Thursday, June 6, 2019

WW II - D day, June 6 1944 - 75th Anniversary of D-Day

Omaha Beach and the Beast of  Omaha 

Compiled  by Cliff  LeGrange from on line internet research

I have  always been intrigued by Military History.  

The Civil War, ie., The Battle of Gettysburg, and WW II the story of D-Day. 

In the movie, ‘The Good, Bad and Ugly’, with Clint Eastwood that battle scene of Union and  Rebel  forces crossing the bridge  always  struck me… pure  sucide. 

I saw the movies “The Longest Day”and “Saving Private Ryan” about D-day.  The “Saving Private Ryan” movie scared the hell out of me. What would I have done, when bullets start pinging off the ramp of the landing craft? ‘Look, Lieutenant don’t drop that damn ramp, until that pinging stops, that’s real bullets”.

I have always been an American Patriot, and supported our military, I served  when called. But  would I have measured up?  The movie “Saving Private Ryan” really piqued my interest about what really happened on Omaha Beach that day.

What does the average person really know about the details of the day?  I suspect most folks do not have a clue.

Preface  to D – Day June 6 1944

The Allied leaders in WW II, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill knew that once the United States entered the war that a massive frontal invasion of mainland Europe would be critical to defeat the Germans. 

A mainland Europe invasion would relieve some pressure from the Soviet army fighting the Nazis in the east and a two-front war for Germans would ensure a quicker victory for the  allies. 

Too weaken the Germans, Roosevelt and Churchill decided to invade Northern Africa first and attack Europe’s “soft underbelly” through Italy and soften up the Axis (Germany and Italy) powers, before a frontal northern coastal invasion.

Special Note: My dad was the invasion of Sicily, Italy and southern France 

D _ Day Planning - 

The Allied forces would need an element of surprise, to improve chances of a successful invasion. Any thinking person would know the invasion was coming somewhere along the French coastline.  The only elements of surprise left would be the timing  and exact location.   The Allies developed a massive deception campaign to trick the Nazis into thinking that the invasion would occur logically at Pas-de-Calais, the closest French coastline to England.

The allies would choose the sandy beaches of  Normandy on northern French  coastline. 

Why Normandy?   

It was one of the finest natural ports in France. 20 miles west of the Normandy beaches.   If the Allies could take Cherbourg, a deep-water port, then American supplies and troops would have a direct pipeline to the European continent.

The Americans had been told by the French Resistance that the Normandy sector was seriously undermanned.  According to the French Resistance, Normandy was being defended half by Germans and half by Polish prisoners forced to fight for the Germans at gunpoint.  How hard would it be to defeat defenders who hated the Germans?

D-Day was carried out along five sections of beachfront along the Normandy coast code named, from West to East: “Utah,” “Omaha,” “Gold,” “Juno” and “Sword.”

Operation  Overlord

The D day invasion, officially called "Operation Overlord," combined the forces of 156,115 U.S., British and Canadian troops, 6,939 ships and landing vessels, and 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders that delivered airborne troops. 

In the Normandy area the German defense strategy was to hold / stop any invasion on the beaches.  If the Allies did manage a foothold on the beaches the Germans wanted to prevent them from advancing inlands  with tanks and infantry through natural gaps in hills  around  Normandy. The strategy of the Germans revolved around defending and blocking those gaps.  

On the other hand, the Americans wanted to capture and clear, as soon as possible the defenses covering these gaps mainly to prevent  counter attack by the German tanks through these gaps and decimating vulnerable soldiers on the beach. Then to be able move their tanks inland. Through the gaps.There were four important gaps (aka 'draws') between the hills, that each side needed to successfully implement their victory strategy. 

Each gap was named for the nearest town behind it.  There was Colleville (E-3),  Les Moulins (D-3), Vierville (D-1), and St Laurent (Ruquet Valley) (E-1).
The Germans had more land to cover than They had men.  Consequently they did not spread out their forces evenly, but rather concentrated them in strongholds named  "WiderstandsNester".

These "Resistance Nests" were designed mainly to protect the gaps that would allow Allied tanks inland.  Studying the picture above, you will see red areas marked with WN62, WN71, etc.  Those "WN"s were the German strong points.

The Horrors of Omaha Beach - The toughest fighting was on Omaha Beach.

At Omaha Beach, the fortifications behind the beach obstacles consisted of 15 “resistance nests” or Widerstandsnestern (WN), numbered 60 through 74… WN-60 in the east to WN-74 in the west.

Of the five landing zones, Omaha Beach was the hardest and quickly devolved into utter chaos. Tragically, Allied intelligence had miscalculated the level of German coastal defenses there.

These "WiderstandsNester" consisted of 8 concrete bunkers containing 75 mm or greater artillery, 35 pillboxes, 18 anti-tank guns, six mortar pits, 35 Nebelwerfer (multi-barrel rocket launchers), 85 machine gun nests, 6 tank turrets and supporting infantry.

Germany’s 352nd Infantry Division, controlled the high ground with the help of an extensive system of trenches, were well-positioned to blanket the beach with bullets and could move troops and ammunition out of site upon an invasion.

Bombardments to destroy fortifications were totally ineffective in wiping out several German positions located above Omaha Beach. Cloudy skies made it hard for them to hit their targets.

The first wave of troops reached the beach at about 6:30 A.M. Troops coming ashore were decimated by German fire due to an absence of cover.

Most of the first wave of soldiers who landed on  Omaha  beach were shot dead or drowned before they could even fire a shot.

Survivor Sergeant Ray Lambert

“When we got within a thousand yards of the beach, you could hear the machine-gun bullets hitting off the front ramp of the boat,” recalled Lambert, a medic who was in the first wave to hit Omaha Beach.

Survivor Sergeant John Trippon

Trippon had to shed his ammunition, grenades, and weapons in order to swim to shore. “All the time the German machine-gunner was mowing people down. Why the hell I didn’t die there I can’t say. I guess he was too busy killing other guys.

German gunners successfully rained deadly crossfire into the ranks of the invading troops. Thousands of injured and dead troops littered the beach and floated in the water. Destroyed landing crafts and tanks were strewn about the beach and water’s edge, and by about 8:30 a.m. troop landings ceased.

“It is reported that there were so many bodies lying in the water they stopped bringing any more troops ashore because it was freaking people out to see all these guys dead.

Later, bulldozers were used to push the bodies into a trench so they couldn’t be seen.”

“Epic Human tragedy.”

In short, Omaha turned out to be an “epic human tragedy.”While there are no exact figures for the number of casualties suffered at Omaha Beach. Omaha Beach became a slaughter of the worst magnitude.  Over 2,000 Americans died at Omaha Beach on D-Day out of 7,800 who participated in the initial assault.  That rounds out to a 26%. casuality rate” — far more than at any other beach. 

The movie, Saving Private Ryan‘s opening sequence (the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach)  while taking  some liberties  with actual  accounts is overwhelming, but according historians and eye  witnesses is said to be  closest portrayal of the scene.

Allies Plan of attack

Omaha was divided into ten sectors, codenamed (from west to east): Charlie, Dog Green, Dog White, Dog Red, Easy Green, Easy White, Easy Red, Fox Green, Fox White, and Fox Red.

The 116th RCT of the 29th Infantry Division was to land two battalions in the western four beaches, . The landings were scheduled to start at 06:30, "H-Hour". Followed 30 minutes later by a third battalion.


Strong point WN62 was important for several reasons.  WN62 guarded an important GAP that led to a village known as Colleville.  Unlike the other three gaps which were easily defended valleys, this particular gap was very wide and not steep at all.  Even if the road was destroyed, there were large fields that would allow tanks far much too much freedom for German Commander Erwin Rommel's comfort.  This area was especially vulnerable.   

Accordingly, Rommel made sure that WN62 was made to be especially powerful. 
Unfortunately, the Americans agreed with Rommel.  They saw that "Exit E3" was unusually inviting.  As a result, they made this area a focal point of their attack and walked straight into a trap.  

WN62 gained notoriety on D-Day for killing more Americans than any other single spot in the entire war!  1,000 men died the largest strongpoint defending Omaha Beach. 

WN-62 was 332 meters long by 324 meters wide and between 12 and 50 meters above the beach, depending on the distance from the shore, with a good overview of the beach area. 
On D-Day (June 6, 1944) WN-62 was manned by 27 members of the 716th Infantry Division and 13 members of the 352nd Division, whose task was to direct fire of the 10.5 cm artillery batteries located 5 kilometres inland at Houtteville.[7]

Defenses included two type H669 concrete casemates, one empty and the other with a 75mm artillery piece, a 50mm anti-tank gun, two 50mm mortars, a twin-barrelled MG34 7.92mm machine gun on an anti-aircraft mount and two prewar Polish machine guns. Another 50 mm anti-tank gun covered the rear, and the perimeter was ringed by barbed wire and anti-personnel mines.[8]

The twin-barrelled MG34 7.92mm machine gun on an anti-aircraft mount (49°21′36″N 0°50′50″W) was 170 meters from the sea wall and around 450 meters from the landing area of the first wave of Higgins Boats. The strongpoint had large concrete walls protruding to the seaward side at the front to protect them from an attack directly from the front. 

In addition, there were anti-tank ditches and mine fields around the site.  The site had many zig zag trenches which enabled the defenders to move from one position to another with cover from incoming fire.  This was a powerful position indeed.

As you can see from the picture above. WN62 had a completely unobstructed view of the beach.  The hill was not very steep.  

The first wave from the U.S. V Corps that landed on Omaha carried troops from the 1st Infantry Division (two battalions of the 16th Regiment) and the 29th Infantry Division (two battalions of the 116th Regiment - Virginia National Guard) along with about 400 Rangers. 

Four tank companies were also part of the first wave - they were to come ashore utilizing duplex drive systems that allowed them to move at about 3–4 mph in calm seas. 

The waters off Omaha were anything but calm and most of the tanks were capsized - that created scores of casualties with hardly any tanks reaching Omaha Beach.
Basically, the 4 lead battalions of the Corps took 40% casualties attempting to get ashore. 

Company A of the 116th suffered 60–70% casualties within the first 15 minutes at Dog Green beach - the company was out of action for the remainder of the day. 

Historical account of the First Wave at Omaha Beach 

Unlike what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of  stories often  skip over the horror of  war. 

Many recollections about Omaha there is less blood and iron than in the original field notes covering any battalion landing in the first wave. 

Doubt it? 

Then let's follow along with Able and Baker companies, 116th Infantry, 29th Division. Their story is lifted from my fading Normandy notebook, which covers the landing of every Omaha company. 

ABLE Company 

ABLE  Company riding the tide in seven Higgins boats is still five thousand yards from the beach when first taken under artillery fire. The shells fall short. At one thousand yards, Boat No. 5 is hit dead on and foundered. Six men drown before help arrives. Second Lieutenant Edward Gearing and twenty others paddle around until picked up by naval craft, thereby missing the fight at the shoreline. It's their lucky day. The other six boats ride unscathed to within one hundred yards of the shore, where a shell into Boat No. 3 kills two men. Another dozen drown, taking to the water as the boat sinks. That leaves five boats. 

Lieutenant Edward Tidrick in Boat No. 2 cries out: "My God, we're coming in at the right spot, but look at it! No shingle, no wall, no shell holes, no cover. Nothing!" 

His men are at the sides of the boat, straining for a view of the target. They stare but say nothing. At exactly 6:36 A.M. ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach. 

Able Company has planned to wade ashore in three files from each boat, center file going first, then flank files peeling off to right and left. The first men out try to do it but are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the waterlogging of their overloaded packs. 

From Boat No. 1, all hands jump off in water over their heads. Most of them are carried down. Ten or so survivors get around the boat and clutch at its sides in an attempt to stay afloat. The same thing happens to the section in Boat No. 4. Half of its people are lost to the fire or tide before anyone gets ashore. All order has vanished from Able Company before it has fired a shot. 

Already the sea runs red. Even among some of the lightly wounded who jumped into shallow water the hits prove fatal. Knocked down by a bullet in the arm or weakened by fear and shock, they are unable to rise again and are drowned by the onrushing tide. 

Other wounded men drag themselves ashore and, on finding the sands, lie quiet from total exhaustion, only to be overtaken and killed by the water. A few move safely through the bullet swarm to the beach, then find that they cannot hold there. They return to the water to use it for body cover. Faces turned upward, so that their nostrils are out of water, they creep toward the land at the same rate as the tide. That is how most of the survivors make it. The less rugged or less clever seek the cover of enemy obstacles moored along the upper half of the beach and are knocked off by machine-gun fire. 
Within seven minutes after the ramps drop, Able Company is inert and leaderless. At Boat No. 2, Lieutenant Tidrick takes a bullet through the throat as he jumps from the ramp into the water. He staggers onto the sand and flops down ten feet from Private First-Class Leo J. Nash. Nash sees the blood spurting and hears the strangled words gasped by Tidrick: "Advance with the wire cutters!" It's futile; Nash has no cutters. To give the order, Tidrick has raised himself up on his hands and made himself a target for an instant. Nash, burrowing into the sand, sees machine gun bullets rip Tidrick from crown to pelvis. 

From the cliff above, the German gunners are shooting into the survivors as from a roof top. 

Captain Taylor N. Fellers and Lieutenant Benjamin R. Kearfoot never make it. They had loaded with a section of thirty men in Boat No. 6 (Landing Craft, Assault, No. 1015). But exactly what happened to this boat and its human cargo was never to be known. No one saw the craft go down. How each man aboard it met death remains unreported. Half of the drowned bodies were later found along the beach. It is supposed that the others were claimed by the sea. 

Along the beach, only one Able Company officer still lives -- Lieutenant Elijah Nance, who is hit in the heel as he quits the boat and hit in the belly by a second bullet as he makes the sand. By the end of ten minutes, every sergeant is either dead or wounded. To the eyes of such men as Private Howard I. Grosser and Private First Class Gilbert G. Murdock, this clean sweep suggests that the Germans on the high ground have spotted all leaders and concentrated fire their way. 

Among the men who are still moving in with the tide, rifles, packs, and helmets have already been cast away in the interests of survival. 

To the right of where Tidrick's boat is drifting with the tide, its coxswain lying dead next to the shell-shattered wheel, the seventh craft, carrying a medical section with one officer and sixteen men, noses toward the beach. The ramp drops. In that instant, two machine guns concentrate their fire on the opening. Not a man is given time to jump. All aboard are cut down where they stand. 

By the end of fifteen minutes, Able Company has still not fired a weapon. No orders are being given by anyone. No words are spoken. The few able-bodied survivors move or not as they see fit. Merely to stay alive is a full-time job. The fight has become a rescue operation in which nothing counts but the force of a strong example. 

Above all others stands out the first-aid man, Thomas Breedin. Reaching the sands, he strips off pack, blouse, helmet, and boots. For a moment he stands there so that others on the strand will see him and get the same idea. Then he crawls into the water to pull in wounded men about to be overlapped by the tide. The deeper water is still spotted with tide walkers advancing at the same pace as the rising water. 

But now, owing to Breedin's example, the strongest among them become more conspicuous targets. Coming along, they pick up wounded comrades and float them to the shore raftwise. 
Machine-gun fire still rakes the water. Burst after burst spoils the rescue act, shooting the floating man from the hands of the walker or killing both together. But Breedin for this hour leads a charmed life and stays with his work indomitably. 

By the end of one-half hour, approximately two thirds of the company is forever gone. 

There is no precise casualty figure for that moment. There is for the Normandy landing as a whole no accurate figure for the first hour or first day. The circumstances precluded it. 

Whether more Able Company riflemen died from water than from fire is known only to heaven. All earthly evidence so indicates but cannot prove it. 

By the end of one hour, the survivors from the main body have crawled across the sand to the foot of the bluff, where there is a narrow sanctuary of defiladed space. There they lie all day, clean spent, unarmed, too shocked to feel hunger, incapable even of talking to one another. No one happens by to succor them, ask what has happened, provide water, or offer unwanted pity. D Day at Omaha afforded no time or space for such missions. Every landing company was overloaded by its own assault problems. 

By the end of one hour and forty-five minutes, six survivors from the boat section on the extreme right shake loose and work their way to a shelf a few rods up the cliff. Four fall exhausted from the short climb and advance no farther. They stay there through the day, seeing no one else from the company. The other two, Privates Jake Shefer and Thomas Lovejoy, join a group from the Second Ranger Battalion, which is assaulting Pointe du Hoc to the right of the company sector, and fight on with the Rangers through the day. 

Two men. Two rifles. Except for these, Able Company's contribution to the D Day fire fight is a cipher. 
BAKER Company which is scheduled to land twenty-six minutes after Able and right on top of it, supporting and reinforcing, has had its full load of trouble on the way in. So rough is the sea during the journey that the men have to bail furiously with their helmets to keep the six boats from swamping. 

Thus preoccupied, they do not see the disaster which is overtaking Able until they are almost atop it. Then, what their eyes behold is either so limited or so staggering to the senses that control withers, the assault wave begins to dissolve, and disunity induced by fear virtually cancels the mission. A great cloud of smoke and dust raised by the mortar and machine-gun fire has almost closed a curtain around Able Company's ordeal. 

Outside the pall, nothing is to be seen but a line of corpses adrift, a few heads bobbing in the water and the crimson-running tide. But this is enough for the British coxswains. They raise the cry: "We can't go in there. We can't see the landmarks. We must pull off." 

In the command boat, Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta pulls a Colt .45 and says: "By God, you'll take this boat straight in." His display of courage wins obedience, but it's still a fool's order. Such of Baker's boats as try to go straight in suffer Able's fate without helping the other company whatever. Thrice during the approach mortar shells break right next to Zappacosta's boat but by an irony leave it unscathed, thereby sparing the riders a few more moments of life. At seventy-five yards from the sand Zappacosta yells: "Drop the ramp!" The end goes down, and a storm of bullet fire comes in. 

Zappacosta jumps first from the boat, reels ten yards through the elbow-high tide, and yells back: "I'm hit." He staggers on a few more steps. The aid man, Thomas Kenser, sees him bleeding from hip and shoulder. Kenser yells: "Try to make it in; I'm coming." But the captain falls face forward into the wave, and the weight of his equipment and soaked pack pin him to the bottom. Kenser jumps toward him and is shot dead while in the air. 

Lieutenant Tom Dallas of Charley Company, who has come along to make a reconnaissance, is the third man. He makes it to the edge of the sand. There a machine-gun burst blows his head apart before he can flatten 

Private First-Class Robert L. Sales, who is lugging Zappacosta's radio (an SCR 300), is the fourth man to leave the boat, having waited long enough to see the others die. His boot heel catches on the edge of the ramp and he falls sprawling into the tide, losing the radio but saving his life. 

Every man who tries to follow him is either killed or wounded before reaching dry land. Sales alone gets to the beach unhit. To travel those few yards takes him two hours. First, he crouches in the water, and waddling forward on his haunches just a few paces, collides with a floating log -- driftwood. In that moment, a mortar shell explodes just above his head, knocking him groggy. He hugs the log to keep from going down, and somehow the effort seems to clear his head a little. Next thing he knows, one of Able Company's tide walkers hoists him aboard the log and, using his sheath knife, cuts away Sales's pack, boots, and assault jacket. 

Feeling stronger, Sales returns to the water, and from behind the log, using it as cover, pushes toward the sand. Private Mack L. Smith of Baker Company, hit three times through the face, joins him there. An Able Company rifleman named Kemper, hit thrice in the right leg, also comes alongside. Together they follow the log until at last they roll it to the farthest reach of high tide. Then they flatten themselves behind it, staying there for hours after the flow has turned to ebb. 

The dead of both companies wash up to where they lie, and then wash back out to sea again. As a body drifts in close to them, Sales and companions, disregarding the fire, crawl from behind the log to take a look. If any one of them recognizes the face of a comrade, they join in dragging the body up onto the dry sand beyond the water's reach. The unfamiliar dead are left to the sea. So long as the tide is full, they stay with this unique task. 

Later, an unidentified first-aid man who comes wiggling along the beach dresses the wounds of Smith. Sales, as he finds strength, bandages Kemper. The three remain behind the log until night falls. There is nothing else to be reported of any member of Zappacosta's boat team. 

Only one other Baker Company boat tries to come straight into the beach. Somehow the boat founders. Somehow all of its people are killed -- one British coxswain and about thirty American infantrymen. 

Where they fall, there is no one to take note of and report. 

FRIGHTENED coxswains in the other four craft take one quick look, instinctively draw back, and then veer right and left away from the Able Company shambles. So doing, they dodge their duty while giving a break to their passengers. Such is the shock to the boat team leaders, and such their feeling of relief at the turning movement, that not one utters a protest. 

Lieutenant Leo A. Pingenot's coxswain swings the boat far rightward toward Pointe du Hoc; then, spying a small and deceptively peaceful-looking cove, heads directly for the land. Fifty yards out, Pingenot yells: "Drop the ramp!" The coxswain freezes on the rope, refusing to lower. Staff Sergeant Odell L. Padgett jumps him, throttles him, and bears him to the floor. Padgett's men lower the rope and jump for the water. In two minutes, they are all in up to their necks and struggling to avoid drowning. That quickly, Pingenot is already far out ahead of them. Padgett comes even with him, and together they cross onto dry land. T
he beach of the cove is heavily strewn with giant boulders. Bullets seem to be pinging off every rock. Pingenot and Padgett dive behind the same rock. Then they glance back, but to their horror see not one person. 

Quite suddenly smoke has half blanked out the scene beyond the water's edge. Pingenot moans: "My God, the whole boat team is dead." Padgett sings out: "Hey, are you hit?" Back come many voices from beyond the smoke. "What's the rush?" "Take it easy!" "We'll get there." "Where's the fire?" "Who wants to know?" The men are still moving along, using the water as cover. Padgett's yell is their first information that anyone else has moved up front. They all make it to the shore, and they are twenty-eight strong at first. Pingenot and Padgett manage to stay ahead of them, coaxing and encouraging. Padgett keeps yelling: "Come on, goddam it, things are better up here!" But still they lose two men killed and three wounded in crossing the beach. 

The other Baker Company boat, which turns to the right, has far less luck. Staff Sergeant Robert M. Campbell, who leads the section, is the first man to jump out when the ramp goes down. He drops in drowning water, and his load of two bangalore torpedoes takes him straight to the bottom. So, he jettisons the bangalores and then, surfacing, cuts away all equipment for good measure. Machine-gun fire brackets him, and he submerges again briefly. Never a strong swimmer, he heads back out to sea. For two hours he paddles around, two hundred or so yards from the shore. 

Though he hears and sees nothing of the battle, he somehow gets the impression that the invasion has failed and that all other Americans are dead, wounded, or have been taken prisoner. Strength fast going, in despair he moves ashore rather than drown. Beyond the smoke he quickly finds the fire. So he grabs a helmet from a dead man's head, crawls on hands and knees to the sea wall, and there finds five of his men, two of them unwounded. 

Like Campbell, Private First-Class Jan J. Budziszewski is carried to the bottom by his load of two bangalores. He hugs them half a minute before realizing that he will either let loose or drown. Next, he shucks off his helmet and pack and drops his rifle. Then he surfaces. After swimming two hundred yards, he sees that he is moving in exactly the wrong direction. So, he turns about and heads for the beach, where he crawls ashore "under a rain of bullets." In his path lies a dead Ranger. Budziszewski takes the dead man's helmet, rifle, and canteen and crawls on to the sea wall. 

The only survivor from Campbell's boat section to get off the beach, he spends his day walking to and fro along the foot of the bluff, looking for a friendly face. But he meets only strangers, and none shows any interest in him….

WN-62 & Heinrich Severloh, the Infamous 'Beast of Omaha'.

Severloh manned a machine gun in a submerged foxhole at WN62. He fired on the waves of approaching American GIs with his machine gun and two Karabiner 98k rifles.  He relied on his comrades using trenches to maintain a continuous flow of ammunition to him.  While they re-armed his machine gun, he would pick off more targets with the rifles.  Not a moment was wasted.

Starting at 6 am, by 3 pm, Severloh had fired approximately 12,000 rounds with the machine gun and 400 rounds with the two rifles.  Severloh was credited with killing close to 1,000 men.  Amazingly, Severloh claimed he killed even more than that!  

German machine gun crews and riflemen probably did not have the luxury of working over a landing craft as thoroughly as they might have because there were other landing craft arriving on the left and right. 

Area circled in red thought to be area occupied by Corporal Heinrich Severloh of the 352nd Inf Division defending against the U.S. 16th Inf Regiment at Omaha Beach.  He was perfectly positioned at WN62 at the east end of 'Easy Red' sector, also overlooking Fox Green. 

Consequently, wounded GI’s had a chance to survive if they could just keep from attracting fire from the German defenders - and many soldiers did this - playing “possum” on the edge of the surf.

Severloh's story

It is a remarkable story, however Severloh's story is not widely regarded as totally factual, though a recently released aerial image of the landing appears to support his story.

This image approximates Severloh's position in red. 

A staggering amount of dead can be seen all over the image but, if you examine closely around WN-62, it seems that most of the carnage happened there. 

The water seems to be gushing with blood around tide-drawn landing craft and the ground is littered with lying bodies. First-hand accounts also describe the worst loss as happening right between WN-61 and WN-62- right where all the bloody water is.

A staggering amount of dead can be seen all over the image but, if you examine closely around WN-62, it seems that most of the carnage happened there. The water seems to be gushing with blood around tide-drawn landing craft and the ground is littered with lying bodies. 

First-hand accounts also describe the worst loss as happening right between WN-61 and WN-62- right where all the bloody water is. 

Reflections of the Military Combat  veterans / experts:

It is the impression of many, that the men who planned this attack failed miserably.  The utter cluelessness of the planners was impossible to overlook.  "the draws, the natural exits off the beaches, were the main targets in the initial assault plan. 

However, the strongly concentrated defenses around these draws meant that the troops landing near them quickly wound up in no shape to carry on a further assault. 

Only in the areas between the draws, at the bluffs, were units able to land in greater strength. Defenses were always weaker away from the draws. Hindsight is 20-20 and all the other clichés. 

There cannot be any question of the bravery of the American soldiers that day.  The Greatest  Generation!

Which  begs the  question,  Would we measure up to the  standards of the  men of  D-Day?

Remember their  sacrifice...Freedom ain't free.

aim  straight... Chachie

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spawning A New Generation Of Hunters And Creating Marksmen

Hunting  and  Shooting - Educating a New Generation Of  Hunters &  Marksmen From Trigger to Target - MOA

I am very honest about explaining what I am trying to write about / accomplish when I begin these postings.  So that the reader can determine if they want to the take the time to read the  entire posting.

For a while I have wanted to write a couple of new blog stories:

1.About hunting and why we need to introduce new hunters to the sport., i.e.., young people have so much to entertain them these days and are leaving the sport.

2.About Shooting long distances e.g., over 300 yards, what knowledge is required. I like hunting rifles, as someone once said " The only interesting rifles are accurate  rifles.

What has been holding me back?

The purpose / intent of My blog is to write  about ‘All Things Bayou Pigeon’.  I feel obligated to link any story on this  blog to the purpose / intent of the Blog, i.e., Bayou Pigeon Folk life, History and / or Heritage.

After some thought, I asked myself, what kind of stories would interest  the people who are already familiar  with this blog.  Obviously, anything about Bayou Pigeon Folk life, History and Guns.

I know most of the men that I see on the Pigeon Facebook friends list are passionate hunters. Most hunters like guns and have more than one. Cajuns like to shoot anything before they eat it.

I like stories that weave in educational aspects as well as entertaining to read. If I can connect Bayou Pigeon Folk life, Hunting and Guns,  I  would have a  good story line.

It was called Creative Writing 101, in college. It is Easier Said Than Done, to write an articulate  story.

Background Info-

Deer hunting at Bayou Pigeon has changed.  Deer Hunting in the Atchafalaya Basin has changed.

You don’t hear baying hounds and see a lot of Winchester Model 12's shotguns of yesteryear. The legendary deer hunters of  Bayou Pigeon, like Mr. Pep Landry and Mr. Monroe Settoon have ‘Gone Missing’.  Notice the “misters.” Cajun culture quietly mandates the title mister before a respected deer hunters name, be it his first, last or both. No young people called them Pep or Monroe.

In the 1990’s most landowners stopped the hunting deer with dogs on their lands, with nowhere for the dogs to run, dog hunting disappeared from hunting clubs. Still hunting only became the dominant form of hunting deer.

Don’t get me wrong, hip boots and boats are still modus operandi.  But,  we have added surface drive low water motors and boats, all-terrain Vehicles (ATV’s). Shot guns have been replaced with modern center fire deer rifles.

Moving away from hunting deer with dogs  changed hunting  styles. Why, How ?

Because deer are primarily Crepuscular animals, thus they are very difficult  to hunt in day time. Without dogs and drivers  to move them  around in the daytime they stay put in their bedding areas.

Without dogs and  drivers to move  deer, hunters started hunting  from elevated blinds / stands, i.e.., homemade tree stands, and / or ladder stands with rifles and bows, trying to ambush the deer in twilight hours when they are moving to feed.

In the Atchafalaya Basin, during the day deer are deep in the swamp for protection and there they just sit out the day. In early morning and evening, they’ll come out to feed on high ridges and edges of swamp terrain.

Sometimes this requires long shots, such as watching down a pipeline or power-line right of way. 

Gone are days of sighting in your trusty 30-30 lever action by hitting a 5-gallon bucket at 50 yards.  

Understanding modern shooting ballistics / theory is required for deer hunting and especially  for long range hunting & shooting.

Minute of Angle - From Trigger to Target 

Did you realize that hunting can teach your kid one of the 3 R’s…’rithmetic.  Hunting is a science ie.,  an ethical hunter has to be marksman. A person's level of shooting proficiency is referred to as his/her marksmanship.

Hunting, Shooting and Rifle Scopes  

The rifle scope is basically an optical device that has telescoping lenses, which makes it easier to hit targets from a long distance. Today, they play a huge role in hunting and shooting.  Rifle scopes are meant for extreme situations, where you cannot make a great hit with your bare eyes. Not to mention those of us  with aging eyes. 

Rifle scopes play a huge role in ensuring that the shooting experience is made easy and enjoyable as well. The rifle scope is endorsed for a more safe and perfect shooting in the  field. 

Hunters must know  and understand how to adjust the elevation (up / down)  and windage (left / Right)  to 'sight in"  the rifle.

This where “MOA” = Minute of Angle comes in play.

MOA is the unit of angular measure for adjustment of the scope to get on the target.

To understand MOA, you must first know some ’rithmetic, let’s review some basic mathematics ...

A circle is a shape with all points the same distance from the center. It is named by the center. The circle to the left is called circle A since the center is at point A. If you measure the distance around a circle and divide it by the distance across the circle through the center, you will always come close to a particular value, depending upon the accuracy of your measurement. This value is approximately 3.14159265358979323846... 

We use the Greek letter   (pronounced Pi) to represent this value. The number   goes on forever. However, using computers,   has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal point

The distance around a circle is called the circumference. The distance across a circle through the center is called the diameter. Circumference:  The circumference of a circle is the distance around it. That is, the circumference would be the length of the circle if it were opened up and straightened out to a line segment.

   or Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter. Thus, for any circle, if you divide the circumference by the diameter, you get a value close to  . This relationship is expressed in the following formula:  

The radius of a circle is the distance from the center of a circle to any point on the circle. If you place two radii end-to-end in a circle, you would have the same length as one diameter. Thus, the diameter of a circle is twice as long as the radius. If the radius of the circle is known, all the other parameters can be calculated. 

Important information can be determined for real life applications based on the parameters. 

Such as, important stuff, artificial satellites that are launched travel in orbits of certain circumference. Other stuff as well, e.g., tires, Ferris wheels, rings, steering wheels, pizzas, cakes, pies, buttons, etc. Circles are simply closed curves equidistant from a fixed center.

 Angular Measurement of a Circle

It is used for measuring in the study in the sciences of astronomy, navigation, and in shooting sports, where man made optics (scopes) are used and thousands of other real life applications.

Just as we have various unit systems for measuring lengths (inches, feet, meters, light years, etc.), we have various unit systems for measuring angles. One system in common use, is the degree system. It is the oldest system (dating back to the time of the Babylonians). 

Most Engineers, Mathematicians, measure a circle in degrees. A circle is divided into 360 degrees. 
An angle is the space between two straight lines from a singular point, i.e., the center of a circle.

In the USA  system, a full circle is  divided into 360 degrees. 

Why 360 degrees? Probably because old calendars in ancient times used 360 days for a year, i.e.., when they watched the stars, they saw them revolve around the North Star one degree per day.

Also, did you know,  360 can be divided exactly by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 24, 30, 36, 40, 45, 60, 72, 90, 120 and 180, which makes a lot of basic geometry easier. 
The Shooting Sports and MOA = Minute of angle. 

MOA – is an Angular measurement, which Works cohesively with the U.S. measuring system.


As a circle is divided into 360 degrees, and each degree is divided into 60 minutes.  Therefore, if we multiply 360 degrees x 60 minutes, we have 21,600 minutes in a circle. A minute is just a fancy word for 1/60th. Think about sixty minutes in an hour and minute is 1/60th of an hour. Similarly Minute of angle is 1/60th of an angle, this angle is on a circle having 360 degrees and this angle is one of those 360 degrees. So, Minute of angle is 1/60th of one degree.

As the minutes radiate from the center of the circle, the distance between minutes on the circumference increases. Thus, the distance from the center determines the MOA.

Now consider MOA at 100 yds. From the center of the circle to the circumference is 100 yds, or the circles radius which equates to 200-yard diameter. The circumference is equal to 200 yards times 3.1416 (pi) or 628.53 yards. How many feet does this equate to? Multiply 628.53 3 feet per yard and that equals 1884.96 feet. Convert feet to inches:1,884.96 feet times 12 inches per foot equals the circumference 22619.52 inches. The distance between the minutes at 100 yards equals 22619.52 inches divided by 21,600 minutes, for 1.0472 inches in decimals or approximately 1 3/64” in fractions or 1 MOA (minute of angle).

Minute of Angle and Modern Rifle Scopes (Optics)

Rifle scopes have turrets and (cross-hairs)  reticle's

Turrets are a critical component to the rifle scope. If you’ve never seen a scope, they are the little knobs on the top and most commonly the left-hand side of the scope. Occasionally you have three turrets, but two turrets are universal. The overall job of a turret is to make the adjustments necessary to zero an optic.

Most hunting scopes have covers you can remove to show a little dial with graduations. 

All rifle scope cross hairs adjust elevation (up and down) and windage (left to right).

To get your bullet to hit where you want it to go, you make adjustments to your rifle scope, (i.e.., to get closer to the bull’s-eye) in MOA, up/down or left / right, whatever is needed. 

Hunting scopes often have tactile click adjustments that are typically ¼ MOA, some scopes have a ½, MOA adjustment. 

Scope Manufacturers use MOA (angular measuring system) to set the scope to get closest to the desired point of aim (bull’s-eye).

Remember, 1 MOA is always 1 MOA regardless of distance. When you add known distances to the mix, you can translate MOA to linear size downrange

If you know the size 1 MOA equals at any known distance, (you must know the  distance) you’ll know how much adjustment you need to achieved desired point of impact.

Real life example

Hunters fires 3 shots at target at 100 yards.

Example  above , known  distance = 100 yards, with a 1/4 MOA scope, you’ll have to make 12 clicks right and 8  clicks  down to get this group of shots to move to dead on bulls-eye. 

For distances beyond 100 yards, you must also know Rifles Ballistics i.e.., your bullet drop for the distance, for your rifle, ammo, and conditions, i.e. Caliber, Bullet weight, Velocity (FPS).
Point Blank Range

Knowing your Rifles Ballistics, most hunters sight their hunting rifles to be approximately 1.5“ to 2” high at 100 yards. This makes, most center-fire hunting rifles hit dead on at 200 yards. 

This is considered optimum, because  for most medium range high powered rifles bullet drop at 250 yards will be less than 5 inches. This allows for what is called point-blank aim point, i.e.., no hold over needed. This will a put bullet in the kill zone of deer size animals.

Point Blank hold  for up 250 yards to Target

Scopes with Bullet Drop Compensators (BDCs

Many modern scopes come with Bullet Drop Compensators  where additional marks on the cross-hairs are in 1 MOA. 

Therefore, if you know ballistics for your rifle, ammo, and conditions, i.e. Caliber, Bullet weight, Velocity (FPS) and projected bullet drop. Bullet  drop can compensated for.

Ballistics  for  270 Cal. with 130 gr. bullet

Always think in increments of 1 MOA for whatever distance you are shooting.  For example, imagine you are shooting at 300 yards. You know that a MOA spreads out 1″ per 100 yards, so 1 MOA at 300 yards is 3″. You have sighted in your rifle to be +1.4 inches at 100 yards, per the chart above. Therefore, for your calculations at that 300-yard target, you should think in 3″ increments. By doing so, you can easily see that requires you to elevate 2 MOA to compensate   for -6.3 inches of drop in the chart above.

If you are shooting a target 400 yards away, you can see 1 MOA at 400 yards is 4.188 inches.  Therefore, to compensate for 18.3’ of drop requires you to elevate to 4 MOA tick mark.

Shooting & Hunting are a science lesson in and of itself, therefore school learning of 3 r’s  is required to be a good hunter.

Hunting is necessary… we need to spawn new hunters  for the future!

Hunting is not only about killing of one of nature’s creatures. It is well documented that hunting teaches many positive life skills, such as ethics, and integrity patience, proper preparation, endurance, realistic expectations, the ability to cope with disappointment, the ability to overcome difficulties and how to or not to respond to the unexpected. Not to mention, gun safety, the environment and conservation. 

Hunting serves conservation and the environment by controlling overpopulation of wild animals.  (Humans and Nature: Hunting Serves the Environment by Controlling Overpopulation, by Jessica Wapner;2017)   

Researchers found that when it comes to problematic overabundance of animals, hunters serve their ecosystem well. By helping with regulating populations, hunting helps  the environment as well.

Despite what you may have heard or read annual hunting licenses sales across the USA are holding steady. Over 15mm license hunters in 2018.

However our population is increasing! License  sales are not keeping up with the increased population! 
"It's questionable whether there will be enough hunters in the future to really manage wildlife populations!

In conclusion

I hope this story informs, entertains the readers on why it is important to facilitate new hunters and that hunting demonstrates & can teach practical  use of school learning. Therefore, it is a value adding pursuit.

This hunting season take someone new to hunting with you.  Remember the excitement that came with your success in your early days hunting…

Preserve the Heritage & Aim Straight … 

Cliff LeGrange

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pousser Des bêtes, Lost History of the Atchafalaya

Louisiana Cattle Drives in the Atchafalaya Heritage Area

By Cliff LeGrange  with  Stella Carlin Tanoos

Cattle crossing  stream  somewhere on the  Colette  Trail… Sketched by  A.R. Waud; From the Alfred and William Waud Collection; The Waud Collection presents a visually fascinating history of America in the mid-19th century, covering subjects as diverse as the reconstructed South and the townships that dotted both banks of the nation's largest river system.

Louisiana was claimed for the French crown by explorer Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle in 1682. Louisiana volleyed between the French and the Spanish rule during the 17 Th century. In 1697, the French crown sent the explorers Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and his brother Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville to explore the region of the lower Mississippi River to encourage trade and to plant a French colony. The city La Nouvelle-Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.

17 th  Century Opelousas - Attakapas Region 1601 - 1700

Roving tribes of Native Americans, (Appalousa, Attakapas, and Chitimacha) had hunting camps and/or small villages on the many streams and lakes in the Atchafalaya Basin area. The natural alluvial ridges along the bayous would sustain the small settlements from annual spring flooding.

As early as 1680’s, French trappers from Canada, (Courier du Bois) had come down the Mississippi River to Louisiana. It was not long before the trappers/woodsman crossed the vast swamp between the Mississippi River and the Bayou Teche, from east to west to trade with the Indians of the vast prairie area west of the Bayou Teche. 

According to legend, the first white settler to the Opelousas, LA. the area was Michel de Birotte, Courier du Bois who came around 1690. 

The Courier du Bois established a Trading Post at the headwaters of the Bayou Teche and at the time an unnamed stream that flowed into the Atchafalaya River (Bayou Courtableau). The Courier Du Bois exchanged European merchandise for pelts, bear oil, and even horses.  

It appears that rumors that the Attakapas Indian tribe of the area were cannibals caused settlers only momentary hesitation

Excerpt of early map of the Location of the Opelousas post to Bayou Courtableau and the Atchafalaya River

18 Century Opelousas Region - 1701- 1800 

Opelousas takes its name from the Native American tribe Appalousa, who had occupied the area before European contact. In 1719, the French sent the first military to the Territory, when Ensign Nicolas Chauvin de la Frénière and two others were sent to patrol the area.   

Poste des Opelousas - 1720

In 1720 the French colonial government established the Poste des Opelousas near the headwaters of Teche as a major trading organization for the developing area. The French encouraged immigration to Opelousas Post. as they were interested in the vast prairie region west of the Atchafalaya Basin. 
By the early 1730s, French Courier du Bois were exploring the prairie region west of the Atchafalaya Basin to study the possibility of establishing a strategic trading point in the area to counter the Spanish presence to the west.  

By 1738 French traders were dealing regularly" with Indians of the region.
In December 1738, two French entrepreneurs, Jean-Joseph Le Kintrek dit Dupont, a former jailer at New Orleans, and Joseph Blanpain, established a partnership that created an Indian trading venture in the area, which lasted until 1744.  Le Kintrek is "the first European settler in the Opelousas post."  

The Indian trade proved to be profitable, and other traders followed, including André Massé and Jacques-Guillaume Courtableau, Le Kintrek's son-in-law. Both of which established cattle ranches along the Bayou Teche, where an off chute of the Bayou Teche flowed to the Atchafalaya River. The stream between became known as Bayou Courtableau, after Jacques-Guillaume Courtableau.

Le Poste Des Attkapas  À La Louisiane 1763

The Opelousas post was so successful that the French officially established the Attakapas District (St Martinville) to control trade in the lower Teche area and to expand the trade with the Indians of the open prairies area. 

The official “Poste des Attakapas (St. Martinville), located thirty miles below Opelousas, was established in 1763, though like the Opelousas settlement, the Attakapas had resident settlers that dated from an earlier time.

18 century Settlement in Opelousas - Attakapas Region 

A Vacherie 

From the French word, Vache for Cow, a Vacherie is a Cajun French term for cattle fields. 
Cattle were brought to the New World by the Spanish soon after 1492. The term black cattle appears several times in descriptions of the cattle on the Teche, it is an archaic term of that time, and it refers to range cattle, i.e. free roaming,  not to beasts of a certain color. 

The cattle of the Teche Vacherie’s were longhorns which were about half-wild, easily adaptable to almost any climate and native grasses. These cattle differed from those in the old world, their long horns which are generally about two and a half feet long, with their long shanks and feet, when seen from a distance, they look more like deer than like cows and oxen their usual red-brown color add to the illusion.

The high alluvial ridges of the Bayou Teche, seasonal flooded meadows between the ridges and bluffs on the west side of the Teche provided a natural range for raising livestock.

By early 1760’s most of the vast country of Opelousas - Attakapas region was taken up by only four or five Vacherie’s, very spread out and quite large, with absentee landowners and some were very poorly cared for. The prairie grasses were tall, and the cattle could roam au large, no fences confining them. Branding took the place of fences.

Pioneers of the Attakapas District 

 It is known that Andre Masse', Antoine Bernard Dauterive, Jacques Roman, Jacques Joseph Sorrel de Contamine, were all from the Grenoble area in France and all three came to French Louisiana and established Vacherie’s on the lower Bayou Teche. 

1740’s - Andre Masse - Lower Bayou Teche

By 1723 the French had divided Louisiana into seven districts, with the Attakapas area within the Orleans District. Each district was served by a commandant and a judge for its military and civil need.

One of the first to settle in the Attakapas area was a man named Andre Masse, a native of France, he was known as an audacious Frenchmen who rejected civilization.  He may have come to New Orleans or Mobile originally in 1722 as a lieutenant in the military but by 1731 had acquired land along the Mississippi just upstream from New Orleans. In the 1740’s he moved to the Bayou Teche, near present-day Baldwin, La. / Charenton, LA. and established cattle Vacherie. At that time Both French and Spanish the claimed ownership of Louisiana. Spain claimed ownership of all land west of the Mississippi River. They considered Masse a trespasser. He is believed to the first settler in the lower Bayou Teche. 

The Masse’ Vacherie appears to have been maintained almost exclusively by about 20 slaves (half from the Senegambia region of Africa, and half Louisiana Creoles, the children of those Senegambians).

In 1765 his name appears in a court case giving testimony that Edward Masse and Jean Antoine Bernard Dauterive, in partnership, operated a Vacherie (cattle range) on the Bayou Teche in what is now Iberia Parish on land that Andre Masse occupied. 

In 1806 Writer C.C. Robin in his book Voyage dans l'interieur de la Louisiane, wrote of the then decease Masse, “his dwelling was simple one open to the air, he slept on a bear skin stretched on boards. He was dressed head to foot in buckskin. He is eating utensils were a knife and a horn spoon hung at his belt”.

1760’s Jacques Joseph Sorrel

Jacques Joseph Sorrel, another officer of the French army came to Louisiana sometime in the 1750’s.  He was discharged in 1762 and settled in the Attakapas district a year later.  After living with Masse´ for several years, in 1768 he received a land grant about twenty-five kilometers downstream of Fausse Pointe, at what became the village of Sorrel, but for only six arpents of frontage and thirty of depth. He was a protégé´ of Masse´. Sorrel married Mademoiselles Grevemberg, a family of some wealth and involved in the cattle business at the time. However, she soon left him soon and returned to France away from the hard life in Louisiana. 

Sorrel built land claims of over 3000 acres. He helped to open the trade route through the lakes and bayous from Bayou Teche to the Mississippi River. It is believed by many historians Bayou Sorrel between Lower Grand River and Grand Lake was named after him.

Historic marker near New  Iberia, La

1765 – Jean Antoine Bernard Dauterive 

Jean Antoine Bernard Dauterive was born in Belley, about halfway between Lyon and Grenoble, the son of a military officer named Bernard Dauterive and Marie Jeanne St. Laurent. The family moved to New Orleans in 1719 for the father to assume the post of royal treasurer and by 1731 had acquired land just upstream from the city.

In the 1760’s Antoine Bernard Dauterive, retired as a Captain in the French Infantry, he then acquired additional land south of New Orleans, at Barataria. 

Prior to 1765 Dauterive also acquired some land from Andre Masse four leagues (a land measurement of eighty-four arpents, or three miles of land) on the Bayou Teche for raising cattle. He and Masse formed a partnership to manage and operate a Vacherie (cattle fields/range). 

In 1765, He acquired even larger land holdings at Bayou Goula between Bayou Plaquemine and Bayou Lafourche for the same purpose.

1765 Johannes Grevemberg 

Grevemberg arrived in Louisiana in the early 1720s to work as a laborer on a concession along the Ouachita River, changed his name to Jean Baptiste, and acquired the nickname Flamand, meaning Flemish. He began purchasing land around 1750, including the Fausse Pointe tract shown below. Grevemberg is known to have become involved in a feud with the Acadian immigrants over land ownership around Fausse Point. 

1720 – 1765 Vacherie’s around Attakapas post - Fausse Point 

Census records clearly show considerable land and cattle ownership in this area of Louisiana before the arrival of the Acadians. For the most part, early habitation in the district was inhabited only by cattle drovers. There were very few permanent settlers, the few small landowners in the area got their Attakapas lands through purchase or occupancy and use; they did not have royal concessions at that time. 

Pre-Acadian Ranches of the Middle Teche Valley.

The Middle Teche Valley

The Attakapas Post had the best habitat for cattle. Bayou Teche created both the bluff and the Teche Ridge between thirty-five hundred and twenty-five hundred years ago when carrying the combined flows of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. 

The annual high-water flow cut the bluff that marks the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin and created broad levees, forming the Teche Ridge as a cordon of high land within the basin. To the west, Bayou Tortue and the Vermillion River drained the back swamps during low water periods.

The bluffs provided better pasture and grazing land than the swamps between the Mississippi River and eastern Atchafalaya basin. The Attakapas & Opelousas Post quickly became the primary suppliers for beef by the colonist in New Orleans.

A transect of  Teche Alluvial ridge, Andrew  Sluyter, Agricultural History · April 2012

Cattle drive (Pousser Des b̂etes)

Getting cattle to the New Orleans markets around the massive Atchafalaya Basin swamp was a major problem. With its ever-fluctuating water levels moving cattle across streams and bayous west to east was fraught with danger and risk. Ferry crossings over streams were few and far between. Shipping processed meat was out of the question, no ice.

Nineteenth century engraving of a south Louisiana cattle rancher.  (Source: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline, [NY:  John B. Alden, 1892] 17 th Century Louisiana  

17 century Pre Acadian Attakapas Cattle Drives –

The first cattle drives were down the Colette trail, named after Prevost dit Colette, one of the prominent families on the Bayou Teche. The route followed primitive trails down the Bayou Teche Alluvial Ridge to the Lower end Atchafalaya Basin, then following the Bayou Black natural ridges, crossing Bayou Lafourche and Bayou des Allemands to Mississippi River natural ridge to Algiers area of New Orleans.

The Colette trail – 

Start: Anywhere from Postes Des Opelousas going south, follow the Bayou Teche alluvial ridge, to present day Lake Palourde and then following the alluvial ridge of Bayou Black crossing the Bayou Lafourche around current day Raceland, LA. which may have had a ferry. After leaving the Bayou Lafourche alluvial ridge came the most difficult part of the route, crossing the Des Allemand swamp and Bayou Des Allemands and on to the Mississippi River alluvial ridge around present-day Luling, LA. Following the Mississippi River ridge with the trail drive ending at Algiers area of New Orleans on the west side of the river.  This route later became part of what was known as the Old Spanish Trail. It was a difficult and arduous journey.

Base Map – Barthelemy Lafon Map 1806 thought to be earliest map of the Teche region
Cattle Drive Trail mid 1700’s – Attakapas District Opelousas – to New Orleans

Lower Colette trail - Cattle Drive route - Bayou Teche, Bayou Black, Bayou Lafourche Bayou Des Allemands to New Orleans Excerpt from Maxfield Ludlow Map of 1815

The arrival of the Acadians in Attakapas District - 1765

The First groups of Acadian exiles to America (1764) were settled on the Mississippi River at Bayou Lafourche.  An area known as the Acadian Coast.  Those Acadians who remained along the Mississippi and Bayou Lafourche adapted to the task of adapting their agricultural practices to Louisiana's long growing season and high annual precipitation levels. They placed ever-increasing emphasis on agricultural production. 

The second group of Acadian exiles to America were sent to the Attakapas region. Some historians believe this was part of a grand plan by the new Spanish government.

Two hundred Acadian immigrants arrived in Louisiana in 1765, led by Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil and his older brother Alexandre. Spanish Governor Aubry received those Acadians; he believed they would die in misery if he did not do something to help them.  It happened that they were former residents of the Chignecto Isthmus area of Novia Scotia, which was a sparsely wooded region and was known as the heart of the Acadian cattle industry in Novia Scotia.

Governor Aubrey wanted to buttress the emerging cattle industry along the Teche to provide meat for New Orleans. Here was his chance. Historians say Aubrey induced Juan Antonio Dauterive, who wanted to be a major cattle producer and already owned concessions on the Teche and at Bayou Goula on the Mississippi to make a pact with new Acadians.

A win/win situation for the Governor, his interest was to expand and sustain the colony.  Help the new Acadian colonist immigrants survive, and help Juan Antonio Dauterive, become a major cattle producer in the colony like he wanted to be.

Other historians think it was just ‘fait compli’ that the Acadians ended up in the Attakapas.

The Dauterive Compact:

In April of 1765 Antoine Bernard Dauterive, Aubry, the Governor of Louisiana, the new Acadians settlers, and Andre Masse´ entered into an agreement to raise cattle on what until then had been the Masse´ Vacherie. 

Dauterive made the compact with eight Acadian “chiefs” including Joseph dit Beausoleil Broussard, Alexandre Broussard, Joseph Guilbeau, Jean Dugas, Olivier Thibodeau, Jean-Baptiste Broussard, Pierre Arseneau, and Victor Broussard. These eight leaders are thought to have been acting for their comrades that were not present at the formal meeting attended by the governor. 

Dauterive agreed to furnish five cows and one bull to each willing Acadian, once the newcomers were on the western frontier. After six years, Dauterive would get half their herds’ increases. From their shares, the Acadians would also return to Dauterive his initial investments.

With the agreement signed the second major group of Acadians to reach Louisiana made their way to the Attkapas, via boat trip up the Mississippi, to Bayou Plaquemine across the Atchafalaya Swamp to the Bayou Teche.

Acadian Settlement on the Teche 

Location of Acadian settlements
Map excerpt from… New Look at the Initial Acadian Settlement Location in the Attakapas…Donald J. Arceneaux

In May of 1765, the Acadians, led by Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil and the Acadians, arrived on the Bayou Teche. 

There was one problem, the new colonists did not settle on the ceded land of Dauterive and Masse along Bayou Teche as they had apparently agreed to do back in New Orleans. The Acadians instead decided to settle farther down Bayou Teche along the Fausse Pointe, an odd-shaped peninsula formed by an extreme oxbow of the Teche. 

The Acadian Attakapas settlements lay on both banks of the lower Teche at what came to be called Fausse Pointe, le premier camp d'en bas, or the first place lower down; le dernier camp d'en bas, or the last place lower down. 

The authors found conflicting information as to whether the five cows and one bull were ever delivered to the Acadians as promised by the compact.  It is obvious from the maps that all the Acadians did not settle on the land of Masse and Dauterive.  It is possible that around mid-May, several Acadian families did briefly inhabit some of Dauterive and Masse’s ceded land in accord with the land exchange deal made back in New Orleans. Once on the frontier, these families may have also received cattle from Dauterive in agreement with the cattle compact made in the City. However, the author could find is no data that suggests the agreement was ever carried out in full. It is known that some of the Acadians bought some cattle from Jean-Baptiste Grevemberg.

Shortly after settling at Fausse point the Acadians and Grevemberg developed a feud,  the Acadians complained of crop damages and from the large Vacherie’s wild cattle, with the Vacherie’s claiming squatting and cattle rustling by the  Acadians.

Grevemberg complained to French officials that the newcomers were settling on his cattle-grazing Fausse Pointe peninsula land.

As it turned out Grevemberg did not have a clear title either.

The officials granted the Fausse Pointe to Grevemberg in July 1765. However, the Acadians did not / would not vacate all the west-bank land on the Fausse Pointe peninsula.  The first years were very hard on the  Acadians, a deadly epidemic took the lives of no less than 39 Acadians, they persevered through and eventually, the governor granted them land ownership.

Jean-Baptiste Semer a member of the group wrote in a letter to his father back in France…” We [the Beausoleil group] went to Attakapas with guns, powder, and shot, but as it was already the month of May, the heat being so intense, we started to work in too harsh conditions. There were six plows that worked; we had to break in the oxen [and] travel fifteen leagues [to the Opelousas post area] to get horses. Finally, we had the finest harvest, and everybody contracted fevers at the same time and nobody being in a state to help anyone else, thirty-three or thirty-four died, including the children. Those who started again wanted to go and work on their wilderness properties, and they fell ill again, but we came down [to New Orleans] in the month of February 1766 of this year and here [there in the Attakapas] we all are, thank God very well and hoping for a very fine harvest this year, with God’s help, having cleared a great deal [of land]….They have granted us six arpents to married people and four and five [arpents] to young men, so we have the advantage, my dear father[,] of being sure of our land [ownership], and of saying I have a place of my own…. A person who wants to devote himself to property and make an effort will be comfortably off in a few years…”

Acadians  receive Land Grants in Bayou Teche Area

After Spain officially took control of the colony from the French, the Spanish governor granted the Acadian Exiles over two dozen land grants. These land grants totaled over 10,000 acres.  By 1783, more Acadians arrived, and a new Spanish governor issued more land grants, raising total acreage to over 18,000 acres.

The Teche alluvial plain offered a different opportunity for Acadians of the Attakapas versus Acadians of Mississippi River / Bayou Lafourche.  The Bayou Teche Acadians developed a slightly different model for ranching than the large Vacherie’s which grazed their large feral herds on open range with no interest in cropping.

The new Acadians combined small docile herds with crops of rice and maize

Still, this model was in contrast to the pure Petite Habitant, small farmer model on Mississippi / Lafourche side of the Basin, which demanded land clearing of back swamps and, maintaining levees, none of that was required to raise cattle.

Capitalizing on the habitat/nutrition found in prairie and marsh grasses, facilitated cattle raising. supplemental feed was unnecessary local laws allowed the cattle to roam at large, no fences confining them. Fences were only used to keep cattle out of gardens. Branding took the place of fences, separating one person’s cattle from another.

The unusual herding practice of free roaming cattle  resulted in conflicts, such as additional Acadian claims for crop damages from the free-roaming cattle and the large Vacherie’s claiming cattle rustling.

But, by the end of the 1770’s the large Vacherie’s and Acadians were accepting each other’s concessions and getting along better.  It is documented that in 1773, Amant Broussard and Pierre Broussard, assisted by eight or nine drovers, began driving herds of cattle to New Orleans for the large Vacherie’s. They followed the Colette Trail.  For the rest of the 17 th century the Acadians in the  area continued  to provide a significant number of  drovers  for the large  Vacherie's in the  area as  well as their own  herds.

By 1771, the average Acadian household in the area had 22 cattle. He also had 6 horses, a luxury they hadn’t known in Acadia. By the end of the century, most Acadian ranches had increased their holdings of livestock to over 100 head. The Acadian settlers west of the Atchafalaya Basin placed ever decreasing emphasis on agricultural production and focused on livestock raising.  Cattle raising became the cash crop on the Teche.

By the end of the 1770s, the districts of Opelousas and Attakapas had an estimated 10,000 cattle and 2,000 horses.

Cattle drives from the Attakapas and Opelousas prairies remained the main source of beef in New Orleans throughout the eighteenth century, but the percentage of Acadian-owned cattle shipped to the colonial capital rose sharply as the prairie herds proliferated at an amazing rate in the 1780s and 1790s.

Despite their success in the  Louisianan cattle industry and the  affluence it brought the  Acadians, they managed to hold on to their old  world  culture.

Acadian Drovers participate in American Revolution 

Spain became an ally of the American Colonies during the American Revolution. The Acadians didn't mind being on the side of the enemies of England and a number of them joined the Spanish militia. Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish governor needed beef to feed Spanish troops in New Orleans. Beef from Texas and the Attakapas was driven down the Colette trail New Orleans by Acadian drovers. Over nine thousand head of longhorn cattle were delivered to New Orleans.

This is why many of Louisiana's old families can join Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution because they are considered part of the effort for the revolutionary war.

Acadian Pousser Des b̂etes, (drive cattle) 

Faced with the difficulty of managing large herds with only the family labor pool, versus the large Vacherie’s like Masse, Sorrel, and Dauterive, with black slaves, and free people of color. The Acadians drove their surplus beef to markets whenever they were fit for sale, making for smaller cattle drives. The Colette Trail was a long push from the Opelousas Post.  Crossing the Bayou Des Allemande swamp was very difficult.

Alternative routes were developed

If going to the Natchez area, the herds were driven up the Atchafalaya River.  If destined for the Mississippi River settlements then to New Orleans, the cattle were driven across the Atchafalaya Basin.

The Atchafalaya Basin Land  Route followed the Water Route:

Source - Water Route from the Opelousas to the Mississippi in 1791- by Lyle Givens Williams

Following Bayou Courtableau, to The Atchafalaya River, pass Cow Island, on to Grand River to the intersection of Grand River /Bayou Plaquemines. This route was used from the 1770’s to early 1800’s. 

The drover’s descent through the Atchafalaya was on horseback and pirogues to drive the cattle across the Atchafalaya Basin to the east. Herds were usually small but could sometimes be 100 – 150 head. 

The animals swam or were ferried across the bayous.   How could that be?  Looking at the wild Atchafalaya River today it is hard to fathom that.  The Atchafalaya River in the 1770’s, in low water, would have been a docile stream, easy to wade across.

Corroboration / Logic of Middle Atchafalaya Basin Route

Geologic Quadrangle Map of Middle Atchafalaya Basin

18 th Century  – Waypoints / Corrals / Along the Middle route

Where Bayou Butte Larose intersects with the Atchafalaya River was used as a way station on the water route from Opelousas to the Mississippi. The inhabitants of the northwestern part of the Attakapas could use the Atchafalaya near Butte la Rose as a loading station for cattle destined for the New Orleans. The area has an elevation of 13 feet ideal for cattle pens for holding the cattle; to this day the area of the cow pens is called Cow Island

Butte  Larose  Cow  Island Cattle Drive Way Point

The Traverse Platte on Grand River in Iberville Parish

Bayou Plaquemine, from Mississippi River

The area known as Transverse Platte  on Grand river near bayou Plaquemine  was more than likely  a series of  sandbars  that transversed a natural stream flowing into The  Grand  River  at that point (like  stepping  stones). Allowing  cattle drives to cross the stream easily during  low water and become a natural way point to confluence with Grand River. 

Explanatory note:

Transverse bars form by sediment aggrading to a profile of equilibrium (Jopling, 1966) and grow by down current sedimentation. Transverse bars, assume irregular or asymmetrical patterns due to several factors that include bar-mouth cross-sectional geometry, proximity to exposed banks, adjacent currents, steadiness of flow, and basin depth distribution.

Over  time, the  annual flood pulse with high flow  and decreasing current would  start  the evolution  to a dissected state. Braiding (bar dissection) begins during decreasing discharges when the flow passing through the bar mouth becomes unable to sustain active sediment transport over the entire bar surface.

More Corroboration of Middle Atchafalaya Basin Route - Maxfield Ludlow map 1812-1815

Maxfield Ludlow Map of 1815 (field Data From 1812- 1815)

Bayou Goula / Iberville Parish Cow Pens   

The Bayou Goula on the Mississippi river was first visited by French military L., Henri De Tonty, looking for the French explorer Robert De Lasalle.   It was used as a stopping place on the Mississippi River to store supplies from the Illinois area bound for New Orleans.  A dairy farm was established at the spot in 1751.  It was further identified as cattle raising area by two different explorers in 1765, belonging to Pointe Coupee settlers.  

Dauterive Concession 1765

Dauterive, with his Attakapas Post concession, had a need shorter and easier route to move his cattle to the New Orleans Market.  The route across the middle of Atchafalaya Basin was easier than the lower end of the Collette trail. He also had a need for cattle pens from where he could rest his beeves, before shipping / moving his cattle down the river to market. Claude Trenonau de Chamfret sold to Dauterive the Bayou Goula concession on Sept. 24, 1765, an obvious solution for Dauterive.

Dauterive Bayou Goula Concession and Portage4. William Reeves , From Tally Ho to Forest Home, The History of Two Louisiana Plantations; 

More corroboration of Dauterive Bayou Goula Concession and the Portage to the Grand River, e.g.,  Civil War Map of 1863 

Portage - the carrying of boats or goods overland from one body of water to another or around an obstacle or the route followed in making such a transfer.

In 1765, with no road along Bayou Plaquemine, Dauterive had a primitive road built from the Bayou Goula cattle pens, to the confluence of Bayou Plaquemine with Grand River, a daunting task in 1765. 
It appears that most of the route would have followed the Bayou Goula ridge. Governor Charles Aubrey used the portage to send dispatches from New Orleans to the Attakapas Post. This would suggest that the road became well traveled.

Base Map = Gen Nathaniel Banks 1863 Civil Mar Map

End of an Era

The era of the cattle drives across the Across the Atchafalaya basin lasted less than 70 years, 1770- 1840.  The era of the steamboats in the basin replaced the drover’s road outlined on the Ludlow map of 1815.

Corroboration of extensive steamboat travel in the Atchafalaya Basin

The Death Nell of Cattle  Drives Era

After the Civil War, the coming of the railroads replaced the Colette trail. 

Southern Pacific railroad New Orleans to Patterson 1855, to Lafayette 1883


Livestock arrived on the banks of Bayou Teche long before 1766.  Feral horses and cattle derived from Spanish efforts to colonize Texas constituted part of the French Trade with Native Americans during the early eighteenth century. As the French and Spanish increasingly settled the Louisiana-Texas frontier, a contraband trade developed in which cattle made up part of the eastward flow. 

French-speaking pioneers arrived as early as 1745 and established cattle ranches on the Bayou Teche. Cattle became the first cash crop of the Opelousas / Attakapas region.

The challenges facing drovers as they moved cattle across the middle Atchafalaya Basin as only we Spillway Sportsman can understand were many. Small bayous that off chute the major stream, hundreds of sloughs, snakes and alligators, mosquitoes and thick humidity was daunting.  Lost of cows by drowning and not to be overlooked, drowning of cowboys.

Know the Heritage

1. Cattle drives started in Louisiana before the famous Cattle drives in Texas and old west.
2. The Louisiana cattle drive era started in the Atchafalaya Heritage area, by French-speaking pioneers.
3. Cattle drives (Pousser Des Betes) across the basin are really almost Lost History. How many times have you read or heard of this history? Share & Preserve the  Heritage.
4. Cattle drives were able to cross the heart of the Atchafalaya Basin because the basin was a lot drier in the 18 th century and the first part of 19 century before the Europeans started modifying the hydrology of the Mississippi River.
5. Acadians of the east and west Atchafalaya Basin (Lafourche and Teche) were thought to not have communicated very much because of the Atchafalaya Basin acting a physical barrier. But records prove, even though their folklife developed differently because of the environments they lived in, at least in the 18 and early 19 centuries they interacted frequently.
6. Bayou Names, like Bayou Courtableau, Bayou Sorrel, Lake Dauterive, and Bayou Grevemberg are named after the landowners of the Bayou Teche Vacherie’s.


I want to express my appreciation & thanks to Stella  Carline Tanoos for helping to gather documents and peer review for the supplement on Cattle Drives (Pousser Des bêtes, Lost History of the Atchafalaya). The information Stella provided was of great help in telling the story.


Sources / References:

1. Stella Carline Tanoos, Lost history of Louisiana, Louisiana Cattle drives, powerpoint presentation, unpublished, 2018
2. Tim Hebert,, Cajuns in the 17th & 18 century
3. Steven A. Cormier, Acadians in gray; Appendices,; Acadian Communities in Louisiana
4.CenturyArchaeological and Historical Studies in the White Castle Gap Revetment, Iberville Parish, Louisiana; Cultural Resources Laboratory Texas A& M University, college station, Texas 77843, January 1982; prepared for Department of the army, U.S. Army Engineer District, New Orleans, Report PD-RC-82-02
5 Donald J. Arceneaux, A New Look at the Initial Acadian Settlement Location in the Attakapas; 06-10-2015                                                                                                                                                      6. William Reeves, From Tally Ho to Forest Home, The History of Two Louisiana Plantations; Chapter 1;                                                                                                                                                  7. Le Poste Des Opelousas À La Louisiane;
8. Water Route from the Opelousas to the Mississippi In 1791; By Lyle Givens Williams; originally published in the Attakapas Gazette, Vol. 5-1, pg. 5, 1970. View archived document here
9. Andrew Sluyter; The Role Of Blacks In Establishing Cattle Ranching In Louisiana In The Eighteenth Century; Louisiana State University, June 27, 2017
10. Malcolm F Vidrine, William R. Fontenot, Charles M. Allen, Bruno Bosari, and Larry Allen, Parie Cajuns and the Cajun Prairie, A history, 17 th, N.A. Prairie, Conference; 220 -224 2001
11. W. T. Block; Bellowing Cows Marked First Trail To New Orleans Reprinted from Beaumont Enterprise, about 1975, exact date unknown; also in Block, Frontier Tales of The Texas-Louisiana Borderlands, MSS, pp. 153-158, in Lamar and Tyrrell libraries.
12. Maxfield Ludlow Map, LA. State Archives, Historical Maps, 1815
13. Jim Bradshaw: Cattle Feud Had Big Impact On Louisiana History;
14. Attakapas Gazette, The Grevembergs, Early Cattle Ranchers of the Attakapas, May 14, 2011
15. Marianne Allen Corradi , Excerpts From The D’hauterive, Billaud And Allied Families Of Louisiana – Attakapas Gazette 2013/14
16. Henry L Abbot, Department of Gulf Map #8, Atchafalaya Basin, Feb. 8, 1863;
17. Jim Bradshaw, The Cradle of French Louisiana; Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser, July 29, 1997
18. Milton B. Newton, Jr, The Journal of John Landreth, Surveyor an Expedition to the Gulf Coast, November 15, 1818 - May 19, 1819
19. Jane Vidrine, A Man Can Stand, Yeah: Ranching Traditions in Louisiana, Folklife in Louisiana,
20.Francis  Duplessis, Plaquemine survey, Oct. 1794  Louisiana State Archives , Genealogical Society of Utah Microfilm:  1766-1929, Accession P1985-4, Reel 6.