A new brigade, and a visit from Prince Napoleon

The prince, whose society nickname was Plon Plon, was a cousin of Napoleon III, the president of France. The president was the first Napoleon’s nephew. Richmond hoped France would become the first European nation to recognize the Confederacy.

Plon Plon, an habitual traveler, visited the U.S. as the war was getting underway, touring the North that summer. He and his wife, Clotilde, lived on the Jerome Napoleon, their steam yacht, in New York harbor. In early August, the prince left his wife in New York and, with his French military retinue, journeyed to the Virginia countryside.

The 13th, whose deaths from measles and other illnesses were continuing, saw the prince passing by near Centreville, VA, on the 8th.

Hill: “Thursday. Clear and very warm. 3 men died today. Prince Napoleon and suit[e] passed our camp on a visit to Gen. Beauregard. They traveled in two carriages drawn by four horses each.”

A day later, the 13th was reassigned to a new brigade with a new commander, Colonel (later to be Brigadier General) Nathan George “Shanks” Evans. The brigade consisted of the 13th, 17th & 18th Mississippi Regiments, the 8th Virginia Regiment, two companies of cavalry and a battery of the Richmond Howitzers. They lined up with the rest of the army for a formal review.

Hill: “The brigade was ordered out this morning [Aug. 9] to be reviewed by Prince Napoleon. All of Gen. Beauregard’s army was under arms and presented a very imposing picture. The Prince rode along the entire line and I have heard that he was highly pleased with the appearance of our troops.”

Plon Plon then returned to Washington City, where he and Clotilde previously had visited President Lincoln at the White House, with whom the prince reportedly was not impressed.

Plon Plon’s military aide Camille Ferri Pisani later wrote: “Heaven forbid that I complain of the simplicity of habits and mores of anyone, even of the chief of a great Nation! I cannot, however, prevent myself from noticing that it is illogical to live in a great palace and not to have a doorman.”

The day after the review, Evans’s new brigade left Centreville. They marched northwest for a new home: a camp near Leesburg, in the fertile land along the Potomac River. The Mississippians would recover from their epidemics and the brigade would act as a trip-wire for any new Union invasion of Virginia across the upper Potomac.

The 13th left behind at Centreville 260 360 men—the sick and their assigned nursing attendants— including quartermaster clerk Hill.

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
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