been left to my discretion, I should have reluctantly undertaken, in a campaign requiring but eight or ten light draught gunboats, to force twenty heavy iron-clads four hundred and ninety miles, upon a river proverbially as treacherous as the rebels who defended it, and which had given notice of its character by steadily falling, when, as the Admiral reports, “all other rivers were booming.” There is a better reason for the disregard of the palpable difficulties of navigation than the over-zealous counsels of the army officers in nautical affairs. In a subsequent despatch, Admiral Porter says that “all my vessels navigated the river to Grand Ecore with ease, and with some of them I reached Springfield Landing, the place designated for the gunboats to meet the army. My part was successfully accomplished; the failure of the army to proceed, and the retreat to Grand Ecore, left me almost at the mercy of the enemy.” The records of the campaign do not all support the reckless and fiery ardor of this statement. The fleet did not reach the place appointed until two days after the first decisive battle with the enemy. The Admiral occupied four days in moving one hundred and four miles, on what he calls “a rising river,” with “good water,” to the place appointed. General T. Kilby Smith states that the fleet made twenty miles on the seventh, fifty-seven miles on the eighth, eighteen miles on the ninth, and nine miles on the tenth of April; total, one hundred and four miles. The failure of the fleet to move up the river with ordinary expedition, together with the fact that the gunboats were unable to pass Grand Ecore until the seventh, justified the belief that its advance had been prevented by the low stage of water, and governed the army exclusively in its retrograde movement to Grand Ecore, as it did in every important operation of the campaign. The Admiral's despatch does not mention the fact, that in addition to the “mercy” of the enemy, he had the support of General T. Kilby Smith's division of twenty-five hundred men, whose most gallant and honorable part in the preservation of the fleet of gunboats and transports is not referred to in what the Admiral calls “this curious affair between (the enemy's) infantry and gunboats.” In view of the published despatches of Admiral Porter, it is proper for me to say that every position of difficulty in which the army was placed in this campaign was the immediate and direct consequence of delay in the operations of the navy. This may have been inevitable and entirely justifiable, from the condition of the river. It is not my province to pass judgment upon its operations; but the fact remains, nevertheless. During my term of service, it has been an invariable rule of conduct, from which I have never departed, to forbear the expression of complaint upon the official action of others; but I feel it to be a solemn duty to say, in this official and formal manner, that Admiral Porter's published official statements, relating to the Red River campaign, are at variance with the truth, of which there are many thousand living witnesses, and do foul injustice to the officers and soldiers of the army, living and dead, to whom the Navy Department owes exclusively the preservation and honor of its fleet. The partial disintegration of the several commands assigned to this expedition was a cause of embarrassment, though not entirely of failure. The command of Major-General Steele, which I was informed by Major-General Sherman would be about fifteen thousand men, was in fact but seven thousand, and operating upon a line several hundred miles distant, with purposes and results entirely unknown to me. February fifth, I was informed by General Steele that if any advance was to be made, it must be by the Wachita and Red Rivers, and that he might be able to move his command by the way of Pine Bluff, to Monroe, for this purpose. This would have united our forces on Red River, and insured the success of the campaign. The twenty-eighth of February, he informed me that he could not move by the way of Monroe, and on the fourth of March, the day before my command was ordered to move, I was informed by General Sherman that he had written to General Steele to “push straight” to Shreveport. March fifth, I was informed by General Halleck, that he had no information of General Steele's plans, further than that he would be directed to facilitate my operations toward Shreveport. The tenth of March, General Steele informed me that the objections to the route I wished him to take (by the way of Red River) were stronger than ever, and that he “would move with all his available force (about seven thousand) to Washington, and thence to Shreveport.” I received information the twenty-sixth of March, dated the fifth of March, from Major-General Halleck, that he had “directed General Steele to make a real move, as suggested by you, (Banks,) instead of a demonstration as he (Steele) thought advisable.” In April, General Halleck informed me that he had telegraphed General Steele “to cooperate with you (Banks) on Red River, with all his available forces.” April sixteenth, I was informed, under date of the tenth, by General Sherman, that General Steele's entire force would cooperate with me and the navy. In May I received information from General Steele, under date of the twenty-eighth of April, that he could not leave Camden unless supplies were sent to him, as those of the country were exhausted; that we “could not help each other, operating our lines so wide apart;” that he could not say definitely that he could join me “at any point on Red River at any given time;” and from the distance that separated us, that I could render no assistance to him — an opinion in which I entirely concurred. I never received authority to give orders to General Steele. My instruction limited me to communicate with him upon the subject of the expedition. His orders he received from other sources. I have no doubt that General Steele did all in his power to insure success; but as communication with him was necessarily by special messenger,
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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