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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: An engraving of the head and shoulders of an old man; he is bald on top, with a thin beard and moustache. He wears a suit with thin, short lapels and a Southern tie, and has a pensive air. It is Louis Hébert, a Confederate general, whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

General Louis Hébert

The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Thirty-Second Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 8th, 1901.

 p126  Louis Hébert
No. 1233. Class of 1845.
Died, January 7, 1901, near Breaut's Bridge, La., aged 80.

General Hébert, was a man whose native ability would have won for him almost any position or place to which he might have aspired had he but chosen to enter intoº active competition with the great world. No one could have been more deeply regretted at his death than was General Louis Hébert, of the parish of St. Martins,º La. He came from one of the oldest and most aristocratic French-American or Creole  p127 families in the State. The two sons of the house attained a distinction never before his time reached by graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Paul Hébert, the eldest son of the Héberts, graduated at the head of the class of 1840. This was the class of General W. T. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sherman, of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George H. Thomas, of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Richard S. Ewell, a distinguished officer in the old United States First Regiment of Dragoons and later a Confederate Lieutenant General, commanding one of the most famous corps in the army of Northern Virginia.

1Louis Hébert, a brother of Paul, followed him at the United States Military Academy as his successor. Louis entered the Academy in 1841 and graduated third in his class in 1845. At that time, as now, the cadets graduating among the first five in class standing were assigned to the Corps of Engineers. The graduation of two brothers, one succeeding the other, with such high class standing, is a circumstance that never occurred before that date.

General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant, who graduated in the class of 1843, speaking while he was President, of his experiences at West Point, said:

"In mathematics I was rather apt after I got fairly imbued with the subject. But we had a man there during my term of four years who was really a mathematical phenomenon. He was from Louisiana, and his name was Louis Hébert. He had a brother who preceded him from the same district, who graduated at the head of his class in 1840. No problem in differential or integral calculus or conic sections ever gave him a moment's bother or required any study. While the rest of his class had to work and sweat to keep up in the higher mathematics, Hébert would come into his room, pick up his calculus, or whatever the mathematics was, take his slate, and, if it were a set of problems, he would finish one after the other with the same ease and certainty that he would have exercised had they been sums in  p128 simple arithmetic. Then he had one of the kind of minds that is adapted to anything. He acquired history and mental and moral philosophy with the same ease and certainty that he exercised in conquering the terrific course of mathematics that confronts the cadet who wishes to graduate from West Point.

Professor Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles Davies, of the class of 1817,º was Professor of Mathematics during the time the Hébert brothers were at the Military Academy. 'It has been ever to me a curious thing that the French mind always is so apt in mathematics,' said he once in discussing the matter. 'The general tendency of the French nature is popularly supposed to be frivolous. But all our best mathematics come from France. These Hébert brothers bear out the theory that the French genius is essentially mathematical.' "

Louis Hébert was graduated third in his class. He could have been first had he given a little more attention to American history and constitutional law, both of which were in the West Point course then. He stood well up in them, but was not first, and in consequence had to graduate third, very greatly to his father's disgust, who thought he would have done as well as Paul. "Oh, I'm willing Paul should have the honors — all the Alma Mater can bestow upon him. Besides, he deserves them."

When the war of 1861‑65 began, Louis Hébert, like a great many of his people, was opposed to the secession. "We had better have one strong nation than two weak ones," he said. But when the State of Louisiana seceded, he offered his services to Thomas Overton Moore, then Governor of the State.

At the beginning of the Civil War he entered the army of the Confederate States as Colonel of the third Louisiana Infantry, which was a well-drilled and well-equipped organization, made up of the best material of the State, and was placed in the brigade of General Ben McCulloch.

In the battle of Wilson's Creek it was McCulloch's command that encountered Sigel. General McCulloch, in his report of the battle, says: "When we arrived near the enemy's battery  p129 we found that Reid's battery had opened upon it, and it was already in confusion. Advantage was taken of it, and soon the Louisianians were gallantly charging the guns and swept the canoneersº away. Five guns were here taken."

On the 7th of March, 1862, at the battle of Pea Ridge, while McCulloch and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McIntosh were preparing to head a charge which promised success, they were suddenly struck in the flank by an overwhelming force of the enemy. McCulloch and McIntosh were killed, and Hébert, with a number of his officers and men, were captured.

On May 26, 1862, Colonel Hébert was commissioned as a Brigadier General, and, after having been exchanged he had the Second Brigade of Little's division of Price's army in North Mississippi.

At the battle of Iuka, Hébert's brigade bore the brunt of the attack by Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Rosecrans' two divisions.

Reinforced by Martin's brigade, they drove the enemy back, capturing nine guns and bivouacking upon the ground which they had won.

On account of heavy reinforcements to the enemy, Price retreated near daylight of the next morning. After this Hébert was for a time in command of Little's division. In brigade command he was at the battle of Corinth, and when Price returned to the trans-Mississippi he was left under the command of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pemberton, whose fortunes he and his men shared in the battles and siege of Vicksburg.

After the fall of that heroic city, Hébert's brigade was, as soon as exchanged, assigned to the army of Tennessee, while General Hébert was sent to North Carolina and put in charge of the heavy artillery in the Cape Fear Department, under command of Major General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Whiting.

He continued to act as Chief Engineer of the Department of North Carolina until the close of the war.

When the war was closed and General Grant became President he gave General Louis Hébert some valuable engineering contracts  p130 in connection with Louisiana and Texas rivers and bayous. With these he was able to repair his wrecked fortunes to a very considerable extent. His charming plantation home on the Upper Teche was always the seat and center of a cultivated and refined circle of friends. With politics or political measures he never meddled. He died as he had ever lived, the highest type of the educated soldier and the cultured southern gentleman.

General Hébert was the son of Hon. Valery Hébert, one of the foremost citizens of Iberville, and a first cousin of ex‑Governor P. O. Hébert.​a He married Miss Lambremont, sister of Mrs. Jos. A. Richard of Bayou Goula and an aunt of Senator Lambremont of St. James parish. By this marriage he had three sons, but only two survive him. With the exception of Mrs. (General) Walter H. Stevens of Washington City, Mrs. Isbel of Shreveport and Mrs. Harle of New Orleans, his sisters, six in number, are dead. He had three brothers who died many years ago.


The Author's Note:

1 Note — Paul O. Hébert and Louis Hébert were cousins and foster brothers.

Thayer's Note:

a This is very bad editing on the part of whoever assembled the obituary; Governor Paul Octave Hébert is the same man as Paul Hébert already mentioned earlier.

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