I communicated this purpose at the close of the day to General A. J. Smith, who expressed his concurrence therein. But representations subsequently received from General Franklin, and all the general officers of the Nineteenth corps, as to the condition of their respective commands for immediate active operations against the enemy, caused a suspension of this order, and a conference of the general officers was held in the evening, in which it was determined, upon the urgent recommendation of all the general officers above named, and with the acquiescence of General Smith, to retire upon Grand Ecore the following day. The reasons urged for this course by the officers commanding the Nineteenth and Thirteenth corps were: First, that the absence of water made it absolutely necessary to advance or retire without delay. General Emory's command had been without rations for two days, and the train, which had been turned to the rear during the battle, could not be put in condition to move forward upon the single road through dense woods, in which it stood, without difficulty and loss of time. It was for the purpose of communicating with the fleet at Springfield Landing, from the Sabine Cross-Roads to the river, as well as to prevent the concentration of the Texan troops with the enemy at Mansfield, that we had pushed for the early occupation of that point. Considering the difficulty with which the gunboats passed Alexandria and Grand Ecore, there was every reason to believe that the navigation of the river would be found impracticable. A squadron of cavalry, under direction of Mr. Young, who had formerly been employed in the surveys of this country, and was now connected with the engineer department, which had been sent upon a reconnoissance to the river, returned to Pleasant Hill on the day of the battle, with the report that they had not been able to discover the fleet, nor learn from the people its passage up the river. The report of General T. Kilby Smith, commanding the river forces, states that the fleet did not arrive at Loggy Bayou until two o'clock P. M. on the tenth of April, two days after the battle at Sabine Cross-Roads. This led to the belief that the low water had prevented the advance of the fleet. The condition of the river, which had been steadily falling since our march from Alexandria, rendered it very doubtful, if the fleet ascended the river, whether it could return from any intermediate point, and probable, if not certain, that if it reached Shreveport, it would never escape without a rise of the river, of which all hopes began to fail. The forces designated for this campaign numbered forty-two thousand men. Less than half that number was actually available for service against the enemy during its progress. The distance which separated General Steele's command from the line of our operations (nearly two hundred miles) rendered his movements of little moment to us or to the enemy, and reduced the strength of the fighting column to the extent of his force, which was expected to be from ten to fifteen thousand men. The depot at Alexandria, made necessary by the impracticable navigation, withdrew from our forces three thousand men, under General Grover. The return of the Marine brigade to the defence of the Mississippi, upon the demand of Major-General McPherson, and which could not pass Alexandria without its steamers, nor move by land for want of land transportation, made a further reduction of three thousand men. The protection of the fleet of transports against the enemy on both sides of the river made it necessary for General A. J. Smith to detach General T. Kilby Smith's division of two thousand five hundred men from the main body for that duty. The army train required a guard of five hundred men. These several detachments, which it was impossible to avoid, and the distance of General Steele's command, which it was not in my power to correct, reduced the number of troops, that we were able at any point to bring into action, from forty-two thousand men to about twenty thousand. The losses sustained in the very severe battles of the seventh, eighth, and ninth of April amounted to about three thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine men, and necessarily reduced our active forces to that extent. The enemy, superior to us in numbers in the outset, by falling back was able to recover from his great losses by means of reenforcements, which were within his reach as he approached his base of operations, while we were growing weaker as we departed from ours. We had fought the battle at Pleasant Hill, with about fifteen thousand, against twenty-two thousand men, and won a victory which for these reasons we were unable to follow up. Other considerations connected with the actual military condition of affairs afforded additional reasons for the course recommended. Between the commencement of the expedition and the battle of Pleasant Hill, a change had occurred in the general command of the army which caused a modification of my instructions in regard to this expedition. Lieutenant-General Grant, in a despatch dated the fifteenth of March, which I received on the twenty-seventh of March, at Alexandria, eight days before we reached Grand Ecore, by special messenger, gave me the following instructions: “Should you find that the taking of Shreveport will occupy ten or fifteen days more time than General Sherman gave his troops to be absent from their command, you will send them back at the time specified, in his note of (blank date) March, even if it should lead to the abandonment of the main object of the expedition. Should it prove successful, hold Shreveport and Red River with such force as you deem necessary, and return the balance of your troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans.” These instructions, I was informed, were given for the purpose of having “all parts of the army, or rather all armies, act as much in concert as possible,” and with a view to a movement in the spring campaign against Mobile, which was certainly to be made “if troops enough could be obtained without embarrassing other movements, in which ”
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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