CDV- Lt. Col. James O’Brien- 48th MVM- KIA Port Hudson

This image came from the 1st Lieutenant Francis Gilbert Ogden Album, regimental adjutant for the 48th Mass.

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This carte de visite of Lt. Colonel James O’Brien of the 48th Massachusetts Infantry came from the photo album of 1st Lt. and Mrs Francis Gilbert Ogden, regimental adjutant.  The image has no back mark and could very well have been taken at Baton Rouge (or elsewhere in the Dept. of the Gulf). He is wearing sword belt with hangers attached to his cavalry saber. Forage cap on his knee and wearing thigh-high boots.

One ink spot and nothing else to speak of for this very good- fine quality image.

James O’Brien,  an Irish emigrant from Charlestown, Mass. was slated to take command of the 48th Massachusetts, but the political appointment of Eben F. Stone as the colonel, placed O’Brien second in command. Having been commissioned in December of 1862, He and the regiment arrived at Baton Rouge, La., February 1, 1863. The 48th had its first combat assignment in mid March, when their duties were that of reconnaissance toward the heavily defended Port Hudson.

It wasn’t until May 22nd that the regiment saw its first combat, at the Battle of Plain Store, where they suffered 2 killed, 7 wounded, and 11 wounded, effectively denied the confederates their last route of escape from Port Hudson. Lt.Col. O’Brien led the assault from a position without federal artillery support, while being exposed to enemy artillery. In the confusion, O’Brien called a retreat in order to reorganize his men, while another captain in the regiment rallied his company in an advanced position, subsequently having to withdrawal his company as well.

O’Brien’s superior commander in the field was Major General C.C. Augur, who witnessed the assault, and pretty much took blame for the fail maneuver, but encouraged O’Brien to be more aggressive in future. On the 27th, 200 volunteers were asked for to assault the confederate lines, and after the retreat a few days earlier, Augur prompted O’Brien to command the “Forlorn Hope.” Colonel O’Brien was killed along with 5 others, and 41 wounded of the 93 Massachusetts men (the 116th New York Infantry made up he difference in the 200 man unit).

Interestingly, when O’Brien’s body was recovered from the field of battle, at the most forward of the line, it was later discovered when examining his wound (a bullet through the heart), while removing his clothing, the bullet that killed him had fallen out. O’Brien had been wearing an iron “Bullet Proof” breastplate, the bullet went completely through his body and its progress was halted by the rear iron plating.

It was a year before his body was transported back to Charlestown, Mass.

A great image for a gallant officer.

I would suggest reading a great account of James O’brien’s life and military career in an article by Ronald S. Coddington.


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Weight .5 lbs