previous next

[727] occupation, would have been of great importance to the government in all operations in that part of the country. It would have held a large force of rebel troops in the vicinity of Houston, enabled us to penetrate the territory of Texas at any time, or to concentrate our forces on the Mississippi, and rendered unnecessary the expedition of 1864 for the reestablishment of the flag in Texas.

Colonel Burrill and his men remained in captivity more than a year, and after much suffering, were exchanged in the spring of 1864.

It is true, as stated by Major-General Halleck, in his report of the fifteenth November, 1863, as General-in-Chief of the army, that “this expedition was not contemplated or provided for in General Banks's instructions;” but having undoubted information of an immediate attack by the enemy, and of the purpose entertained by General Butler to reinforce the navy by a detachment of land troops, as well as the direct approval of this purpose by Admiral Farragut as commander of the naval forces in the Gulf, it would have been inexcusable, if not criminal, had I declined to maintain the occupation of so important a position, when so slight a force was required, upon the ground that it was not contemplated or provided for in my instructions. I regarded the loss of Galveston in its consequences, though not in the incidents immediately attending its capture, as the most unfortunate affair that occurred in the department during my command. Galveston, as a military position, was second in importance only to New Orleans or Mobile.

The defensive positions of the enemy in the department were Port Hudson on the Mississippi, which was strongly fortified and held by a force of not less than eighteen thousand (18,000) men. On the Atchafalaya, the water communications toward Red River were defended by strong works at Butte à la Rose, and on Bayou Teche by strong land fortifications near Pattersonville, called Fort Bisland, extending from Grand Lake on the right to impassable swamps on the left of the Teche Bayou. Butte á la Rose was defended by the gunboats of the enemy, and a garrison of three hundred to five hundred men; and Fort Bisland on the Teche, by a force of twelve thousand to fifteen thousand men, distributed from Berwick's Bay to Alexandria and Grand Ecore on Red River. These positions covered every line of communication to the Red River country and the upper Mississippi.

The first object was to reduce the works at Port Hudson. This could be done by an attack directly upon the fortifications, or by getting possession of the Red River for the purpose of cutting off supplies received by the garrison from that country.

My command upon my arrival at New Orleans, with the troops that accompanied me, was less than thirty thousand, (30,000.) There were fifty-six regiments, of which twenty-two regiments were enlisted for nine months only, the terms of service of a part expiring in May, a part in July, and all in August. None of the regiments or men had seen service, and few had even handled a musket.

The military positions held by our forces extended from the Floridas to Western Texas on the Gulf, and upon the Mississippi from its mouth to Port Hudson, Key West, Pensacola, and Ship Island on the Gulf, were strongly garrisoned, and threatened constantly with attack by the enemy. Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and English Bend, on the lower river; New Orleans, Bonne Carre, Donaldsonville, Plaquemine, and Baton Rouge, on the upper river; and Forts Pike and Macomb on Lake Ponchartrain leading to the Gulf, and Berwick's Bay, were open to the incursions of the enemy, and necessarily strongly held by our forces. None of these could be evacuated except the town of Pensacola, leaving a garrison in the permanent works at the navy yard. All these positions were constantly threatened by an active and powerful enemy, who could concentrate at any point he pleased. That at Galveston had been captured by a force of not less than twenty-four men to one. It was deemed inexpedient, with but slight knowledge of the condition of affairs, in the absence of any absolute necessity, to greatly weaken or expose any position then in our possession.

After garrisoning these numerous posts, the strongest force I could command for permanent offensive operations against Port Hudson did not exceed twelve or fourteen thousand. It was impossible to attack so strong a position, garrisoned by a force so much larger, with any chance of success. Attention was, therefore, turned to the west of the Mississippi, to the Atchafalaya and Teche, with a view of getting command of the waters, by which our gunboats could reach Red River, and communicate with the forces, naval and military, at Vicksburg, and cut off the supplies of the enemy west of the Mississippi. The first effort to accomplish this was made in an unsuccessful endeavor to open the Bayou Plaquemine, which communicated with the Atchafalaya near Butte à la Rose.

The command of Brigadier-General Weitzel, on Berwick's Bay, had been increased, the first and second week in January, to forty-five hundred men, with a view to operations upon the Teche, for the purpose of destroying the works and dispersing the forces of the enemy on that bayou. On the eleventh of January he made a successful invasion of the Teche country, repulsed the forces of the enemy, and destroyed the gunboat “Cotton.” This relieved Berwick's Bay from the danger of an attack by the enemy's most formidable gunboat, in case our forces, naval and military, moved up the Atchafalaya toward Butte á la Rose. An attempt was then made to get possession of Butte á la Rose, by combining the command of Weitzel, moving up the Atchafalaya, with that of General Emory, moving from the Mississippi by Bayou Plaquemine, their forces joining near Butte á la Rose. This attempt failed on account of the complete stoppage of Bayou Plaquemine by three years accumulation of drift logs and snags, filling the bayou from the

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 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.
Weitzel (2)
H. W. Halleck (1)
D. G. Farragut (1)
W. H. Emory (1)
Carre (1)
A. F. Butler (1)
Burrill (1)
N. P. Banks (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.
1864 AD (2)
November 15th, 1863 AD (1)
August (1)
July (1)
May (1)
January 11th (1)
January (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: