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[743] attack the enemy if he approached. A pontoon bridge was thrown across the river during the night. Our pickets were driven in on the thirteenth, but the enemy appeared, upon a reconnoissance made in force, to have gone below, either for the purpose of attacking our troops at Alexandria, or occupying Monet's Bluff on Cane River. On the same day General Smith crossed the river, with two brigades, two batteries, and a strong cavalry force, to aid the fleet still above Grand Ecore. Despatches were sent to General Steele, informing him of the condition of affairs, and requesting him to join us at some point on the river. Orders were sent to New Orleans for reenforcements, and the Lieutenant-General commanding the army was informed of the condition of affairs by telegraph, and of my intention to advance upon Shreveport if General Steele would come to our assistance, and my determination not to withdraw without orders. The fleet returned on the fifteenth in safety, without loss of vessels or material of war. Admiral Porter, with whom I had a conference on his arrival at Grand Ecore, advised against any further attempt to advance without a rise of the river, and his counsel was followed. The river had been steadily falling. Supplies were brought up to Grand Ecore with very great difficulty.

It was found that two of the gunboats could not go below Grand Ecore, and it was now certain that the fleet would not pass the falls at Alexandria.

Lieutenant-Commander Selfredge, left in command of the fleet by the Admiral, who had gone to Alexandria, addressed me a despatch dated seventeenth April, stating that he had been informed the army was to withdraw immediately, and that it would be impossible, in that case, to get the gunboats down the river. I informed him at once that the army had no intention of withdrawing from the position; that I had sent to New Orleans for troops, and by special messenger to General Steele, urging his cooperation; and that till it was definitely ascertained that his assistance would fail us, and that my force would be insufficient to advance farther upon the line against the enemy, who appeared to be in full force, I should entertain no thought of a retrograde movement, and never, if it left the navy in any danger. No such purpose was then entertained, and until I received information in reply to my despatches, it was my purpose to maintain my position. A copy of this letter is appended to this report. The next day I received instructions from Lieutenant-General Grant (to which I have referred) that, if my return to New Orleans was delayed one day beyond the first of May, when it would be necessary for my command to cooperate with other armies in the spring campaign, it would have been better that the expedition had never been attempted. These instructions, with the fact that the river was not likely to rise, the report received by Captain R. T. Dunham, that General Steele could not cooperate with us, and that the difficulty of passing the falls at Alexandria was hourly increasing, if the passage were not even then impossible, led me to change my determination. It was not, however, until the entire fleet was free,--transports and gunboats,--and that Admiral Porter, in charge of the “Eastport,” which had been aground several miles below Grand Ecore for several days, sent me word by Colonel W. S. Abert--whose statement is hereto appended — that she was clear, and further protection unnecessary, that orders were given, the twenty-first April, to turn the supply trains in the direction of Alexandria. The army moved on the morning of the twenty-second April, every vessel having preceded both the marching orders and the movements of the army. Any statement, from whatever source, that the army contemplated moving from Grand Ecore toward Alexandria, against the advice or without the approval of the naval officers in command, or until after the departure of every vessel in the river, is without the slightest color of truth.

In my interview with Admiral Porter on the fifteenth of April, he expressed the utmost confidence that the river would rise, and gave me no intimation of his leaving Grand Ecore, nor of the proposed withdrawal of his vessels, nor of his apprehensions of the retreat of the army. I gave him at that time distinct information of my plans, which were to advance. This fact was communicated to Lieutenant-Commander Selfredge in my letter of the seventeenth April.

The Admiral expressed the same confidence in the rise of the river to officers of the army, who, from long experience in the Red River country, were equally confident that it would not rise. The difficulties attending the voyage of the “Eastport” were incident to the condition of the river, for which the army was in no wise responsible. I had offered every assistance possible, and did not leave this position while any aid was suggested or required.

Colonel Bailey, after consultation with the general officers of the army, offered to float the “Eastport” over the bars by the construction of wing dams, similar to those afterward built at Alexandria; but the assistance was declined. No counsel from army officers was regarded in nautical affairs.

The army marched from Grand Ecore on the morning of the twenty-second of April, having been detained there by the condition of the navy ten days. To prevent the occupation of Monet's Bluff, on Cane River, a strong position commanding the only road leading across the river to Alexandria, or to prevent the concentration of the enemy's forces at that point, if it was in his possession, it became necessary to accomplish the evacuation without his knowledge, and to prevent his strengthening the natural defences of the position by the rapidity of our march. The conflagration of a portion of the town at the hour appointed for our marching partially frustrated the first object, but the second was fully accomplished.

The army marched from Grand Ecore to Cane River on the twentieth April, a distance of forty miles, and moved upon the position held by the enemy the twenty-third of April, before daybreak.

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