Sifting through misinformation like fake age on enrollment, wrong dates of enrollment, wrongs dates of birth and death, and even wrong spelling of the name all play a roll in today's story. But what I bring forth hopefully brings some corrections forward.
We will start at birth.
Numerous sources tell us that Louis Chaput was born in 1842 or 1844. But with the careful work of a Victoria Genealogist Society member we have confirmed birth being 23 August of 1847. The name on birth and baptismal records shows it to actually be Louis Georges Chaput. He was born at Sorel Canada East (Montreal area) and had an older sister by two years and 2 younger brothers and another sister to come along later.
I have yet to find any info on Louis in Montreal in his youth or when he went to the US, but it was on the 10th of May 1864 when this youth entered the New York recruiting offices and enlisted in the US Navy . He indicated that he was from Canada East and had no occupation. He claimed having no previous military service and was given the rank of a Landsman, reflecting his lack of naval training. (seamen would have sea training) Louis also declared that he was 19 years old. Truth be told, he was a little over 16 1/2. While his enrollment papers clearly state his last name was Chaput, this seems to have changed.
He only served the first of a three year stint, but was released due to disabilities caused by the war. The year would see him onboard three different war vessels. And on two of these he would serve two different terms. But curiously, the muster rolls of each term lists his last name as being COPART.
Regular readers of this blog will have read in the past about the famous battle at Mobile Bay and the attacks on the three mile front of Fort Fisher where several Canadian soldiers and sailors and marines fought on numerous vessels and on land and some coming away with Medals of Honor. Chaput was one of these sailors.
The battle was fought in early August of 1864. By that time the Union plan to close down all the Confederate ports which just about over. These ports were vital to the south as they allowed the Confederates to ship out supplies and trade them for desperately needed war supplies. Without bullets guns were useless. Mobile Bay, with her two powerful forts , one on the left and one of the right, and several powerful vessels within had to be taken, It was the 2nd last Confederate port stronghold, and would take several weeks to finally crumble.
To access the bay you had to pass through a narrow channel and then sail several miles upstream to get to the actual harbour. Admiral Farragut leading the charge of some 18 powerful Union wooden sailing craft had to get past the big port entry forts and fast. Their powerful guns were capable of lodging cannon shells of upwards of 200 pounds some 3 miles to sea and were not something to play with. A speedy advance past the guns would take the Admiral's fleet into a deep harbour where they could move about and take on the Confederate fleet on site which was limited to four powerful wooden hulled war ships and the dreaded CSS Tennessee. This ship was an iron clad monitor that was pretty well immune to anything the wooden vessels could throw her way. So they thought!
And the Tennessee was commanded by the most senior fleet admiral the Confederates had. His name was Buchannan ...and he was the very man that commanded the CSS Virginia (AKA the CSS Merrimack) during the famous battle back in 1862. (Only two of his Confederate sailors died that day. The first was a fellow born in New Brunswick)
The harbour was fitted with several protective measures including a mine field that would allow entry in the channel only to a narrow strip of above 400 to 500 yards. And of course the powerful forts would be expecting activity in that very portion of the entryway to the inland Bay.
The line of attack called for the USS Brooklyn to lead the way. This was because it had special attachments below the waterline designed to deal with any mines to its front. When the fleet advanced, the Brooklyn slowed down to deal with one of these mines. It then came across the Tennessee and headed of course to take her on. An impatient 2nd vessel therefore jumped to the lead. This was the USS Tecumseh and it ran right into a mine and sunk within 3 minutes. Of her crew of 113, over 90 went down with the ship.
The firing was so heavy that the ships and the forts could not even see each other at some point, gunpowder explosions caused lots of smoke and the fog thus obliterated sight for both sides. They were often simply firing in the blind at nothing more that a bright flash when a cannon was fired. Admiral Farragut had to climb up the main mast and lash himself there so as to see the battle below, and when the advancing ships started to get backed up cause of the Tecumseh going down and causing commotion in the front vessels, it was then that Farragut was, by popular belief, but probably wrong, was to have yelled... damb the torpedoes... full speed ahead.
After about three hours of shells being lobed at the Tennessee and just bouncing off, some of the Union ships took a shot at ramming it. This is a sketch of the Lackawanna doing so. After several attempts the Union was finally able to damage the steering gear. The vessel then became a sitting duck as it could not manoeuvre about and ultimately surrendered.
Prior to this a 200 hundred pound shell bounced in the water at the edge of the Lackawanna, bounced on board and then over the other side. But in the process it did so much damaged that several were killed and many more wounded by splinters flying all about.
It was probably here that Louis Chaput earned his Medal of Honor. He was wounded seriously in the arm and leg and face and had to seek medical attention but quickly returned back to his gun and continued to man it. He almost collapsed and was finally removed from the gun after manning it as best he could till then. He would later claim in pension documents that he was wounded eight times at Mobile Bay.
The battle amongst the ships came to an end with the Union taking command of the harbour and within weeks both Confederate forts ultimately surrendered, leaving the South with but one harbour left in the entire Confederacy to be taken before the war would come to an end months down the road.
I has been said that at Mobile Bay one of the vessels received a cannon ball from the enemy that did not explode. They apparently wrote on it...Return to Sender... postage Paid... and launched it off again. Maybe that's what Elvis was really singing about. hehe. Even stranger, the ship battles with the forts were so intense... and interesting to watch at one point, that a small Confederate Fort and the union soldiers attacking it both agreed to suspend their actions long enough to watch the main battle as it progressed.
After the war Louis took up the printing trade and lived in the New York area for about 25 years. He then returned to the Montreal area were he died on 17 April 1916 and lies buried today at Notre Dame, probably the largest cemetery in Canada, where Fathers of Confederation, some 20 Mayors of Montreal and hundreds of other famous men and women lie at rest among the 500,000 graves, 350 acres of land, 65,000 monuments, and some 10,000 trees a few being even older than 150 years.
Louis Georges Chaput is the only Medal of Honor recipient there.