Stephen F. Austin State University

The Gallant General Tom Green C.S.A. (July 2014)

By Rickey Robertson

Located just off of La. Hwy. 1 near Lake End, La. on the road to Lock and Dam #4 is an almost forgotten site where in 1864 there was one of the most fierce skirmishes of the Civil War and the Red River Campaign. This location that is right on the banks of the Red River is the location of Blair's Landing. At this site on April 12, 1864 Confederate General Tom Green, along with his Texas cavalrymen and his Louisiana artillerymen, made history for the South.

After the battles at Sabine Crossroads (Mansfield) and Pleasant Hill, the Union Army commanded by General Nathaniel Banks was in full retreat heading towards Natchitoches and eventually Alexandria where they would be protected from the attacking Confederates commanded by Lt. General Richard Taylor. In charge of General Taylor's cavalry was a famous Texan, General Tom Green. Tom Green had been in battle many times before. In the Texas Revolution of 1836 during the Battle of San Jacinto Tom Green was a private and was part of the crew of the 2 gun battery known as "Sam Houston's Twin Sisters". Due to his bravery and fighting spirit during the Battle of San Jacinto, Tom Green was promoted to Lieutenant. By May 1836 he had been promoted to Major and was on the staff of General Thomas Rusk. He had a promising military career but after the fighting ended, he returned and became a land surveyor in Fayette County near LaGrange Tx. But in 1846 war again began with Mexico. Tom Green raised a company of Texas Rangers and at the Battle of Monterrey he and his company scouted and brought vital information to General Zachary Taylor that led the American forces to victory. After the war Tom Green returned and became the Clerk of the Texas Supreme court, raising his 6 children and his wife's 6 orphaned brothers and sisters. Tom Green believed in family.

When Texas seceded and war clouds came over Texas, he again found himself in battle. By 1864 Tom Green was a Brigadier General in the Army of the Confederacy. He was leading all of the cavalry units under the command of Lt. General Richard Taylor. General Green commanded the 12th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, and 36th Texas Cavalry Regiments, and Captain John A. West's Louisiana Field Artillery armed with 12 pound howitzers. General Taylor gave General Green and his troop's specific orders: Cut off the retreating Union gunboats and transports moving down the Red River. With his orders, General Green and his 1200 cavalrymen and artillerymen trotted toward the Red River.

As General Green and Colonel William Parsons slipped up to the Red River to scout out the Yankee gunboats, he could hardly believe his eyes. The Red River was so low that the Yankee ships were stranded and grounded in the shallow waters of the river. The Union ships Hastings, Alice Vivian, Clara Bell, Emerald, Black Hawk, Osage, and Lexington were stranded. General Green and Colonel Parsons returned to the troops and advised them of what they had found. Still excited by their victories at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, the Confederates were ready to attack the Yankee gunboats.

General Green positioned the Louisiana artillery howitzers and had them open fire on the surprised Yankees. As soon as the artillery began to fire, General Green's Texans poured the fire onto the Union boats. But the Yankees began to return the fire with muskets and ships cannons. As the battle began the Union gunboat Rob Roy appeared and fired on the Confederates. But the heavy and accurate musket fire of the Texans and the deadly artillery fire by the Louisianan's began to sweep the decks of the Union boats. The Yankee gunboats were so desperate they began firing grape and canister shot on the Confederates but the heavy Southern fire was taking a toll on the Yanks.

Despite all the fire on the Yankee gunboats General Green saw that he had to exploit the situation and attempt to capture the vessels. He knew he had to do something fast before his men ran low of ammunition and the Union cannons could destroy his artillery. General Green asked the 36th Texas Cavalry to mount and then asked who would follow him to the river. The river was at its lowest level in 10 years and with Texas war whoops and Rebel yells, General Green and these brave men rode right into the Red River, right into the mouths of the Yankee guns. They attacked the Osage and got to within 20 feet of it before being pushed back. Suddenly 6 more Yankee gunboats came around the bend in the river and joined in the fight. General Green decided to make one more charge on the Osage and he ordered his men to fire directly into the portholes of the vessel in an attempt to capture it. General Green was everywhere encouraging his men and cheering them forward like a true leader does in battle. As he led the Texans to within 40 feet of the Osage, we have all heard that one lucky shot can save or win a battle, which is what happened. Suddenly the Osage fired its guns directly into the charging Texans. The grape shot scatted like giant buckshot and one ball hit General Green above his right eye, decapitating him on the spot. The Texas cavalrymen saw what had happened and brought the General and his wounded horse from the river. Their beloved general was dead. Slowly, after an hour or so, the firing began to subside and eventually the Confederates pulled back from the river. As the river level rose, all the Yankee gunboats were refloated from the sandbars they had been grounded upon and they ran for protection to Alexandria.

Fourteen years after the war, General Richard Taylor remembered General Tom Green. General Taylor wrote that the death of Tom Green was a public calamity, and he was mourned as such by the people of Texas and Louisiana. Even Union General Thomas Kilby Smith in his official report about the skirmish at Blair's Landing, spoke that General Green had behaved with great gallantry throughout the fight.

Now at the site of Blair's Landing is a Historical Marker that tells of General Tom Green and the fight for Blair's Landing. As I recently stood at the site, I could almost hear the Rebel yells of the Texans and the fire coming from the Yankee gunboats. And here, a brave man gave his life for the Southern Cause. Many people do not know, but due to his actions during the Battle of Blair's Landing, Louisiana, General Tom Green, C.S.A., was awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. General Green's Confederate Medal of Honor is on permanent public display in the Louisiana Historical Association's Memorial Hall Confederate Museum in New Orleans, La. You fought all the way Johnny Reb!