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Authors: Peter G. Tsouras

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Taylor had given him command of the small brigade of Stevens and
Alexander's Texas regiments. The Texans had responded with a frontier
directness that Taylor had to deal with personally. They would not serve
under a Frenchman with a name they could not even pronounce. Taylor
would not reverse his decision but promised that if they still had reservations after the first action, he would reconsider. It was not long before
the Prince de Polignac made first-rate soldiers of them and won a grudging affection for his care and attention to their welfare, but still he had
not had his test of fire. Yet Taylor had no worries and said of him "he belonged to that race of gentry whose ancestors rallied to the white plume
of Henry at Ivry, and followed the charge of Conde at Rocroi."9

After the fall of New Orleans in April 1862 to Adm. David Farragut's bold attack up the Mississippi, Taylor's minor command with its
one small division had been lucky to annoy the Union forces based there.
The addition of Walker's Greyhounds to his command had doubled Taylor's force to about ten thousand men. The arrival of Bazaine's twenty
thousand by ship at Galveston after the French Navy's destruction of the
Union West Gulf Blockading Squadron at the battle of Galveston10 had
been a godsend to Taylor who now had a serious opportunity to recapture New Orleans. With the fall of that city, all the Union successes in
gaining control of the Mississippi would be cancelled. Taylor had come
within an ace of recapturing New Orleans in July when he sacked the huge Union supply base at Brashear City and marched to the outskirts of
the almost undefended Crescent City. The taste of victory was nearly on
the tongue when the news of the fall of Port Hudson and the imminent
arrival of Banks's army turned his foray into a trap. He barely withdrew
his tiny force in time."

In only a few days, Taylor and Bazaine had taken each other's
measure and got along well. Trusted by both commands, the Prince de
Polignac had been the perfect liaison, doing everything possible to ease
tensions and encourage cooperation. Bazaine had gracefully acknowledged Taylor as overall commander while Taylor had eagerly sought
Bazaine's advice. Bazaine had been prepared to deal with an American
novice and dreaded the complex diplomatic delicacies that would be
needed to finesse the weakness of the man who was the brother-in-law
of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. But Bazaine had been surprised to find in Taylor a gifted commander with shrewd tactical and
strategic insights. Taylor had learned soldiering from the very best, Old
Blue Light- the legendary Stonewall Jackson-who had taught him
that speed and surprise are the most precious jewels of war. His relationship to Davis only gave priority and the full, unstinted support of the
Confederate government to the allied effort. Napoleon III's instructions
to Bazaine were to work as closely and tactfully with the Confederates as
he could. A Confederate guarantee of French control of Mexico depended upon their joint and cordial success.

Taylor also burned with an ardor that was not all patriotism. This
son of former president Zachary Taylor was determined to avenge the
desecration of his late father's magnificent Louisiana estate, Fashion, by
Union plunderers. They had not even spared his presidential papers but
scattered them about the fields or sent them off as trophies to that viper's
pit of Yankeedom, Boston.

It had been Taylor who had then come up with the plan that solved
the unity-of-command problems. Leaving Walker's division and Polignac's brigade under Bazaine's command, he had taken the rest of his
brigades aboard the same French transports that had delivered Bazaine's
troops. His destination was the oddly named Lake One-Eyed. That
would leave Bazaine in command of over thirty thousand allied troops.
The two were about to turn on its head the old military adage that one
had general is better than the inherent disunity of two good generals sharing command. Whoever had coined that bit of wisdom had not met
Banks.

And now, as if on cue, Banks had laid a priceless gift before Bazaine. He had come out to fight. Nathanial Banks was a political general, an influential Republican, former governor of Massachusetts, and
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Known as the Bobbin Boy
of Waltham for his close ties to the textile industry, he had been most
useful to Lincoln in generating political support for the war and initiating political reconstruction in occupied Louisiana, but he was less than
able as a general. His only success had been to reduce by starvation the
last Confederate garrison on the Mississippi River at Port Hudson, about
a hundred miles north of New Orleans. He was better known for being
repeatedly drubbed by Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley in
1862. The masses of supplies he lost to Old Blue Light earned him the
title from the perpetually hungry Confederates of "Commissary Banks."

He had come out to fight, to Bazaine's amazement, when the better
part of valor would have been to withdraw behind the water barrier of
the maze of swamps, bayous, and lakes that paralleled the Mississippi
to the east from the Gulf to north of Port Hudson. Barely twenty miles
north of the Gulf, however, this barrier opened narrowly between the
coastal swamps and Grand Lake and Lake Palourde in a forty-milelong strip ending at Brashear City. Coming down from the north, Bayou
Teche, a former channel of the Mississippi itself, wound through the
strip emptying into the Grand Lake at Brashear City, the eastern end of
the gap. Through this gap ran the only serious road between Texas and
New Orleans. From the great river port to Brashear City ran a railroad.
The strip was ideal defense in depth as Banks brought his supplies forward while Bazaine broke camp immediately and marched against him
with the combined French-Confederate Armee de Louisiane of thirty-five
thousand men. The French general counted his advantages, the weather
among them. It was the driest month of the year in Louisiana, and air
was as fresh and delightful as a bottle of fine wine.

ALBANY, NEW YORK, 2:20 PM, OCTOBER 21, 1863

The ruins of Albany swarmed with redcoats. Two weeks ago, the British
Army in Canada had struck with complete surprise, using the railroads
to rush south and overwhelm New York's state capital. Its warehouses, factories, and nearby Watervliet Arsenal had all been burned to deliver
such a trauma to the citizens of the Empire State that they would clamor
for peace. Now what was left of the city was the base for the British
Albany Field Force, commanded by Guards major general Frederick
Lord Paulet, who was sending raiding parties west to the big industrial
towns and down the Hudson to scorch more holes in the state's morale.
Towns along the Hudson that had gone up in flames during the War of
Independence at the hands of red-coated incendiaries were again sending plumes of black smoke skyward. The might of the British Empire in
its imperial battalions and Canadian militia had planted a boot on the
throat of New York. In its imperial battalions, no finer troops existed.
Events were building that would send the Albany Field Force south and
east to threaten New York and Boston just as the French and Confederate
battle line was marching to contact west of New Orleans.

Before the outbreak of hostilities, the British government had wanted the quality of the reinforcement to be taken into account in American
diplomatic calculations, which was why the two Guards battalions - the
1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, and the 2nd Battalion of the Scots
Fusilier Guards -were included. The Rifle Brigade had also sent its 1st
Battalion.

Most of the regiments had their share of North American battle
honors. The oldest was the Grenadier Guards, sent to Virginia in 1677 to
put down Bacon's Rebellion. The 15th (York, East Riding) Regiment of
Foot had fought on the Plains of Abraham with Wolfe and served during the Revolution with Howe and Clinton in the campaigns of 1776-78.
The 17th (Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot was also at Quebec and
served through the entire American War of Independence, with the great
misfortune of being twice captured-at Stony Creek in 1779 and at Yorktown in 1783-and both times speedily exchanged. The 16th (Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot, fought in the War of 1812 in Canada. The 30th
(Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot campaigned in North Carolina in
1781-82. The 47th (Lancashire) Regiment of Foot had seen hard service at
Bunker's Hill in 1776 and at Saratoga in 1777, where it surrendered with
the rest of Burgoyne's army.

One regiment even had its origin in what would become the United
States. The 60th Regiment of Foot, the old Royal Americans, was originally raised in New York and Philadelphia in 1755 during the French and Indian War. They were also with Wolfe at Quebec. The 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot fought in the War of 1812 in the Great Lakes
campaigns. The 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment of Foot landed with Howe
on Long Island in 1776 to help drive Washington out of New York, then
beat him again at Germantown and Bennington and went on to fight in
South Carolina, distinguishing themselves at Eutaw Springs in 1782.11

Of more current importance, the battalions of the Rifle Brigade and
the 17th, 30th, 47th, 62nd, and 63rd Foot had served in the Crimea, and
a decade later had a core of experienced veterans. Regardless of whether
they had bled in the Crimea, every British battalion could be depended
upon to be obstinate in battle to the point of suicide. That refusal to never turn their back on an enemy was ingrained, despite the Duke of Wellington's comment that "all soldiers run away." It had been a rare enemy
in the last hundred years able to make them do it. Their regimental anniversaries were marks of such obstinacy - Blenheim, Quebec, Minden.

British regiments usually had only a single battalion, usually
numbered the first. In that case, they were simply referred to by their
regimental number. A few regiments did have more than one battalion,
though these were exceptions. The result was that although, for example,
the title of a unit was the 30th Regiment of Foot (30th Foot, for short), it
actually represented a battalion in strength, usually about eight hundred
and fifty men in ten companies. Most of the battalions that had been
sent to British North America had been plussed up from their depots
to about a thousand men each. The term "battalion" originally meant a
detachment or part of a regiment, or the organization of the regiment for
combat. Occasionally, the British would raise a second, third, or fourth
battalion of the same regiment. Administratively and operationally, each
battalion was a separate organization. American regiments, in contrast,
numbered about nine hundred and fifty men in ten companies. Battalions were only large detachments of the same regiment. There were
never separate numbered battalions.

British battalions were also unique in having distinct personalities
that were encouraged to foster the regimental spirit, a cohesive power
unequaled in the world's armies. Nicknames were common. The 1st
Battalion, Grenadier Guards, was known as the Dandies, no doubt from
their parade functions in London, and the fact that, like all the Guards, they were selected for height to make a grander appearance. Other regiments' nicknames were derived from their combat history or, sometimes,
in jest, to having just missed a fight. In this case, the 1/16 Foot was
known as the Peacemakers, for having been shipped to Europe from
Canada to fight Napoleon, only to barely miss Waterloo.

In contrast to the subdued uniform colors of the U.S. Army and
C.S. Army, the regulation British tunic was a brilliant scarlet, achieved
with that perfect red dye, cochineal, derived from the crushed bodies of
a beetle, and first concocted by the peoples of Mesoamerica more than
a thousand years ago. Facings varied by regiment-yellow, buff, green,
and blue-to distinguish each regiment from another. There were also a
wealth of differences in buckles and other accoutrement, especially the
regimental badge worn on the front of the shako, as marks of regimental pride. Standing out from all these scarlet-clad regiments were the
rifle battalions, the 1st Battalion, the Rifle Brigade, and the 4th Battalion,
60th Foot (The King's Rifle Corps) in rifle green with black and scarlet
facings respectively. The Rifle Brigade was descended from the 95th
Rifles of Peninsular War whose most famous officer had been the same
Richard Sharpe that Wolseley had commented on at dinner with George
Sharpe in Washington 13 As a rifle unit they were unique among British
regiments to carry no colors. To honor the Queen's late beloved husband,
Prince Albert, they had become known in 1862 as the Prince Consort's
Own.

As with most Western armies, each British battalion carried two
flags - the regimental colors unique to it and the royal colors. The latter
was the national or Grand Union flag. Each measured 42 by 48 inches.
British regimental colors wore the color of the regimental facing, with
the Great Union flag in the upper hoist corner. Exceptions were made for
regiments with white or red facings -for white to prevent its confusion
with a flag of surrender and red for possible confusion with a flag of no
quarter. Instead, the field for such colors was the Cross of St. George, a
red cross on a white field. The regimental number in Roman numerals
was centered on the Grand Union flag in the upper hoist corner. Regimental badges were placed in the center, around which were the names
of their battles were inscribed. With the delightful irregularity of British
military tradition, the Guards regiments reversed this arrangement, with
the Grand Union flag as the regimental colors, and a unique crimson and
gold embroidered silk flag as the royal colors.14

BOOK: A Rainbow of Blood: The Union in Peril an Alternate History
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