Notable Men of Henderson County: Charles de Choiseul Part II

By: Dan Gibbs

January 1861 was an important month in the life of former Flat Rock resident and naturalized American citizen Charles de Choiseul. He had joined the New Orleans militia in 1857 and early in January 1861, he passed out ammunition to volunteers and helped Louisiana seize control of the Union arsenal at Baton Rouge. 

Shortly after Louisiana seceded from the Union on 22 Jan 1861, de Choiseul climbed to the top of the City Hall in New Orleans and raised the state’s pelican flag to the cheers of the citizens of New Orleans and was followed by a 20-gun salute. 

De Choiseul was mustered in as a Lieutenant Colonel when the 7th Louisiana Regiment was formed in June 1861. He was second in command of the Regiment behind fellow New Orleans attorney Harry T. Hays. 

They moved to Virginia in July 1861 where they participated in the skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford and on 21 July de Choiseul and the 7th Louisiana Regiment fought in the First Battle of Manassas, the first major battle of the Civil War and a Confederate victory. De Choiseul took temporary command of Colonel Wheat’s Special Battalion after Wheat was injured at Manassas and until Wheat recovered from his wound. 

In 1862, the 7th Louisiana was attached to Brigadier General Taylor’s Louisiana Brigade and participated in General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign. They fought in the first Battle of Winchester on 25 June, Jackson’s first major victory in the Shenandoah Valley, and moved on to the Battles of Cross Keys and Fort Republic on 8-9 June. 

De Choiseul had been corresponding regularly with a Miss Emma Walton while his Regiment was in Virginia and he had written to her in late 1861 that “I have made up my mind to leave my bones on the sacred soil of Virginia.” He fulfilled his prophecy less than a year later when he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Port Republic. He was shot through the lungs while leading a charge of the 7th Louisiana across a wheat field against a fortified Union position manned by the 7th Ohio Regiment. 

He died on June 19 at a Richmond, VA hospital from his wounds. He was about 44 years old. His remains were sent back to his adopted hometown of Flat Rock in North Carolina where he was buried at the St. John’s in the Wilderness Church in the family plot. The French government sent a French flag to be dedicated in his memory to the church where it still hangs today. 

A lot of the research I did for part II of the Charles de Choiseul was done online. There are a lot of great websites out there and the essay Ronald S. Coddington did on Find A Grave was a great starting point. He also wrote an article that appeared in the New York Times on 9 June 2012 called “Death on Virginia’s ‘Sacre’ Soil” that was very helpful.

I also made several trips out to the cemetery at St. John’s in the Wilderness Church to see the burial place of Charles de Choiseul. I hope to be able to go back at a later time to check out the French flag in the church.