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[552] was nowise implicated in these sordid operations; not so Admiral Porter.1 He, unlike Banks, had been an original advocate of the advance on Shreveport. He had signalized his movement up Red river by a proclamation or order claiming for the fleet — that is, in good part, for himself — all the cotton within a league of that river as lawful prize of war. And, while our army was hard at work to get his gunboats over the falls on his return, Government wagons were engaged in bringing in cotton from the adjacent plantations, to load transports that might far better have been used to bring away the loyal people of Alexandria, who were left defenseless to the vengeance of the returning Rebels.

Gen. Steele moved2 southward from Little Rock with 7,000 men, almost simultaneously with Banks's advance to Alexandria; Gen. Thayer, with the Army of the Frontier, possibly 5,000 strong, having left Fort Smith the day previous, expecting to join him at Arkadelphia; while Col. Clayton, with a small force, advanced from Pine Bluff on Steele's left. Heavy rains, bad roads, swollen streams, and the absence of bridges, impeded movements and deranged calculations on all hands; so that Steele, after waiting two days at Arkadelphia, pressed on3 without him. Since it crossed the Saline, the Rebel cavalry, under Marmaduke and Shelby, had skirmished sharply with our advance; and attempts to stop it at river-crossings and other difficult passes were often made, but generally baffled by flanking. Sterling Price, with a considerable force of Rebel infantry, barred Steele's way4 at Prairie d'anne; and an artillery fight was kept up for some hours, till darkness closed it; when the enemy attempted to capture our guns by a rush, but was repulsed, with loss; and thereupon retreated to Washington, on the upper course of Red river<.5

By this time, there were rumors in the lair that Banks had been defeated in Upper Louisiana and compelled to retreat; rumors which prisoners and Steele's spies soon corroborated. Instead of following Price, therefore, Steele turned sharply to the left, and marched into Camden ;6 the enemy, when too late, endeavoring to get there before him.

While waiting here, the tidings of Banks's reverses were amply confirmed; whereupon, the activity and daring of the enemy were of course redoubled. First, a train sent out 16 miles west for forage was attacked and captured ;7 with a loss on our part of 250 men and 4 guns; next, a supply train of 240 wagons, which had arrived 8 from Pine Bluff, and, after being unloaded, had been dispatched9 on its return, guarded by Lt.-Col. Drake, 36th Iowa, with the 2d brigade of Gen. Salomon's division, was assailed next day, when 12 miles out, by Shelby's cavalry, which it easily beat off, camping for the night 6 miles farther on its way; making, by great exertion, 22 miles next day; having to corduroy the road much of the distance.

Next morning,10 while with difficulty making its way through a swamp four miles long, its advance

1 Pollard says Porter was already known (among Rebels) as preeminently “the thief of the Mississippi.”

2 March 23-4.

3 April 1.

4 April 10.

5 April 12.

6 April 15.

7 April 18.

8 April 20.

9 April 22.

10 April 25.

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