Albert J. Barnard, 23 May 1863

Albert’s hand-drawn map of the “Plains Store” battlefield fought on 21 May 1863

Bivouac near Port Hudson
May 23d 1863

Dear Lewie,

Yesterday I wrote Mother a few lines to let you know we are all right but had to close as the post master got ready before I did. During the artillery duel at noon about twenty were wounded and one or two killed. The rebel battery was silenced. They had eight guns in the start, but when they got ready to leave, I guess most of them were more or less injured. As soon as the firing stopped, fresh batteries were thrown to the front and preparations were ready to leave [them] for the night on a field about half way between where the batteries were stationed during the fight.

We had only just stacked arms and broken ranks when the batteries in front and on our left opened a brisk fire. Immediately we received orders to fall in and were sent to the left where the firing at this time was very heavy—the rebels throwing in shot and shell at a furious rate. We with the 48th and 49th Massachusetts Regiments were marching along at a very quick step and left in front a good road just in the edge of a wood towards our battery. The two Mass. regiments were some little distance ahead of us—the 48th going to support the battery. Just at this time I saw the head of a column of rebels crawling along the edge of a wood only about sixty yards on our left. I immediately called to Capt. Sizer that they were flanking us and for his to pass the word to the Major who had command. Just at the same moment, he—the Major—commanded halt, and front, he not seeing them. This brought our backs to the rebs. At the same instant they us a volley which was a little too high. It scattered the leaves and limbs all around us. Now came the command to face about and lay down. Here we lay about five minutes, giving as good as they sent, when General Augur, who by the way went out with us, sent to Major Love to charge on them. The word was passed along the lines to fix bayonets and with a yell, we jumped to our feet and started for them. as soon as they heard the order, “Charge,” they ran like sheep for we were close enough for orders to be heard from both sides.

As soon as we reached the ground where they were, we halted and formed line, for in a charge it is impossible to keep a perfect line. The wood proved to be only about ten yards wide with an open space beyond of about one hundred and twenty yards square. On the other side of this and in a dense wood, they rallied, but before they could give us many rounds. we started after them again, when they fell back for the second time. We kept after them, passing over their dead and wounded, as well as our own, till we reached the edge of the wood. Here we formed line again and commenced firing, they having taken position some distance back in the wood. Here we fought a long time, they being in a measure protected by the trees and giving us large doses of grape and buck & ball.

An Albumen portrait of Harden West, Co. H, Miles’ Legion (32nd Louisiana Infantry). Harden was with his regiment in the fight at Plains Store and later surrendered with the garrison at Port Hudson.

We now had the order to charge again, when the rebels broke and run and we saw no more of them. The charge was a short one. We now fell back to the edge of the woods and lay down to await further orders. Men were sent out in advance to see if they had entirey disappeared and brought in a number of prisoners, among them several officers. The force engaged proved to be “Miles Legion,” [Louisiana Legion] about nine hundred strong, with a force of cavalry and two sections of artillery. All the prisoners were uch surprised that we had no more men engaged. They could hardly believe it. This Legion claims to be of the best fighting men and have never been driven before. They once fought Bully Wilson. General Augur and Major Love both said they never saw a regiment fight as we did—that the charges were splendid.

Our loss is about 15 killed and about 35 wounded. Among the wounded is Lt. Bornsky of Co. E, shot through the neck. The Dr. thinks he will get well. Not one in our company was scratched even and I saw only two who I thought were cowards. We must have killed near one hundred of the rebs and taken and cared for about twenty of their wounded.

Mason left me before we were ordered to the support of the battery in the morning. Lt. [Timothy J.] Linahan of Capt. Sizer’s company was detailed to help me. John D. proved himself a brave officer. He kept his saddle all through the fight and crossed the field several times with orders. He lost his hat in the early part of the fight and I saw him riding as fast as his horse could carry him, his hair sticking out in all directions. The last two nights we have slept on the field across which we first fired. My rubber blanket and overcoat made me a nice bed and with my woolen blanket to cover me, I slept till morning.

I can’t describe my feelings during the fight. I did not have time to think of anything except to keep my men in their places, tell them to keep cool and fore low. It isn’t very pleasant though to have balls flying so close to a fellow as they do sometimes. I tell you the fight was a mighty hot one, and if we had had most any other commander, I don’t know but it might have terminated differently. You see we were taken at a disadvantage, being left in front, and the attack coming from the left. We received the first fire on our backs, and then facing about, we fought the rear rank in front, and the rebs, according to their own account, had two men to our one, we having a few over six hundred in the fight.

This two to one arrangement, I know, is an old story, but if you had seen their line and then had seen their men when we let out that yell. I guess you would believe it. Lt. Col. was with us but did not have command. The fight lasted just an hour and thirty-five minutes, and you can bet we were tired when we stopped.

It is raining and I must stop for I have no shelter except a little tree.

We are now four miles from Port Hudson about northwest of there. Gen. Grover is on our right. General Sherman on the left. And General Banks about 2 miles in our rear. Love to Grandma, Grandpa, and our dear Mother.

Yours in haste, — Albert