Brigadier General Alfred Mouton
Alfred Mouton was born on February 18, 1829 in Opelousas, Louisiana. His father would become governor of the state in 1843. The younger Mouton would eventually receive an education at West Point, graduating 38th in the class of 1850. He immediately resigned his commission and returned to Louisiana to become a planter. After managing his fathers plantation for two years, he then purchased a plantation of his own.
Mouton's father's plantation called Ile Copal
He received an appointment as brigadier general in the Louisiana State Militia in 1855. When the Civil War arrived, Mouton was commissioned a captain in the Confederate army by President Jefferson Davis. He would help raise the 18th Louisiana Infantry and was elected colonel of the unit.
The regiment would be placed in Daniel Ruggles brigade and sent to Corinth, Mississippi. From there, the unit would see action at Shiloh. On the first day, Mouton led a brave charge which resulted in heavy casualties. The colonels clothes and saddle had dozens of bullet holes and his horse was killed beneath him in the assault. On the second day of the battle, Mouton was wounded in the face. The wound became infected and he was forced to return home to recover.
For the gallantry he demonstrated at Shiloh, President Davis promoted Mouton to brigadier general. Upon recovery, he was placed under Richard Taylor in Louisiana. Because of an attack of rheumatism, he would miss his first battle with his new command. He repulsed Federal attacks at the Battle of Bisland in April of 1863, but would see no more action for the remainder of the year.
Taylor gave Mouton command of a division although it didn’t result in a promotion to major general. In other words, Mouton had more responsibility, but with the same pay. He would lead the division in the Battle of Mansfield on April 8, 1864 and helped Taylor’s army defeat Federal General Banks. Sadly, this battle would be Mouton’s last.
Taylor had nothing but praise for Mouton’s brave charge at Mansfield. Despite heavy casualties, Mouton’s men pressed on across an open field, through a ravine and up a hill. They captured several Federal guns and caused the enemy line to break. Thirty-five Federal soldiers threw down their rifles to surrender. Mouton watched as his men raised their rifles to fire on the defenseless enemy soldiers. He immediately rode his horse in front of his men and ordered them to hold their fire. Five of the surrendering enemy soldiers reached down and grabbing their rifles opened fire on the man who had just saved their lives.
Mouton was hit by several bullets and fell from the saddle, killed almost instantly. The act so enraged Mouton’s men that they immediately opened fire killing all thirty-five of the enemy troops. One Confederate soldier said the dead enemy soldiers lay around the body of General Mouton looking like a guard of honor pulled from the Federal ranks to honor such a brave man.
Death site of General Mouton at Mansfield
Mouton was buried on the field and his division marched past the grave, many with tears filling their eyes. Some were said to have thrown themselves on the ground in sorrow at the loss of their brave commander. His men were so angered at the act, that many captured Federals begged for mercy for fear of vengeance.
Richard Taylor admitted to being deeply affected at the loss of his division commander. Mouton had been loyal to his commander. Kirby Smith in overall command had been feuding with Taylor over strategy. Smith wanted to fight on the defensive and react to the enemy’s moves. Taylor had learned his warfare under Jackson and believed in taking the initiative against the enemy. With Mouton gone, Taylor lost an ally in his personal battle with Smith.
Mouton's statue in Lafayette, Louisiana
Alfred Mouton’s body would eventually be removed and buried in the Mouton family plot in Saint John Cemetery, Lafayette, Louisiana. The only bad thing that was ever said about Mouton was written by one of his soldiers. The man complained that Mouton didn't like to carry out executions of his men for desertion. The general with the long name was not only respected by his men, but he seemed like a genuine good person. He certainly didn't deserve the sad fate that he suffered.
The grave of Alfred Mouton