Houston, Texas – April 2nd 66.

 

Gen Robert E. Lee.

                        Honored Sir.

                                                            We have heard in Texas that you are preparing a History of the War – In common with the whole civilized world – we rejoice that there is hope of one record of that terrible conflict of the Nations – which shall be characterized by the magnanimity & truth & justice, that are the ruling principles of your own life-  I enclose a few memonals of my gallant Husband – please use them as you deem best – The record of his services at the Battle of Galveston – I will yet obtain – “The report by the Gen Commanding”- is not the first, in which the doings of mere eye witnesses & fancy soldiers are recorded, who happened to be personal friends & boon companions together with some of the noble & heroic spirits, while others are entirely ignored-

            How blessed the reflection that they who have gone to join “the noble army of martyrs” as well as we who yet remain with shattered hopes- & the light of life well nigh quenched- have a faithful record on high - & shall yet if found fighting under the great Captain of our Salvation, wear the victor’s crown at last:-

            I have thought rather than take the liberty of writing to you – that I would address you through my friend Miss Emily V. Mason – who I know has the honor of your acquaintance – but not knowing her whereabouts – I have no alternative-

            You have such constant assurances of the respect & the glowing attachment with which you are regarded by every son & daughter of the South, that I need hardly add my feeble testimony to the facts-

            That your valuable life may be greatly prolonged-

                                                                        Is the prayer of-

                                                                                    Ellen H. Reily

 

The following are enclosures to this letter:

 

GENERAL ORDERS,

            No. 36

 

Letter of 4 JUN 1863:

 

                        Vermillionville Sea June 4th 1863

Mr Cushing

                        In justice to the living and the dead I ask a place in the columns in your paper for a plain statement of the engagement on the 14th of April last of the troops under the command of the late Col James Reily:  From the description as published in the newspapers a participant must conclude that he has been dreaming or the live reports are furnishing the details of a different conflict. – Commanding Officers names have been confounded – All position and number regiments misstated and two separate engagements merged into one - ______ Topography of the County –

It is necessary to consult the map in order to obtain a clear idea of the two fields of conflict – The formation of the county from New Iberia down Bayou Teshe closely resembles that of a wedge – Grand Lake on one side – the Bay on the other – with the Teshe running through its center – Skirting either side of this wedge is an impenetrable swamp ranging in depth from one to two miles – covered with undergrowth and heavy timber – New Iberia is situated on the right bank of the Teshe as you proceed below – also Franklin thirty miles distant – our works of Defense – twelve miles below the later place – Starting from New Iberia – all communication – all the roads to the Fortification pass through Franklin and are on the right bank of the Teshe- At Franklin – the main road for New Iberia breaks into two diverging branches – one following the windings of the Teshe – the other called the cut off (shorter by 8 miles) turns shortly to the left and runs into the Teshe road at the upper point of Indian bend

                                                Line of Defense

At the Fortification the road the land narrows down to a width of a mile and a half – our line of entrenchments – extending entirely across it – forms one swamp to the other – broken in its center by the Bayou – Gen Sibley to right and Gen Mouton the left bank – Col Reily the reserve consisting of the 4th and 7th regiments T. 6 and 2ndLa – This disposition was subsequently changed affecting only Col Reily’s command leaving him alone with the regiments in reserve-

                -----            Opening of the Engagement at the Fortification ---

Sunday evening (12th April) the enemy advanced against our lines and at the moment- none of the Generals being on the ground Col Reily assumed command – The batteries were ordered to open – a heavy and incessant fire succeeded for an hour and a half – night closing in, the roar of the artillery ceased and a deep and deep silence pervaded the field – Our soldiers lay on their ammo – Many invited sleep on the bare ground without a blanket with perchance their last dream of the faithful& affectionate – The loved of home – Others more impatient chatted cheerfully in scattered groups wishing the night away and the “ball opened.”

            With the mornings dawn awoke the sleeping thunders of the enemy guns – And as the day advanced the firing became heavy-continuous – and terrific= Amid this awful roar and hellish --?—of whizzing shot and shell the occasional rattle of musketry was borne to our ears – speaking of in no “still small voice that the works of death had commenced in closer quarters – that the battle had begun in earnest-

                                    A Different Field

Orders received at 9 ocl AM changed our fate from (A section is faded and unreadable)-requiring go to the assistance of Col Vincent who was reported to be 9 miles above Franklin on Grand Lake disputing the landing of the enemy’s transports – Two hours hard riding carried us one mile and a half above Franklin where Col Vincent was met with his command – he stated that he had received orders from General Taylor to fall back- across the Teshe –destroy all the bridges and take position below Franklin – Notwithstanding these instructions Col Reily ordered him to countermarch – and joining commands – we moved forward – Had the command been obeyed- the enemy would have marched that evening to Franklin.  As the retreat pf our troops had been cut off Lt Hart an active dashing and gallant officer was sent in the advance with a scouting party who reported in a few minutes that the bridges were not destroyed and were in possession of the enemy – It was now ascertained that he was on both sides of the Teshe and in force – The remainder of the day was spent in artillery duels sharp to intensity(?) and in one instance – Capt Crosson with Companies F and G T6 was ordered to take and hold a bridge which was in the possession and under some heavy guns of the enemy – The gallant Capt moved his little troop to within sixty yards of the bridge  - admirably disposing them for shelter: he opened a spirited and raking fire which drove the enemy from their lodgement in disorder and with an an acknowledged to so (in the columns of a New Orleans --?--) of fifteen     Night falling we fell back for a more eligible position – Gen Taylor was immediately dispatched of his enemy’s force and position – the intelligence brought him into our camp by 11 ocl that night – he denied giving orders to Col Vincent to fall below Franklin – Col Vincent stoutly affirmed that he did – high words ensued – X X –

Gen Taylor ordered  Col Reily to take position one mile and a half above Franklin in a skirt of timber extending  from the swamp to the Teshe – with the information that he had ordered a retreat from below – and with instructions – that however great the odds – with whatever sacrifice of life that position must  be held

                                    ----The Battle above Franklin---

Tuesday morning the 14th our line was formed at day light before on the upper edge of the timber fronting two large fields. Major Hampton, commanding the 4th Regt T. C. (400 strong) on his right – Col Vincent with a front of the 28th La on the left – the whole not exceeding 800 men = and with his number Col Reily fought and effectively held in check Gen Grovers Division 8000 strong  Capts Crosson and Stephenson with Companys F  and A 4th Regt T C were ordered to take position two hundred yards in front of our extreme right among some heavy undergrowth  and scattering trees   Our lines were not entirely formed before the enemy was plainly visible advancing in perfect order – When within a thousand yards they commenced firing from their batteries and musketry: and were permitted to come within musket range before returning fire was made – when a well directed volley from our whole line sent many a one to the judgment of his Maker and the other to a right about on a double quick to the rear – Three times they thus advanced delivering a heavy and murderous fire and three times they were drive back in confusion with great slaughter – Again they advanced with their troops dispersed in three parallel columns against our right wing left and center – Our left wing gallantly  charged and drove one column from the field – capturing some provisions – but the  enemys reserve coming up to the relief of their routed and flying comrades – compelled that wing to fall back to its former position

The firing now became general along our whole line = Our center and right were closely and desperately engaged – The brave Crosson still held his position on the extreme right two hundred yards in advance of our line.  But the enemy realizing the advantage of his position determined to dislodge him and succeeded in gaining the timber –but the stubborn Crosson was not out done yet although opposed by ten times his numbers – Rallying his exhausted men he boldly charged in the face of their awful fire – driving them back and actually covering the ground with their dead – Our center wavered and fell back under the concentrated fire of Artillery and Musketry – but the gallant and unyielding Hampton brought his awful storm of bombs-shell-grape round shot and musketry succeeded in reforming the line – restoring order and placing him back in  their original position – A new fire now had broken in from the right enfilading our line- We  were flanked – It was at this time that Col Reily fell pierced through the body by a ball from a rifle musket – he expired in about an hour and a half    Throughout the whole morning Col Reily was constantly in front of his line; conversing with and encouraging his men and wherever the battle was the hottest – where ball flew thickest he was there and in front – cautioning the men to take shelter and as it were challenging in his own person the whole fire of the enemy – His battles are over – and he sleeps well – beneath the shade of a live oak near the Chapel at Franklin – the Confederacy has lost one of its purest –patriots – the Army one of its bravest officers – and Texas one of its best and oldest citizens-

After the fall of Col Reily Gen Taylor arrived on the ground ordering us to fall back a few hundred yards and reform his lines – The 4th Regt TC being nearly surrounded was successfully withdrawn from its first position by Major Hampton with a trivial loss of provisions – While this unequal contest was being waged our trains and army from below were passing through Franklin and safely defiling to the left along the road to New Iberia – Cols Gray and Vincent commands were withdrawn from the line and ordered forward on that road, leaving the 4th TC unsupported and alone appearing to its members that they were being made a sacrifice to save the army.