Tiger Rifles

Sketch of two Louisiana Tigers, drawn by Capt. Leon Fremaux, Company 
B, 8th Louisiana Regiment. August-October, 1861. Source: Fremaux Papers.

1st LA Special Battalion, Co. B

In the August 1923 issue of "Confederate Veteran" a veteran of Coppen's Zouaves, Mr. J.W. Minnich of Morgan City, Louisiana writes about the famous Confederate unit, Wheat's Tigers.

"Wheat's Battalion, as it was known during and after its organization, did not acquire the title of "Tigers" until after Bull Run. In that battle they were reported to have met the charge of the (Fire) Zouaves, and throwing down their muskets, with a yell they countercharged with their long knives and routed their enemies.

From that time on they were called "Wheat's Tigers". But the title was derived from one company of the battalion, Captain White's company, organized in Point Coupe, La. They were mostly river men, steamboat men left without an occupation. They took upon themselves the name "White's Tigers", which was quite easy to transpose into "Wheat's Tigers", and as such they were thereafter known. They were proud of their commander, Major 'Bob' (Roberdeau) Wheat, and he was as proud of them. He always led and while leading them was fatally wounded at (First) Cold Harbor when Jackson struck McClellan's right and crumpled it up. Wheat's last words were: "Bury me on the field, boys" and his wish was complied with.

That was the last battle in which the "Tigers" were engaged as "Wheat's Battalion" (italics added by SG). They were but a skeleton, and immediately, or very soon thereafter, consolidated with my fomer command, "Coppens' 1st Louisiana Zouaves", Lieut. Col. Gaston Coppens commanding, which was then composed of four companies, and, having been roughly handled during the battle of Seven Pines, May 31-June 1, had suffered severe losses.

The two battalions consolidated served as one unit under Copens[sic] until after the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), where Colonel Copens[sic] was killed. From that time, or soon hereafter (the record is not clear), the Tigers and Zouaves ceased to appear as a unit. From all I have been able to learn, they were almost annihilated at Sharpsburg and were merged with Hay's regiment and brigade. Because of the circumstances mentioned, the brigade in which they were incorporated was erroneously termed "The Louisiana Tigers" (Italics added by SG).


Capt. Alexander White; 1st Lt. Tom E. Adrian; 2nd Lt.(and quartermaster) Sam P. Dushane; 2nd Lt. Edward Hewitt

Non-Commissioned Officers

Orderly Sgt. Robert Ritchie; 2nd Sgt. Charles Lewis; 3rd Sgt. William Keller; 1st Cpl. Cornelius Malloy; 2nd Cpl. William Granger; 3rd Cpl. Michael Welshl; 4th Cpl. William St. Clair. Vivandiere: Lavinia Williams.


Seneca Fall (June 28, 1861) 1st Bull Run (July 21, 1861) Somerville Heights (May 7, 62), Front Royal (May 23), Middletown (May 24), 1st Winchester (May 25), Mount Carmel (June 1), Cross Keys (June 8), Port Republic (June 9), Gaines' Mill (June 27 - Major Wheat killed), White Oak Swamp (June 30), Malvern Hill (July 1 - Battalion was then disbanded at conclusion of Seve Days Campaign)

Courtesy Hamilton Gallery, Keith Rocco

Uniform Details
Deegan, A. C. (1987). Archaeological textile evidence for historic costume study: Louisiana Tiger Rifles 1861. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 5(4), 23-27. PLEASE NOTE: THERE IS NO CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE THAT THESE 2 BODIES BELONGED TO THE TIGER RIFLES! - SG The purpose of this research was to analyze fabric remains from the grave of an American Civil War confederate soldier of the Louisiana Tiger Rifles who was executed by military firing squad in December 1861 near Manassas, Virginia. No confirmed visual examples of this uniform exist. A small layered mass of fabric was found in this grave. Fourteen fabric samples in nine layers, none larger than 10.2 cm2, were analyzed by compound light microscope, stereomicroscope, and scanning electron microscope for fiber content, color, and fabric construction. Garment silhouettes were not obtainable through this research nor were details on lower body garments. Upper body garments were identified as a dark silk cravat located in the top layer above a porcelain shirt button. The next layer was a blue wool, twill weave jacket with red, plain weave wool binding on the edge. The only other garment was a cream colored, plain weave wool shirt with interface stiffening in the front placket region.

Courtesy Bradley Schmiel Galleries.
Courtesy Historical Art Prints, Don Troiani

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