The defeat is thus virtually confessed.
But why did Banks
retreat, when his soldiers were eager to advance, and efface the stinging recollection of the blundering disaster of the 8th?
He says in his official report:
At the close of the engagement, the victorious party found itself without rations and water.
To clear the field for the fight, the train had been sent to the rear upon the single line of communication through the woods, and could not be brought to the front during the night.
There was water neither for man nor beast, except such as the now exhausted wells had afforded during the day for miles around.
Previous to the movement of the army from Natchito<*>hes, orders had been given to the transport fleet, with a portion of the 16th corps, under the command of Gen. Kilby Smith, to move up the river, if it was found practicable, to some point near Springfield landing, with a view of effecting a junction with the army at that point on the river.
The surplus ammunition and supplies were on board these transports.
It was impossible to ascertain whether the fleet had been able to reach the point designated.
The rapidly falling river, and the increased difficulties of navigation, made it appear almost certain that it would not be able to attain the point proposed.
A squadron of cavalry, sent down to the river, accompanied by Mr. Young, of the engineer corps, who was thoroughly acquainted with the country, reported, on the day of the battle, that no tidings of the fleet could be obtained on the river; and we were compelled to assume that the increasing difficulties of navigation had prevented it, even if disaster had not occurred from the obstructions which the enemy had placed in the river.
These considerations, the absolute deprivation of water for man or beast, the exhaustion of rations, and the failure to effect a connection with the fleet on the river, made it necessary for the army, although victorious in the terrible struggle through which it had just passed, to retreat to a point where it would be certain of communicating with the fleet, and where it would have an opportunity of reorganization.
The shattered condition of the 13th army corps and the cavalry made this indispensable.
The wounded were gathered from the battle-field, placed in comfortable hospitals, and left under the care of competent surgeons and assistants.
The dead remaining on the field were, as far as possible, buried during the night.
The next day, medical supplies and provisions, with competent attendants, were sent in for the sustenance of the wounded; and at day break the army reluctantly fell back to its position at Grand Ecore, for the purpose of communicating with the fleet and obtaining supplies; to the great disappointment of the troops, who, flushed with success, were eager for another fight.
It certainly would seem that the impulse of the soldiers was, in this case, more trustworthy than the discretion of the General
For, the want of water was at least as great on the part of the enemy as on ours, and can not have amounted to an absolute drouth in a region generally wooded and not absolutely flat, nor streamless, with Sabine river
within a day's march on one flank, and Red river
as near on the other.
It is surely to be regretted that our army, if unable to advance, had not moved by the right flank to Red river
, or simply held its ground for two or three days, while its wounded were sent away to Grand Ecore
, instead of being abandoned to the enemy.
admits a loss of 18 guns only on the 8th, with 125 wagons, and claims a gain of three guns on the 9th; at the close of which day, he reports that
The troops held in reserve moved forward at the critical moment, and maintained our position, from which the enemy was driven precipitately and with terrible destruction of life.
He fled to the woods upon the right, and was pursued with great energy by the whole of our forces, until it was impossible in the darkness to distinguish friend from foe. The losses were great on both sides; but that of the Rebels, as we could judge from the appearance of the battle-field, more than double our own.
admits a total loss of 3,969 men in the collisions of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April--289 killed, 1,541 wounded, and 2,150 missing, mostly prisoners — and says that we fought and won at Pleasant Hill