Nestled deep in the woods of St. Helena Parish, along the New Orleans & Jackson Railroad, seventy-five miles north of the famous Crescent City, and near the town of Tangipahoa, Louisiana, sits what remains of the largest Confederate training camp in the western theatre during the Civil War.
For many Louisiana soldiers, the story did not start in Tangipahoa. In the spring of 1861, it became more and more evident that volunteer soldiers who were awaiting muster into the Confederate army needed a centralized place to gather and train. Camp Walker was first established in early May at the old Metairie Race Course in New Orleans. However, conditions here were less than ideal. Poor drinking water, incessant mosquitoes, and swampy ground tormented recruits until a new site could be found. Orders were handed down to General Elisha L. Tracy to begin moving his troops from Camp Walker to the newly established Camp Moore.
Named after Governor Thomas Moore, Camp Moore became the center for all troop movements in and out of New Orleans. This new piece of ground was more than ideal for the recruits. The spacious pine forest was situated on level, but high ground, which solved their mud and drainage problem. Transportation became a breeze with the easy access to the railroad that shuttled troops and supplies to and from the camp. Mosquitoes, too, were practically non-existent, making Camp Moore almost like a paradise compared to their previous location at Camp Walker. On May 17th, John Austen, a private with the 4th Louisiana Infantry, wrote, “We have plenty of shade, so much so that the companies, as they arrive, are compelled to clear the ground in order to pitch their tents. A large space also had to be cleared to secure an ample parade ground and drill ground. The water is excellent for drinking, bathing and cooking purposes; the Tangipahoa River passing near us on the east, and Beaver Creek bounding the camp on the west.”
Within a short span of time, Camp Moore was up and running. Newly enlisted troops from Louisiana and its surrounding states were sent to Camp Moore for training prior to their deployment with their regiments across the country. The New Orleans Bee reported on one visit to the camp there being, “buildings of the quartermaster and commissary departments, the tents of headquarters, the sutler’s sheds, the little booths of stores and refreshments, the guard house, a log cabin covered over with evergreens, and the shanty of an enterprising ambrotype artist who furnishes handsome warriors with their ‘counterfeit presentments’.”
They came from all walks of life and nationalities – as New Orleans was a melting pot of ethnicities. Rough “wharf rats” would mix with sons of planters. Native-born English and Irish immigrants would struggle to communicate with their German and French messmates. Companies, often formed by the parishes they hailed from, gave themselves names like “Orleans Rifles”, “Shreveport Rangers”, “Catahoula Guerillas”, and “Claiborne Guards”. It is impossible to mention Louisiana without giving a special mention to the regiments of Zouaves, or Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s infamous Louisiana Tiger Battalion that also mustered out of Camp Moore. There, they swore allegiance to Louisiana and to the Confederacy. 
From four in the morning until nine in the evening, men prepared for life as a soldier in the Confederate army. While learning to shoot and drill, the men also learned how to take care of themselves while in camp. Aristide Guillory of the 8th Louisiana, Company F, wrote during his first month at Camp Moore, “At first, some of the boys were rather dissatisfied with the condition of things in camp. The idea of washing shirts and ironing them with a brick bat, grinding coffee and washing dishes was rather undesirable, but actual necessity has taught them not to flinch from any duty, no matter how unpleasant it may be, and all are perfectly reconciled to do whatever may devolved upon them.”
While Camp Moore received mixed reviews from its soldiers, John Marker zealously wrote home saying, “Were you ever at Camp Moore! It is a beautiful place. The place of encampment is about fifty acres of level pine land surrounded by these beautiful streams of water as clear as it can be and as cold as water ever gets to be. Any body to look at the place and water would say in an instant this is a healthy place.”[7} William Trahern also said of Camp Moore, “It seemed to me to be too beautiful a spot to make use of, for the purpose of training men to kill their fellow-man.” Not all enjoyed their time at the camp. Al Pierson wrote home, “The camp is one of the filthiest places I have ever been permitted to see. There are more flies in and around Camp Moore than there are in all Bienville Parish.”  Political subterfuge and corruption also plagued the regiments and companies who voted for their commanding officers while at Camp Moore.
However, as many Civil War historians know, the troops that came out of Louisiana were not renowned for their discipline. Drunkenness and rowdiness were a constant problem within the borders of Camp Moore. Wit Martin wrote on June 4th, “We are encamped next to Maj Bob Wheat’s Battalion and a rough set of neighbors they are. One company is composed of levee rats of New Orleans and they have a row among themselves nearly every day. The whole camp has been under arms twice since we have been here to put down their rows but we have not been obliged to whip them in.” 
Part of this problem was due to the abundant supply of whiskey and alcohol that went almost unregulated. Sutlers and restaurants could be found within camp. Enlisted men flocked to these establishments and presented a written order from a commanding officer to acquire liquor. To trick the system, they forged signatures or fabricated names that were often overlooked by the sutlers. And if that did not work, there were several stores a mile away in Tangipahoa that could help them quench their thirst.  Discipline did exist within the camp. A private who was court-marshalled for striking at a commanding officer “was sentenced to wear a ball and chain for six weeks. During the first week he stood at evening parade on a post in public view; the next week he was to promenade with a barrel over his head.” 
Rations of beef, “some species of dried sausage, fried ham and tolerably good coffee” were served twice daily.  Enlisted men did endeavor to supplement their diets by going to the various restaurants on the western border of the camp. One restaurant within camp, affectionately called “Aunty’s” was operated by a “round and powerful hostess”.  Also, civilians and women were not barred from the camp. Families traveled from New Orleans along the railroad to visit their loved ones. The Daily True Delta reported, “The visitors to Camp More, and they are legion, are greatly amused by the fancy names with which most of the tents are inscribed, ‘Our Woodland Home’ is found in close proximity with ‘The Lion’s Den’ and ‘Happy Retreat’ with ‘Blood and Thunder’.”
As with any Civil War encampment, the close confinement and poor sanitation created problems that their knowledge of medicine could not help. Two measles epidemics – one in 1861 and the other in 1862 – claimed the lives of countless enlisted men. In September of 1861, one soldier wrote about his departure from Camp Moore, “Without regret, we bade farewell to the old camp in the pines, with its six or seven hundred graves, containing the remains of Louisianans who had yielded up their patriotic young lives without having once faced the enemies of their beloved South.” Thomas Harp of the 17th Louisiana, Company G, wrote to his mother on October 16, 1861, “I drop you a few lines with regret. I have to say to you in pain Brother is no more. He died this morning of Typhoid pneumonia. He was taken the 12th of this month. He had a chill when taken and he suffered with a pain in the breast and side. He got very near clear of the pain but seemed restless. He had all the attention the Camp could afford. A very good doctor attended him. He was willing to die in his last moments.”
In the time it was active, as many as 35,000 men who were destined for Virginia and Tennessee marched through the parade grounds and were drilled to exhaustion along the New Orleans & Jackson Railroad. The newly enlisted men who boarded the trains at Camp Moore could not have known what awaited them on the front lines. Whether wounded, killed, or captured, their journeys often began at Camp Moore.
Though it wasn’t the only training camp in southeast Louisiana (Chalmette and Benjamin/Jerusalem, among others) Camp Moore continued to be a major hub for troop movements until nearly the end of the war. When the Federals were advancing upon New Orleans, orders were given by General Mansfield Lovell to withdraw the Home Guard north to Camp Moore. In the summer of 1862, Camp Moore served as a launching point in General John C. Breckinridge’s plans to execute an attack on Union-occupied Baton Rouge. In the fall of 1864, Federal troops finally stepped foot in Camp Moore. General Albert L. Lee took his division of cavalry and left a trail of destruction from the Mississippi border to Baton Rouge, raiding Confederate storehouses. At Camp Moore, he burned the barracks and made off with supplies. Though the troops left to guard Camp Moore were not completely beaten, November saw its final destruction as Lee came back with a larger force. He captured the troops and razed whatever remained from his last visit. After it was left in ruins, Camp Moore lay at the mercy of nature and time for four more decades.
In 1905, however, veterans who remembered Camp Moore returned, along with other organizations, and the land was once more in the hands of southerners. The cemetery where countless dead were buried during the camp’s heyday became their prime focus for restoration. Many of the modern erected headstones bear no names because the records for the dead were lost to time. Research has yielded some of their identities, while the monument dedicated in 1907 pays homage to those still unknown.
A museum was built on the site in 1964 to tell the story of Camp Moore and commemorate the troops who trained, fought, and died upon its soil. Today, Camp Moore can be visited by the public. The 6.5 acres, just a fraction of the former campgrounds, are open every day from sunrise to sunset. The museum is staffed purely by volunteers with the Friends of Camp Moore and Camp Moore Historical Association. The campgrounds feature a self-guided walking tour, starting at the entrance to the site and winding around toward the cemetery. Several detailed signs along the trail tell the story of the average soldier and Camp Moore’s turbulent history. The tour ends at the original meeting house for the United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter #562 at Camp Moore, as well as a monument erected by them in 1976. The modern-day railroad that runs by the campgrounds today is in the same place it had been at the camp’s opening in 1861.
Camp Moore also serves as an excellent place of research. The museum offers an array of artifacts that tell the story of the common soldier, not only from Camp Moore, but from other Louisiana regiments. Uniforms, personal items, medical kits, artillery ammunition, and post-war veteran paraphernalia can be found inside the museum. Do you have an ancestor who fought in a Louisiana regiment? Camp Moore can help you find out more about them. Their self-serve research room offers access to resources like muster roll copies, the ORs, biographical material, articles from the Confederate Veteran magazine, letters, diary pages, and much more. Much of their archives have been donated by researchers or personally acquired by volunteer staff.
Those who operate Camp Moore endeavor to keep the memory of the place alive. Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving, living history demonstrations are held on the grounds. The place adjacent to the museum and cemetery, where the parade ground and tents once stood, is now private property, but the landowner opens up the field for reenactors to come and camp as the Confederate soldiers did so long ago. For two days, the reenactors conduct drills (infantry, artillery, and cavalry) and a staged skirmish for the public, as well as talk about life during the Civil War for those who came to Camp Moore. The reenactor group participation every year varies, while some like the Washington Artillery Unit are consistently present.
The museum runs purely on the donations and entrance fees of those who come to visit. Friends of Camp Moore contribute yearly or monthly to the preservation and expansion of the museum by funding the purchase of more artifacts that help to interpret the role Louisianans played in the Civil War. Volunteers are eager to share its rich and fascinating history and answer any questions visitors have about the camp or the Civil War in general.
To this day, Camp Moore remains the only former Civil War training grounds open to the public. For more information about the site, the annual reenactment, Camp Moore’s history, and how to get there, visit http://www.campmoorela.com.
The author would like to thank Wayne Cosby at Camp Moore for his assistance in the research process.
Sheritta Bitikofer is a lifelong student of history with a specific interest in the Civil War era. Along with being a wife, historical fiction author, and fur-mama of two, she is an active member of the Mobile and Pensacola Civil War Roundtables and currently pursuing a bachelors degree in US History at American Public University. She also manages her own modest Civil War blog where she writes about her studies and many travels to battlefields and other historic sites.
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 John Austen May 17 1861 – Pvt., Corpl. 4th La. Infantry – Bayou Sara Ledger, 8 June 1861
 New Orleans Bee, May 31, 1861
 Jones, Terry L. “Lee’s Tigers Revisited: the Louisiana Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia.” Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2017.
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