bed of the stream, and rendering it impenetrable to our boats, and requiring the labor of months to open it for navigation. The troops were engaged in this work most of the month of February. During the operations on Bayou Plaquemine and the Atchafalaya, news was received of the capture by the enemy of the steamers “Queen of the west” and “De Soto,” which had run past the batteries at Vicksburg. This event was deemed of sufficient importance, by Admiral Farragut, to demand the occupation of the Mississippi between Port Hudson and Vicksburg, by running the batteries on the river at Port Hudson, in order to destroy these boats, and cut off the enemy's communication by the Red River with Vicksburg and Port Hudson, thus accomplishing, by a swifter course, the object of our campaign west of the river. The army was called upon to make a demonstration against the fortifications at Port Hudson, while the fleet should run the batteries upon the river. All the disposable force of the department was moved to Baton Rouge for this purpose, early in March. On the thirteenth of March the troops moved out to the rear of Port Hudson, about twelve thousand strong. The pickets of the enemy were encountered near Baton Rouge, and a considerable force in the vicinity of Port Hudson, which was quickly driven in. The army reached the rear of the works on the night of the fourteenth, and made a demonstration as for an attack on the works the next morning. The arrangement between the Admiral and myself was, that the passage of the batteries by the navy should be attempted in the “gray of the morning,” the army making a simultaneous attack on the fortifications in the rear. But affairs appearing to be more favorable to the fleet than was anticipated, the object was accomplished in the evening and during the night of the fourteenth. Naval history scarcely presents a more brilliant act than the passage of these formidable batteries. The army returned to Baton Rouge the next day, the object of the expedition having been announced, in General Orders, as completely accomplished. Our loss in this affair was very slight, the enemy not resisting us with any determination until we were in the vicinity of their outer works. Colonel John S. Clark, of my staff, received a wound while closely reconnoitring the position of the enemy, which disabled him from further participation in the campaign. Pending these general movements, a force under command of Colonel Thomas S. Clark, of the Sixth Michigan volunteers, was sent out from New Orleans to destroy the bridge at Ponchatoula, and a small force under Colonel F. S. Nickerson, of the Fourteenth Maine volunteers, to destroy the enemy's communication by the Jackson Railroad, and the bridges on the Amite River. Both these objects were successfully accomplished. Endeavors were made at this time to collect at Baton Rouge a sufficient force to justify an attack upon Port Hudson, either by assault or siege; but the utmost force that could be collected for this purpose did not exceed twelve or fourteen thousand men. To withdraw the force of Weitzel from Berwick's Bay would open the La Fourche to the enemy, who had ten or fifteen thousand men upon the Teche, and the withdrawal of the forces from New Orleans would expose that city to the assault of the enemy from every point. The strength of the enemy at Port Hudson was then believed to be from eighteen to twenty thousand. It is now known, with absolute certainty, that the garrison on the night of the fourteenth of March, 1863, was not less than sixteen thousand effective troops. The statement of the General-in-Chief of the army in his report of the fifteenth of November, 1863, that, had our forces invested Port Hudson at this time, it could have been easily reduced, as its garrison was weak, was without any just foundation. Information received from Brigadier-General W. W. R. Beall, one of the officers in command of Port Hudson at this time, as well as from other officers, justifies this opinion. It was unadvisable, therefore, to make an attack upon Port Hudson, either by assault or siege, with any expectation of a successful issue. Operations, therefore, on the waters west of the Mississippi, were immediately resumed. While at Baton Rouge, an attempt was made to force a passage to the upper river, across a point of land opposite to Port Hudson. This was successfully accomplished after some days, but without establishing communication with the Admiral, who had moved to the Red River. In one of these expeditions, the chief signal officer and a party of his men were taken prisoners opposite Port Hudson. Orders were given on the twenty-fifth of March to take up the line of march for Brashear City. The rebel steamers “Queen of the west” and “Webb” were reported at Butte á la Rose on the Atchafalaya, and it was understood that the enemy, supposing my command to be fixed at Port Hudson, threatened to move at once upon the Lafourche and New Orleans. Weitzel reached Brashear City on the eighth of April, and Grover and Emory on the ninth and tenth. They commenced crossing Berwick's Bay on the ninth. It was a very slow process, on account of the want of transportation; but Weitzel and Emory succeeded in crossing by dark on the tenth, their transportation and supplies being sent over the same night and the following morning. General Grover arrived on the tenth, in the evening, and his command was immediately put on board the transports of my command, and sent up the Atchafalaya and Grand Lake to turn the enemy's position; landing his force at Indian Bend, above Fort Bisland. It was estimated that his movement and landing would require about twelve hours; but the difficulties of navigating unknown rivers made his voyage longer than was anticipated. His boats could not come within a mile and a quarter of the shore, on account of shoal water, and he was obliged to use flat-boats to land his men and artillery. After Grover's departure, we advanced directly upon
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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