"Lee's Tiger's Revisited" Expands Study of Civil War's Scrappy La. Infantrymen

Feb 15, 2018

Louisiana State University Press has released a new Civil War book by Dr. Terry L. Jones, professor emeritus of history at the University of Louisiana Monroe.

Lee’s Tigers Revisited: The Louisiana Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia is a greatly expanded edition of Lee’s Tigers, Jones’ first book that was published in 1987. It was a History Book Club selection and won the General L. Kemper Williams Prize, an award that recognizes the best book published on Louisiana History each year. Lee’s Tigers Revisited is a history of the approximately 12,000 Louisiana infantrymen who fought in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Sometimes derided as the “wharf rats from New Orleans” and the “lowest scrappings of the Mississippi,” the Louisiana Tigers earned a reputation for being drunken and riotous in camp, but courageous and dependable on the battlefield. To honor them, LSU adopted the Tiger nickname for its football team at the turn of the 20th century, and the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade is known today as the Tiger Brigade.

Dr. Terry L. Jones' "Lee's Tigers Revisited: The Louisiana Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia"
Credit Terry Jones

Louisiana’s soldiers, some of whom wore colorful French Zouave uniforms, reflected the state’s multicultural society, with some regiments consisting of French-speaking Creoles and others being dominated by European immigrants. The Tigers played a key role in numerous battles, such as resisting the initial Union onslaught at First Manassas, making possible Stonewall Jackson’s famous Valley Campaign, holding the line at Second Manassas by throwing rocks when they ran out of ammunition, temporarily breaking the Union line at Gettysburg, containing the Union breakthrough at Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle, and leading Lee’s attempted breakout of Petersburg at Fort Stedman.

The Tigers became famous across the nation. Even northern citizens knew of the Louisiana Tigers exploits. After the war, some newspapers even competed to identify the surviving Louisiana Tigers. "There were stories of people in New Orleans pointing out old men on the street and whispering that 'he's one of them,'" said Jones. 

The Tigers achieved equal notoriety for their outrageous behavior off the battlefield, so much so that sources suggest that no general wanted them in his command. Casualties were so heavy that fewer than four hundred Louisiana Tigers were still on duty when Lee surrendered at Appomattox. 

Lee’s Tigers Revisited incorporates new material Jones has collected over the years and is being released to commemorate the book’s original publication 30 years ago.  It uses letters, diaries, memoirs, newspaper articles, and muster rolls to provide a detailed account of the origins, enrollments, casualties, and desertion rates of the Louisiana Tigers. Jones explains the new resources used to gather information for Lee's Tigers Revisited. "When the internet came on, the sources just exploded," said Jones.

Numerous maps that were commissioned for this edition show the Tigers’ positions on key battlefields. By utilizing first-person accounts and official records, Jones provides the definitive study of the Louisiana Tigers and their harrowing experiences in the Civil War.

Jones is a native of Winn Parish and taught history at ULM for 25 years. He is the author or editor of eight other books, including Louisiana in the Civil War: Essays for the Sesquicentennial, Campbell Brown’s Civil War, and The Louisiana Journey.