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Persona of the Tiger Rifles

The following are quotes about the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion. While these quotes are about the Battalion (unless otherwise noted) they also give a feeling about the men that made up the Tiger Rifles. All quotes, except as noted, were drawn from 1st Louisiana Special Battalion CSA, a detailed compendium of stories, anecdotes, and literary references, compiled by Susan Hikida.

19 April 1861: " A company called the Tiger Rifles has been formed under the following named officers: Captain Alexander White … This company already numbers 72 privates, and will receive recruits daily at 29 Front Levee, between Gravier and Poydras Streets. "  {New Orleans Daily Crescent}

24-25 June 1861: " These men were a hard lot, and when they reached the camp at Manassas on freight car was pretty nearly full of men under arrest for disorderly conduct, drunkenness, etc., most of whom were bucked and gagged as some my men reported who were at the station when they arrived. " {Withers, Robert Enoch, Autobiography of an Octogenarian, 1907}

21 July 1861: " Permit me to add, further, that the Thirty-eighth New York was distinguished for its steadiness in ranks, and for gallantly repelling a charge made upon it by the New Orleans Tigers. The zouaves, though broken as a regiment, did good service, under my own eyes, in the woods, and detachments of them joined other regiments in the fight.  " (Report of. Colonel O.B.Willcox, First Michigan Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, Third Division. O.R's)

22 July 1861: Captain White challenges Lieutenant George M. McClausland (aide to Ewell) to a duel. The weapons of choice are Mississippi Rifles; the distance is "short range." Capt. White fires first, wounding Lt. McClausland. Lt. McClausland does not get a shot off. {Roden, J.B., Trip from New Orleans to Louisville in 1861, Confederate Veteran 1910 (pg. 237)}

10 August 1861: A drunken brawl breaks out among members of Wheat's Tigers and residents of the town of Lynchburg, Virginia. {Lynchburg Virginian, 12 August 1861}

September 1861: Lt. Colonel Charles de Choiseul (7th La.) is placed in command of Wheat's Battalion. " I have become a 'Tiger' - Don't start. I am the victim of circumstances, not of my own will. Whether the Tigers will devoure me, or whether I will succeed in taming them, remains to be seen. What is more likely, is that they will remain in their high state of undiscipline. For the officers, at least the majority of them, are worse than the men. " {Letter, Charles de Choiseul to Emma Louise Walton, September 5, 1861}

November 1861: The Tigers share their whiskey with members of the 21st Georgia Volunteers, but the Georgians takes off with the Tiger's bottle, and a fight breaks out. {Nesbit, James Cooper, Four Years on the Firing Line, 1914}

28 November 1861: Several Tigers are ordered confined to the guardhouse for brawling. A small group of drunken comrades attacked the guard in an attempt to liberate the prisoners and an officer is struck (Ed. - Col. Harry Hays of the 7th La.). Privates Michael O'Brien and Dennis Corcoran admit to being the ringleaders of the attack (Ed. - Both are members of the Tiger Rifles). {Harrold, James A., Surgeons of the Confederacy, Confederate Veteran (May 1932) Pg. 173}

28 November 1861: " Major Bob Wheat's famous battalion of New Orleans 'Tigers' - (composed of the dregs of that great city, and certainly not ill named, for a more fierce, ruffianly, ferocious set of desperadoes are rarely assembled in a civilized country) were camped near the village, and were terror to the neighborhood: even their own officers could not always restrain them, was said to have to use his pistols now and then to quiet some outbreak. " {Hamilton, J. D. de Roulhac, ed., The Papers of Randolph Abbot Shotwell, Volume 1, 1929}

9 December 1861: " The doomed men (Ed. - Pvts. O'Brien and Corcoran) maintained a remarkable coolness, never flinching when the priest bad them farewell and stepped aside, never flinching when at the curt word of command twenty-four muskets came up to a direct level, never flinching when again the command rings out 'Aim!' Nor was there a sound -  for had covered my eyes - when amid the painful silence came the word 'Fire!' and was drowned in the crashing volley that ensued. Both men fell forward riddled with bullets. Death was instantaneous. " {Hamilton, J. D. de Roulhac, ed., The Papers of Randolph Abbot Shotwell, Volume 1, 1929}

March 1862: Some of the Tigers take refuge in a church during a storm. " After a time a vulgar song was sung by some soldier, and received with such laughter that his example seemed on the point of being followed by other, when I wad (sic was) thoroughly surprised to see Tom Jennings (Ed.--This person was thought to be the famous prize fighter and supposed Battalion Sergeant Major, however, this is untrue, as no Tom Jennings was ever recorded in such a position) rise in the pulpit and address the riotous assembly… 'See here boys! I am just as bad as any of you, I know. But this is a church and I'll be damned if it's right to sing any of your smutty songs in here, and it's got to be stopped.' It was stopped too. Either tender consciences or Tom's reputation and influence was effective at once, and soon we all dropped off to sleep. " {Henderson, Henry E., Yankee in Gray: The Civil War Memoirs of Henry E. Henderson With a Selection of His Wartime Letters, (Ed. Note - Henderson served in the 9th Louisiana)}

20 May 1862: " Jackson's men, by the thousands, had gathered on either side of the road to see us pass. Indeed, it was a martial sight, and no man with a spark of sacred fire in his heart but would have striven hard to prove worthy of such a command. " {Taylor, Richard, Destruction and Reconstruction, Personal Experiences of the Late War, 1879}

23 May 1862: " I shall never forget the style in which Wheat's Battalion passed us … Their peculiar Zouave dress, light stripped, baggy pants, bronzed & desperate faces & wild excitement made up a glorious picture. " {Cambell Brown, quoted in Jones, Terry, Wheat's Tigers, Pg. 57}

24 May 1862: " The Tigers saw the Yankee captain when he jumped into the field. They opened fire on him with their long-range rifles. I saw him fall soon after, and heard some of the Tigers say, ' That will do him. Fire at the others in the road. ' It was fun for the Tigers to fight cavalry, but it looked a shame to shoot down the lone Yankee captain as he was vainly trying to rally his men to defend the running remnant of Banks' army, but alas! such is war. " {Neese, George M., Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery, 1911}

9 June 1862: " … So Major Wheat of the Louisiana Tigers cut horses throats or shot them so as to keep the enemy from carrying guns off before we could make another attack. … Major Wheat was as bloody as a butcher, having cut some of the horses throats with his knife. " {Buck, Samuel D., With the Old Confeds: Actual Experiences of a Captain of the Line, 1925}

27 June 1862: " When the General approached (Ed. - Jackson) he (Ed - Wheat) rode up to him, with uncovered head, and almost bluntly said. ' General, we about to get into a hot fight and it is likely many of use many be killed, I want to ask you for myself and my Louisianans not to expose yourself so unnecessarily as you often do. What will become of us, down here in these swamps, if anything happens to you, and what will become of our country! General, let us do the fighting. Just let me tell them that you promised not to expose yourself and then they'll fight like - er - ah Tigers. ' " {Douglas, Henry Kyd, I Rode With Stonewall, 1940}