Living in the lull before the storm
In November 1861 the cavalry company known as the Creole Chargers, made up mostly of French creoles from the northern parts of Acadiana, became one of 10 companies formed into the regiment that came to be known as one of the best cavalry outfits in the Confederacy, in good part because of the leadership of its colonel, John Simms Scott.
One contemporary writer noted that, generally, infantry leaders came to be better known than their cavalry counterparts, because “few men have developed sufficient capacity to handle a large body of mounted men”
But, the writer continued in a letter to the Mobile, Ala., newspaper, “Col. John Scott is peculiarly gifted in that respect. … He displays in action ... the entire control of his men. … The name of John Scott, the unpretending, modest gentleman, the skillful officer and brave soldier, will go down to posterity … [as] the best cavalry officer … in the Confederate army”
The Creole Chargers and the rest of “Scott’s Regiment” fought at Murfreesboro, Tenn., saw major action again at Perryville, Ky., as part of an attempt to pull Union armies away from Vicksburg and Chattanooga, and again at Missionary Ridge, when Federal armies under generals U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and George H. Thomas came together to break a Confederate siege of Chattanooga.
The Chargers also fought with distinction in September 1863 at the bloody Battle of Chickamauga, Tenn.
That fight stopped a Union march through Tennessee and Georgia, and has been called one of the most important Confederate victories in the Civil War.
It was second only to Gettysburg in the number of casualties on both sides. According to a first-hand report of that battle by a Union officer, “During two days’ fighting … we lost all the ground we had occupied between Chattanooga and Chickamauga; some ten thousand men … killed, wounded and missing; and a number of [cannons].”
Some historians say it was a pyrrhic victory and may have marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. More than 20 percent of the 60,000-man Rebel force was killed or wounded, including 10 generals.
But all of that was yet to come in January 1862, when Lt. J.C. Joffrion and his fellow Chargers were itching for a fight, and expecting one soon,
“The Creole Chargers have not yet had the good fortune to smell the gun powder of the enemy, nor have we seen any live Yankees yet, except those that are caged up,” he wrote in a letter published in the Avoyelles Pelican on Jan. 18, 1862. The company was then camped at Bowling Green, the Confederate capitol of Kentucky.
“Judging from present appearances a general engagement is imminent,” Joffrion wrote. “There has been a constant … arrival of troops here … for several days, the number of them as well as the nature of fortifications, and other means of warfare and destruction at this place, I do not know exactly.”
The Chargers steamed from Baton Rouge in November for “a very pleasant trip” to Memphis, and spent three days in camp there before being sent to Bowling Green, camping there “in a beautiful beech grove” on the banks of the Barren River.
Since then, Joffrion wrote, “I am sorry to say that our Regiment has done but little. … much to the mortification of our brave and chivalrous officers, who are all high toned gentlemen, eager to perform their duties. … Should it fall to the lot of the 1st Regiment of Louisiana Cavalry to go into action, I venture to say that they shall fully sustain the high and favorable reputation which is entertained of them.”
Over the coming months, the Chargers and their brethren did sustain and build upon their good reputation.
At the end of the war Col. Scott wrote to his men:” For nearly four years … you have borne the flag of your regiment with honor, with no stain upon its folds. … The records of the struggle which has just closed will show that at all times, in all places and under all circumstances … the First Louisiana Cavalry has done its duty and its whole duty with the devotion of true men and the spirit of brave and honorable soldiers.”
I have searched high and low to find out what happened to Lieutenant Joffrion, but without much success. It appears that he made it through the war, but I find no trace of him after that.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.