previous next

[546] miles. There are few plantations and fewer settlements. These are merely built in clearings, of pine logs, thatched and plastered with mud. I have ridden for fifty miles into the heart of this pine country, and from the beginning to the end of the journey there was nothing but a dense, impenetrable, interminable forest, traversed by a few narrow roads, with no sign of life or civilization beyond occasional log houses and halfcleared plantations — the bark being stripped from the trees, that they might rot and die in a few months, and thus save their lazy owners the trouble of cutting them down. Into this country General Banks was compelled to march. He found, in the beginning, that two arms of his service would be almost worthless. So lone as he marched, his cavalry might picket the woods and skirmish along the advance; but in action they would be as helpless as so many wagontrains. His artillery would be of no use unless he should manage to get the enemy into an open clearing, which was as improbable as it would be to get troops with works to fight in front of them. The country was little more than a great masked battery. It was an unproductive, barren country, and it became necessary for permanent military operations to carry along every thing that an army could use. Such a thing as subsisting an army in a country like this could only be achieved when men and horses can be induced to live on pine trees and resin. General Banks had very much the same difficulties to meet that Lord Raglan found in the Crimea. In one respect they were greater. For, while our commander was compelled to march his army as a movable column, he was also compelled to keep open a long and dangerous line of communication. I make these explanations now in order that you may more particularly understand the nature of our recent operations, and give General Banks the credit that I feel to be due to him and to the army under his command.

About thirty-four miles from Grand Ecore there is a clearing of more than usual size, and upon it there are built more than the ordinary number of houses, and showing more than the common degree of enterprise and taste. This clearing forms a plateau, and as it rises as high perhaps as fifty feet, the people have taken advantage of the fact, and called it “Pleasant Hill.” Against this point it was determined to march. We knew that the rebel army was in that direction, and it was not at all unlikely that they would make a stand and show us battle. The army marched accordingly — Lee leading the advance, moving slowly with his cavalry, and followed as rapidly as possible by the infantry divisions of General Ransom. By Thursday, April seventh, the whole army was in motion, and the advance was nearing Pleasant Hill. General Banks broke camp, and with his staff and a small escort rode to the front. Before him were two thirds of his army; behind him, the remainder, under General Smith, and composed of many of the bravest veterans in Grant's army, was marching rapidly. We had not ridden more than ten miles when the rain began to fall. It continued to fall, and for the remainder of the day we had a storm of unusual fury. This delayed the march so much that it was dark before the General reached the encampment of General Franklin, on Pleasant Hill. The rain was then pouring in torrents, and the shelter of a tent and a cup of coffee became luxuries that even a Sybarite would have craved. Early in the day, on Thursday, our cavalry had passed beyond Pleasant Hill, and about two miles above, near a ravine, they had met the rear-guard of the enemy. A sharp skirmish ensued. The fighting became so earnest at last, that General Lee began to doubt the ability of his cavalry to force a passage, and sent to General Franklin for a brigade of infantry, as a reinforcement. The enemy were driven, however, before the infantry arrived, with severe loss, the cavalry being compelled to dismount, and fight through the woods. In this skirmish we lost about fifty men, killed, wounded, and missing.

This skirmish convinced us that the enemy in front were in more than usual force. We learned from prisoners that Lieutenant-General E. Kirby Smith, of the rebel army, was in command, that his trains had fallen back on the road to Mansfield, and that his army was retreating with more than usual disorder. It, of course, suggested itself that our pursuit should be rapid, and, if we showed proper enterprise, we might capture Mansfield and the whole train of the rebel army. An order was given that the army should march early in the morning, and shortly after dawn the whole force was on the advance, General Banks and staff following. The advance was pushed with energy. Our army skirmished all the way, and once or twice the enemy made a demonstration of force. Our troops quietly drove them, and we moved on. The roads began to be in a horrible condition, and frequently we were compelled to halt and repair them, building bridges, removing stumps, and widening the paths. At about eleven in the morning General Banks reached General Franklin, at a point about ten miles from Pleasant Hill. The cavalry had passed on, the train following. One division of his infantry had crossed, the Fourth division of the Thirteenth army corps, under the immediate command of Brigadier-General Ransom. His men were engaged in building a bridge over a bayou that embarrassed the march, and his trains were about to cross. He reported to General Banks that every thing was going on finely; that his force was pressing the enemy, who was slowly falling back, and that as he could not hope to march much further, he had thought it best to make his headquarters at a neighboring log hut, and had accordingly halted his trains. General Banks directed his own trains to be halted there, and, after resting awhile and holding a conference with General Franklin, remounted and rode to the front.

This was shortly after noon. A brief ride brought the General to the advance. He found the cavalry slowly pushing on, and the enemy disputing their march. It was a tedious process.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Pleasant Hill (Louisiana, United States) (5)
Mansfield (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Grand Ecore (Louisiana, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
N. P. Banks (8)
William B. Franklin (4)
T. E. G. Ransom (2)
S. P. Lee (2)
Kirby Smith (1)
E. Kirby Smith (1)
Mansfield (1)
U. S. Grant (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
April 7th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: