Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Louisiana Heavy Artillery

Moving down the pages in the summary statements for the third quarter of 1863, we have a placeholder entry for Louisiana:

0257_1_Snip_LA

Just that one line:

  • 1st Heavy Artillery:  No location given.  Just the notation for infantry stores.

Good to see the clerks at the Ordnance Department were holding to procedures and at least accounting for the artillery units then in service.  It would not be out of the normal practice for a heavy artillery unit to have a blank summary.  Much of the time, the heavy artillery pieces were assigned to the installation (be that a fort or other).  And the regiment was then only left to account for small arms… in this case covered under “infantry stores”.  I don’t have copies of the infantry summary statements, but presumably we’d find an entry for this regiment detailing muskets, other weapons, and accouterments.

But “this regiment” deserves a full explanation here.  If we consult Dyer’s Compendium, we find a listing for the regiment as:

1st REGIMENT HEAVY ARTILLERY (AFRICAN DESCENT).
Organized at New Orleans, La., November 29, 1862. Attached to Defences of New Orleans and duty as Garrison Artillery till November, 1863. Designation of Regiment changed to 1st Corps de Afrique Heavy Artillery November 19, 1863, which see.

As the name implies, this was a colored unit, formed from African-Americans then in New Orleans and other locations under Federal control.

Cross referencing those names against the returns from the Official Records (notably, the order of battle for the Department of the Gulf) we find subordinates of this regiment begin appearing in May 1863.  At that time, Company B was part of the Defenses of New Orleans, under Captain Soren Rygaard (the printed Official Records say “Loren” but his enlistment papers and other documents read “Soren”).  By August, the returns added Company C, with Rygaard now commanding a battalion of the regiment’s soldiers.

Rygaard had immigrated from Jutland, Denmark.  He was working as a merchant in New York when the war broke out.  In early 1863 he signed on as a private in Battery E, 3rd US Artillery.  But I don’t see that he ever joined that battery in the field.  Instead, he shows up next in New Orleans, accepting a discharge for commission in the 1st Louisiana Regiment of Heavy Artillery.  He was promoted to captain in early summer.  At that time there were but two companies of the regiment formed.   In September, the regiment consisted of three companies, numbering over 300 men.  Rygaard even put in a request for appointment to Colonel of the regiment.

So at the cut-off time for quarterly returns, Rygaard commanded what parts of the regiment were on duty, essentially a battalion.  And that battalion served as part of the defenses of New Orleans, with no field artillery or associated equipment worthy of mention in the summary.

However, as indicated in Dyer’s, changes were coming for this regiment… and not only a designation change.  On November 7, 1863, Special Orders No. 278 from Headquarters, Department of the Gulf came out, and read in part:

Company C, First Louisiana Heavy Artillery, under command of Capt. Loren Rygaard, commanding battalion stationed at Camp Parapet, New Orleans, having been reported by the commander of the Defenses of New Orleans in such a state of insubordination as to indicate unmistakably the incapacity or criminal action of the officers of the company, and that the conduct and character of the company is such as to make the men composing it unworthy to bear arms, Capt. Loren Rygaard, commanding battalion, and the following-named officers composing Company C, First Louisiana Heavy Artillery, viz, Capt. N. L. Rich, Senior First Lieut. H. C. Rawson, Junior First Lieut. M. J. Kenyon, Junior Second Lieut. F. Walton, are hereby dismissed the service of the United States, and the company will be immediately disarmed and sent under guard to Port Hudson, where the men will be placed at hard labor on the public works, under the direction of the commanding officer of the post, until further orders.

The quartermaster’s department will furnish the necessary transportation.
Senior Second Lieut. James M. Lawton, Company C, First Louisiana Heavy Artillery, not having served with the company during its insubordination, is honorably discharged the military service of the United States.

So no colonelcy for Rygaard.  He was discharged shortly after these orders were issued.

But the regiment remained.  In April, the 1st Corps de Afrique Heavy Artillery was brought in line with the naming convention for the US Colored Troops, thus becoming the 7th Heavy Artillery (USCT) in early April.  However, that designation was already in use by a USCT regiment then forming from contrabands from Alabama.  So in May, the Louisiana regiment was given another new designation – the 10th Heavy Artillery (USCT).  They would remain at New Orleans right up to the end of the war.  In April 1865 the regiment participated in several expeditions to speed the closure to the war.

While not a storied regiment with many battle honors, the 10th Heavy Artillery (USCT) reflects yet another aspect to the service of colored troops in the Civil War.  I do hope that some day a diligent researcher will come along to better illuminate the history of this regiment.

(Citations from Dyer’s Compendium, Part 3, Page 1213; and OR, Series I, Volume 24, Part I, Serial 41, page 791.)

 

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