Occupation, Battle, and Aftermath
Baton Rouge fell to Union forces 9 May 1862. In an effort to win back the city, Confederate forces attacked Baton Rouge on 5 August 1862. General Thomas Williams, Union commander, died in the attack but Baton Rouge remained in Union hands. General Williams’ replacement, Colonel Halbert E. Paine, had defense works built against renewed attacks. Ordered to create a clear field of fire, Union forces burned the buildings in front of the defensive line resulting in the loss of up to one-third of the structures in town. Sarah Morgan made the following entries in her diary:
12 August 1862: “I feel like a homeless beggar. Will P. told them here, that he doubted if our house were still standing, as the fight occurred just back of it, and every volley directed toward it.”
17 August 1862: “Thursday we heard from a lady just from town, that our house was probably standing the day before … but yesterday comes the tidings of new afflictions…. The Yankees, fearing the Confederates might slip in unseen … put the torch to all eastward…. For several days the fire has been burning, but very little can be learned.”
Before Union forces captured Baton Rouge on 9 May 1862, A. D. stayed busy in his Main Street studio creating portraits of Confederate soldiers. Colonel Randal Lee Gibson stood for A. D. early in the war. Unfortunately, few of Lytle’s Confederate portraits are known to survive.
After the capture, Lytle’s business remained steady as members of the Union occupation force came by to have portraits made for their friends and families in the North. An unidentified Union soldier shows a different face of the war.
Another Union soldier stationed in Baton Rouge, Lt. Daniel Dewey Perkins, expressed his feelings in letters home, which were published in a memorial volume after his death in the Battle of the Teche, 14 April 1863. Lt. Daniel Perkins Dewey wrote in Christmas, 1862:
“Here I am away down in Louisiana, my first Christmas from home…. It is saddening to go through this town, formerly a flourishing place, but now half burnt, with great black ruins standing everywhere…. The people creep about as if half scared to death…. People at the North can not begin to understand the reality of this war, but at the South it is brought home to them with terrible reality….”
Union forces waited in camp preparing for the attack on Port Hudson, up river from Baton Rouge. As the 1863 issue of The New York Daily Tribune demonstrates, readers in the North eagerly awaited word of the battle.