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Chapter 41: the Red River expedition, under Major-General N. P. Banks, assisted by the Navy under Rear-Admiral David D. Porter.

  • The origin, objects and plan of the expedition.
  • -- the naval vessels and troops assemble at the mouth of the Red River. -- removal of obstructions. -- capture of the Confederate camp at Simmsport. -- attack and capture of Fort de Russy. -- arrival of the fleet and troops at Alexandria. -- up the falls. -- the abominable cotton traffic. -- General A. J. Smith's “ragged guerillas.” -- bridge of cotton. -- advance on Shreveport. -- Banks meets a reverse near Pleasant Hill. -- battle at Sabine cross Roads. -- Confederates make good use of Banks' cannon and Army wagons. -- battle at Pleasant Hill. -- Banks victorious, but orders a retreat to Grand Ecore. -- retreat of the fleet impeded. -- engagement between the Osage and Lexington and 2,500 Confederates under General Green. -- reports of Lieutenant -- Commander Selfridge and General Kilby Smith. -- the Army and Navy at Grand Ecore. -- minor engagements. -- battle at Cane River. -- the Eastport blown up. -- the attack on the little Cricket. -- fearful scene of carnage. -- the Juliet disabled. -- batteries engaged along the River. -- dissatisfaction of the Army. -- the squadron in a bad position.

No official account detailing the particulars of this unfortunate expedition was forwarded by General Banks until long after the expedition failed.

A question has been standing for many years as to who originated it, and this has been settled by the highest authority. General Grant, in his Memoirs, says that the expedition originated with General Halleck, who urged General Banks, with all his authority, to undertake it. This is, without doubt, the origin of the affair.

After the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, General Sherman proposed to Admiral Porter an expedition to Shreveport, La., via Red River; but on careful inquiry it was found that the water was unusually low for the season of the year, and therefore the expediency of a movement was doubted. But, as General Sherman was anxious to undertake the expedition. and promised to be in Natchez in the latter part of February, 1864, Admiral Porter ordered the following vessels to be ready near the mouth of Red River to accompany the Army whenever the latter should commence its march: the Essex, Benton, Lafayette, Choctaw, Chillicothe. Ozark, Louisville, Carondelet. Eastport, Pittsburg, Mound City, Osage, Neosho, Ouichita, Fort Hindman. Lexington, Cricket, Gazelle. Juliet, and Black Hawk (flagship). This squadron comprised the most formidable part of the Mississippi fleet, only the lighter vessels being left to protect the Mississippi, the Ohio, and their tributaries; for, supposing that the Army would send a large force into the interior of Louisiana, Admiral Porter determined there should be no want of floating batteries for the troops to fall back on in case of disaster.

The Admiral had written to General Sherman that he did not think the time propitious for ascending Red River, and [495] when he arrived in Natchez he found that Sherman had gone to New Orleans to see General Banks. The impression was that he went there to obtain Banks' co-operation in the great raid through the South, which Sherman afterwards so successfully accomplished without Banks' assistance.

By looking at the map, it will be readily seen how valuable a position Mobile would have been at such a time if held by the Union troops, its railroad system connecting with all the Southern roads, by which Sherman could have been supplied with provisions and stores, as well as reinforcements of men in case of necessity, while the straggling forces of the enemy between him and the Gulf would have been cut off. It would strike the military observer that to insure complete success Mobile should have been captured at the time Sherman started on his raid, which would have placed the entire country between him and the sea at the disposal of the Federal forces.

The Black Hawk, Admiral Porter's flag-ship.

Fortunately, as matters turned out, General Sherman was able to overcome all obstacles that impeded his progress, and to subsist his army on the country through which he passed.

At the time Sherman went to New Orleans to see General Banks, the latter had under his command at least 50,000 men, and could have easily captured Mobile, then garrisoned by only about 10,000 troops; but this place, so easy of access and so easily captured from the land side, was left unnoticed until the latter part of the war. Its capture was then undertaken by Rear-Admiral Thatcher and General Canby. The result was the loss of several vessels blown up by torpedoes, which the Confederates were able to lay down with impunity.

General Banks had been writing to Admiral Porter up to the latter part of February, 1864, to co-operate with him in an advance into the Red River region, and in his answers the Admiral had tried to impress on the General the impropriety of such a movement at the then low stage of water, recommending him to wait until there was a prospect of a rise.

The General, however, insisted that he had certain information of a rise in Red River, and hinted that if he failed in his expedition it would be for want of assistance from the Navy. The Admiral therefore determined that, if Sherman gave up the enterprise, he would co-operate with Banks. The former had never allowed the military authorities to wait for him when anything was to be done to carry on their work, and did not propose to do so on this occasion, although he felt that he was being entangled in an embarrassing predicament, from which it would require all his energies to extricate himself.

When Sherman returned from New Orleans, he informed the Admiral of his proposed advance into the interior of the South, and having abandoned the idea of undertaking the Red River expedition, he had promised General Banks to lend him 10,000 men, under the command of General A. J. Smith, whom he felt sure would cooperate with the Navy in the most energetic manner. And now, finding that Banks was determined to start on this expedition regardless of consequences, Admiral Porter resolved to do every thing in his power to assist his military operations.

To make his success certain, General Halleck had determined to send an army into Arkansas under General Steele. This force reached Little Rock early in March, and, after providing themselves with stores and munitions of war. departed from that place on the 24th. and, after a hard march, arrived at Arkadelphia. March 29th, where, for the present. we will leave them.

General Banks had informed the Admiral that he would march an army of 36,000 men to Alexandria, La.. and would meet him at that place on the 17th of March. On the 10th of March the naval vessels had assembled at the mouth of Red River, and, on the 11th, General A. J. Smith arrived with 10,000 excellent soldiers in transports. After inspecting the forces on shore, the Army and Navy moved up the river on the 12th, the fleet of gun-boats followed by the Army transports. As the largest vessels could barely pass the bar at the mouth of Red River, owing to the low stage of [496] water, the Admiral could not cherish any very favorable hopes for the future; but the party were fairly embarked on the expedition, and the only course was to continue and do the best that could be done.

The Confederates, having been notified that a movement would soon be made up Red River, had used all their energies in preparing to repel the invaders. Some eight miles below Fort De Russy they commenced a series of works near the Bend of the Rappiones, commanding a difficult pass of the river, and placed formidable obstructions to prevent the passage of the gunboats.

The fleet of gun-boats, under Rear-Admiral Porter, starting out, followed by the army transports, having on board 10,000 soldiers, under Gen. A. J. Smith, May 12, 1864. (from an original pen-and-ink drawing by Rear-Admiral H. Walke.)

These obstructions consisted of a line of heavy piles driven deep into the muddy bottom, and extending quite across the river, supported by a second tier of shorter ones below, on which rested braces and ties from the upper line. Immediately below the piles, a raft of heavy timber, well secured, extended across the river, a portion of the logs resting on the bottom. Finally, a forest of trees had been cut from the banks and floated down upon the piles, making an apparently impassable obstruction.

When the Admiral found the character of these obstructions, he feared that they would delay the vessels so long that the enemy would escape from Fort De Russy, and destroy all their stores and munitions of war. General Smith and he agreed, therefore, that it was best to land the troops: so the Admiral turned off into the Atchafalaya River with the Benton, Lexington, Chillicothe, Louisville, Mound City, Carondelet, Ouichita, Pittsburg, and Gazelle, followed by the troops in transports; while the rest of the gun-boats pushed on up Red River, with instructions to remove the obstructions, but not to attack Fort De Russy until the flagship's arrival, or until General Smith's troops came in sight.

The enemy had at this place some 5,000 men, and the only chance of capturing them was by a combined movement of the Army and Navy.

At about noon, on the 12th of March, the Federal forces arrived at Simmsport, and found the enemy posted in force some three miles back of that place. The commanding officer of the Benton, Lieutenant-Commander James A. Greer, was ordered to land his crew and drive in the enemy's pickets; and, General Smith's transports coming up, the troops landed and took possession of the Confederate camp, the enemy retreating towards Fort De Russy.

That night General Smith concluded to follow the enemy by land, while the Admiral agreed to proceed up the Red River, with all the gun-boats and transports, and meet the Army at Fort De Russy.

In the meantime, the gun-boats that had been sent on in advance had reached the [497] obstructions, and their crews were endeavoring to force a passage. It was a herculean job, but the energetic sailors had had too much experience in the strange episodes of the civil war to quail before such obstacles. The piles near the banks were first removed, and a rush of water came through, carrying away the sides of the banks; then, by pulling up piles and ramming the obstructions with the iron-clads, an opening was made in twelve hours for the passage of the fleet.

The Eastport, Osage, Fort Hindman, and Cricket proceeded up within a short distance of Fort De Russy, where the advance of General Smith had arrived, and there was quite a brisk firing of artillery and small arms. The gun-boats, however, could not take part in this skirmish without risking the safety of the Federal soldiers. A 100-pound rifle-shell was fired at the water battery, which burst over it, and drove the enemy out; but to have continued the fire upon the main fort would have injured friends more than foes, the former being in a direct line with the fire of the gun-boats.

The progress of the fleet around from the Atchafalaya had necessarily been slow, encumbered with so many transports, and the barricade had partly filled up again, so that it took several hours to pass through the obstructions; but the flag-ship reached the fort in time to see the enemy evacuating it, and the Union soldiers taking possession.

The fort was originally garrisoned with 5,000 men, under General Walker, who had marched out to meet the Federal Army, leaving 24 officers and 300 men to defend it; but, if Walker wished to meet Smith's forces, he was disappointed, for the latter saw nothing of him.

On his march from Simmsport, General Smith was greatly annoyed by sharp-shooters, and was compelled to bridge innumerable bayous. When he reached Monksville, within three miles of the fort, he was informed that a strong force of the enemy would dispute his passage. The 3d Indiana Battery was placed in position, and General Mower formed his men for the attack. The first line was under the immediate command of Colonel W. J. Shaw, 14th Iowa Infantry, commanding 2d Brigade, 3d Division, 15th Army Corps, composed of the 13th and 32d Iowa and the 3d Indiana Battery. The space intervening between the Union troops and the fort was obstructed with fallen trees; on the left of the line, a thick wood afforded an excellent cover for riflemen.

It was now 4 P. M., and, although the Union troops had been marching and building bridges all day, they came up to their work as fresh as if they had just broken camp. Part of the 14th Iowa were deployed as skirmishers to within three hundred yards of the enemy's works, occupying some rifle-pits which had been thrown up by the Confederates, and during the progress of the fight did good execution as sharp-shooters.

In the meantime, the 58th Illinois, 8th Wisconsin and 29th Iowa, who had come up from the rear, were advancing to obtain position for attack. The fire from the fort all this time was rapid, but did little execution. Shot, shell and musketry were passing between the combatants for two hours, while the naval vessels were unable to fire for fear of killing their friends. At the end of that time, all of Smith's troops having got into position, they advanced and carried the works without difficulty, capturing 24 officers, 275 men and 10 pieces of artillery.

This affair was well managed on the part of the Army,whose loss was small; General Smith was an able commander, and his soldiers were veterans — each man, as it proved afterwards, was a host in himself.

It was pleasant to see the United States flag floating over a work which had been built with so much trouble and expense to the Confederates, and the Navy regretted that it could not take a more important part in the affair.

Their operations at Fort De Russy showed the fortitude of the Federal soldiers; and, if the rest of Banks' men were of the same material, there was no reason why the army should not reach Shreveport in triumph.

An order had been sent to Lieutenant-Commander S. L. Phelps to push on with the fastest and lightest-draft gun-boats to Alexandria. as soon as the army should reach the fort, in order to seize any steamers that might be lying there with steam down. Owing to obstructions in the river, the dispatch-boat carrying the message was delayed five hours, and Phelps reached Alexandria just thirty minutes too late, the swiftest of the naval vessels arriving just in time to see six steamers escaping up “the Falls.” One of them, the Countess, having grounded, was burned by the enemy.

The fleet had thus reached Alexandria on the 15th of March. two days earlier than had been promised General Banks. On the day following, there were nine gun-boats lying off the town, and one hundred and eighty sailors were landed, to occupy the place and take possession of any Confederate Government property that might be stored there. The inhabitants were respectfully treated, and everything was as quiet as a New England village.

General Smith remained behind a few days to destroy the formidable works which he had captured, and a gun-boat was left [498] at Fort De Russy to try some experiments with rifle-guns on three casemated water batteries covered with several thicknesses of railroad iron. A little experience satisfied the experimenters that such works could not resist the heavy naval artillery, and orders were given to blow them up; thus destroying the formidable barrier intended to close Red River against the fleet. For their dimensions, these works were as strong as any ever built in the Confederacy. After 3,000 pounds of powder had been exploded, there remained three huge excavations, while the whole vicinity was strewn with broken timbers and twisted iron, presenting

Capture of Fort Ode Russy.

a scene more easily imagined than described.

On the 16th, General Mower reached Alexandria with about 5,000 men, in transports; and, having formed a rather low estimate of the enemy's forces in this region, he urged Admiral Porter to push on at once with the force they then had, and try and get to Shreveport in advance of the main army.

The Confederate general, Walker, had exhibited very little enterprise; for, with the 5,000 men under his command, he might have seriously impeded the Federal advance, and then at Fort De Russy have offered a stubborn resistance to further progress up the river. This was General Mower's idea, apparently forgetting that the gun-boats could, in a very short time, have destroyed forts, troops and all, with their 100 guns. The Admiral endeavored to show General Mower, who was a fearless man, and in favor of pushing on regardless of obstacles, that the 5,000 troops were too few in number to defeat the 20,000 Confederates in the advance, who were well supplied with artillery. Besides, he urged that it would be very discourteous to General Smith to go forward without consulting him, and leave him, with only 5,000 men, unprotected by the gun-boats. Desperate as this scheme of Mower's appeared, we think it would have succeeded better than General Banks' movement on Shreveport a short time afterwards.

General Taylor had occupied Alexandria with 15,000 men, and had hurriedly decamped on the approach of the Army and Navy, leaving three pieces of artillery behind.

On the 18th of March, General A. J. Smith arrived, ready to march at a moment's notice when Banks should give the order. Meanwhile, there was no news whatever of General Banks' whereabouts. His cavalry arrived on the 19th, and on the 25th, eight days after he had agreed to [499] meet the Admiral at Alexandria, he appeared upon the scene. Then commenced a series of delays, which culminated in disasters, that have left a reproach upon the Red River expedition which time cannot efface; for, no matter how gallant the officers and men may have been, they share in the humiliation brought upon them by an unmilitary commander, who, at the head of nearly 40,000 men, fully equipped, was driven out of a country they could have held forever had their leader been possessed of the qualifications of a military man.

We sincerely believe that, had General A. J. Smith undertaken this expedition with only his 10,000 well-tried soldiers, supported by the fleet of gun-boats, they would have all been in Shreveport by the 5th of April; for there was no reason to entertain much fear of General Taylor and his troops, already greatly demoralized by the Union success so far.

If Taylor could not, with 15,000 men and heavy fortifications, hold the entrance to his country, how could he expect to resist the march of 10,000 veterans, supported by more than 100 heavy guns on board the war-vessels? There were never better soldiers than those under General Smith, and both he and General Mower were worthy to lead them.

When Smith's command joined the expedition they had just finished a long march, were greatly in want of clothing, had few wagons, and were without tents, yet they were the happiest-looking soldiers ever seen under arms. It was astounding how these men had learned to live upon the enemy. They seemed to be independent of the commissary department,every soldier was himself a commissary; and as for tents or barracks, they did very well without them. In less than twenty-four hours after their arrival in Alexandria, they had rummaged the country for ten miles up and down the river, one of the most fertile districts in the United States, where all their wants could be supplied without expense to the Government.

Here Colonel Shaw luxuriated with his brigade on the plantation of ex-Governor Moore, the prime mover in the secession of Louisiana, who now had ample opportunity Of seeing for himself how the secession matter worked. It was a just retribution, for, notwithstanding the hospitality of the South, we have no doubt the exgovernor begrudged the soldiers the good things they were enjoying at his expense.

Notwithstanding the Federal soldiers were scattered in all directions, they were not troubled by the Confederates, who hovered around in detached bands of a few hundred men, apparently as much demoralized as General Taylor and his army of 15,000.

The Federal forces were on the qui vive, however, for anything that might happen, and one dark, rainy night, General Mower, with a party of his men, fell in with a courier bearing dispatches to General Taylor, who was encamped some nine miles in the rear. Mower, assuming the character of a Confederate officer, threatened to hang the courier as a Yankee spy, when the latter, to show his good faith, led the supposed Confederate troops right into the enemy's camp, which was captured with 22 officers, 260 privates, 4 pieces of artillery, 150 horses, and all the arms and munitions. Had there been an opportunity to capture the other outlying parties, General Mower would have accomplished it, but the Confederate commander-in-chief was a wary old soldier, disposed to act on the defensive.

It was not until the 25th of March that General Banks' infantry commenced arriving under the command of General Franklin. It was as fine a body of troops as were ever seen, and the best dressed and equipped of any soldiers in the Southwest. Notwithstanding a march of twenty-one miles, they came in quite fresh and full of spirits.

But more than a week of valuable time had been lost since the 17th instant, the day on which General Banks promised to meet the Navy at Alexandria, and the conclusion arrived at was that the General did not possess the military virtue of punctuality which the Navy had recognized in Generals Grant, Sherman, A. J. Smith, and other officers with whom they had hitherto cooperated.

As soon as the Admiral reached Alexandria, he commenced getting the vessels above the Falls, although the water was falling in the river at the rate of an inch a day, and the larger vessels had not more than six inches to spare. He trusted to good fortune to get the vessels down again, or to that great rise in the water which General Banks had been informed would certainly come in May or June.

General Banks had apparently come into the Red River country intending to stay, for he was provided with everything necessary to maintain a large army. Transports with provisions, clothing and munitions of war were daily arriving, and large buildings in Alexandria converted into store-houses were rapidly filled up.

By the 29th of March, the Admiral had all his vessels over the Falls, except the Eastport, a long, heavy iron-clad, which detained the fleet two days. As soon as she was over, Lieutenant-Commander Phelps was directed to proceed to Grand Ecore and be ready to cover the army when it should arrive there. The following named vessels were under his command: the Eastport, Cricket, Mound City, Chillicothe, [500] Fort Hindman, Lexington, Osage, and Neosho.

The week lost caused the expedition irreparable injury, for the enemy was not only enabled to recruit his forces, but the river had fallen six inches, which was a great deal for vessels having so little to spare.

The general tried to lay the blame for his detention on the gun-boats, but this would hardly answer, since the light-draft vessels, mounting over fifty guns, had passed the Falls and were ready to ascend the river before Banks reached the rendezvous. The six days General Banks passed in Alexandria prior to his onward movement were frittered away. He moved into comfortable quarters and spent his time in ordering an election in the parish of Rapides, establishing people in power who professed to be Union men — a proceeding to which there could have been no objection if the objects of the expedition had not thereby been neglected.

General Banks came from New Orleans to Alexandria in a large steamer called the Black Hawk. This vessel, known as “General Banks' flag-ship,” was of the same name as Admiral Porter's flag-ship, an unpleasant circumstance, since it happened that the Navy incurred some of the odium which attached to the transport steamer. She was loaded with cotton bagging, rope, etc., and became the rendezvous of a motley collection of people, cotton speculators, and camp followers. Everybody began to surmise that this expedition was intended for other purposes than the conquest of the Red River country. The story then told has since proved to have had some foundation, and is a hitherto unwritten piece of history.

Soon after General Banks took command at New Orleans, he had given several passes to get cotton from the Red River country, but it had been seized by the gun-boats along the river, and turned over to the agents of the Treasury, or sent to an Admiralty Court for adjudication.

Many persons had urged upon President Lincoln the importance of getting out of Red River all the cotton possible for the use of Union manufacturers, instead of forcing the Confederates to ship it abroad, which, perhaps, was a wise idea, if it could have been done under proper restrictions; but such a course opened the door to a great deal of dishonesty, besides affording an opportunity for supplying the Confederates with arms and munitions, of which they stood greatly in need.

Two naval officers captured parties of Confederates--military men — in the act of loading steamers with cotton for New Orleans, the said persons being supplied with passes purporting to be by authority of General Banks. No doubt, they expected to receive, in return, money or articles of value, when the naval officers arrested them, and would have seized the steamers had not the latter shoved off and left their friends in the lurch.

We do not mean to say that General Banks exceeded his authority in these matters, but we know that it was calculated to prolong the war; and, as the naval commander had not been notified by the Government that facilities for getting out cotton would be granted to private citizens, he took upon himself the responsibility of putting a stop to the practice.

It was evident that this sort of traffic would soon demoralize the whole expedition, and probably defeat its every object. A gun-boat was stationed at the mouth of Red River, whose captain had orders not to permit any except naval vessels and Army transports to ascend. This, however, did not keep out the cotton agents, who managed to get up in the transports, not always to the satisfaction of General Banks.

On one occasion, a steamer loaded with stores of all kinds, and furnished with a permit from Washington to trade within the military lines, appeared at the mouth of the river. The Admiral refused to recognize the owner of this permit and ordered him to depart, which he was obliged to do, leaving a message to the effect that he would make it so hot for the naval officer in Washington that the latter would have to resign his command, etc., etc. On receiving this message, the commanding officer of the gun-boat at the mouth of the Red River was directed to seize the vessel and send her to Cairo. He chased her to Memphis, where, on arriving, he found the steamer had unloaded all her contraband of war, otherwise she would have been condemned.

We mention these things to give some idea of the rush for the cotton region of Louisiana, and the demoralization likely to ensue had every speculator been allowed to go where he pleased under permits, or in any other way. There were Treasury agents enough authorized by Government to seize cotton, and there was nothing to warrant the presence of cotton purchasers on an expedition which had for its ostensible object the redemption of this region from secession.

It was only when the Army was in retreat, after the battle of Mansfield, that the supposed objects of the expedition were learned. It was stated that before Banks' army left New Orleans there was an arrangement that the General should go up Red River with a force before which the Confederates would retreat; that Banks would seize all the cotton in the country, for which he would give receipts, and that, on the arrival [501] of the cotton in New Orleans, the holders of the receipts were to receive five or six cents a pound as their share. General Banks' conduct gave some corroboration to these reports, and no evidence he afterwards gave before the Committee on the Conduct of the War eradicated the impression that they were true.

It was attempted to divert attention from Banks by trying to throw the responsibility on President Lincoln for giving permits to Butler and Casey; but those men derived little benefit from their license to trade — their cotton was taken from them, and they returned from the expedition wiser and poorer men.

As long as Admiral Porter had been associated with Generals Grant and Sherman in the midst of intricate and embarrassing operations, he had never to complain of the least want of courtesy on their part, and never had the slightest dispute with either of them. Now he was sorry to see a prospect of difficulties at the very outset of the expedition. The tone of some of the officials of Banks' army was so different from what he had been in the habit of witnessing that it created bad feeling at once — this extended not only to the Navy but to the corps of General A. J. Smith as well.

When Smith joined the expedition he had just finished a long march through the interior of the Confederacy, and his men were without proper clothing and other necessaries, and made a poor figure beside Banks' well-equipped troops; but when it came to actual warfare, they were famous fighters. They were men who had lain for months in the trenches at Vicksburg, had gone through the hardships of Chickasaw Bayou, had helped win Arkansas Post, etc., etc.; yet when Banks first saw these veterans, he exclaimed, “What, in the name of Heaven, did Sherman send me these ragged guerillas for?” At Mansfield he found these “ragged guerillas” saved the day and the honor of his army!

We have no doubt that when Banks saw his fine army under General Franklin, and was told how easily those troops had put the Confederates along the route to flight, he felt that he could do very well without the corps of A. J. Smith and the Navy. For this reason he treated General Smith with neglect from the first, although he took care to put that General in the advance. General Smith was a fearless, outspoken man, who felt that the cotton speculation would be the bane of the expedition, and did not hesitate to say so. He foresaw the misrepresentations that would be made of officers who would not lend themselves to the schemes of the cotton speculators.

It was very aggravating for an officer to find himself attacked in the newspapers at home while devoting all his energies to overcome the enemies of his country, and to be reviled by a lot of people who had neither the courage nor the inclination to take part in putting down the Rebellion — Northern “copperheads,” who did all in their power to shake the confidence of the public in the men at the head of the armies and fleets.

General Banks, having delayed long at Alexandria, directed General Smith's command to advance to Bayou Rapides, where the latter encamped on the 27th of March, 1864. On the 30th, part of Banks' army passed General Smith; but it was not until April 2d that Smith received orders to embark his men in the transports, and proceed to Grand Ecore, where they disembarked, and encamped at Natchitoches, near by. No opposition had thus far been met with, and one or two guns fell into the hands of the Navy a few miles below Grand Ecore.

Up to this time the opinion seemed general that the Confederates did not intend to offer any opposition to the Federal advance, and that Kirby Smith, the Confederate general, would “adhere to his agreement” --viz., to let the Army and the contractors get all the cotton they could find. The very deliberate movements of the Army gave color to these reports, and the large number of empty steam transports strengthened the idea that it was intended to load them with cotton. Besides these, there were seven or eight hundred army wagons, ostensibly to carry rations for General Banks' division, while A. J. Smith had hardly any wagons.

Anticipating the wants of the Army, the Navy brought along with them two of the large barges built some time before by General Fremont to use in making a bridge. These were turned over to the military authorities at Grand Ecore. The second day after the arrival of the expedition, Lieutenant-Commander Phelps, of the Eastport, reported to the Admiral that these two barges, which would hold three or four hundred bales each, and another barge belonging to Butler and Casey, were being filled with cotton, under superintendence of an officer of General Banks' staff, the cotton being hauled to the bank by army wagons. Lieutenant-Commander Phelps was directed, as soon as the barges were loaded, to seize the cotton as prize to the Navy, which was accordingly done; but, soon after, the Admiral received a request from General Banks to turn the barges over to the Army, that he might bridge the river at Grand Ecore. This request was immediately complied with, and a fine bridge was made for the passage of wagons, although the cotton, after a day or two's use, looked much the worse for wear. The Army [502] held the barges and the cotton, and they finally had to be used in the construction of the great dam at Alexandria.

The Confederates had about 16,000 men in the field, and the Federals about 36,000; but up to this time the former had retreated without resistance, leaving the Federals their deserted camping-grounds, the best positions, and all the cotton in the country. It was so unlike anything seen before in expeditions against the enemy, that people could not help suspecting an understanding of some kind with the Confederates, otherwise they would have set fire to every bale of cotton rather than permit any to fall into Union hands.

On the 6th of April, all arrangements for an advance having been made, Banks' army, composed of part of the 13th and 19th army corps, under Franklin and Emory, and a cavalry division of about 3,500 men, under General Lee, marched from Nachitoches. General A. J. Smith followed on the 7th with his division of the 16th corps, excepting 2,500 men under General T. Kilby Smith, who had been sent to escort the transports carrying supplies. When the fleet started, there were about thirty of these transports in company, but their numbers were afterwards increased by the addition of some large empty steamers, which delayed the advance owing to their too great draft of water.

It was arranged that the naval vessels and transports were to meet the Army at Springfield Landing, about thirty miles below Shreveport, the third day after departure.

The difficulties of navigation were very great, as there were few pilots, and they were not familiar with the river channel as it then existed, it having changed very much within a year or two; but the fleet managed to surmount all obstacles, and reached the rendezvous within an hour of the time specified in the arrangement with General Banks. As the General was not very punctual, no one was surprised at his non-appearance. It was not supposed that 36,000 men would be long delayed by the 16,000 General Taylor had at that time between them and Shreveport, and the Navy wondered at not seeing the van of the Army at this point. Nothing was to be seen, and the solitude of the grave brooded over the spot.

The further advance of the transports was here prevented by a very large steamer called the New Falls City, that the Confederates had placed across the channel, her ends resting on the banks, and her hull, broken in the middle, resting on the bottom.

It required a great deal of trouble to get rid of this obstruction, and while the appointed officers were examining into the best ways and means of removing the vessel, the Admiral proposed to General Kilby Smith that they should reconnoitre the country on horseback. They had ridden about a mile when they saw a party of men crouching and running through the high grass and coming to a halt. The Admiral remarked to the General, “Banks has been defeated, or we wouldn't see those men here. If Banks was still advancing, the outposts would keep on the main road to Shreveport. If defeated, the enemy's look-outs would be watching for our arrival, and be ready to turn their whole force upon us, and it behoves us to be wary.”

It was then agreed upon between General Smith and the Admiral to land the artillery at once, and make a dash for a short distance, as if they intended an advance, which would start the Confederate look-outs off to report the landing; then the plan was to turn, and, embarking, proceed down the river until they could communicate with some part of the main army. This was rapidly accomplished, and late in the day the gun-boats and transports proceeded down the river in good order, prepared to give the enemy a warm reception if he should attack them. It was taken for granted if General Banks was defeated he would lose some of his artillery, and that the fleet would have it used against them sooner or later.

The movement proved to be a good one; the enemy were deceived, and, expecting to have the fleet at their mercy next morning, made no demonstration. All that night the vessels moved slowly down the Red River, and at 10 o'clock a courier from General Banks came on board the flag-ship, and informed the Admiral that the Army had met with a reverse, and was falling back to Pleasant Hill, about fifteen miles from the battle-ground of Mansfield, and thirty-five miles from Nachitoches. This point was sixty miles distant, and the victorious enemy was between the fleet and the Federal Army.

Orders came also for General Kilby Smith to return with his troops and transports to Grand Ecore, and the expedition proceeded towards that point as rapidly as the difficult navigation would permit. The gun-boats were placed so as to cover the transports, and the field-artillery was mounted on the upper decks of the latter; barricades were made for riflemen — in short, every possible preparation for the storm which was coming.

Here was a sudden collapse to what bid fair at one time to be a successful expedition, all owing to the unmilitary character of the commanding general, who ignored the advice of the generals under him. [503]

When General Banks concentrated his forces at Grand Ecore, it was supposed that he would take the road along the river, where he could at all times be supported by the 100 guns carried by the vessels of the Navy, and where he could be supplied by the Army transports, instead of encumbering his army with a multitude of wagons. It was thought that, as Banks got further into the heart of the enemy's country, he would adopt precautions against an attack from the 15,000 or 20,000 men under General Taylor, who might not know of the arrangements of the cotton speculators, if any such understanding did exist. Instead of taking precautions, General Banks started on his march as if the whole country was free from the enemy; and so certain was he of reaching his place of destination that he named Springfield Landing as the point where the fleet was to meet him with supplies.

His line of march was twenty miles away from the river, along a rough and narrow road, through a miserable country, covered with pine woods, with few inhabitants and very little water. All the knowledge Banks had of the country was what he could gather from Confederate sources. Instead of putting the infantry in the van, General Lee was sent in front with about 3,500 mounted infantry — badly mounted and worse drilled — with 150 heavy wagons in their rear, the infantry following some distance behind.

When General Banks' army was attacked on the 8th of April at Sabine Cross Roads, General A. J. Smith's division was ten miles in the rear, near Pleasant Hill, and, although they heard the roar of artillery, the first Smith's men knew of the disaster to the main army was from Colonel Clarke, who had ridden rapidly to inform them that the enemy had killed, wounded and captured over 2,000 Federal soldiers, had taken 150 wagons, all the stores, and 22 pieces of artillery. How all this was done can only be understood by examining Banks' line of march, which, it appears, was also his line of battle.

It seems the further Banks' army advanced into the country the deeper became the gullies and the worse became the roads, while the thick woods on all sides afforded a fine shelter for the enemy.

Up to the 8th of April it had rained heavily. General Franklin, who left Grand Ecore on the 6th, marched but seventeen miles on that and eighteen miles on the succeeding day, being much impeded by his large wagon train; and it seems General Lee was so far in advance that he could not rely on the whole of Franklin's force for support, as should have been the case. On the 7th, Lee's force had a severe skirmish with the enemy beyond Pleasant Hill, and, after some delay, a brigade of Franklin's infantry was sent to his assistance. Lee's cavalry were nothing more than infantry soldiers whom Banks had mounted, and as soon as fighting commenced they dismounted.

One can imagine how ill-arranged for battle was this army, with four regiments of dismounted horsemen in advance, mixed up with their horses, and fighting in gullies where they could be picked off by sharp-shooters ensconced in the thick woods. No wonder General Lee sent to Franklin for assistance, who answered through Colonel Clarke, of Banks' staff, that if he could not hold his position he must fall back upon the main body of the infantry. It would have been better, however, if Lee had fallen back when he first encountered the enemy's advance, and sent the wagons to the rear, for a finer chance to have them captured could not have been offered.

Colonel Clarke, finding that Franklin was indisposed to send any troops to support Lee, went to General Banks, who sent a verbal order to Franklin to send a brigade of infantry to report to Lee at daylight next morning. General Franklin then ordered General Ransom to send a brigade, or a division if he saw fit. The brigades were so small that Franklin thought a division would better carry out General Banks' views; but Ransom sent a brigade, with which General Lee was satisfied.

Notwithstanding the demonstrations of the enemy in front, Banks did not seem to think there was any likelihood of a pitched battle taking place. He gave an order, through Franklin, directing Lee to proceed as far as possible on the night of the 7th, with his whole train, in order to give the infantry room to advance on the 8th. The forces of General Lee only advanced one mile between the 7th and 8th of April, and on the latter date Lee reported by letter to General Franklin that the enemy were in stronger force apparently than the day previous. He says: “I advanced this morning with ten regiments of mounted infantry (dismounted), three regiments of cavalry and a brigade of infantry. We are driving them, but they injure us some. I do not hasten forward my trains, as I wish to see the result certain first.”

General Lee's idea was, perhaps, a good one, but he did not seem to realize that the enemy were leading him and his trains further into the trap; but General Banks should have seen this and withdrawn Lee in time, and pushed his infantry and artillery ahead to the attack.

Banks, however, does not appear to have kept in any position where he could see for himself what was going on, and seems to [504] have been influenced in a great degree by an officer of his staff. Only on the night of the 7th did General Banks arrive at Franklin's headquarters from Grand Ecore, although the fighting commenced that afternoon, and Lee complained of a want of troops to keep from being driven in. Banks did not go to the front until late on the 8th, and then sent word to Franklin that the enemy were prepared to make a strong stand at the point where they were holding Lee, and that he (Franklin) “had better make arrangements” (!!) to bring up his infantry, and pass everything on the road, and that he would send him word when to move. He thought Franklin had better send back and push the trains forward, as manifestly the Army would be able to make a rest there.

Now, whether General Banks wanted the troops to push forward and rest, or fight, does not appear; but, as far as one can learn from the reports of officers, Banks seemed to be resting that army a great deal, when thousands were anxious to push on and join in the fray.

It seems evident that General Lee did everything after he engaged the enemy that a man could with the force at his command — a force not suited for that particular kind of service; and when he found himself outnumbered he sent for reinforcements, when Banks dispatched to his assistance only 1,200 men. These were soon decimated, and 1,200 more were sent. Such small reinforcements amounted to nothing; and it does not require much military knowledge to see the folly of sending one small brigade of infantry to co-operate with a large body of cavalry in such an expedition.

From Lee's report it will appear that while the whole brigade of infantry was engaged on the 8th, only three regiments out of a whole division of cavalry were in action. The result, as General Lee expressed it, was that the first brigade of infantry “got very much embarrassed;” in other words, used up, and so Lee sent for another brigade. General Franklin protested strongly against thus sending brigade after brigade to be cut up in detail, but Banks gave the orders, and finding such halfway measures futile, directed Franklin to advance with a division of infantry, to be beaten in his turn.

The state of affairs was as follows: Lee some distance in advance of the wagon train had fought with the two brigades until he was cut up, had to retreat, and became mixed up with the wagon train and with the advancing division of Franklin's infantry, which in turn was driven back upon the train, the latter was jammed up, and when the time came for the artillery to retreat there was no way to get the guns through the train, and they had to be abandoned.

Lee was not to blame for having his division hampered by the wagon train. He had applied to General Franklin to allow his train to move to the rear of the infantry; but Franklin told him he must take care of his own train, that he (F.) had already 750 wagons to look out for, and 150 additional wagons would make his train so unwieldy that he could not get into camp at the end of his day's march. Franklin cannot be held responsible for the disaster, but the wagon-train was.

Apparently, General Banks started on this expedition as if there was to be no fighting, and he staved behind in Grand Ecore until the head of the army was fifty miles in advance, regardless of the circumstance that he might have been captured by Confederate stragglers. This, with the fact that he had so many wagons with his army, gave color to the stories that Banks and the cotton speculators were arranging about the bales that were to come down from Shreveport in empty army wagons and transports. The Confederates had no wagons worth mentioning until Banks had supplied them. A. J. Smith with 10,000 men had very few, and why Banks should require 900 for 30,000 men, who could sleep out of doors all the time much more comfortably than in tents, no man can tell. Had Banks understood the art of war, he would have ordered his trains to be parked when he saw that a battle was imminent.

It was not the intention of the enemy to bring on an engagement at the time it took place, but rather to draw the Federal troops as far into the interior as possible, and away from the gun-boats, into the marshes and bayous at Wallace's Lake, between Mansfield and Shreveport. In this difficult region the troops would have been entangled in swamps, and would have had to corduroy the roads for miles to get the trains along.

Had Banks been satisfied to let the cavalry go in advance, clearing the roads of outposts, and reporting the presence of the enemy's main body when they encountered it, all might have turned out well; but it appears he never gave himself much concern about the management of the Army until it was defeated.

He sailed up from New Orleans to Alexandria in a fine steamer, supplied with all comforts. He sailed again on the same vessel from Alexandria to Grand Ecore, and did not leave the latter place until Franklin's division had reached Pleasant Hill. Then, going to the front, and being ill-informed of the situation of affairs, Banks determined to win a battle without Franklin's aid.

If the cavalry had gone to the front alone [505] for merely its legitimate purposes, it would have marched slowly and cautiously; but, being reinforced by infantry, it got ahead faster than was prudent. Had the cavalry marched as it should have done, General A. J. Smith would have been at Pleasant Hill, only eight miles in the rear, the Army would have been in as compact a condition as could have been possible and the final result would have been different. Banks had probably never heard of the old rule, “Choose your own ground, and let the enemy attack you.” At all events, he went directly contrary to the maxim; but even then he would have been successful had he waited a day longer.

Banks had two officers of the regular army, Franklin and Emory, in command of divisions, but he seemed to ignore them until he got hard pushed. General C. P. Stone, his chief-of-staff, was a clever officer, but he set aside his opinions. He allowed the enemy to bring on a battle on ground over which the Army would have to pass by a narrow road through a pine forest, filled with a dense undergrowth, with no room to handle men, much less to have a dress parade of army wagons. The Army could only march in very narrow columns.

General Banks cannot say he did not know the position of the Army when he brought on this battle, for Franklin had explained it all to him on his arrival at Pleasant Hill, and he passed along the whole line on his way to the front, where the cavalry was fighting, and could not help seeing how matters stood.

General Franklin was nominally in command of the Army when General Banks joined him at Pleasant Hill, but the latter went to the front without paying Franklin the courtesy of saying he was going to take command, and prepared to take all the glory if he succeeded. From our knowledge of the Army, it was evident that Banks was not in accord with any of his generals. They did not think him a good leader, to commence with, and they certainly had no reason to do so in the end. On his part, he seemed to care little for them or for their opinions.

Up to the time of Banks' arrival, General Lee considered Franklin in command; but when Lee referred to some order he had received from Franklin, Banks remarked, “I shall remain upon the field, General,” without saying whether or not he took command. At all events, he gave such orders that his presence much embarrassed Lee in making arrangements.

It would appear, from evidence received from different sources, that, after Banks' arrival on the field, General Lee was allowed the management of this affair, although under the immediate command of General Franklin. He waited for no order from the latter, insisting on pushing ahead all the time, though Franklin intimated that if the enemy was in force in his front, he should fall back upon the infantry, and that he, Franklin, would not send him infantry support. In this Franklin was right; but it would have been better had he gone to the front himself, and taken a more decided command in the first instance. It was not desirable to bring on a general engagement in the then condition of the Army; and when Franklin finally did send a division to assist the fragments of brigades ordered to the front by Banks, his main body of some 6,000 men were seven miles in the rear, and fifteen miles back there were 8,000 more; while we know that, when Lee first called for support, the enemy had in position 8,000 infantry, with some artillery, and nobody could tell how many more in the background.

That the Federal soldiers did all that men could do in this first engagement, no one can deny; but if Banks had tried to place impediments in their way he could not have succeeded better. Colonel W. J. Landrum, commanding 4th brigade of Ransom's division, in a report to that officer, says: “My men have skirmished and marched through bushes and thickets for eight or nine miles, making in all a march of sixteen miles; they have no water, and are literally worn out. Can you have them relieved soon? General Lee insists on pushing ahead.”

When General Ransom arrived on the field he found the road obstructed by the cavalry train, and, after a great deal of trouble, got through and arrived at the front with his troops. He found the enemy in force, a large body of infantry in line of battle on the edge of the woods, and two batteries of artillery about three-fourths of a mile in front, while considerable bodies of infantry were moving on the road leading to his right and rear. As Banks came on the field, at 3 P. M., Ransom reported to him, and from that moment Banks became responsible for what occurred.

On the arrival of the 3d brigade, the position of the 83d and 96th Ohio infantry were assigned opposite to that recommended by General Ransom, and in a place in which they should never have been put. The infantry on the right of the road were placed in a narrow belt of timber, dividing two large plantations, with open ground in front and cultivated fields in the rear. Nims' Battery was posted on a hill near the road, two hundred yards to the left of the belt of timber, and was supported by the 23d Wisconsin infantry. The 67th Indiana supported the battery on the right, together with the 77th and 130th Illinois, 48th Ohio, 19th Kentucky, 96th Ohio, a section of [506] light artillery, and the 83d Ohio--in all, 2,413 infantry. The cavalry and mounted infantry under Lee were posted on the flanks and rear, having Colonel Dudley's brigade on the left, and Colonel Lucas' on the right, with skirmishers deployed in front of the infantry.

The enemy attacked this position at 4 P. M. His first line was driven back in confusion, but, recovering, he again advanced; unable, however, to withstand the fire from the Federal troops, the Confederates laid down 200 yards in front and returned the fire; at the same time a force was pressing the Federal left flank and driving the mounted infantry back. The 1st Indiana and Chicago Mercantile Batteries had just arrived on the field, and General Ransom directed them to be placed near a house occupied as Banks' headquarters, where they opened on the enemy, who had shown himself in strong force on the left flank, which it was evidently his purpose to turn — a purpose soon afterward accomplished after the infantry were driven in and Nims' battery captured.

This may be said to have been the turning-point of the battle, which was nearly lost to the Federals. The infantry, generally, behaved with great gallantry. The Chicago and 1st Indiana Batteries went promptly into action, but were soon so cut up that they were obliged to retreat, leaving their guns in the hands of the enemy.

The fact is, the guns had to be abandoned, because the cavalry wagon-train blocked up the road against all operations from first to last. Some went so far as to assert that the said wagon-train was the cause of all the disasters; and, although this may not be literally true, the world will naturally inquire why, on the approach of a heavy engagement, the wagons were not sent to the rear. There were men enough to have hauled them away had the horses been unable to do so. The fact is, the blame rests, and always will rest, on General Banks' conduct after he took command in person. The disaster was due to his sending forward small bodies of troops — which were defeated in detail — to support the cavalry, which should have been ordered to fall back until the main army came up.

In this day's fight the Federals had but 7,000 men and 26 field-pieces, a very large proportion of ordnance to the number of infantry. The natural consequence was that, when a retreat was ordered, the artillery had to be abandoned for want of time to force it through the obstructions of wagons and bodies of infantry.

The 3d Division, 13th army corps, arrived on the field in season to check the advance of the enemy; and General Franklin, who came on the field in person, was wounded by a fragment of a shell. This check proved but temporary, and the retreat of the Federals commenced. Their loss was 26 pieces of artillery, all the ambulances, and 157 army wagons and their horses, with the rations and forage of the mounted infantry.

General Emory's corps got into action as the evening was setting in, and checked the advance of the enemy completely by his masterly management, preventing a disaster to the whole army. With their superior numbers, and flushed with apparent victory, the enemy could not dislodge him from his position; while the discomfited regiments that had fallen back behind his corps were enabled to re-form. It was, without doubt, Emory's corps that saved the day, and prevented the Confederates from gaining a substantial victory.

At about dark the enemy retired, to rejoice over their success, and fill their canteens from General Lee's ample supply of liquor. To make sure of their captures, the Confederates unharnessed all the horses from the wagons, and conveyed them and the artillery to what they considered a place of safety.

After this repulse, General Banks fell back to Pleasant Hill with his whole force, and was there joined by General A. J. Smith, who had just reached that point with his command. At Pleasant Hill the army encamped to reorganize and repair damages.

The great mistake in this battle was in bringing the wagon-train to the front and directing General Lee,if hard pushed, to fall back on the infantry, apparently not realizing the danger of leaving all the train in the enemy's hands. Banks had ample opportunity to redeem this error before reinforcing Lee and pushing the latter further into danger, thereby bringing on a general engagement, which it was desirable to avoid in the then scattered condition of the Federal forces. General Franklin assigned this as a reason for not complying with Lee's request for reinforcements, and military critics support him in this; but it would have been wiser to have sent a positive order to Lee to send his wagon train to the rear and to fall back when the main body of the enemy was found in force. This would have been sufficient to have compelled the obedience of this officer, who was exhibiting a great deal of gallantry.

Banks says he expected the mounted soldiers to be in front and the infantry close behind; but there was no necessity for the cavalry to have their wagons with them, as each man could carry two days rations and forage on his horse, or a certain number of wagons could have been dispatched each night with rations for the day following. [507]

But lie the fault where it may, Banks met with defeat and a loss of prestige from which the Army never fairly recovered in that region; whereas, the Federals should have gained a victory that would have enabled them to hold that part of Louisiana until the end of the war, and to plant the Union flag in Texas--the latter a cherished object of the Government.

The plan of invasion was a wild one, it is true, but it came nearer success than many hoped for when the expedition started.

As soon as the enemy had secured the wagons and guns, they started in pursuit of the Federal Army, which, having halted at Pleasant Hill, was in a measure prepared to receive them. At 3:30 P. M., on the 9th, the enemy attacked the Federal forces with great vigor. The Federal line of battle was formed in the following order: 1st brigade, 19th corps, on the right, resting on a ravine; the 2d brigade in the centre, and the 3d brigade on the left. The centre was strengthened by a brigade of General A. J. Smith's division, whose main force acted as a reserve. The enemy moved towards the right flank of the army, and the 2d brigade withdrew in good order from the centre to support the first. A. J. Smith's brigade, in support of the centre, moved into the position vacated by the 2d brigade, and another of A. J. Smith's brigades was posted to the extreme left on a hill to the rear of the main line. Shortly after 5 P. M., the enemy had driven in the skirmishers and attacked in great strength, manoeuvering to force the Federal left. He advanced in two heavy, oblique lines towards the right of the 3d brigade, 19th corps, which, after a determined resistance, fell slowly back to the reserves. The enemy then attacked the centre, which was also moved back to the reserves; and the 1st and 2d brigades were soon enveloped in front, right and rear. By the skillful manoeuvering of General Emory, the flanks of the two brigades now meeting the enemy were covered, and the Confederates received terrible punishment. At the same moment, the latter came in contact with the reserve under General A. J. Smith; where, already retreating, he was met first by a volley and then a charge, led by General Mower, which caused him to retreat more rapidly. All Smith's reserves were ordered by Emory to join in the attack; the whole Confederate army was put to flight, and was followed by A. J. Smith's division until night set in.

What happened at Pleasant Hill would have happened at Sabine Cross Roads if General Franklin on that occasion had been allowed to postpone the engagement until the infantry had had time to join the troops in front. Had the fight at Sabine Cross Roads been postponed forty-eight hours, the Federal army would have been victorious, and would, doubtless, have reached Shreveport without further molestation; although what particular object there was in going to that place does not exactly appear.

General Banks was in command at Pleasant Hill, and had acquired sufficient wisdom to send the greater part of his cavalry, together with General Ransom's command, which had been badly handled the day before, and all the baggage train that had escaped, to the rear. In the hurry of the moment, however, the medical train of the 19th corps was also sent off, much to the annoyance of the medical officers, who, before night, had the most urgent need for its contents.

The Federal position on the field of Pleasant Hill was excellent, and the enemy should not have moved the army one inch. The little village of Pleasant Hill was situated upon an eminence, the ground sloping in all directions, and rising again to the west, formed another eminence half a mile from the village. On and about the crest of this latter eminence, among trees and bushes and behind fences, the Federal troops were stationed in line of battle; the reserves in waiting joining the village on the left — just such a place as a general would like to select on such an occasion.

General A. J. Smith's reserves at this time, owing to absentees and the 2,500 men with the fleet of transports under General T. Kilby Smith, amounted to only 5,800 men, under the immediate command of General Mower. When the division appeared upon the field under Mower, the army had been forced back a considerable distance and was in some confusion. Colonel W. J. Shaw, commanding the 14th Iowa infantry, 16th corps, had been brought up in the first place to reinforce the 19th corps, and had been badly handled. As Mower broke through the ranks of the retreating troops, the enemy's cavalry was seen on the edge of a wood, where they had been concealed, forming for a charge. They swept rapidly forward across the field in one of the most perfect cavalry charges seen during the war, and met as fatal a reception as ever befel such a movement. Colonel Shaw ordered his men to reserve their fire until the horsemen were near enough to receive the full force of it, and the result was that fully half of the enemy were dismounted and many horses disabled. The remainder pressed headlong on under a close and rapid fire until some of them fell from their horses into the Federal ranks. By this time the cavalry regiment was hors du combat, and only a small proportion of the men got back to their lines. [508]

After this the Confederate infantry advanced in double line of battle with perfect order, but with the result we have before mentioned.

Notwithstanding the action at Pleasant Hill was a victory for the Union Army, it came near being a defeat, and would have been so but for General Emory's strong stand. When the enemy's infantry advanced across the open field, Shaw's brigade opened on them at a distance of 200 yards. The enemy replied vigorously, and caused a heavy loss. The first line of the enemy retreated in disorder under Emory's fire, while fighting continued on the Federal left, which fell back so far as to allow the Confederates to pass almost to its rear and to nearly outflank the brigades of Benedict and Shaw, driving Benedict's right into the gap and inflicting severe loss. Benedict was killed, and Shaw lost 500 men.

For a short time these brigades were almost in the hands of the enemy, who had pushed far in their rear. Had he been bold enough to overwhelm the Federal forces with his masses, which were steadily pressing on, he could have done so.

Much of the fighting, where the Federal troops were stationed, was in the midst of a thick undergrowth, where the commanding officers could hardly see what was going on. At one time part of the troops were between two bodies of the enemy, and, with the latter in their rear, found it better to hold their position than to attempt a retreat.

General Emory, in his official report, says: “The enemy emerged from the woods in all directions and in heavy columns, completely outflanking and overpowering my left wing--composed of the 3d brigade and a brigade of General Smith--which broke in some confusion. My right stood firm and repulsed the enemy handsomely, and the left would have done so but for the great interval between it and the troops to the left, leaving the flank entirely exposed.”

One might naturally inquire, why was not all the artillery, which General Banks sent to the rear, posted so as to protect these exposed flanks of a long line of battle? We hear very little of artillery in connection with the engagement at Pleasant Hill — only where the 25th New York battery, of the 19th corps, opened upon the enemy's artillery that commenced firing on Shaw's brigade at the beginning.

The Federal troops fell back upon the reserves, being hard pressed by the rush of Confederates, who seemed to get through gaps and outflank the brigades in almost every instance. The Union forces generally fell back in good order; and, if it was intended that the enemy should be fought in that way, the experiment turned out well in the end, although the plan seems to have been a hazardous one.

The reserves quietly waited for the time when they should be called into service; and, when the order was given, poured in such a murderous fire that the Confederates were checked immediately. Then General Mower charged with Smith's men into their midst, the other Union forces keeping up a fire all along the line. This was a great surprise to the enemy, who apparently supposed they were carrying everything before them, and, panic-struck, they turned and fled in the utmost confusion, throwing away their arms and accoutrements. General Smith's victorious troops followed close upon their heels, capturing prisoners, arms and several pieces of artillery, until darkness prevented any further pursuit.

Had the mounted force been kept in reserve to act in conjunction with Smith's infantry reserves, they would have killed or captured half the Confederate army; but here was another great military blunder committed. When most needed, they were in the rear; and when little needed, as in the previous engagement, they were sent to the front to battle with infantry posted in a thick wood!

During part of this battle General Banks had his headquarters at a large building in the village, called “The Academy,” while General Franklin was senior officer in the field; and, on the falling back of the Federal troops, Banks gave the order for the trains in the rear to retreat; but, being soon after informed of the complete victory the troops had gained, he countermanded the order, and directed everything to be prepared for an early advance on the enemy and on Shreveport. So the soldiers laid down, amidst the groans of their wounded comrades, to take a short repose preceding their arduous labors of the following day.

General Emory's and A. J. Smith's commands had entire possession of the field, the enemy having retreated sixteen miles without stopping, leaving the road strewn with their arms and accoutrements. Some of the best Federal artillery had been recaptured, and the wagons were again in Smith's possession, although the enemy had carried off horses and harness. All that was needed were some of the useless cavalry horses to drag the wagons within the Federal lines to a place of safety.

The enemy had evidently retreated outright, as the victory was complete, and they had thrown away such a quantity of arms, etc., that it would be useless to try and harass the Federals this side of Shreveport. Their first day's success against Lee's mounted men and meagre supports of infantry had given them an overweening estimate [509] of their prowess, which was completely taken out of them at Pleasant Hill. The falling-back of the Federal Army was considered by them a plan for enveloping them in a trap, and a more demoralized army never left the field; while the Federal soldiers, with renewed prestige, were ready to follow the enemy at all hazards.

What, then, was the surprise of the army, next morning, to learn that an order had been issued by General Banks to the divisional commander to retreat to Grand Ecore. It would be impossible to describe the disgust of officers and men on the announcement of such an order, and it gave color to the report that the commander-in-chief was badly demoralized.

Franklin had managed this last affair with the exception of sending cavalry and artillery to the rear, and though wounded at Sabine Cross Roads he kept his saddle during the entire day at Pleasant Hill, overlooking the movements of his soldiers, while Banks did not come upon the field until the reserves under General Smith commenced driving the enemy, when he rode up to this last-named officer and holding out his hand, said, “You have saved my army, General Smith, may God bless you for it!” “No, sir,” said Smith, sarcastically, “my ‘ragged guerillas’ did it.”

If General Banks was held in estimation outside of his staff, he must have ceased to be so after giving the extraordinary order for 25,000 troops to retreat before a routed and demoralized enemy of 16,000 men, a circumstance almost without a parallel in the history of war. The years that have passed since these events have scarcely softened the feelings of those who participated in the humiliation of that retreat. When General A. J. Smith received the order lie was occupying the battle-field, gathering up his wounded and endeavoring to secure the trophies of war. He protested against the order and urged an advance, but Banks peremptorily directed him to retreat at once. Smith then begged the privilege of remaining on the field to bury the dead and care for the wounded; but this was denied him, he had to abandon the wounded and all that had been recaptured from the enemy.

Imperative as were the orders General Smith received, to retreat and leave his wounded and dying in the hands of the enemy, he determined to make a final effort to carry out his plan of pushing on, before obeying it. Smith was a brave, impulsive soldier who cared little what he said or did when his spirit was outraged, as on this occasion. He knew better than Banks what would occur in case of a retreat. He had a large portion of his division in transports with the Navy, whom he knew were struggling to get to the place of rendezvous, where, without warning, they were liable to attack from 16,000 exasperated Confederates, armed with the very artillery captured from the Federals, and which they were now about to leave in their hands to be used against a victorious army. Scattered along the river, then at a low stage of water, the gun-boats and transports would naturally suffer great loss, attacked as they would be at prominent points everywhere.

Franklin and Smith both insisted that the army should march to the relief of the forces on the river; that it was but twelve miles to the river; where communication could be opened with the commanding officer of the fleet, and the troops could have constant access to water, for want of which they had heretofore suffered dreadfully. But all was without avail — the order still came to retreat. Smith, as a last resort, proposed to Franklin that the latter should assume command, put Banks under arrest, take care of their wounded, bury their dead, and push on to the point where they were to meet the fleet, and after insuring the safety of that part of the expedition, march upon Shreveport, if that course was found to be practicable. But Franklin, although he might wish to see this plan carried out, would not give his consent, and Smith with the rest had to turn his back upon a retreating foe, while Banks gave the latter the post of honor in the rear, to do the fighting if any was required.

The surgeons were left on the field of Pleasant Hill to do their best to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded; and the day the army departed, these officers state that the Confederates sent a flag of truce asking permission to bury their dead, and learned, much to their astonishment, that the Union forces had abandoned everything after gaining a complete victory!

It would appear that General Smith was the only officer high in command who insisted on a further advance toward Shreveport. General Franklin says: “For my part, the only question was, whether the army should remain at Pleasant Hill, or return to Grand Ecore, not that we should advance.” The idea of an advance, after what he had experienced of Banks' generalship, was odious to him; and the scattered condition of the army required, in his judgment, a rest of several days to get the forces together.

About midnight, after the battle of Pleasant Hill, when he was resting under the assurances which Banks had given him, that the army would advance next morning, an orderly came to him with orders to fall back at 3 A. M. Utterly astounded, Smith went to Banks to find out what it meant. Banks pleaded the necessity of a [510] retreat, on the ground of the general discouragement of the officers of one of the corps, the scarcity of commissary stores, and the great losses hitherto sustained; as if the Confederates, who had been so badly beaten, had not suffered more than the Federal Army, and, in all probability, would be scattered for some time to come. It was after this interview with Banks that Smith proposed to Franklin that the latter should assume command of the army. Franklin was then in his cot suffering from the wound received at Sabine Cross Roads, and was quite unaware of what had transpired at Banks' headquarters, and replied to Smith's proposition: “Will you guarantee that I will not be hanged after the expedition is over, if I do take command?” So there the matter dropped.

If Smith had been second in command, instead of Franklin, he would, without doubt, have arrested Banks, and assumed command. Few people have attributed the right motives to General Smith in making this proposition to Franklin. We believe no one was more intimate with Smith than the author of this work; and the statements made to him were without reserve. It was not from a spirit of insubordination that General Smith made his proposition, but because he thought such a course necessary for the safety of the army, which was suffering from the presence of its commander-in-chief. It so happened that Banks did give up the command to Franklin soon after, at Grand Ecore, and abandoned the army, although Franklin was suffering so greatly from his wound as scarcely to be able to sit on his horse.

General Smith felt somewhat differently from the other division commanders, for he came flushed with victory from the battle-field, where he had left his dead and wounded, while the others had met with serious reverses, although aiding largely in the final defeat of the Confederates. Their killed and wounded were close to where they halted for the night, while Smith was compelled by positive orders to leave his wounded in the hands of the enemy after as complete a victory as ever an army won. Smith well knew what construction would be put upon this shameful retreat, without any attempt to aid the naval part of the expedition, supposed by him to be at the mercy of the Confederates, who would use the captured guns against the fleet, from point to point, with fearful effect. The old soldier actually shed tears in his chagrin and mortification at being thus forced to abandon the results of a victory.

As soon as General Taylor heard of Banks' retreat, he issued a general order, of which the following is an extract:

In spite of the strength of the enemy's position, held by fresh troops of the 16th corps, your valor and devotion triumphed over all. The morning of the 10th instant dawned upon a flying foe with our cavalry in pursuit, capturing prisoners at every step!!

Although in this there was a good deal of that exaggeration which characterized General Taylor, perhaps it was natural under the circumstances, when he found the Federal Army actually retreating after having beaten him. The facts, however, are that Taylor was some miles distant from the battle-field at the time Banks started to return to Grand Ecore. The Confederate army was scattered in all directions, and the “cavalry” he mentions, as capturing prisoners, existed only in his imagination.

He knew nothing of the movements of the Federal Army until the return of the flag of truce that had been sent to request of Banks permission to bury the dead. On hearing that the medical officers and the dead and wounded were the only ones remaining on the battle-field, he may have sent what cavalry he could muster to capture them; but, during its return to Grand Ecore, the Union Army was not molested in the least, moving in as good order as if on an ordinary march. This circumstance shows that the soldiers were not demoralized, and that Banks should, at least, have remained at Pleasant Hill until the dead were buried, the wounded brought in, and the recaptured artillery and wagons taken from the field.

On the 11th, the army reached Grand Ecore, and we do not think any one was much surprised to find that the gun-boats and transports had not returned. The general belief was that they would never return, but would succumb to an army of 16,000 men well supplied with captured artillery, which could pour their fire from the high banks of the narrow and shallow stream right on the decks of the vessels — often from positions where the guns of the war vessels could not reach them.

On the 12th instant, the heavy guns of the fleet were heard firing rapidly, and everybody knew then that the Confederates were taking advantage of Banks' retreat and were falling back on the river to destroy the transports. On the 13th, the firing still continued, and was heard plainly at Grand Ecore, every one wondering why no movement was made by the Army to go to the assistance of the fleet; and the indignation at Banks' inactivity was extreme, especially among the 16th corps, A. J. Smith's command, who, having been for some time associated with the Navy, felt great sympathy for their old friends.

Colonel Shaw urged General Smith to allow him to go to the Navy's assistance, if [511] only with a thousand men; but the General told him it could not be done without an order from General Banks. No troops were sent until the squadron and all the transports had reached a point three miles above Grand Ecore, where they had been closely followed by hundreds of guerillas, who, like famished wolves, hoped to obtain possession of some of them.

These ferocious natives seemed to take no rest by day or night while in pursuit of the vessels, firing on them from high overhanging banks, from behind levees or trees, or from deep rifle-pits. From these places unerring marksmen sent their murderous bullets, laying low almost every man who left the shelter of the protecting cotton bales used as barricades.

The vessels had to move slowly and in order along the shallow, narrow channel, enduring the perpetual fire of the sharp-shooters as best they could, the flag-ship bringing up the rear, to see that no transports were left behind or neglected. There were over forty-five vessels to be looked after, and, fortunately, all were brought safely back to Grand Ecore, though not without loss in men.

Three miles above Grand Ecore the leading vessels grounded, and those in the rear piled up behind them, offering a fine target for the enemy's sharp-shooters, who soon caught up and closed in around them, firing from concealed places where artillery could not reach them. The booming of cannon was heard from Grand Ecore, but no assistance was sent to drive off the Confederates and stop the sacrifice of life, until the flag-ship Cricket, being of very light draft, passed the shoals and pushed on to Grand Ecore. Only then were cavalry and infantry sent to drive away the enemy's sharp-shooters, who clung like wolves to their prey.

Even for this relief the Navy and the transports were indebted to General A. J. Smith, who, being the nearest commanding officer at hand, dispatched his troops to the aid of the Navy without waiting for orders from General Banks.

We now return to the gunboats and transports which had started to return down the river from Springfield Landing, as soon as it was felt certain that Banks was retreating, pushing on in good order, as rapidly as the intricacies of the river would permit.

The gunboats were distributed equally among the transports to protect the latter as much as possible, and the commanding officers were directed not to permit the transports to tie up to the bank without permission. General Kilby Smith in his headquarters' steamer brought up the rear of his transports, while the Admiral, in the stern-wheel gun-boat Cricket, moved up and down along the line, as occasion required, to preserve the prescribed order.

Thus the fleet proceeded at the rate of a mile or two an hour, until they arrived at Conchatta Chute on the 11th, where General Kilby Smith received dispatches from Banks, notifying him that he was falling back, and directing Smith to return at once to Grand Ecore and report. General Banks did not pay the Admiral the courtesy of informing him what had happened, although he must have known that the Navy was guarding his transports, and that they could not well proceed without its aid. Before leaving Springfield, a letter, dropped by a Confederate scout, was picked up, informing General Dick Taylor that the transports had from six to ten thousand soldiers on board, and were accompanied by four gun-boats, this force being for the purpose of flanking him.

This idea of the enemy stood the expedition in good stead, for, perhaps, had Taylor known there were only 1,800 effective soldiers, the transports would have been attacked sooner than they were.

On the way up the river, the fleet had met with little opposition from the enemy, although parties of soldiers were frequently seen retreating. On one occasion, Colonel Warren's brigade landed at a point three miles above Conchatta Chute and captured a captain and one private. This captured officer had been charged to destroy all the cotton along the Red River as the Union forces advanced.

On the return it was seen that this design had been carried out, for the charred remains of many thousand bales, worth millions of dollars, were scattered along the banks of the river, all of which the Confederates might have saved if they had possessed a little practical wisdom. They might have known that the Union forces could not stop to collect this cotton, unless successful, and that it was only in very exceptionable cases that they destroyed it.

Although on the way down the Red River the fleet had been frequently annoyed by sharp-shooters, they had received no material damage, as the soldiers in the transports were protected by bales of wet hay, bags of oats, and other defences impervious to rifle bullets, while the shrapnel thrown by the gun-boats seemed to have a quieting effect on the Confederates; but after getting below the Chute it was evident that the enemy's forces were rapidly augmenting, and the shots, which at first came not unlike the light patter of rain, increased to a heavy shower, and all felt that they were about to experience the wrath which the enemy could not expend on the army.

There was not so much fear for the gun-boats [512] as for the transports, which, although well protected against rifle-shots, were not prepared to cope with artillery.

Pleasant Hill Landing is but ten miles below Conchatta Chute, although the windings of the river make the distance by water much greater. Ten miles back from Pleasant Hill Landing is Pleasant Hill, then occupied by the army of General Taylor, who, notwithstanding his vainglorious boasts of the operations of his cavalry, had not yet assembled a corporal's guard of horsemen, and very little artillery. Altogether he may have had collected about 5,000 men to dispute the passage of the vessels down the river.

An active Confederate officer, named Harrison, had crossed the river in the rear of the fleet with 1,900 mounted men and four or five pieces of artillery, with orders to plant his batteries in the most favorable places and cripple the fleet as much as possible from the left bank. The Federals saw this party before reaching Conchatta Chute, and sending a few 11-inch shrapnel in their direction, they gave no more trouble for the time being; but it was considered certain that Harrison must plant his batteries three miles below Pleasant Hill Landing, which proved to be the case.

To this latter point the Admiral dispatched one of the heaviest iron-clads and two gun-boats, mounting some ten guns, under Lieutenant-Commander Watson Smith, with orders to prevent the erection of any batteries until all the transports had passed; but Harrison, who could go across, while the gun-boats had to follow the long bends of the river, arrived first, and posted his guns on a high bluff in a dense undergrowth, where he could fire down upon the decks of the transports, and whence it was difficult to dislodge him.

The Admiral was in the rear when he heard the firing commence, and he pushed ahead to superintend operations in that quarter, leaving General Kilby Smith and some of his transports behind, under the guns of the iron-clad Osage, Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge, and the Lexington, Lieutenant Bache.

As circumstances occurred at this time of which we wish to be the impartial narrators, we will first give the report of Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge, commanding the little iron-clad Osage, who, for the time, had the Lexington also under his orders. Selfridge reported that he had taken the Black Hawk--late General Banks' headquarters' vessel — alongside the Osage, for the purpose of helping the iron-clad to turn the bends of the river. The Osage had got aground just above a turn, the Lexington was not far off, and Lieutenant Bache was visiting the Osage.

All the transports, with one exception, had passed down the river ahead of him, and Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge had just turned the Osage's bow up stream, when a body of troops, over 2,500 strong, emerged from a dense wood near the bank. Many of the men were mounted, but these soon dismounted and tied their horses.

From their new blue overcoats, Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge took them for Union soldiers. but he soon discovered their true character, and ordered Lieutenant Bache to drop down the river, in the Lexington, a short distance, to enfilade the enemy.

The Confederates opened fire on the two vessels, with several pieces of artillery, from a hill about a quarter of a mile distant, and forming their 2,500 men into three ranks, attacked the Osage with the Black Hawk lashed to her. The Black Hawk had on board about forty soldiers of General Kilby Smith's command, partially protected by bags of oats and bales of hay. The enemy's volley drove the soldiers below; and some of them being wounded, and it being useless to remain where they were, Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge ordered all hands on board the Black Hawk to take refuge in the safe hull of the Osage.

Now commenced one of the most remarkable conflicts on record — between a bullet-proof iron-clad and a brigade of infantry, which continued for an hour. At the commencement of the battle, the transport before-mentioned ran up the river to avoid the enemy's fire, and the Osage, Lexington, and Black Hawk were the only vessels present. The latter vessel was riddled with bullets, and all hands would have been killed had they not made their escape to the Osage. Officers examined the vessel the day after, and there was not a place six inches square not perforated by a bullet.

The Osage secured a good position abreast of the main body of the enemy, and poured in grape, canister, and shrapnel from her 11-inch guns, mowing the enemy down by the dozen at every fire. The latter seemed to know no fear; as fast as one file was swept away, another took its place.

The commanding officer of the Confederates, General Thomas Green, of Texas, who had served at San Jacinto and in the Mexican war, mounted on a fine horse, led his troops up to the bank, and encouraged them to pour in their fire, which they did incessantly, never less than 2,500 muskets firing at once upon the Osage. The wood-work of the latter was cut to pieces, but the danger from bullets passing through the iron was very little.

While this was going on, the Lexington [513] enfiladed the enemy with shell from her 8-inch guns, disabling the entire gun-battery. The fight had continued nearly an hour, and the determination of the enemy seemed unabated, when Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge aimed one of his heavy guns, loaded with grape and canister, and fired it within twenty yards at a leading officer, whose head was blown clear from his shoulders by the discharge. The enemy, having had enough of this kind of fighting, retreated in confusion to the woods, leaving the ground covered with their dead and wounded.

Four of the latter crawled to the river for water, and were taken on board the Osage, and well cared for. These men informed Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge that the party who had attacked him were new regiments from Texas; that they had been led to believe that the gun-boats could easily be captured, and that General Green encouraged them so by his example that they would have fought to the last man had not the General fallen.

Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge could only survey the battle-field from the river, but he estimated the loss of the enemy at about 700 in killed and wounded; and from later information was satisfied that it even exceeded that figure.

Selfridge conducted this affair in the handsomest manner, inflicting such a punishment on the enemy that their infantry gave no more trouble, having come to the conclusion that fighting with muskets against iron-clads did not pay. To say nothing of the loss in men inflicted upon the enemy, the Osage had killed the best officer the Confederates had in this quarter; who, judging from his energy on this occasion, would have given no end of trouble had he lived.

Lieutenant Bache managed the Lexington beautifully, and did great execution with the 8-inch guns, though less exposed to the infantry bullets than the Osage. The latter was a fortunate circumstance, as her men might otherwise have been driven from the guns, so intense was the fire. Notwithstanding the heavy peppering the Osage received, and the destruction of wood-work, the vessel was just as efficient for battle as before the action.

Had not General Green's brigade been handled so severely, it was the intention of the enemy to have attacked the transports below, and the terrible punishment the Black Hawk received is good evidence of what would have happened to the others. The transports would have doubtless been driven on shore and great confusion would have prevailed.

This affair was considered a naval fight altogether, or one in which the soldiers of the army had but a very small share. Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge made a report to the Admiral, stating the facts as above narrated; and although General Kilby Smith makes a claim of having been under a very hot fire as he passed down, his vessels were uninjured, and no one heard of any killed or injured. Had General Kilby Smith's command been subjected to a heavy fire, his vessel's hull would have presented the same perforated appearance as did that of the Black Hawk.

It is a delicate matter to undertake to call in question the report of an officer, especially one belonging to a different branch of the service, and it is done in this instance with great reluctance. After the Red River expedition, the Admiral wrote to General A. J. Smith eulogizing General Kilby Smith in the highest terms, giving him credit, on his own showing, for a great deal of bravery and hard fighting, which, according to Selfridge, never took place.

In justice to General Kilby Smith, however, we will permit him to tell his own story. All that is known of the affair is from Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge's written report at the time, General Smith merely making the Admiral a verbal report sometime afterwards.

Here is what General Smith told the “Committee on the conduct of the war,” in regard to the battle, of which we have given Selfridge's account:

On the 12th of April I sailed at 7 o'clock A. M. from the Chute. Upon arriving at a point ten miles below the Chute, the enemy opened upon my boats, doing more or less damage to all of them. I found myself entirely environed. General Liddell was on one side of the river with a force of 2,500 men and a battery; on the other was a force variously estimated at from 30,000 to 40,000, flushed with their recent victory over General Banks' command. The river was very narrow, very tortuous, and very difficult of navigation at all times, and especially difficult at the very low stage of water which then obtained, and with the class of steamers which I had under my control. The bottom of the river was snaggy, and the sides bristling with cypress logs and sharp, hard points.

At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the 12th of April, the wheel of my headquarters' boat, the Hastings, having got out of order, I ran under the bluff of the bank with the view of making repairs. At that time the Alice Vivian, a heavy-draft boat with three hundred and seventy-five cavalry horses on board, was lying aground midway in the stream. The Black Hawk, General Banks' headquarters' boat, was towing the gun-boat Osage a short distance below. The Vivian signalled for assistance, and I ordered the Clara Bell to report to her. The Clara Bell failing to move her, I ordered up the Emerald. At that time the steamer Rob Roy, with four heavy siege-guns upon her forecastle, ran astern of the Black Hawk, and at this moment the enemy, with a brigade about 2,000 strong, under the immediate command of General Thos. Green, of Texas, with a 4 gun battery, formed upon the bank, and put their pieces in battery within point-blank range of the Hastings, the nearest boat. The Osage and Lexington gun-boats at that time [514] were lying at the opposite bank, half-a-mile off. I ordered the Hastings to cast off, and just as we got underway the enemy's batteries opened upon us, the first shot falling a little short, and the others over us. Their practice being defective, we escaped without serious damage; and directly getting out of range, and taking a good position upon the opposite shore, I opened upon them with one section of Lieutenant Tiemeire's battery, one gun of which was mounted upon the hurricane-deck of the Emerald, the siege-guns upon the forecastle of the Rob Roy, and the howitzer from the hurricane-deck of the Black Hawk. (My guns had more range than the enemy's.) Very soon we killed the battery horses of the enemy, and they changed position rapidly, moving their guns up by hand. Meanwhile their sharp-shooters had deployed and sheltered themselves behind the timber that lined the banks of the river, pouring in an incessant fire. My soldiers were all upon the hurricane-decks, protected by cotton bales, bales of hay, and stacks of oats, covered with soldiers' blankets, upon which I had turned the hose of the steamboats to keep them constantly wet, and which proved sufficient foil against rifle-bullets, and enabled them to mark the enemy with a deadly aim. After the fight commenced, the Osage rounded the point, and, with the other gun-boats, opened upon the enemy, rendering me essential service. By sundown we had silenced the enemy's batteries, and, shortly after, they fled from the field, leaving many of their dead, among them General Green, who had his head blown off.

General Kilby Smith says, on offering Admiral Porter's letter to A. J. Smith, praising his conduct, for the inspection of the “Committee on the conduct of the war:” “The Admiral was not thoroughly posted in regard to the battle I fought at Pleasant Hill Landing, because the data had not come in at the time. We left 700 of the enemy dead on the ground. Green was killed by a canister shot from a steel Rodman (3-inch), mounted on the hurricane-deck of the Emerald.”

Smith's report that he fought a battle is so positive, and Selfridge's report is so positive that the former was not in the fight, that it was difficult to reconcile the discrepancy. Selfridge, who was long under the Admiral's command, always made correct and matter-of-fact reports, giving to every one a due share of praise. We cannot see why he should act differently on this occasion.

Unsolicited, the Admiral wrote in Kilby Smith's favor as handsome a letter as he could, and does not wish now to detract anything from the credit justly due that officer. He must leave it to him and to Captain Selfridge to settle between them the facts of the case The Admiral having conferred with the latter officer recently, and shown him the report of General Smith, of which he has never before seen or heard, the annexed letter will speak for itself:

Dear Sir: Fifteen years have elapsed since the fatal repulse of a portion of the rebel trans-Mississippi forces under their General Green, by the gun-boats Osage and Lexington of your fleet, and for the first time I have learned of the report of General Kilby Smith, before the “Committee upon the conduct of the war,” in which he claims for the transports under his command the principal merit of the victory.

The fight took place at what was known as Blair's plantation, and in saying it was essentially a gun-boat fight, no reflection is cast upon the portion of A. J. Smith's division embarked on the transports, because it was never designed they should engage a powerful force from their steamers; nor were the latter capable of a prolonged engagement, such as actually took place, from the unprotected condition of their hulls.

The facts of the fight are briefly these: On the afternoon of April 11th, we first learned of the repulse of Banks' army at Sabine Cross Roads, which forced the return of the transports and of the fleet under your command. You directed me (at that time in command of the light-draft Monitor Osage) to bring up and protect the rear.

The river was very low, and the swift current in the bends made the Osage almost unmanageable while descending. For this reason, the next morning, April 12th, I lashed the transport Black Hawk on my starboard quarter, and by her assistance made the descent successfully, till late in the afternoon, when we grounded on the point opposite Blair's plantation. Our bow was therefore pointed down stream, and our starboard broadside opposite the right bank, which was 20 feet high and 100 yards distant. The transports had necessarily passed down, as my position was in the rear. Seeing my situation, Bache, of the Lexington, which had stopped near by, came on board. We had been for some time vainly trying to get the Osage afloat, when the pilot of the Black Hawk, who, from his elevated position, could see over the bank, reported a large force issuing from the woods, some two miles back. I ascended to the pilot-house, and from their being dressed in Federal overcoats thought they were our troops; but soon their movements — dismounting and picketing their horses — convinced me they were enemies. I accordingly descended, made all preparations for battle, and directed Bache to go below with the Lexington, and take up an enfilading position.

Then commenced one of the most curious fights of the war, 2,500 infantry against a gun-boat aground. The battery unlimbered some hundred yards below and abreast of the Lexington, which opened upon it with her port broadside, while I sent a few raking shells from the Osage in the same direction. Compelled to plant their guns close to the edge of the bank in order to reach us, on account of the low stage of the river, they could not long maintain the situation, and soon retired with the loss of one gun dismounted.

By this time my attention was wholly directed to the attack upon my own vessel. The rebels came rapidly across the fields in column of regiments, so the pilot of the Black Hawk reported, who alone, from his elevated position, could see beyond the bank. So rapid was the advance that this pilot, intent on watching them, stayed too long, and dared not leave the protection of the iron shields of the pilot-house, and so accurate was the fire, that after the fight no fewer than 60 bullet marks were counted upon the shield, behind which the poor fellow was hiding.

I loaded our two 11-inch guns with canister, elevated just to clear the top of the right bank, and as the heads of the first line became visible, fired.

One regiment would come up, deliver its fire, then fall back under cover, and another advance. It was necessary to carefully reserve our fire until the rebels were about to fire, or our shots would have gone over them to the rear, a condition of affairs [515] which made gun-boat firing very inaccurate at a low stage of water.

The fire of 2,500 rifles at point-blank range, mingled with the slow, sullen roar of our two great guns, was something indescribable. No transports of wood could have stood such a terrible fire; the few soldiers on the Black Hawk sought refuge on the Osage, while the frightened crew of the steamer stowed themselves in her hold. During the three-quarters of an hour that this singular combat lasted, I had expended every round of grape and canister, and was using shrapnel with fuzes cut to 1″, when the firing suddenly ceased, and the enemy drew off. During the latter part of the engagement I noticed an officer on a white horse, some 200 yards below the troops, and aiming one of our guns at him, when the smoke cleared away saw him no longer. I learned after, that the officer killed was their General Green. The rebel loss was reported at 700, while ours was only seven wounded. The destructiveness of the Osage's fire, delivered at point-blank range, was much increased by an ingenious device by which I could personally aim the guns from the outside of the turret, and thus have a clear view of the field, which would have been impossible had I remained inside. The wood-work of the Black Hawk and Osage was so pitted with bullet holes, that it is no exaggeration to say that one could not place the hand anywhere without covering a shot-mark.

These are the prominent facts. It is very certain no transports were in sight from my decks; they may have been a little below, concealed by the bend, but too far to have had any influence upon the result, the whole brunt of which fell upon the Osage. The battery unlimbered abreast of the Lexington, and was driven off by her fire. No better proof of the absence of General Smith's transports from the fight can be cited than the fact that none of them, except the Black Hawk, showed any marks, while she was literally riddled with bullets. There might have been a small gun on the Black Hawk, but it was never fired. As to the siege-guns on the exposed forecastle of the Rob Roy, if fired, it was at too long range to have been of any service.

The importance of this engagement cannot be over-estimated, for though they had practically possession of both banks of Red River, the rebels hardly molested us during the remainder of our descent as far as Alexandria, excepting the time when they attempted to intercept you by planting batteries against the Cricket, bearing your flag, and which were so gallantly run by.

I remain, yours truly,

Thos. O. Selfridge, Commander, U. S. N.

It was nearly dusk when the battle ended, and little could be seen except the numerous dead and wounded lying on the field. From the prisoners it was learned that General Liddell, with 5,000 infantry and artillery, was only two miles away and had held back, owing to the shot and shell from the gun-boats falling in his ranks and killing his men. Had this force come up it would have fared worse than the other, for the Admiral had come up with a reinforcement of gun-boats to enfilade the whole bend, and ten thousand men would have stood no chance against their fire.

The Admiral had landed above the Harrison Battery a short time before the attack from above commenced, and from the top of a tall tree was endeavoring to make out with his glass the position of the enemy's guns and the probable number of his men. At first he paid little attention to the firing up river, thinking the gun-boats were shelling the woods to drive away the sharp-shooters; but the heavy rattle of musketry soon apprised him that something serious was transpiring, and, descending from his perch, pushed up the river in the Cricket to see what was the matter. He soon met General Kilby Smith coming down, and knowing that Selfridge could take care of himself in case of further attack, returned to his original position, directing General Kilby Smith to form his transports in order at once, and be ready to pass the lower battery as soon as he was notified it could be done with safety.

By 10 P. M. all the vessels were in line, none of them much damaged excepting the Black Hawk, which looked as if pitted with small-pox; and from the effects of the enemy's fire on this vessel it may be imagined how badly the transports would have fared but for the gun-boats Osage and Lexington, to which General Kilby Smith gives in his report the following faint praise: “The Osage and other gun-boats opened upon the enemy, rendering me essential service.” (!)

The Red River expedition was emphatically a united service affair, in which Army and Navy should have shared in whatever credit was gained, and there was not a sailor in the fleet who would have withheld one iota of praise due to the soldiers, or who would not have risked his life to extricate them from any difficulty in which they might become entangled; but even the best of the Army did not always do justice to the Navy on such occasions as this, and, if not actually misrepresenting matters, they saw them through colored glasses.

As far as could be learned, about 700 of the enemy were killed in this engagement, which is very likely an under-estimate, considering the terrible fire to which the Confederates were exposed; and the Navy esteemed themselves fortunate — as sailors looked upon the matter — in the death of so brave and enterprising a leader as General Green, who had displayed a heroism worthy of a better cause.

Had General Banks halted at Pleasant Hill until the 11th, and then sent General A. J. Smith's command to Pleasant Hill Landing, distant but twelve miles by a good road. he would have given the latter officer time to bury his dead, collect his wounded, and bring in the artillery and wagons recaptured from the enemy, besides being on hand to cover the transports at the point where they were most likely to be attacked. As it turned out, the affair proved a victory for the Navy; for, had it not been for the [516] gun-boats, not a transport would ever have returned to Grand Ecore. As it was, very few of the army expected to see them return; and it was only, by the unceasing vigilance of the naval officers, in keeping the transports in position and pushing them on as rapidly as possible, that all were taken safely down to Pleasant Hill Landing.

We do not remember another instance where a large army has retreated through a hostile country, and saved their transports and munitions of war. On this occasion the chances were all in the enemy's favor, as there never were such obstacles as were met with in the down-voyage of the transports: shoals at every hundred yards, snags innumerable, and sharp-shooters at all the elevations. We think it not too much to assert that the Navy owed its remarkable preservation, under Providence, to their own good management and perseverance.

After assembling the fleet above the Harrison Battery, the Admiral strengthened the pass with additional gun-boats, and all the transports went safely by, not a shot having been fired at them. The gun-boats kept up such a shower of shell, grape and cannister on the woods, that no land artillery could withstand their fire. The flag-ship remained behind to bring up the rear, and at daybreak in the morning it was found that the Iberville, a large transport steamer that had caused much trouble by frequently grounding, had been abandoned and left in the mud below Pleasant Hill Landing. All her stores had been removed, and she was all ready for the Confederates in case they required such a vessel. Soon after removing her cargo, however, the vessel went floating down river broadside on; and, as there was nobody on board, the flag-ship took her in tow and she was safely delivered to her master and crew, so nothing was left behind for the enemy to exult over.

After passing the Harrison Battery the fleet experienced little trouble beyond the constant fire of sharp-shooters along the river. The flotilla having learned a lesson from the fight at Pleasant Hill Landing, and comprehending the necessity of preserving a compact order, did their best to maintain it, and the fleet advanced much faster — too fast, in fact, for any large body of artillery to overtake it, the only thing from which much danger was to be apprehended.

Below Pleasant Hill Landing the transports grounded so frequently that it was not until noon of the 13th that they reached the little village of Campte, about twenty-four miles by water from the Landing, and about half as far by land. Keeping in the rear to push along the stragglers, the flag-ship did not arrive at Campte until 4 P. M., and there found the gun-boats and transports in complete confusion, and many of them aground. As the gun-boats could take care of themselves, they were merely directed to proceed to Grand Ecore as soon as they could get afloat.

General Kilby Smith now communicated with the Admiral, and informed him that the Confederates were firing on his transports, from a hill about two miles back from the river, with two pieces of artillery. There was no evidence of this while the Admiral was at Campte; in General Kilby Smith's evidence before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, he makes the following remarkable statement:

At noon the enemy planted two guns on the other side of the river [which side?], and opened upon the fleet. We lay under shell for five hours. Admiral Porter, with the most effective gun-boats, having taken the advance, had reached Grand Ecore in safety. The Osage and Lexington were the only effective gun-boats left with me from the Navy. The Lexington was a wooden boat of very heavy draft, and of little or no service.

The facts are that the heaviest iron-clads were at that very time behind the transports, and not in the advance; the Lexington and Osage, the most efficient vessels, were in good position among the transports, and were sufficient to silence any ordinary artillery. The Lexington mounted ten 8-inch shell-guns and the Osage two 11-inch, and the Lexington, so far from being, as General Kilby Smith asserts, “of very heavy draft, and of little or no service,” was the only large vessel of the fleet that did not get aground. She and the Osage were the only gun-boats in the fight at Pleasant Hill Landing, against 2,500 men and a park of artillery, and it would be strange indeed if they could not take care of two pieces of artillery! The Admiral was with the transports half-an-hour, during which time there was no artillery fire, and none was ever reported to him by any of his officers. The first he knew of any serious construction being put upon the firing was from reading the above quotation. There was some musketry fire going on, but not a vessel in the fleet was struck with shell or rifle-shot, notwithstanding the five hours fire to which General Kilby Smith says they were exposed.

The vessels at Campte were so mixed up that the flag-ship had difficulty in getting through them and alongside General Kilby Smith's headquarters' vessel. Seeing that there was no prospect of the transports getting off that night. and thinking that the Confederates might assemble during the darkness in greater force, the Admiral informed the General that he would run down to Grand Ecore, which he could do in half-an-hour, and induce General Banks [517] to send troops up on both sides of the river. With this, General Kilby Smith was much pleased, although he had not much idea that General Banks would pay attention to a message after plainly hearing an incessant fire of musketry for hours, to which he gave no heed, although only four miles distant.

The Cricket carried every pound of steam the boilers would bear, and only stopped a few moments to shell out some Confederates hidden in a house, who fired upon her as she was passing. At 5 P. M. the Admiral was on the levee at Grand Ecore, where the first person he met was General A. J. Smith, who shook his hand heartily and exclaimed: “D — n it, old fellow, I never expected to see you again!” In a few words the Admiral explained to him how matters stood at Campte, and requested him to send up some cavalry and infantry at once. The troops were ready, for Smith had been expecting orders from Banks to send them, so now the former dispatched them at once on his own authority--700 cavalry and 1,000 infantry; the latter under the gallant Colonel Shaw, and they soon cleared the river banks of any Confederates lurking in that quarter.

On the 15th, all the vessels arrived safely at Grand Ecore in good condition, excepting some little damage from running into snags and into each other. As the sailors say, they had not lost a rope-yarn on the expedition, and the casualties, all told, did not exceed fifty men, with very few killed. So, notwithstanding General Kilby Smith's exceptions, we are firm in our belief that the vessels were well managed, and whether the gun-boats were or were not “efficient” must be left to the reader to decide.

As soon as the Admiral saw the troops well underway up river, he mounted his horse and proceeded to call on General Banks.

As the Admiral entered the General's tent, he was reading by the light of a lamp. “Admiral,” said the General, “you interrupted me in the most pleasing occupation of my life. I was just reading Scott's tactics.” The Admiral could not help thinking that he should have read it before he went to Sabine Cross Roads.

He told the General he was sorry he had been unsuccessful, and asking him what were his plans for the future, found him quite indignant at the idea of any one hinting that he had been beaten. “Why, sir,” he said, “we gained a glorious victory, and sent the enemy flying in all directions!” “Then, what are you doing here, General?” inquired the Admiral, “This is not the road to Shreveport.” “Why,” replied the former, “I found that there was no water in that country, and I had to fall back here to obtain water for my troops and animals.”

The Admiral suggested that the troops could have obtained all the water they wanted by marching only twelve miles to Pleasant Hill Landing; but General Banks seemed well satisfied with what he had done, and told the Admiral he intended to continue his march to Shreveport by the river road, keeping the transports in sight.

The Admiral informed Banks that this course was now out of the question, as the river was falling so rapidly that the expedition would have as much as it could do to get from Grand Ecore to Alexandria, and then it was doubtful if the vessels could pass over the Falls; but the General insisted that a rise in the river would soon take place, and he would be able to march on Shreveport in a few days.

Notwithstanding this conversation, he commenced intrenching and fortifying his camp on the 16th inst.

We must now turn to General Steele's movements. On the 1st of April, General Steele's army, which was intended to co-operate with Banks, was at Arkadelphia, waiting for General Thayer to join it. The same day, the army moved fourteen miles to Campte, and thence to Washington. Near the latter place it encountered the Confederate Generals, Marmaduke and Cabell, with a good-sized force, and, after considerable manoeuvring, Steele, while turning his army southward, was attacked in the rear by General Shelby near the crossing of the river. The enemy, although attacking with great bravery, were repulsed with heavy loss.

On the 3d of April, Steele's entire command crossed the Little Red River at Elkins' Ferry — a movement so skillfully planned and so promptly executed that the enemy only by accident learned of it after it was accomplished. General Thayer had not yet joined Steele, having been delayed by bad roads, for the heavy rains made terrible work for the army, causing the route to be almost impassable, so that it was necessary to corduroy it. Thayer at length arrived, and crossed the Little Red River on a bridge constructed by the soldiers.

On the 10th of April the army moved to Prairie, where Price, the Confederate General, had determined to make a final stand at the point he had chosen; two branches diverge from the main road to Shreveport--one going to Washington, the other to Camden. Here some artillery firing took place which lasted until nightfall. After dark the enemy made a desperate effort to capture the Federal guns, but were repulsed with heavy loss, and retreated to their fortifications of earth and timber, a mile long, commanding the Washington [518] road. On the 12th of April, Steele turned the enemy's left flank and the latter fled to Washington, followed by the cavalry sent by General Steele to make the enemy believe the army was following in their rear, instead of which it took the road to Camden. Much time was spent in crossing the Terre Rouge bottom, which had to be corduroyed for miles, and several bridges constructed. During all this time the rearguard under General Thayer was subjected to numerous attacks by the Confederate General Dockray, who was always repulsed.

Fighting their way foot by foot, with the Confederate forces in front and rear, Steele's army entered Camden on the 15th and found the place strongly fortified, so as to be impregnable against any force the enemy could bring to bear. Steele was now only a hundred miles from Shreveport, and could get all the supplies necessary by boats on the Washita River. In fact, he could have held on here until Banks reached Mansfield.

But at Camden some captured Confederate dispatches gave the information of Banks' backward movement, which was soon confirmed by other intelligence. On the 18th, a forage train sent out by Steele was captured by the enemy, the first disaster occurring during Steele's long march through a difficult country swarming with the enemy's troops. On the 20th, a supply train arrived from Pine Bluff and was sent back on the 22d, escorted by a brigade of infantry, four pieces of artillery, and a proper force of cavalry. On the 25th, news was received that the train had been captured and the colonel in command of the escort mortally wounded.

Before this time the Confederates had learned that Banks had retreated to stay, and General Kirby Smith with 8,000 Confederates had joined General Price, and the combined forces were marching upon Steele's position. Under all the circumstances, with no hope of being joined by Banks, General Steele wisely concluded to evacuate Camden and fall back.

On the night of April 26th the army crossed the Washita and marched towards Little Rock, by way of Princeton and Jenkins' Ferry, on the Sabine. On the 27th, a pontoon bridge was thrown across the Sabine at the latter point, and the army reached Little Rock, and it was learned that General Fagan, with fourteen pieces of artillery and a large force of infantry, was moving up the river to attack Little Rock.

The combined forces of Confederates, under Price, made the attack, and were repulsed with great slaughter, losing a large part of their artillery and munitions of war. Steele held on for a few days longer to see if Price would make another attack, and then took up his line of march and joined the Army of the Tennessee.

It does not require much military knowledge to see how much better Steele's expedition was managed than that of Banks'. Steele's army, unaccompanied by transports and depending entirely on their trains for supplies, marched more than three hundred miles over the worst roads possible, with an active enemy harassing them at every step. Their difficulties, indeed, were far too numerous to mention in this short sketch. Whenever Steele was attacked, he defeated the enemy; and the only mistake he appears to have made was in sending back an empty wagon-train to be captured instead of retaining it with the army. General Steele was a soldier who knew his business, and he was supported by Generals Rice, Solomon, Carr, and Thayer, who inspired their men with their own martial spirit. They outwitted the Confederates as well as outfought them on every occasion; and we only regret that the dispatches sent off by General Banks in a gun-boat did not reach General Steele in time to save the large wagon-train captured by the enemy.

But to return to affairs on Red River. When it was found that Banks would probably retreat to Alexandria, the Admiral got the Eastport and other large vessels over the bar at Grand Ecore, and directed them to proceed to Alexandria, while the Lexington and Osage were detailed to convoy the transports, and see them safe to Alexandria, when they were ready to move.

On the 16th of April, the Admiral received a dispatch from Lieutenant-Commander Phelps, reporting that the Eastport had been sunk by a torpedo eight miles below Grand Ecore. The Confederates had planted numbers of these along the river, but as they had hitherto done no damage, the Navy paid little attention to them.

When the Admiral reached the Eastport, he found her resting on the bottom, with her gun-deck above water. Hastening to Alexandria, he sent up two pump-boats, with orders to Lieutenant-Commander Phelps to take out everything that would lighten the vessel, and felt sure that the Eastport would soon be afloat again. He was detained a day in Alexandria, making a new disposition of the naval forces on the Mississippi and its tributaries.

During his absence up Red River the massacre at Fort Pillow had occurred, in consequence of the policy pursued of not properly garrisoning the strong points, where so much blood and treasure had been expended.

There were two small gun-boats at Fort Pillow at the time, which did their part, but the garrison could make but feeble resistance. [519] The Essex, Benton, Choctaw, Lafayette, Ouchita, and Avenger were sent to secure the fort against further attacks.

The Eastport was much more shattered by the explosion than had been imagined. Lieutenant-Commander Phelps and his officers worked with a will to save this valuable vessel, and more energy and determination were never evinced. Phelps was satisfied, if time were allowed, that the Eastport would be floated off all right. As the Admiral had so far met with no mishaps, he did not wish to resort to blowing up the Eastport, to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy.

On his return to Grand Ecore he found the army quite excited at the news that they were going back to Alexandria, though the different divisions were ordered “to be in readiness to march against the enemy!”

At noon of the 20th, General A. J. Smith's division marched out on the road to Nachitoches, and were kept for some time under arms.

All kinds of rumors were flying about: first that the cavalry had been driven in; then that the Confederates were advancing on Banks' position with 40,000 men, when everybody must have known that they could not assemble 16,000.

Every one was now convinced that Banks had not the slightest intention of advancing, and was planning a retreat, calling forth all the objections to an advance that he could in order to justify his course, and to say that his desire to advance on the enemy was overruled!

Admiral Porter had already told him that he could not now advance, if he depended on the gun-boats and transports; but he never advised him to leave Grand Ecore.

General A. J. Smith's division was advanced four miles towards the enemy, who seemed to be in force, and, although not strong enough to attack the Union position, would, in a retreat, no doubt, harass the rear. In fact, it shortly appeared that A. J. Smith's “ragged guerillas,” as Banks had called them, were now to have the honor of protecting the General in his retreat.

Seeing that some move was in contemplation, the Admiral sent an officer to General Banks to ask if the report was true that he was going to move to Alexandria. If so, he requested one more day in which to float the Eastport. To this message, the General sent a reply that he had no idea of moving.

The Admiral then called on General Franklin--sick in his cot — who asked if Banks had notified the Navy that he was going to retreat. The Admiral said “No,” but that he had noticed that all the transports were moving down river, and that one of the largest gun-boats was aground below.

Franklin then assured him that he had orders to move at a moment's warning, and that Banks did not wish any one to know he was going, as he wanted the largest gun-boats kept at Grand Ecore, so that they could cover his rear as he moved off.

At first the Admiral thought that Franklin was prejudiced against Banks and misjudged him, knowing there was no cordiality between those officers; but on a subsequent interview Franklin gave such assurances that Banks intended to leave him, and urged him so strongly to look out for himself, that the Admiral determined to follow his advice.

The gun-boats could take care of themselves; but the condition of the Eastport was a great cause of uneasiness; so the Admiral proceeded at once to that vessel and informed her commander that he must get away from the vicinity of Grand Ecore at all hazards, as the Confederates would occupy it immediately on the departure of the Union forces, and be able to concentrate a heavy artillery fire on him while working.

The leak in the Eastport had been so far overcome that steam was raised and the vessel only rested slightly on the bottom.

The Admiral returned to Grand Ecore and found that Banks had left with the advance of the army in the night for Alexandria, leaving General Franklin in command of the main body, with orders to follow him. So that Franklin was virtually in command until the army reached Cane River.

The evacuation left Grand Ecore in the solitude of a wilderness. A. J. Smith's division marched at 7 A. M., on the 22d, so hastily that they left behind a quantity of stores and some siege-guns, which were brought down by the fleet.

All the transports were gone, and the flag-ship Cricket and another small gun-boat were all that was left after the departure of the Grand Army, which had entered the Red River country so joyfully and was now retreating before an inferior force.

We do not think the enemy knew of the departure of the Union Army until a considerable time had elapsed, as there were no signs of them at Grand Ecore, not even a musket was fired at the army as it marched. The Admiral had had an interview with General Banks in relation to General Steele, in which he reminded the former that this was intended as a co-operative movement between the two armies; that Steele, advancing in confidence to meet Banks and not hearing of the latter's return, would fall into a trap, as the Confederates could concentrate all their forces against him and perhaps defeat his army.

Banks' army was over a hundred miles [520] in a direct line from Steele, as the crow flies, and twice that distance by the crooked roads and rivers, all the intermediate country swarming with Confederate troops.

As it was hardly possible to communicate with Steele in any other manner, the General proposed sending one of the fast naval dispatch steamers down the Red River, up the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers, thence via Little Rock to Camden, Arkansas, a distance of over five hundred miles. A messenger was sent accordingly, but whether he got to his destination is not known.

Nothing could better demonstrate the absurdity of this co-operative movement upon Shreveport than the fact, that at no time since the expedition started had the commanders of the two armies communicated with each other. A glance at the map will show that from the first these armies were to advance upon Shreveport at right angles with each other, and without the probability of communicating until they made a junction at or near that place, while the points from which they started were over 500 miles apart, and Steele's army had to make slow marches on account of bad roads and the difficulty of obtaining supplies.

Hence it was impossible for them to move in harmony as regards time, and next to impossible for one to notify the other of any detention that might occur.

The whole idea was in violation of the rule of war that two armies co-operating with each other should be in constant communication.

This co-operation might easily have been effected if Steele had marched to Columbia, La., through a much better country than the one he passed through. On arriving at Columbia, he would have been within eighty miles of General Banks, and could have been supplied with stores by way of the Washita River, where the gun-boats could have protected his transports and added to the strength of his artillery.

The two armies could have been put in communication near Mansfield, one on each side of the Red River, and the Confederates would have retreated to Shreveport without resistance.

As it was, the enemy had the opportunity of attacking each army in detail, and turning them back whence they came, making this one of the most disastrous campaigns of the war.

From all we can learn, the enemy took up a position to oppose the Union troops at the crossing of Cane River.

Franklin gave orders to attack the enemy early the following morning; but, suffering greatly from his wound, transferred the command to General Emory, who made the necessary disposition of the troops.

In the morning the 1st division attacked the enemy directly in front, while the cavalry made a demonstration on the right, and General Birge with a picked force prepared to turn the enemy's left.

After some sharp fighting General Emory carried the enemy's position with a loss of 400 men.

In the meanwhile the enemy had attacked General A. J. Smith, who brought up the rear; but all their efforts were frustrated by the vigilance of that brave soldier, who administered a severe punishment to the enemy and took many prisoners. Before 1 P. M. the enemy had all been scattered.

The Confederates having retreated, General Smith advanced four miles and camped for the night, in readiness for any further attack, the 16th corps being within supporting distance.

On the 24th of April, the enemy saluted the Union troops with several shells, in order to feel their position, and afterwards drove in the cavalry pickets. Finally they charged on the rear with a yell, but were driven back with loss.

Up to the 25th, General Emory was kept busy in repulsing the numerous attacks of the enemy, which he did with little loss. There were skirmishes at Henderson's Hill and other points, but the army was now directed with intelligence by a good General, and on the 26th and 27th the whole force marched into Alexandria in excellent condition and went into camp.

From Cane River the road to Alexandria diverged from Red River, and, of course, the transports and Eastport could expect no further support from the Army. The Admiral had, therefore, to depend upon his own resources for getting back to Alexandria, but would not have cared much about it could he have moved more rapidly. But he was so hampered by the Eastport that he felt sure of meeting resistance before the fleet could get down. The guns and stores of the Eastport had been put into a large lighter, the vessel fitted with a number of siphon pumps in addition to those she already had, and on the 21st April she started in tow of the two pump-boats.

The first day the Eastport made forty miles down the river, but at 6 P. M. she got out of the channel and grounded; and now commenced the most serious difficulties of forcing her over the bars and other obstructions so numerous in Red River, and which were so little known that there was small hope of saving the iron-clad without some help from the Army, which would probably not be given.

It would be impossible to convey an adequate idea of the proceedings from the 21st to the 26th of April, during which time the efforts of Lieutenant-Commander Phelps, [521] and the officers and men of that little squadron, were devoted to the saving of this valuable iron-clad.

Phelps and his command worked day and night, almost without rest, in the hope of getting the vessel to Alexandria. Once or twice she sank, and had to be pumped out again, then she would get aground on the logs and snags. It was necessary to keep her decks and those of the pump-boats crowded with men to do the necessary work, including carrying out hawsers at nearly every bend in the river.

The party had been anticipating for several days to be attacked by infantry and artillery, and we cannot to this day imagine why it was not done, unless the enemy expected to get the vessels into a position where no resistance could be made, and capture the whole squadron.

The Eastport had grounded eight or nine times, and at last got so hard and fast upon the logs at a place called Montgomery, that all efforts to move her were in vain. After spending a night in useless labors, and ascertaining, by sounding. that a few yards ahead was another bed of logs with still less water, Lieutenant Commander Phelps reluctantly admitted that there was nothing to do but blow the Eastport up.

The Admiral had stayed by the vessel as long as there was the slightest possibility of getting her clown, thereby risking the capture of the little squadron, and he acceded to the proposition to destroy her. Phelps had got the Eastport sixty miles down the river, and sixty more would have put her at Alexandria, but the Army was also that distance off, and the reports were that the Confederates were harassing its rear in every way, so one might naturally expect when the Union troops reached Alexandria that all the Confederate forces would be concentrated against the little flotilla.

To oppose them there were but three lightdraft gun-boats-called “tin-clads” --for the Eastport had no guns on board. The prospect was certainly not very encouraging.

The following extract of a letter from Lieutenant-Commander Phelps will be interesting in this connection:

The command of the Eastport has been to me a source of great pride, and I could not but deplore the necessity for destroying her. The act has been the most painful one of my official career. She was the finest vessel of your squadron, and one of the best possessed by the Government.

Your order to me to proceed to destroy her, in which you commend the zeal displayed by myself and officers and crew in our efforts to save her, not only relieved me from all responsibility, but was also grateful to my feelings both as a man and as an officer.

I desire, further, to express to you my grateful sense of your forbearance in ordering the destruction of the vessel when yourself convinced of the impossibility of saving her, in yielding your judgment to my natural anxiety to exhaust every means that seemed to offer a hope of success. I fear that your forbearance led to greater difficulties, both for your squadron and yourself, than ever the saving of the Eastport would justify. This consciousness added largely to my anxiety for your safety when separated from you by the accidents of the action which took place on the evening after her destruction, when I had every reason to apprehend the worst.

The most thorough preparations to destroy the Eastport were made, the boilers, cylinders and engine-room being filled with powder, as was also every enclosed space about the hull of the vessel. Then trains were laid to have a simultaneous explosion in every part. When everything was ready and some forty barrels of gunpowder awaiting ignition, the Admiral pulled off a short distance to witness the explosion, while Phelps, from his boat alongside, applied the match, and shoved off; but he had hardly got headway on his boat before the ship blew up, shattering her to fragments.

The Admiral and Phelps were fortunate in escaping with their lives, for the fragments fell in all directions around them, though no harm was done to any one.

The Confederates, who heard the explosion, must have thought an earthquake had taken place; for in that narrow river, inclosed by high banks, the jar seemed as if everything would shake to pieces, and the trees bent, as if a tornado had passed over them.

Of course, the enemy made for that point with all dispatch; and, although the officers were always on the look-out, the attack came sooner than was expected.

The vessels had dropped down about three hundred yards from the Eastport, and the little flag-ship, the Cricket, was lying at the right bank; when, just after the former vessel blew up, she was attacked by a heavy force of infantry from the right bank. From their concealed position they poured a fire into all the vessels of over twelve hundred muskets and rifles, and then rushed to board the Cricket.

Fortunately one watch was always kept at the guns, prepared for any emergency, and the men were under cover of the bulwarks; so that, with the exception of splintering wood-work and smashing glass, little damage was done by the fire.

A fire of grape, canister. and shrapnel soon drove the enemy back. One man, who could not get away, surrendered himself prisoner, and informed the Admiral that the present force was only the advance of some six thousand artillery and infantry that would give him a warm reception further down. The naval force now consisted of the Cricket and Juliet, each carrying six small guns, and the Fort Hindman, eight guns, mixed battery--“tinclad” gun-boats only musket-proof — together with two pump-boats, Champion [522] and Champion No. 5, entirely unprotected.

The Champion was lashed to the Juliet, and the Champion No. 5 followed the squadron.

They had proceeded twenty miles down the river, the Cricket leading, and the vessels in close order, when it was noticed, about one hundred yards from the river, on a high bluff at a bend, that some men were moving in the bushes; and the commander ordered a shrapnel shell fired in among them from a 12-pounder howitzer, always in readiness on the upper deck. The shell burst in the midst of the enemy, whom, it now appeared, were posted in force; and the vessels approached within about twenty yards of the shore, when nineteen shells

Attack on the Cricket by 2,500 Confederates, under General Green.

crashed through the vessel from concealed artillery, shattering the Cricket in all her parts.

The Admiral immediately hastened to the pilot-house, and entered the boor just as a bursting shell wounded the pilot, and killed all the guns' crew forward. By this time the engine had stopped; but the current, running at the rate of four miles per hour, was bearing the Cricket rapidly down stream. Going below, the Admiral found the engineer had been killed with his hand on the throttle-valve, and as he expired he had shut off the steam. Steam was turned on, and the engine once more started.

The gun-deck was covered with dead and wounded, and all but one of the guns was disabled. In the fire-room all the firemen were hors du combat.

During this time the enemy were raking the Cricket fore and aft; but, supposing that she was disabled so as to be in their power, they turned their attention to the Juliet, close behind, with such effect that she drifted down under the bank, where no guns could be brought to bear upon her.

In the meantime the Cricket had succeeded in getting around a long, narrow neck of land, and found herself in the enemy's rear. Having got a fresh crew to the gun on the upper deck, and remanned two of the other guns with “contrabands,” the fire was directed with such effect that the enemy were driven from their guns, and the Juliet escaped up the river in tow of the Champion.

In the four minutes the Cricket sustained the enemy's fire, she had twelve killed and nineteen wounded, most of the latter severely. She was struck thirty-eight times with shell, which general;y burst in small fragments. otherwise they would probably have disabled the boilers and machinery.

The whole ship's company of this little vessel amounted to but fifty persons, of whom one third were negroes picked up along the Mississippi; but there was no flinching, although the Cricket had but four officers, all of whom were wounded. One gentleman, a guest on board, said he came in this expedition expecting to see fighting, and had now seen all of it he wanted.

As soon as the Confederates recovered from the temporary surprise caused by the Cricket's shells, and the latter had [523] drifted out of range, they opened upon the Champion No. 5, and sunk her immediately. She had a number of negroes on board who had fled from Grand Ecore, but they were all killed, many of them shot while struggling in the water.

General Taylor told the Admiral, after the war, that he was present and in command on this occasion, and, besides three batteries of artillery, he had three thousand infantry pouring their fire into the vessels all the time. The Admiral reproached the General for his want of courtesy in shooting at him as he passed along the upper deck, but Taylor assured him that he ordered the firing to cease the moment he recognized the Admiral.

If this was so, and amid all the noise and confusion, no one could pretend to recollect the exact circumstances of the case, the Admiral must attribute it to the chivalric feeling in General Taylor's breast towards one with whom he had been intimate in the days when the South did not dream of shedding Northern blood.

When Lieutenant-Commander Phelps saw the difficulties ahead, he steamed down in the Fort Hindman, and opened fire on the enemy's batteries, enabling the Juliet to escape and join him. The latter vessel, in this short period, had lost fifteen killed and wounded, and was very much cut up. Phelps concluded it would be best to wait till night before trying to run the batteries. Some may think he should have followed the flag-ship immediately, but the Admiral always encouraged his officers to think for themselves, and had he followed, with the river impeded by the sunken Champion, he might have entangled the vessels and lost all. Naturally thinking that the Cricket had been destroyed, Phelps had to take upon himself the responsibility of commanding officer.

Two iron-clads had been ordered to meet the fleet two miles below Cane River, near where the flotilla was attacked, and the flag-ship hastened to meet them and hurry them to the scene of action; but the Cricket soon ran hard and fast aground within reach of the enemy's guns, but fortunately, out of their sight, and remaine in this position for three hours. While there the vessel caught fire from the explosion of a howitzer caisson-box, which had been struck by one of the enemy's shells.

At dark, the Cricket fell in with the Osage. lying opposite one of the enemy's field batteries, which she had been shelling all day, and this, together with being under a high point of land, prevented the commanding officer from learning the direction of the cannonading. The Osage was dispatched at once to the scene of the late action, as she was proof against field artillery.

The Lexington was engaging another battery near by, and had been struck fifteen times in the hull during the day, with only one man killed. She was too large to go up the river to the enemy's batteries, so taking one or two officers from her, including a surgeon and some firemen, the Cricket proceeded under her convoy to Alexandria to bury the dead and care for the wounded. The Confederates, it was thought, would have batteries all along the river, and the Cricket, with so few men and only one gun not disabled, was in no condition for service.

The Osage, in her anxiety to reach the Confederate battery, had run ashore four miles below it, when the Fort Hindman and the Juliet appeared, coming down the river, having left the two Champions sunk. Had the iron-clad arrived in time she would have been of great service, but as it was, the passage from Grand Ecore down could not be called a success.

The Admiral left behind him one iron-clad and two rump-boats; but had the satisfaction of knowing that none of the transports had been left in the lurch, although ample excuse had been afforded to do so.

Throughout the expedition there had been no instance where the Navy held back when called upon to support the Army and its transports, and, remarkable as it may appear, not a transport was lost, nor any of their stores, during an expedition of 300 miles up the river and return, although it required the most strenuous exertions of the Navy to keep them in place and prevent their masters, some of them Confederate sympathizers, from placing their vessels where they would fall into the hands of the enemy.

The Admiral certainly was under no obligations to the Army for his escape down the river, where, after the retreat of the latter, every man and gun the Confederates could utilize were brought to the banks to try and capture a poor little squadron of “tinclads” with the commander-in-chief of the naval fores on board.

Had Banks been surrounded by a superior force, the Navy would never have run away and left him; but would. have expended every vessel, if necessary, rather than have a reverse befall him.

It never seemed to strike any one in the Army that the Navy was of the slightest consequence beyond the service it could perform for them. The loss of the Eastport was considered of no more importance than the loss of some quartermaster's transport, which were frequently run aground and deserted during the war, with full cargoes on board; accidents which [524] never happened when they had the little “tin-clad” gun-boats of the Navy — vessels as vulnerable as themselves, but much better commanded — to convoy them.

When the flag-ship arrived at Alexandria, the squadron of naval vessels, fourteen in number, was found above the Falls, with the rocks below them for a mile quite bare, with the exception of a channel twenty feet wide and about three feet deep. Taking the chances, the pilot managed to get through this channel with the Cricket, after considerable thumping, and passed the Falls.

Except from that warm-hearted soldier, A. J. Smith, the Navy received few congratulations for their successful escape down the river. With this officer the Admiral conferred seriously in relation to the condition of affairs. Smith was very bitter against Banks for retreating in the manner he did, and again broached the idea that Franklin should take command of the Army.

The Admiral did all he could to pacify the General, and recommended perfect subordination, telling him that nothing would please General Banks better than to place him under arrest, notwithstanding all the services he had rendered. General Smith could not bear to rest under the stigma of defeat, although everybody knew that he and his brave division had never been beaten at any time during the expedition.

General Banks had moved into comfortable headquarters, and the several army corps had encamped near the town. General McClernand had taken command of the 13th corps, and was posted on a road leading to Fort De Russy, three miles outside of Alexandria, to keep the Confederates from passing down that way.

The Army was in a state of general dissatisfaction from various causes. General A. J. Smith, from not being allowed to follow the Confederates to Shreveport; Franklin and Emory were disgusted at the way the expedition had been mismanaged; while Banks, though somewhat subdued, tried to preserve his equanimity.

General Smith, when allowed, with his command, by General Sherman, to take part in this expedition, was ordered to return to the latter in thirty days, at the expiration of which time Banks promised to be in Shreveport; but, when the time had elapsed, Banks protested against Smith's leaving, on the ground that the safety of the Army depended on his remaining, as the Army could not move until the naval vessels had passed the Falls at Alexandria.

The squadron was now in a very bad position above the Falls, as there seemed little chance of getting down until the river should rise some fourteen feet, and the safety of the vessels depended very much on the Army continuing at Alexandria. The latter was now in a country with good roads, and with the topography of which they were familiar, and could make their way back to the Mississippi without danger from the Confederates, who had only 12,000 men available in that region, although expecting reinforcements.

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