|Entrapped above the falls — gloomy days of waiting and narrow escapes: the Federal flotilla above Alexandria, held by the low water of May, 1864 Here lies a part of the unlucky fleet that Admiral Porter came near losing in the fruitless expedition up the Red River, which imperilled some of the most valuable gunboats possessed by the Federal navy. First in line is the tow-boat “Brown” ; next the steamer “Benefit,” whose escape the month before was hair-breadth; then the tug “Dahlia,” the tender to Porter's flagship, while the ironclads “Neosho” and “Chillicothe” bring up the rear. The expedition on the part of the navy was undertaken in the assurance that the Red River would, according to its custom, rise at this season of the year. For twenty years it had never failed to rise, but now, in 1864, it did exactly the opposite. Only the light-draft gunboats could be run above the falls by the end of March. Since it was rumored that the Confederates had some formidable ironclads up the Red River, the gunboat “Eastport” was at last hauled over the rocks of the rapids by main strength to lead the expedition. It proved to be her last; she grounded on the return from Grand Ecore, and after heroic efforts to get her off, during which the Confederates kept up constant fighting, she had to be destroyed and abandoned. It looked for a time as if the other vessels of Porter's fleet were to meet the same fate. General Banks had been ordered to give up the expedition and was chafing to get his troops in motion. Meanwhile the officers and men of the navy were working with characteristic courage and determination to save their vessels, now exposed to constant attacks from the Confederates, who grew more and more threatening. The little steamer “Benefit,” seen in the picture, had a narrow escape at Grappe's Bluff, where she was attacked on the evening of April 10th, and in less than twenty minutes lost forty-five of her eighty men. Gloomy indeed were the days of waiting above the falls, for both officers and men. One difficulty and disaster followed another. It seemed almost certain that the fated expedition would cost the navy its heaviest and most humiliating loss during the war, but courage and determination won out|
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