James DeBerty Trudeau
James DeBerty Trudeau, a
many-sided man who became a Confederate general, was born on September 14, 1817,
in Louisiana, probably St. James Parish, to Rene and Adele (Sauve) Trudeau. His
father, a planter, came from a distinguished Creole family; the general's
grandfather was a governor of Louisiana. Trudeau's parents sent him to Europe to
be educated, first at the College of Louis-le-Grand in France, then to a
military school in Switzerland. He studied medicine, both in France and, on his
return to the United States, in Philadelphia. In May, 1837, the University of
Pennsylvania awarded him a medical degree. Trudeau practiced medicine in New
York City in the 1840s and 1850s before returning to New Orleans to practice
there. He achieved distinction as a physician, authoring articles and
co-founding the New York Academy of Medicine. His real love, though, was the
outdoors. A friend of John James Auduborn, the celebrated ornithological artist,
Trudeau frequently supplied Auduborn with rare species of birds and was an
accomplished painter of birds himself. He spent several months traveling amongst
the wild Indian tribes of the West. His love of the outdoors and hunting was
such that it ruined his medical career; he was forever abandoning patients to
hunt or camp.
In J anuary, 1861, Trudeau, a socially prominent Louisianian with some military training, was appointed by the governor as artillery instructor for the militia garrisoning the local forts. Trudeau also wrote a pamphlet outlining a plan of defense of New Orleans. During the summer of 1861 Trudeau was made brigadier general of the " Louisiana Legion," a brigade-sized unit of Louisiana militia. In September, 1861, at the request of Major General Leonidas Polk, who commanded the Confederate forces along the upper Mississippi River, Trudeau left his militia brigade to help lay out the fortifications of Columbus, Kentucky. The next month Polk appointed Trudeau chief of artillery for the vital post of Columbus. In February, 1862, General P. G. T. Beauregard appointed this "highly accomplished artillery officer" to command of the batteries at Island No. 10. It is an illustration of the improvised nature of the Confederate army that, a year after the war began, the artillery at one of the most vital defense points in the South was commanded by a man not even a member of the Confederate army. General Polk, the district commander, thought highly of Trudeau's abilities. Polk went so far as to nominate him to be a brigadier general of the PACS, but the president did not approve. Trudeau escaped the April 7, 1862, southern surrender at Island No. 10. Shortly before the surrender Trudeau was ordered to report to General Beauregard, then assembling an army at Corinth, Mississippi. He followed Beauregard to the field of Shiloh, without an assignment, and joined Beauregard's staff as a volunteer aide. During the battle Trudeau was seriously wounded. Disabled, Trudeau returned to Louisiana. In the summer of 1863, by now partially recovered, he requested appointment in the Confederate army. Although the request was endorsed by the whole Louisiana Legislature and the Confederate commanders in Louisiana, no commission was ever issued. On November 5, 1863, Trudeau was captured at his plantation home by Union forces. By the terms of his parole he was ordered to stay on the family plantation in Ascension Parish. It appears that he broke that parole, because in 1864, still suffering from his wartime wounds, he traveled through Mississippi and reported to President Davis on conditions there.
After the war General Trudeau returned to New Orleans to resume his medical practice. As one authority has it, " To say that he stood in the front rank of his profession as physician and surgeon scarcely gives accurate comprehension of the varied intellectual powers he displayed throughout a long, active and useful life, which ended in New Orleans May 25, 1887." He was interred in the Trudeau family vault, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans. Trudeau's second wife, Louise Bringier, was the niece of the wives of Generals Richard Taylor and Allen Thomas.
Trudeau is listed as a general in SHSP.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.