Written by Jon R. McKinnie
Ward Camp Historian Jon McKinnie’s wife, Phyllis Richardson, has an amazing family history of military & public service. Her 2nd great grandfather, Dr Thomas Parker Richardson and two brothers served as surgeons during the Civil War. Another brother fought the entire war (1861-1865) under General Robert E Lee, surrendering with him at Appomattox. Their 1st cousin, Col. Robert Richardson led the 17th Regiment La Infantry at Battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Chickasaw Bayou and cried when his Confederate Army surrendered at the end of Vicksburg Siege on July 4 1863. They are all buried in family plots at Old City Cemetery, Monroe LA.
The 17th Infantry Regiment
The 17th was organized at Camp Moore, Louisiana, on September 29, 1861, with 832 men. Its members were recruited in the parishes of Ouachita, Union, Sabine, Catahoula, Plaquemines, Orleans, Caddo, Bossier, Morehouse, and Claiborne.
From Camp Moore, the regiment was ordered to New Orleans. As part of Gen. Daniel Ruggle’s brigade, the regiment occupied Camp Chalmette and later Camp Benjamin. The brigade transported to Corinth, Mississippi, in February 1862. The unit fought April 6-7 1862 at Shiloh and Corinth MS, and by July, 1862, was down to 27 officers and 373 men.
Ordered to Vicksburg in May, the men saw only picket duty during the first Union attack on that place, May 18-Jul 27 1862. Assigned to Baldwin’s Brigade in the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, the regiment helped repulse the enemy attacks on Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg, Dec 26-29. It lost 2 killed, 10 wounded, and 1 missing at Chickasaw Bayou.
On May 1 1863, the regiment fought in the Battle of Port Gibson and bore the brunt of the fighting, while guarding the rear during the Confederate retreat. The men fell back to Vicksburg and participated in the siege there, May 19-Jul 4 1863. On July 4 1863, General Pendleton surrendered his entire garrison to Union General Ulysses S Grant, thus ending the Union Siege on Vicksburg.
Sources for many Confederate military units are scarce, and this company is no exception. Between its induction into the Confederate service at Camp Moore in September 1861 and February 1863, monthly or bimonthly muster rolls exist to document the soldiers of this company. However, there is no reliable list of all soldiers in this company after July 1863, when the company was captured along with the entire Confederate garrison at Vicksburg.
Paroled at the surrender of Vicksburg, the men returned to their homes. In Jan 1864, the regiment reported to a parole camp near Shreveport for a short time. The men reassembled at Minden in May and soon went to Pineville where they manned the forts guarding the Red River.
There are scattered lists of a few soldiers who reported in the parole camps prior to April 1864, but these only contain the names of those soldiers captured at Vicksburg. Of the many new recruits who enlisted in the fall of 1863, there is often no record.
Some of the men received official paroles at the end of the war, but either many never obtained an official parole or else some have been lost. For this reason, the surviving letters and pension applications serve as the only proof of service for some soldiers who enlisted after July 1863.
Exchanged and reorganized, the regiment was placed in A. Thomas’ Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Department; the regiment remained in garrison at Pineville until May 1865. In that month, the men camped at Cotile briefly and then marched to Mansfield. There the men disbanded about May 19. One report states that Company C was the only company in the regiment’s division to remain on duty until discharged and that the company guarded the brigade’s ammunition supply against the soldiers who were disbanding and going home.
The field officers were Colonels Robert Richardson and S.S. Heard; Lieutenant Colonels Charles Jones and Madison Rogers; and Majors Robert B. Jones, William A. Maddox, William A. Redditt, and David W. Self.
Excerpts from Memories of the Civil War, Surrender at Vicksburg, as experienced by an old Veteran, J.A. Small:
“Our rations were so short the boys were forced to eat mule meat. Some would cut the meat from the mule while he was yet alive. This, friends, is the life of a soldier…
“…Our Colonel Bob Richardson, was stationed and when the news came to him that we had surrendered and stacked arms, he cried like a whipped child. Our boys marched back to our quarters, when late in the evening the enemy marched through our camps, taking possession of the city.
“On July 5th, our provisions being exhausted, the enemy issued us rations to last as long as we stayed in the city, composed of bacon, lard, coffee, sugar, flour and hard tack. Now you ought to have seen us boys enjoying the square meal, which we had not had during the last 46 days. Yes, I almost forgot, we got plenty of Yankee flat tobacco, which made us pit read and think of old times at home, when we boys would slip a plug of Pap’s honey dew.”
Colonel Robert Richardson – Before the Civil War, Robert Richardson was a lawyer in Monroe La. At the breaking out of the Civil War, Robert Richardson served his first tour of duty as a private in the Pelican Grays, of Monroe La, an organization that became a part of the 2nd Louisiana Regiment, Company “C” in Virginia. After being on the front lines in Virginia during his initial six month commitment, he was sent back to Louisiana on recruiting service.
Discharged after his first tour of duty in October 1861, Richardson returned to service as a 1st Lieutenant for Company “D” “Phoenix Rifles” of the 17th Louisiana Infantry where he became the Regimental Adjutant. Richardson was subsequently promoted to Lt. Colonel, fought and was wounded in Battle of Shiloh and Battle of Corinth. Then on May 23 1862, Richardson was again promoted to Colonel and took command of the 17th Louisiana Infantry, leading them in battle at Chickasaw Bayou, Port Gibson and Vicksburg.
Surgeon Thomas Parker “TP” Richardson A doctor practicing medicine in Monroe La, Richardson was commissioned as Surgeon for the 17th Louisiana Infantry on October 22 1861 and served as Regiment Surgeon during the Battle of Shiloh, Battle of Corinth and Siege of Vicksburg. (See copy of Dr Richardson’s Letter to his wife, Fannie, March 26 1862 from Battlefield of Corinth Miss., obtained from LSU library)
NOTE: Colonel Robert Richardson and Surgeon Thomas Parker Richardson were 1st cousins, both from Monroe LA.
OTHER RICHARDSON FAMILY MEMBERS:
Surgeon William H Richardson, (Dr TP Richardson’s brother), commissioned as Asst. Surgeon, Surgeon F. & S., 17th La. Inf. On Oct. 22 1861, Camp Moore, La. Roll Sept. 30 to Oct. 31, 1861, dated Dec. 1, 1861, Roll states present. Roll May 23 to Sept. 1, 1862, Present. Apptd. Surgeon, June 6, 1862, Edwards Depot, before re-organization of Company. Asst. Surgeon, since recommended for Surgeon, now acting. Roll Jan. and Feb., 1863, Present.
Surgeon Richardson was assigned to duty with Cons. 22nd La. Regt., by order Brig. Gen. Shoup, Feb. 8, 1864. Then Appointed Capt. Surgeon F. & S., 22nd (Cons.) La. Inf. Rolls from March, 1864, to Aug., 1864, Present, Apptd. Surgeon Oct. 22, 1864, Mobile. Roll Sept. and Oct., 1864, Present. Apptd. Surgeon, Sept. 4, 1864. Surgeon in charge of Florida and Redoubt Left Wing. Roster dated March -, 1865. Surrendered with Lieutenant General Richard Taylor at Citronelle, Alabama on May 4, 1865
Remarks: Richardson saw service in Battles of Mobile Bay and Battle of Spanish Fort, Mobile AL. Dr William H. Richardson was said to have had few superiors.
Appears on Register of Prisoners of War, Taylor’s Corps, Paroled May 12, 1865, age 25, eyes blue, hair brown, complexion florid, and height 5 ft. 11 1/2 inches, Res. Mobile, Ala. (see 22nd Consolidated Infantry document)
Sergeant Erlander M Richardson, (Dr TP & William H Richardson’s youngest brother) The 11th Alabama, part of Cadmus Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade, had a stellar fighting record in the Civil War, and Sergeant Richardson was deeply involved from beginning to end of the conflict. Company C was organized in Clinton, Greene County, Alabama, located in the extreme western part of the state.
The 11th Alabama were sternly tested at Seven Pines, where it lost 9 killed and 49 wounded. It charged the enemy in a strong position at Gaines’ Mill, and in a few minutes lost 27 killed and 129 wounded. (Erlander Richardson was wounded during battle). Major battles included Second Battle of Manassas, Harper’s Ferry, Sharpsburg. The 11th Alabama was badly cut up at Gettysburg, but continued the fight with severe losses.
The 11th Alabama was sternly confronting the foe at Appomattox when astounded by the news of General Robert E Lee’s surrender.
There were only about 125 of the regiment remaining for surrender. Of 1,192 names on its muster roll, over 270 fell in battle, about 200 died of disease, 170 were discharged, and 80 were transferred.
Richardson enlisted as a private on 11 June 1861 in his hometown, Green Co, Alabama and from there his fortunes follow those of the 11th Alabama until their surrender nearly four years later with General Robert E Lee at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
He fought the entire war in Virginia under Gen. Lee’s command, engaged in the heaviest campaigning. Wounded at Gaines’ Mill, Richardson missed 3 months of battle, resuming his duty on the front lines.
Upon surrender, Richardson walked back to Alabama, subsequently moved closer to his Richardson family in Monroe La and tried to rebuild his life as a farmer. He is buried at Smyrna Cemetery off Hwy 15 near Downsville LA.
Richardson’s rifle survived the war as a souvenir and is currently owned by a collector in California. The Richardson family has tried to purchase the rifle several times, to no avail.
Originally from Union Parish and a resident of Farmerville, Jon R. McKinnie enjoys writing and spending time with his wife, Phyllis Richardson Hall, two children and four grandchildren. Jon also serves as the Historian for Lt. Elijah H. Ward Camp #1971, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Farmerville, La.