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150 Years Ago Cheshire Soldier Dies at Baton Rouge

In August 1862 the 9th CT left Vicksburg and helped repulse the Confederates at Baton Rouge. That month, 70 men of the 9th died of illness including Pvt Michael Reynolds of Cheshire.

During the month of August 1862 the soldiers from the Ninth Connecticut began to die at a rapid rate due to illness contracted mainly from the swamps opposite Vicksburg, Mississippi. The 70 soldiers of the Ninth who died that month included Michael Reynolds of Cheshire, CT. A 26 year old laborer, born in County Leitrim Ireland, he had enlisted in Company B on September 30, 1861 and died August 9, 1862.

 The Ninth left the unfinished canal opposite Vicksburg during the last week of July 1862. With most on the hospital sick list from malaria, dysentery or heat stroke, the Ninth arrived at Baton Rouge where along with six other Union regiments they were quickly set to prepare for the Confederate attack designed to retake the Louisiana capital.

The battle of Baton Rouge occurred August 5, 1862. Over 5,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were involved with some 840 killed, wounded or missing. During the course of the battle Union General Thomas Williams was killed and command devolved to Col Thomas Cahill of the Ninth Connecticut, much to his surprise. After a fierce fight Cahill repositioned his troops 300 yards closer to the Mississippi where Union gunboats inflicted heavy losses on the Confederates. The heralded Confederate ram Arkansas arrived north of the city but when her engines failed, she was scuttled and blown up, leaving no hope for a Confederate victory.  

In messages under flags of truce to Confederate Brig Gen Breckenridge, Cahill assured him on August 6 that the dead on both sides were receiving proper burial and that captured Confederate Brig Gen Clark was receiving care at the city hospital. Breckenridge chagrined at his defeat in the battle threw away his sword, and the latter was among the trophies of the Union forces.

Breckinridge served in the U. S. House of Representatives (1851-1855), and as Vice-president of the United States under Buchanan (1856-1861). He was also elected to the U. S. Senate in 1859, before his term as vice-president expired, and a year before his lost bid for president against Lincoln in 1860. In November of 1861 he accepted a commission as a Confederate brigadier general after his native Kentucky declared for the Union.

The war divided the nation, individual states and even families. One of the Confederate officers killed during the battle of Baton Rouge was a Lieutenant A. H. Todd, half-brother of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Lincoln.  

Col Cahill wrote to his wife at their home on Franklin Street, New Haven on August 8, “the Lord has stood by us through a very sharp fight .. we have won a great victory .. there has been a great loss on both sides”. “The Jesuit Fathers Lavnaudie & Pratensky have stood by us nobly .. the former was in the thick of the fight .. our men behaved well

                                    Your Loving Husband

                                                T W Cahill”

After the battle of Baton Rouge Gen. Butler issued his "General Order No. 57," in which he made special allusion to the Irish Ninth in the following paragraph:— * * * Michigan stood by Maine, Massachusetts supported Indiana, Wisconsin aided Vermont, while Connecticut, represented by the sons of the ever green shamrock, fought as their fathers did at Boyne water.

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J. Wiley Dumas September 21, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Bob, I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading a post such as this that puts a face on the names beneath the statues where we, both North and South, honor those that gave their lives for causes that each believed to be just. I would like to extend an invitation to you come come and see members of the 9th CT. at the 'Connecticut to Arms' event at Wickham Park in Manchester on the 29th and 30th. The reenactors of the 9th do an upstanding job, one that I'm certain you'll enjoy.

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