(Pierre) Benjamin Buisson
(Pierre) Benjamin Buisson, the
oldest man to serve as a Confederate brigadier, was born on May 20, 1793, in
Paris, France, the son of Jean-Francois-Claude Buisson and Marie Esther
Guillotte. Appointed in 1811 to L'Ecole Polytechnic (the French military
college), Buisson graduated in 1813. After a term in the Metz Artillery School,
Buisson joined Napoleon's army as a lieutenant of the 6th Artillery. He fought
throughout the 1814 and 1815 campaigns, winning the Legion of Honor and the St.
Helena Medal. Immigrating to New Orleans, Louisiana (where a Guillotte cousin
resided) in 1817, he quickly became a prominent citizen of his new community.
With his engineering training, Buisson was appointed parish surveyor of New
Orleans. He also worked as an architect (designing the Custom House) and civil
engineer (laying out many of New Orleans' streets). Buisson published and edited
the Courier des Natchitoches from 1824 to 1825, and the New Orleans Journal of
Commerce from 1825 to 1829. In 1849 he wrote a book on astronomy, and in 1861
wrote a book on light infantry training. Active in the New Orleans militia,
Buisson was elected commander of the crack "Orleans Battalion" of militia
At the outbreak of the war Major Buisson (to use his militia rank) was appointed president of the New Orleans commission of engineers to fortify the city and later served on the New Orleans Committee on Public Safety. When the Union fleet approached the city the governor appointed Buisson, "of great activity and fine judgment," brigadier general of militia (commission dated February 17, 1862) and placed him in command of the 1st Brigade of Louisiana Militia. This unitó1,780 strong, with many of its number of the "French class"ówas mustered in for ninety days to help defend the city. "Indifferently armed" and almost without ammunition, the brigade held the Chalmette-McGehee lines south of the city upriver from Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the two forts defending the Mississippi River to the south. Buisson commanded the troops on the east (Chalmette) side of the river. On the morning of April 24 Admiral David Farragut's Union fleet ran past Forts Jackson and St. Philip. The next day Farragut's fleet approached the Chalmette-McGehee lines and opened fire. Unable to harm the Union fleet, Buisson ordered his discouraged troops to take cover in the nearby woods. The demoralized militiamen dispersed and fled to Camp Moore, north of New Orleans. Artillerymen manning the cannon on the lines expended their meager supply of ammunition firing futilely at the Union warships, after which they too retreated. This sorry episode ended Buisson's Civil War career. Subsequently he resumed his career as surveyor and dabbled in astronomy. General Buisson died in New Orleans on May 30,1874. He is buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, New Orleans.
General Buisson's command of a brigade of militia that served in a campaign qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.