By Richard Malley
Following the Union disaster at Bull Run in July 1861 additional regiments were raised throughout the north to continue the struggle. Among these was Connecticut’s Thirteenth Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Though organized in New Haven, the unit boasted recruits from many parts of the state when it sailed for the Gulf Coast in March 1862.
Pressed into occupation duty in New Orleans, the men of the unit quickly found themselves in the middle of a war of words between pro-Southern and pro-Union factions in the city. During these first months in Louisiana a considerable number of recruits took ill and were discharged. New recruits, many of them German immigrants living in New Orleans, replenished the unit’s strength.
Civil War Campaigns Bring 13th Deep into Heart of the Confederacy
Ultimately the Thirteenth operated primarily in the Lower Mississippi Valley, its most notable actions the bloody Union assaults and subsequent siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, from May to July 1863. The regiment then participated in the Union’s abortive Red River campaign in early 1864.
Following a brief veteran’s furlough back home in the summer of 1864 the regiment was ordered to join General Sheridan’s forces in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The Thirteenth last saw heavy action at Opequan and Winchester, Virginia, in September. The three-year enlistment period for most of the men ended in December, the remaining troops being sent to Savannah, Georgia and, later, Newbern, North Carolina, at the war’s end.
So how lucky was the Thirteenth? When officially mustered out of service in May 1866 the regiment could truly count itself fortunate to have suffered only 197 deaths from all causes, of which 53 were combat related.
Richard Malley formerly Head of Collections at the Connecticut Historical Society.
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