every one of these engagements, except that of Sabine Cross-Roads, we had been successful. The failure to accomplish the main object of the expedition was due to other considerations than the actual superiority of the enemy in the field. In these operations, in which my own command had marched by land nearly four hundred miles, the total loss sustained was three thousand nine hundred and eighty men, of whom two hundred and eighty-nine were killed, one thousand five hundred and forty-one wounded, and two thousand one hundred and fifty missing. A large portion of the latter were captured, and have since been exchanged; but a considerable portion returned to the army during its operations on the Red River. No loss of artillery, or of trains, or of any army material whatever, was sustained, except that which occurred at Sabine Cross-Roads. We lost then Nims's battery, and a section of the Missouri howitzer battery, one hundred and fifty wagons, and eight hundred mules, captured by the enemy on account of the position of the train near the field of battle. All the ammunition wagons were saved. The army had captured, up to this time, from the enemy, twenty-three guns and one thousand five hundred prisoners His losses in killed, wounded, and prisoners,--officers and men,--were much greater than ours. Among the former were some of the most efficient rebel commanders, whose loss can never be made good. Up to this time no other loss of men or material had been sustained by our army. As soon as the lines of defence were completed, preparations were made for the return of the fleet, which was then unable to pass below the falls. From the difficulty which the supply transports had encountered in passing the falls, it was known at Grand Ecore, as early as the fifteenth of April, that the navy could not go below, and the means of its release were freely discussed among officers of the army. During the campaign at Port Hudson, the steamers “Starlight” and “Red Chief” were captured by Grierson's Illinois cavalry under command of Colonel Prince, in Thompson's Creek. The bed of the creek was nearly dry, and the steamers were sunk several feet in the sand. After the capture of Port Hudson, Colonel Bailey constructed wing dams, which, raising the water, lifted the steamers from the sand, and floated them out of the creek into the Mississippi. This incident naturally suggested the same works at Alexandria for the relief of the fleet. A survey was ordered for the purpose of determining what measures could be best undertaken. The engineers of the army had completed surveys of the falls captured from the enemy during our occupation of Alexandria, in 1863, at the commencement of the Port Hudson campaign. It was found, upon examining these charts, and upon survey of the river, that the channel was narrow and crooked, formed in solid rock, and that it would be wholly impracticable to deepen its bed. It was therefore determined to commence the construction of a dam to raise the river to such a height as to enable the vessels to float over the falls. This project was freely discussed by the engineers and officers of the army, and was generally believed to be practicable. Captain J. C. Palfrey, who had made the survey, reported that, in his judgment, it was entirely feasible; and the only question made related to the time that might be required for so great a work. The management of this enterprise was naturally intrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, Fourth Wisconsin volunteers, who was by profession a civil engineer, familiar with works of that kind, common to slack water navigation upon all the Western rivers, and had successfully released the steamboats from Thompson's Creek, on the Mississippi. Colonel Bailey had suggested the practicability of the dam while we were at Grand Ecore, and had offered to release the “Eastport” when aground below Grand Ecore, by the same means, which offer was declined. Material was collected during these preparations, and work commenced upon the dam on Sunday, May first. Nearly the whole army was engaged at different times upon this work. The dam was completed on Sunday, May eighth, and the gunboats “Osage,” “Hindman,” and two others came over the rapids about four o'clock in the afternoon. The water had been raised upon the dam, for a mile and a quarter, about seven feet, with a fall below the dam of about six feet, making in all a fall of about thirteen feet, above and below the falls. The pressure of the water at its completion was terrific. I went over the work at eleven o'clock on the morning of the eighth, with one of my staff officers, and felt that the pressure of the water was so great that it could not stand. I rode immediately to the point above where the fleet was anchored, to ascertain if they were ready to follow the four boats that had already passed the rapids. I reached the fleet about midnight; scarcely a man or a light was to be seen. It was perfectly apparent that the boats were not in condition to take advantage of the completion of the dam, and feeling that it could not stand another day, I wrote a note to Admiral Porter at one o'clock on the morning of the ninth, which was delivered in person at two A. M., by Colonel J. G. Wilson, stating my belief as to the condition of the dam and fleet, and asking that measures should be taken to put the boats in condition to move over the rapids at the earliest possible moment in the morning. A little after five o'clock on the morning of the ninth I saw a part of the dam swept away. The four boats that had passed the rapids the afternoon before were able to pass below through the opening which the waters, had made. Only one of the vessels above the falls, the “Lexington,” was ready to move when the dam gave way, and that came down after the break, and passed the dam safely, with all the vessels that were below the rapids. Had the others been ready to move, all would have passed the rapids and the dam safely on Monday. Until after the dam had been carried away, no effort had been made to lessen
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Foreign accounts of the fight.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.