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[66] its possession gave a direct political advantage to the army actually holding to it. Being 40 miles down the stream from the mouth of Red river, its occupation by either army would impartially form a strong factor in keeping the Mississippi open or closed. At this time, such a power would necessarily prove of signal service. Red river country was still Confederate. Large droves of cattle still continued to roam its fields—cattle which the Federals from the lower Mississippi were already coveting, but which the Confederates were equally anxious to control. For the Confederates, more especially the Louisianians, the continued possession of Baton Rouge would have excited far more interest than that of any town outside the limits of New Orleans. It concentrated in a marked degree that subtle love for the State of one's birth and rearing, which is never so strong as when it beats in the heart of the American who hazards his life for its defense. The continued Federal occupation of Baton Rouge was a long, very long step toward their open navigation of the river. Vicksburg was one protesting point; Baton Rouge added, a long gap would be made in the line of armed occupation. It was General Breckinridge's special hope to create this gap.

On August 14, 1862, Breckinridge's division had come as far as the Comite river, under orders from Major-General Van Dorn, commanding the district, to move upon Baton Rouge. The division had suffered severely from exposure and sickness at Vicksburg in June and July, and Breckinridge now found himself with less than 3,000 effective men. During the march he learned that the force of the enemy was not less than 4,500 men, and that the fighting ground around the town was commanded by three gunboats, lying in the river. This determined him not to make the attempt unless he could be relieved from an enfilading fire from the fleet. He felt implicit reliance on the Arkansas, which was based on the fact that he had seen her brilliant work against

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