As with the first essay (published here September 23, 2021), references below to various places appear in the order that I visited them. Thus, battlefields are not listed in the chronological order those battles occurred.
SABINE PASS, TEXAS
From Galveston, I went to Sabine Pass, Texas. It was already 100 degrees F. at 10:30 a.m.when I reached the Sabine Pass Battlefield on July 31. For almost an hour I walked the paths of this state historical site where the story of that battle is told by means of interpretive boards, supplemented by posters within a gazebo.
In September 1863, General Nathaniel Banks made the first of what became four failed Union attempts to take Texas out of the war. (Texans were using the major shipping lane at Sabine Pass to transport supplies to Louisiana.) A Union expedition involving 5,000 infantrymen and some dozen naval vessels was ignominiously defeated here by 47 Confederates under artillery officer Richard Dowling. The Union dead (most of whom were scalded by boiler explosions aboard ships) are memorialized in the state park here, where white sailors are listed by name. Twenty-two Black Union sailors also died, but their names do not appear on that monument. There were no casualties among the Confederates.
The Eighth Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment participated in the Sabine Pass Expedition. That regiment, which camped at Thibodeaux, LA, following the surrender of Port Hudson, left Thibodeaux for Algiers, LA, and moved by sea from Algiers to the Pass. There were Waitsfield men in the Eighth Regiment but none at the Battle of Sabine Pass. (Both Nathaniel Edwin Annis and Henry E. Foster had served in the regiment earlier but had been discharged before this action. Two others from Waitsfield, Morris Dumas and Victor B. Mix, were recruited into the regiment in September while Banks’ expedition was moving toward Sabine Pass; they did not arrive in Louisiana in time to take part in that action.)
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANNA
I made brief stops in some tiny Louisiana towns (Lafayette, Breaux Bridge and Independence) before reaching Baton Rouge. For a time, my route paralleled the Intracoastal Waterway. I crossed Johnson’s Bayou (where the few houses as well as two churches all were raised on stilts), Taylor Bayou and the much larger Atchafayala Bayou. At times the highway was elevated on pylons high above a deep green carpet of tall grasses, punctuated by a few bushes. At one place hundreds of treetops were visible where the remainder of the bayou’s former vegetation has succumbed to flooding.
Vermont men who served in this region during the war suffered terribly from tropical diseases. One company captain in the Seventh Regiment sent back to the Rutland Weekly Herald this account of deaths in just his one company in a sixth-month period covering the spring and summer of 1862: One man mortally wounded in the Battle of Baton Rouge; one, a suicide; one by sunstroke and another of heart disease; 14 died of swamp fever (likely malaria or typhoid fever). Another two men of his company who were discharged because of illness during that period died just days afterwards.
Waitsfield’s Nathaniel Edwin Annis, age 19, who served in the Eighth Regiment during the period noted just above, likely also took ill then. He was discharged after five months of service and lived just 20 more years.
The Seventh Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which had been sent to Baton Rouge earlier, took part in the Battle of Baton Rouge (August 5, 1862).
I visited the Baton Rouge National Cemetery. Remains of Union Civil War dead who previously were buried in LA, MS and AR cemeteries were brought here when this cemetery opened in 1867. Remains of U.S. service members from the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII also lie here.
Civil War headstones from IL, LA, MA, MO, MS and NY can be seen.I also noted “USCT” and “unknown” markers. A memorial set low to the ground near the center of this cemetery remembers all the Union soldiers of the Civil War “whose remains were not recovered or identified, including those lost at sea, and those cremated and their ashes scattered,” something I’ve never seen anywhere else.
Evans lives in Waitsfield. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. Trained in education research, she turned her attention to Vermonters in the Civil War after moving to Vermont in 1995, where she discovered the worldwide community of Civil War Round Tables. Since her 2006 retirement, she has traveled extensively to Civil War battlefields. Evans currently is writing an account of all the men with Waitsfield connections who served in the War.