All appearance of a line of battle is gone. I can hardly keep enough arms stacked to indicate the rallying places of companies. My last effort to keep a few men together is a distribution of a large quantity of excellent tobacco, but while this is going on a demijohn of Louisiana rum is brought. The demijohn is smashed, but as our commander has abandoned himself to plundering with patriotism equal to that of the worst soldier, every man follows suit. There is the large wooden depot, with its offices. The sounds of axes resounds within, and blue-coated soldiers are seen coming out with bundles and boxes. there are two country stores in the village. Our colonel is just coming out of one store, where he has set some of his attendants at work. He appears not to have found what he thought good enough for him. He has a wild and uncommonly thievish expression of face as he hastens toward the remaining store, followed by several of his favorites. The store door is fastened strongly. He makes a furious kick, throwing the weight of his corpulence against the door. It does not yield. A beam is brought in haste, and the colonel and his lackeys break in together. They greedily search for such things they think most valuable. Then the crowd is let in. No man confiscates the rebel liquors faster than our commander. It is told openly that a purse of a hundred dollars in gold has been found in a private house. Soon the few women and children that remain in the town are seen running in confusion, or imploring protection, while at windows and doors soldiers are seen, offering no violence to any one, but searching for plunder and questioning negroes, who willingly submit to be compelled to act as guides. The post office is now sacked. Letters and torn envelopes of miserable rebel paper, and newspapers from all parts of the confederacy, are scattered along the streets. Just as the red-legged Zouaves arrive, marching in order worthy of their character for discipline, some enterprising patriots are breaking into a well-furnished Masonic lodge. The contagion of plundering a town is rather too much for discipline and the Zouaves suddenly begin to show their New York education. Silver squares, compasses, suns, stars, crescents, and other Masonic emblems, that would value most at a New York pawnbroker's, fall to our disciplined friends in what our men seem to think unfair proportions. One of their most severe sergeants has secured the tyler's sword, which he puts on in place of his own.
Ponchitoula is a little village of neatness and thriftiness uncommmon in the South. There are very few slaveholders in all the country known as the piney woods. There are no fields in sight. The forest of evergreens closely surrounds the gardens of the village, which presents almost the same appearance as a frontier town in Northern Michigan. Most of the people have shut up their houses and fled on our approach, thereby rendering certain the fate which they might have changed for the better by remaining at home. Long may it be before any town in Michigan is visited as this place is to-day. Blue-coated soldiers are running here and there, far and near, singly and by dozens, some with their arms and some without, bringing all sorts of bundles, and eagerly dividing the spoil. The Zoauves, in their Turkish costume, are every way worthy of being thought true Turks.
Among the Cotton Thieves by Edward Bacon, Colonel of Sixth Michigan Volunteers
The Free Press Steam Book and Job Printing House, Detroit, 1867, pages 64-65
Reprinted 1962 by the Committee for the Preservation of the Port Hudson Battlefield