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[475]

He had been ordered, as we have before remarked, to endeavor to join Sherman in front of Vicksburg by ascending the Mississippi. But on his arrival at New Orleans, he found that he had not sufficient forces to undertake such an expedition. He, therefore, merely sent General Grover, with about ten thousand men, to occupy the town of Baton Rouge, which was to become the base of operations of his future campaign against Port Hudson. It had just been found out, in fact, that the Confederates had turned this place into a formidable obstacle, which it would require a large army and a powerful fleet to overcome.

While waiting for the proper time to devote himself to this great task, Banks bethought himself of extending his positions in the district of Lafourche, and of dispersing the Confederate forces, which were again threatening him in that direction, before ascending the Mississippi. Weitzel, having but few troops with him, had been obliged to abandon Brashear City, and had taken a strong position at Thibodeaux and at the railway bridge on Bayou Lafourche. The Confederates had taken advantage of this to return to the neighborhood of Brashear. They had not occupied that town in a permanent manner, but they were in force at Bayou Teche, and determined to dispute its possession with the Federals.

Two works, connected by a species of stockade, defended the course of this river near the village of Pattersonville, and a steamer—the Cotton—whose guns were protected by bales of cotton, had full control of the river above this point. Weitzel left Thibodeaux on the 11th of January, 1863, with his brigade for Brashear City, where he overtook a naval division consisting of four gun-boats. These ships were under command of a distinguished naval officer, Captain Buchanan, brother of the one who served under the Confederate flag, and who had taken the Virginia into battle for the first time.

The infantry was taken on board; the artillery and cavalry, having been left on the other side of the Atchafalaya, ascended the left side of the Teche between this river and the lake. On the 13th the flotilla appeared before Pattersonville. The obstacle which the Confederates had raised in this place was insurmountable. It consisted of a boat sunk crossways, resting upon the scaffolding of an old bridge; the guns placed on the enemy's

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