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[735] The country between the Teche and the Sabine was without supplies of any kind, and entirely without water, and the march across that country of three hundred miles, with wagon transportation alone, where we were certain to meet the enemy in full force, was necessarily abandoned. A movement in the direction of Alexandria and Shreveport was equally impracticable. The route lay over a country utterly destitute of supplies, which had been overrun repeatedly by the two armies, and which involved a march of five hundred miles from New Orleans, and nearly four hundred miles from Berwick's Bay, with wagon transportation only, in a country without water, forage, or supplies, mostly upon a single road very thickly wooded, and occupied by a thoroughly hostile population.

Being satisfied that it was impracticable to execute the orders of the government by this route, for these reasons, which were stated in my several despatches, I decided as the only alternative left me for the execution of the orders of the government, to attempt the occupation of the Rio Grande, which I had suggested on the thirteenth of September, as an alternative, if the land route was found impracticable. Leaving the troops opposite Berwick's Bay, upon the land route into Texas, I organized a small expedition, the troops being placed under command of Major-General N. J. T. Dana, and sailed on the twenty-sixth of October, 1863, for the Rio Grande. A landing was effected at Brazos Santiago, which was occupied by the enemy's cavalry and artillery, the second day of November. The enemy was driven from his position the next day, and the troops ordered forward to Brownsville, thirty miles from the mouth of the river. Colonel Dye, of the Ninety-fourth Illinois volunteers, commanding the advance, occupied Brownsville on the sixth of November, where, a few hours after his arrival, I made my headquarters. Major-General Dana was left in command of this post. As soon as it was possible to provide for the garrison and obtain transportation for the navigation of the river, which occupied four or five days, I moved with all the troops which could be spared from that point for the purpose of occupying the passes on the coast between the Rio Grande and Galveston, intending to complete my original plan by the occupation of Galveston from the coast below, instead of above. Point Isabel was occupied on the eighth of November. By the aid of steamers obtained on the Rio Grande, with the consent of the Mexican government, we were enabled to transport troops to Mustang Island. The troops were under the command of Brigadier-General T. E. G. Ransom, who carried the enemy's works commanding Aransas Pass, after a gallant assault, capturing nearly one hundred prisoners and the artillery with which the place was defended. The troops instantly moved upon Pass Cavallo, commanding the entrance to Matagorda Bay, and which was also defended by strong and extensive fortifications, and a force of two thousand men,--artillery, cavalry, and infantry,--who could be reenforced in any emergency from Houston and Galveston. The troops were under command of Major-General C. C. Washburne, then commanding the thirteenth corps. Fort Esperanza was invested, and after a most gallant action the enemy blew up his magazines, partially dismantled his defences, and evacuated the position, the major part of his men escaping to the main land by the peninsula near the mouth of the Brazos.

The occupation of Brownsville and Brazos Santiago, the capture of the works and garrison at Aransas Pass, and the defeat of the enemy and the capture of his works at Fort Esperanza, by our troops, left. nothing on the coast in his possession but the works at the mouth of Brazos River and on the Island of Galveston, which were formidable and defended by all the forces of the enemy in Texas. The command of General Magruder had been withdrawn from different parts of the state, and concentrated on the coast between Houston, Galveston, and Indianola, in consequence of our movement against the works at Sabine Pass, the occupation of the Rio Grande, and the capture of the works constructed for the defence of Aransas Pass and Pass Cavallo, on the Texas coast. To carry the works at the mouth of Brazos River, it was necessary to move inland, and to attack the enemy in the rear, in which we necessarily encountered the entire strength of the rebel forces, then greatly superior in numbers to ours. Preparations were made for more extended operations on the main land from Indianola, at Matagorda Bay, or on the peninsula connecting with the main land at Brazos River, and notice given to the war department of the plan of operations, with a request for the increase of the forces for extended operations in Texas if it was found expedient. The troops on the Teche, under command of Major-General Franklin, would have been transferred to the coast in such force as to make certain the occupation of Houston or Galveston. From this point I intended to withdraw my troops to the Island of Galveston, which could have been held with perfect security by less than a thousand men, which would have left me free to resume my operations, suggested in August and September, against Mobile.

The Rio Grande and the Island of Galveston could have been held with two or three thousand men. This would have cut off the contraband trade of the enemy at Matamoras, and on the Texan coast. The forces occupying the Island of Galveston could have been strengthened by sea, at any moment, from Berwick's Bay, connecting with New Orleans by railway, or by the river, compelling the enemy to maintain an army near Houston, and preventing his concentrating his forces for the invasion of Louisiana, Arkansas, or Missouri. The occupation of the Rio Grande, Galveston, and Mobile would have led to the capture or destruction of all the enemy's river and sea transportation on the Gulf coast, and left the western Gulf blockading squadron, numbering one hundred and fifty vessels, and mounting four hundred and fifty guns, free to pursue

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D. C. Houston (2)
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