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James, George and Calvin Knight's Civil War Experiences


Contributed by Jackie Nichols

The 9th Battalion Partisan Rangers 1862/63 became 3rd Wingfield's Cavalry in 1864. The unit was organized as a regiment of Partisan Rangers in May, 1862 at Camp Moore and was made up of men from the Washington Parish area of Louisiana. Their primary assignment was picket duty, keeping the Yankees out of an area from the Amite River and the north shore of Lake Pontchatrain to the Mississippi River, though they did range frequently into Mississippi. They occupied Baton Rouge when the Federals evacuated it on August 21, 1862. Early in 1863 the Confederate War Department sent orders to disband the unit; many men went back to their homes; but all who could ride were called again to duty by General Franklin Gardner and ordered to Port Hudson. From March to May 1863, the battalion skirmished with federal cavalry raiders as they made their way from Mississippi toward Baton Rouge. So many horses were lost that the unit dismounted and acted as infantry, taking cover in a formidable natural earthwork occupied by Rhodes and Shelby's Mississippi companies, a total of 60 men with six field pieces. They became part of the Siege of Port Hudson. Around 7 pm on May 27th that section of outwork was attached by the First Louisiana Native Guards, the unit of Confederate free Negroes of French extraction that defected to join the Federal Army and another unit made up of former slaves. "From the bluff behind the lower ridge, the field artillery now opened with shrapnel and shell upon the Negro troops as they floundered across the creek and up the opposite bank. Some of the Negroes held their ground and attempted to swim across a pool of backwater from the river to the base of the bluff. The few who made it were mowed down by the riflemen. All attempts to halt the frightened demoralized troops failed. They thrashed wildly across the creek and fled to the sugarhouse beyond the north bank where they were finally halted." The Siege of Port Hudson lasted from May 23 to July 8th, 1863, ending in the Confederate surrender, 6,340 prisoners of war to Banks. General Gardener's men were starving, dying from disease and long exposure; they were paroled and allowed to go home.

The following information was taken from James, Calvin and George Knight's pension applications:

James was the oldest of the three Knight brothers who joined Wingfield's Cavalry. He was age 34 in 1863. The first year Confederates could file for a pension, 1898, James filed. By then he was a widower; he had 10 living children, 8 boys and 2 girls. "I used to farm, but now owning to old age and infirmities, have not been able to work and must depend on others for my suppport." His pension was approved and he received $12.72.

Calvin Knight was the baby, age 26 in 1862. His pension application was filed in 1908. He, too, listed 10 children, 4 boys and 6 girls. Because his name was not on the final 1865 parole roster in Gainesville, AL, more proof was needed and the pension was at first denied. Six years went by, and in 1914 it took a notarized letter from his brother, James (then 85) and a letter from the War Department to record his service. In his statement, James remembers that Calvin had an injury in 1862. He relates that the entire company was sent home after a battle at Mixon's Mill in Tangipohoa Parish to find more horses. James starts for home with Calvin, who was sick again. To aggravate his condition, on their way home Calvin's horse throws him against a tree and he suffers a serious head wound. "Calvin was never afterward able to rejoin his command and never recovered from his injury and prostrations." He was still able to father 10 children. The pension was approved June 18, 1914.

George Knight, the middle brother, also served in Wingfield's Cavalry and was on the Prisoner of War list of those paroled from the Siege of Port Hudson in 1863. He died at home in 1903, and his widow Martha filed for a pension in 1913, which was refused. She tried again in 1914, adding a letter from Judge A. C. Allen of Franklinton, LA. He says "I have made an investigation by interviewing old soldiers of the same command, including my father, who surrendered at Gainesville, and I find that George Knight was a faithful soldier and left the army only when being stricken down with typhoid fever in the early part of 1864. He was carried home on a sick furlough and was confined to his bed for many months and never fully recovered until long after the surrender. His widow is in dire need of assistance." Martha also included a sworn letter by her brother-in-law, James, still alive in November 1914 at the age of 86. It states that George was stricken with the typhoid fever at the Siege of Port Hudson and was always afflicted up to the time of his death. Martha received $24.00.