The Battle in the Cemetery

Much of the heaviest fighting of the Battle of Baton Rouge took place in the cemetery on August 5, 1862. The battle pitted the Union forces, under the overall command of Brigadier General Thomas Williams, veteran of the Mexican War, against Confederate forces under Major General John C. Breckinridge, a former Vice President of the United States.

Magnolia Cemetery -- bounded by 19th and 22nd, Florida and Laurel Streets -- is the only area of the battle still totally intact today. Across Florida Street to the south is the National Cemetery where lie the Union soldiers killed in the conflict.

During the battle, Magnolia Cemetery tombstones and monuments furnished cover from the enemy fire for the Confederate soldiers. As the main action raged through the cemetery, trees and grave markers were also casualties. The ballistic evidence can still be seen in a few places today.

When the fighting ended; the tally of deal stood at 84 Union soldiers and approximately 95 Confederates. One notable casualty in the cemetery was Lieutenant Alexander Todd, half-brother of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, who fought for the South but was killed mistakenly by his fellow Confederates.

Both Rebel and Yankee forces temporarily left Baton Rouge when hostilities ceased, having fought to a virtual standstill. However, the Union strategy of splitting the Confederacy by controlling the Mississippi River came one step nearer to reality as a result of the Battle of Baton Rouge.

Every year on August 5 a commemorative ceremony is held in Magnolia Cemetery to honor the fallen Confederates and to recall an important moment of history.

Courtesy of the 1994 Magnolia Cemetery Brochure

Return to Civil War Louisiana Photo Album     Return to Magnolia Cemetery