without opposition on the sixteenth of the same month. General Lee, of my command, arrived at Alexandria on the morning of the nineteenth. The enemy in the mean time continued his retreat through Cheneyville, in the direction of Shreveport. Officers of my staff were at Alexandria on the nineteenth, and I made my headquarters there on the twenty-fourth, the forces under General Franklin arriving on the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth of March; but as the stage of the water in Red River was too low to admit the passage of the gunboats or transports over the falls, the troops encamped near Alexandria, General Smith and his command moving forward twenty-one miles to Bayou Rapids, above Alexandria. There were but six feet of water in the channel, while seven and a half were necessary for the second class, and ten feet for the first class gunboats. The river is narrow, the channel tortuous, changing with every rise, making its navigation more difficult and dangerous, probably, than any of the western rivers, while pilots for the transports were reluctant to enter government service for this campaign. The first gunboat was unable to cross the rapids until the twenty-sixth; others crossed on the twenty-eighth with some transports, and others still on the second and third of April, the passage having been made with difficulty and danger, occupying several days. Several gunboats and transports, being unable then to ascend the river, remained at Alexandria, or returned to the Mississippi. While at Alexandria, Major-General McPherson, commanding at Vicksburg, called for the immediate return of the Marine Brigade--a part of General Smith's command — to protect the Mississippi, for which service it had been specially organized. The transports of this brigade were unable to pass above Alexandria. The hospital boat “Woodford” had been wrecked on the rapids in attempting the passage up. The troops were suffering from small pox, which pervaded all the transports, and they were reported in condition of partial mutiny. It was not supposed, at that time, that a depot or garrison at Alexandria would be required, and this command, being without available land or water transportation, was permitted to return to the Mississippi, in compliance with the demands of General McPherson. This reduced the strength of the advancing column about three thousand men. The condition of the river, and the inability of the transports to pass the falls, made it necessary to establish a depot of supplies at Alexandria, and a line of wagon transportation from the steamers below to those above the falls. This was a departure from the plan of the campaign, which did not contemplate a post or depot at any point on Red River, and involved the necessity of leaving a division at Alexandria for the purpose of protecting the depot, transports, and supplies. Brigadier-General C. Grover was placed in command of the post, and his division left for its defence. This reduced the force of the advancing column about three thousand men. While at Alexandria, on the twenty-first instant, a movement was organized against the enemy posted at Henderson's Hill,twenty-five miles in advance. The expedition consisted of three brigades of General A. J. Smith's command and a brigade of cavalry of the Nineteenth corps, under command of Colonel Lucas, of the Sixteenth Indiana volunteers; the whole under command of Brigadier-General Mower, of the Sixteenth corps. The enemy was surprised, losing two hundred and fifty prisoners, two hundred horses, and four guns with their caissons. Colonel H. B. Sargent, of my staff, was severely wounded in this action, and disabled from service during the campaign. This affair reflected the highest credit upon the officers and men engaged. Anticipating by a few days the passage of the gunboats, the army marched from Alexandria for Natchitoches, eighty miles distant by land, reaching that point on the second and third of April. The enemy continued his retreat, skirmishing sharply with the advanced guard, but offering no serious resistance to our advance. The shortest and only practicable road from Natchitoches to Shreveport was the stage road through Pleasant Hill and Mansfield, distance one hundred miles; through a barren, sandy country, with little water and less forage, the greater portion an unbroken pine forest. A reconnoissance from Natchitoches on the second April, under command of General Lee, discovered the enemy in force at Pleasant Hill, thirty-six miles distant, and established the fact that a portion of Greene's command had arrived from Texas, and were then confronting us. Prisoners captured from Price's command indicated, what had been feared from the loss of time at Alexandria, a concentration of the entire available force of the enemy, numbering, according to the statements of prisoners and intercepted letters, about twenty-five thousand men with seventy-six guns. The river was perceptibly falling, and the larger gunboats were unable to pass Grand Ecore. The troops under command of General A. J. Smith, who had hitherto moved in transports by the river, now marched by land from Natchitoches, with the exception of one division of the Seventeenth corps,--two thousand five hundred men,--under Brigadier-General T. Kilby Smith, which, by order of General A. J. Smith, continued its movements by the river in company with the fleet, for the protection of the transports. The arrangement of land transportation for this portion of the column, the replenishing of supply trains from the transports, and the distribution of rations to the troops, were made at this point; but the fleet was unable to ascend the river until the seventh of April. The condition of the river would have justified the suspension of the movement altogether at either point, except for the anticipation of such change as to render it navigable. Upon this subject the counsel of the naval officers was implicitly followed. On the fourth of April, Colonel 0. P. Gooding, commanding a brigade of cavalry, engaged upon
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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