ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Battle of Baton Rouge, Louisiana
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Battle of Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Battle of Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Key parts of the 1862 battle were fought along a
gentle slope in what is now Magnola Grove
Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Battle of Baton Rouge (1862)
A small monument honors
the Confederate soldiers
killed in the Southern attack
on Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
National Cemetery
Union dead from the battle
are buried at Baton Rouge
National Cemetery, which
occupies part of the battlefield.
Battle of Baton Rouge (1862) - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Southern Attack on Baton Rouge
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: August 12, 2012
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The Pentagon Barracks
The historic antebellum
barracks were occupied by
Union troops at the time of the
Battle of Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge Arsenal
The powder magazine of the
Baton Rouge Arsenal is
beautifully restored and
interprets the 19th century
military history of the city.
Military History in Louisiana
A bloody attempt by Confederate forces to
retake the capital city of Louisiana, the Battle
of Baton Rouge was fought on August 5,

The state government had evacuated Baton
Rouge in April 1862 after Union warships
blasted their way past Fort Jackson and Fort
St. Philip and steamed up the Mississippi to
New Orleans. On May 9th, thirteen days after
New Orleans fell, the USS
Iroquois reached
Baton Rouge.

No Confederate troops remained to defend
the city and Union forces seized the arsenal
and Pentagon Barracks with only silent
opposition from the citizens of the city. Things
got a bit more violent two weeks later when
the USS
Hartford shelled Baton Rouge after
Confederate guerrillas staged a minor attack

With Baton Rouge and New Orleans in their
possession, the Federals moved quickly on
Vicksburg, Mississippi. Their string of
successes ended there and quickly, thanks
to the guns of the Vicksburg batteries and the
unexpected appearance of the ironclad CSS

As the Union forces withdrew from Vicksburg,
Confederate General Earl Van Dorn tried to
seize the initiative and retake Baton Rouge.
Major General (and former U.S. Vice
President) John C. Breckenridge was
ordered south with 5,000 men.

Boarding railroad cars at Vicksburg on July
27, 1862, Breckenridge's army headed for
Camp Moore in Tangipahoa, Louisiana. He
was joined en route by additional troops and,
at the same time, the ironclad
began to slowly steam down the Mississippi
River for Baton Rouge.

General Breckenridge arrived outside Baton
Rouge on the night of August 4, 1862. His
presence was quickly detected by Union
sentries who notified their commander,
Brigadier General Thomas Williams.

Backed by the power of U.S. warships in the
river, Williams formed his men one mile out
from the center of town. As Breckenridge
closed in, however, Williams fell back to a
low rise that still can be seen along the
eastern ends of Magnolia Cemetery and the
adjacent Baton Rouge National Cemetery.

The battle spread throughout the eastern part
of the downtown area, but the heaviest
fighting took place from Greenwell Springs
Road (North Street) to Magnolia Cemetery
and the area of today's Baton Rouge National
Cemetery along Florida Street.

While the Confederates had moved south
with over 5,000 men, heat and exhaustion
had cut the size of Breckinridge's force
almost in half. Even so, the Southern attack
pushed the Union defenders back deeper
and deeper into town.

General Williams, the Union commander,
was killed in the fighting and his second-in-
command, Colonel Thomas Cahill, took
command. He continued, however, the same
tactics as Williams by drawing the Southern
troops closer and closer to downtown. This
allowed the Union warships in the river to
begin shelling the Confederate infantry.
It had been Breckinridge's plan for the CSS
Arkansas to attack the Federal warships at
the same time as his infantry began its push
on the city. The ironclad's engines were not
reliable, however, and just as she prepared
to engage the USS
Essex four miles up from
Baton Rouge they failed.

The C.S. Navy engineers were not able to get
them operating again and the career of the
Arkansas came to an end on the west
bank of the Mississippi near Poplar Grove
Plantation. The ironclad was fired by its own
crew and set adrift. When the flames reached
the magazines, the Arkansas went down.

The Battle of Baton Rouge raged for six
hours before General Breckinridge realized it
would cost him too many men to take the city.
Without the services of the
Arkansas there
was little hope of success. He ordered the
attack to an end and withdrew his men from
the field.

As the heavy smoke of battle still hung over
the field, the effort began to care for the
wounded and bury the dead. The Federals
had lost 84 killed, 266 wounded and 33
captured or wounded. Confederate forces
reported similar losses of 84 killed, 315
wounded and 57 missing or captured.

Among the Southern dead was Lieutenant
Alexander H. Todd, the brother-in-law of
President Abraham Lincoln. He was an aide-
de-camp to Brigadier General Benjamin H.
Helm who also was wounded in the battle.

A monument to the battle and Confederate
graves can be found at Magnolia Cemetery,
while the graves of Union dead are at Baton
Rouge National Cemetery.

Both cemeteries are open to the public daily
and can be entered via North 19th off Florida
Street in Baton Rouge.