don't know who Belle's father or her grandfather supported, but the winner in Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parishes was John Bell, the co-operationist candidate. He won nine of the more populous parishes, but only 20,204 statewide votes. John Breckinridge, the Southern Rights candidate, won the state with 22,681 votes. Stephen Douglas, the Unionist, was a distant third with 7,625 votes. (Winters, p. 6-7)

When word reached Louisiana that the winner was the Republican Abraham Lincoln, candidate of the most radical and dreaded political faction, talk immediately turned to secession. The only question was how and when to secede. Military companies, often referred to as Minute Men, began to form and the governor called a special session of the legislature in Baton Rouge. (Winters, p. 8-9)

The above information comes from the book The Civil War in Louisiana by John D. Winters. It was originally published in 1963 for the centennial of the war and republished in 1991
by Louisiana State University Press for the war's 150th anniversary. I started reading this book to get an idea of what life was like for Belle and her family during the Civil War, but my interest was soon captured by the author's in-depth research and writing style. This is not just an account of military events but also the political and social effects of the war on the lives of the people in Louisiana. It begins in 1860 with the first talk of secession and ends with surrender and occupation by Federal forces in 1865.

In the forward Professor T. Harry Williams mentions Charles L. Dufour's “vivid description of the fall of New Orleans, The Night the War was Lost...” I remember Charles “Pie” Dufour with fondness. He was my American History teacher when I was attending night classes at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was the first history teacher I had who truly made the past come to life. He was a dynamic speaker with piercing blue eyes and he paced up and down the floor while lecturing. He also wrote a column in the Times-Picayune newspaper. I still have some of them that I clipped out and saved. I ordered his book and it came yesterday. It was originally published in 1960, around the time I took his course at Tulane, and was reprinted in 1988 and 1990 by University of Nebraska Press. All proceeds from this latest volume go to the Confederate Museum of the Louisiana Historical Association.


On 7 January 1861, Belle's male relatives went to the polls again to select delegates for a convention to decide the secession question. There must have been much discussion of the event in the Tisdale and Pratt households because one of the delegates was Gilmore Franklin Connely, Belle's Grandma Pratt's cousin.

Roger Connelly writes in his Connelly Family newsletter, Connelly Connections, Volume 1, Number 2, April-June, 1980, page 3:
“A surveyor, lawyer, and plantation owner, Gilmore played an important role in Louisiana's history. On January 7, 1861, he was elected as a representative from Terrebonne Parish to a State Convention called to consider whether or not Louisiana should secede from the Union. Gilmore was one of 130 delegates elected that day; 83 were Secessionists and 47 were Cooperationists (Gilmore was numbered with that minority). The State Convention convened at Baton Rouge on January 23, 1861, and 3 days later an Ordinance of Secession was adopted. Before the vote on secession was called, the Cooperationists consulted, and when the vote was taken a number of them explained that although they were elected as Cooperationists, they felt that no other course but that of immediate secession could be pursued. The vote on secession was 113 for, 17 against; Gilmore voted with the majority. (When the ordinance was signed a short time later, 8 of the 17 affixed their signatures also.) For the next 2 months, Louisiana was an independent state.”

Governor Moore in Baton Rouge had wasted no time and ordered Louisiana Militia troops to seize the U. S. Arsenal. On January 10 the skeleton crew at the Arsenal surrendered. Also on January 10, Louisiana militia was sent downriver to demand surrender of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Fort Pike was surrendered a short time later. The U. S. Mint and Customs House in New Orleans was also seized. (Winters, p.10-11)

On January 29, 1861 the convention met in New Orleans to choose six delegates to attend the February 4 meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, to create a confederate government of Southern states. (Winters, p. 14)

Joe Gray Taylor in Louisiana, A History writes, "There was an exceptionally gala Mardi Gras that year; speeches, band music, the recruitment of unarmed men, and drilling by officers whose ignorance of drill was matched only by that of their men went on almost incessantly." (Taylor, p. 89) 

On March 4, 1861 the convention resumed in New Orleans and created a state army headed by Braxton Bragg. On March 21 the Constitution of the Confederacy was ratified by a vote of 101 to 7. Gilmore Connely signed with the majority. 

The first call for troops to serve in the Confederate army came on March 9. Old Metairie Race Course was converted into a military camp. At Camp Moore on the Amite River, thousands of volunteers were in training not far from the home of Bernice and William Pratt. 

Civil War

In New Orleans business was brought to a standstill by news of native son Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard's bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on April 14, 1861. The Civil War had officially begun.

Social life in New Orleans consisted of "attending drill, watching parades, visiting camp, seeing the soldiers off, and promoting military benefits..." In May the Washington Artillery departed for Virginia. Businesses closed and ladies thronged the galleries and balconies. Cheering crowds lined the street as brass bands marched by. On the Fourth of July, 10,000 visitors rode out on the Carrollton Railroad for a Grand Review by the soldiers at Camp Lewis. (Winters p. 27)

By July 1861 Louisiana had sent 2,100 troops to Pensacola, 2,300 to Virginia, 1,000 to Arkansas, and 1,950 men for seacoast and harbor defenses. There were 4,000 still at Camp Moore and 5,000 in New Orleans for home protection.  Besides sending most of her troops out of state, Louisiana sent most of the guns and ammunition from the U. S. Arsenal to the CSA leaving the state vulnerable to attack. (Winters, p. 20 and 28)

Post a Comment