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[538] were already reduced, though scarcely a shot had been fired, to about 20,000. Part of these had already been pushed on, 80 miles farther, to

Red river region.

Natchitoches1--the enemy skirmishing sharply at intervals with our van, but making no stubborn resistance. Gen. A. L. Lee, scouting in advance to Pleasant Hill, 36 miles farther, found the enemy in force; while some of Price's men, here taken prisoners, reported a concentration in that neighborhood of troops from Texas (under Green) and from Arkansas; raising the aggregate Rebel force barring the road to Shreveport to about 25,000 men, with 76 guns.

Shreveport was 100 miles from Natchitoches — the direct road (which was taken) passing through a sandy, barren, mainly pine-covered, nearly uninhabited country. The river, which had been confidently expected to rise, was unequivocally, steadily falling; and our gunboats could not pass Grand Ecore.2

Banks should have stopped here; but Smith's corps must soon leave, in obedience to peremptory orders from Gen. Grant, who had work cut out for it elsewhere; and Banks's army, its General inclusive, was hungry for Shreveport. A partisan encounter,3

1 April 2-3.

2 Natchitoches is on the old (deserted) channel of Red river; Grand Ecore is on its new channel, four miles farther north.

3 April 4.

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