St. Charles Parish’s role in the Civil War can be measured by the
|Photo by Thelezia Folse|
Locals claim that a Civil War train is buried beneath the Bayou Des Allemands floor near the train bridge that still stands today.
Many residents believe this tale is a true one, citing stories that they’ve heard over the years - and everyone has a version of what happened.
“I grew up swimming in the bayou and I also grew up hearing the story that a train was buried there,” said Jerome Green. “As kids we’d pretend like we were searching for artifacts, although we never found anything.”
Others say that it’s impossible for a train to be there, claiming that Civil War accounts and documents say nothing about an accident occurring in the area.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Lionel Mongrue. “I have many friends who’ve studied and researched our area’s Civil War history and they can’t put it all together.”
Because of the inconsistency of facts or fiction, the Des Allemands train fable may never be proven or disproved. But St. Charles Parish did play a crucial role in the Civil War. After all, many supply trains carrying medicine and weapons pass through by way of our rails.
Little is known of Confederate soldiers from St. Charles. Military units that were formed during the time were the St. Charles Horse Guards, headed by Ormond Plantation’s Capt. Samuel McCutcheon, and there were also the St. Charles Minute Men, the St. Charles Light Artillery, and the St. Charles Foot Rifles.
In 1862, New Orleans fell into Union hands after a cry for stronger reinforcements went unheard - bringing St. Charles with it.
Union ships patrolled the Mississippi River periodically, occasionally reaping havoc on plantation houses, cabins and crops. Largely, this is how the war affected the parish in those few months after the capture of New Orleans.
Federal troops tried to occupy the parishes between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but they were satisfied to control the river.
In the spring of 1862, Federal troops captured the Boutte Station Depot and also the Bayou Des Allemands area. A post was maintained at Des Allemands with 150 Federal troops.
Following the Boutte capture, was the Battle of the St. Charles Courthouse.
The Federal occupying forces uncovered an attempt to gather cattle on the East Bank of the river for the Confederate army.
Under Federal Colonel Thomas, a force of 200 men started toward Boutte by rail from Algiers. They marched from Boutte to the courthouse in Hahnville and camped for the night.
At daybreak, the troops started upriver. On the way to the Bonnet Carre Bend, which is located north of the present-day spillway, the federal soliders encountered 500 cattle, which had arrived the night before from Texas.
After discovering only a small rebel force near the bend, Col. Thomas went back to the courthouse.
The battles of Boutte and Des Allemands occurred weeks later, in September 1862.
A confederate force made up of a Terrebonne militia began a campaign to recapture Boutte and Des Allemands.
A plan to apprehend trade with the Federal troops, resulted in a joined effort between General C. Pratt in Boutte and Capt. Hall in Des Allemands to intercept a supply train from Algiers.
Near the station, rebels laid in wait. As the train approached the station, they fired, killing and wounding and number of Union soldiers. The rail switch was thrown, causing the train to collide with an empty car on the sidetrack.
In Des Allemands, Capt. Hall investigated a white-flag surrender was stampeded by Confederate prisoners, ultimately surrendering the post.
Yet no accounts of this Boutte-Des Allemands duel points to a train accident on or near the train bridge in Des Allemands.
The notion of a train still buried in the murky bayou waters may never be confirmed. It could possibly go down in history as an unsolved mystery as has many tales throughout history.
But one thing is for certain, St. Charles Parish’s role in the Civil War did not go unnoticed. It’s railway provided both the Union and the Confederate soliders with transportation for ammunition and medical supplies - and played the stage for many page-turning battles where lives were lost and history was made.
Source: Louisiana’s German Coast: A History of St. Charles Parish.
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