by Richard B. Irwin, Lieutenant-Colonel, Assistant Adjutant-General, U. S. V.
arrived in New Orleans on the 14th of December, 1862, with the advance of a fleet of transports from New York and Hampton Roads
, bringing reenforcements for the Department of the Gulf.1
On the 15th he took command of the department, Butler
then formally taking leave of the troops.
His orders were to move up the Mississippi
, in order to open the river, in cooperation with McClernand
's column from Cairo
was to take command of the combined forces as soon as they should meet.
On the 16th General Grover
, with 12 regiments and a battery, without disembarking at New Orleans, accompanied by two batteries and two troops of cavalry from the old force, and convoyed by a detachment of Farragut
's fleet under Captain James Alden
, of the Richmond
, was sent to occupy Baton Rouge
The next morning the town was evacuated by the small Confederate detachment which had been posted there, and General Grover
quietly took possession.
The town was held without opposition until the war ended.
An attempt followed to occupy Galveston
, apparently under importunity from Brigadier-General Andrew J. Hamilton
, and in furtherance of the policy that had led the Government
to send him with the expedition as military governor of Texas
This resulted on the 1st of January in a military and naval disaster in which three companies of the 42d Massachusetts regiment, under Colonel Isaac S. Burrell
, were taken prisoners by the Confederates
, who was occupying the La Fourche
, was strengthened so as to enable him to make the district safe in view of the projected operations on the Mississippi
; a strong work was constructed at Donaldsonville
commanding the head of the bayou; and intrenchments were thrown up at Brashear City
to prevent, with the aid of the navy, any approach of the enemy from the direction of Berwick Bay
On the 14th of January, having crossed the bay, Weitzel
ascended the Teche
, accompanied by the gun-boats Calhoun
, and Kinsman
, under Lieutenant-Commander Buchanan
, forced the Confederates
to destroy the gun-boat Cotton
, and took 50 prisoners, with a loss of 6 killed and 27 wounded. Among the dead was Buchanan
, who was succeeded by Lieutenant-Commander A. P. Cooke
After providing for the garrisons and the secure defense of New Orleans, Banks
organized his available forces in four divisions, commanded by Major-General C. C. Augur
and Brigadier-Generals Thomas W. Sherman
, William H. Emory
, and Cuvier Grover
Each division was composed of three brigades with three field-batteries, and there were also two battalions and six troops of cavalry, numbering about 700 effectives, and a regiment of heavy artillery, the 1st Indiana (21st Infantry) to man the siege train.
The veteran regiments that had served in the department from the beginning were distributed so as to leaven the mass and to furnish brigade commanders of some experience; of the eight colonels commanding brigades, all but two belonged
to these regiments.
The whole force available for active operations was about 25,000. Two-thirds were, however, new levies, and of these, again, half were nine-months' men; some were armed with guns that refused to go off, others did not know the simplest evolutions, while in one instance (afterward handsomely redeemed) the colonel was actually unable to disembark his men except by the novel command, “Break ranks, boys, and get ashore the best way you can!”
The cavalry was poor, except the six old companies, and was quite insufficient in numbers.
Of land and water transportation, both indispensable to any possible operation, there was barely enough for the movement of a single division.
had been led to expect that he would find in the depots, or in the country, all material required for moving his army; yet the supplies in the depots barely sufficed for the old force of the department, while the country could furnish very little at best, and nothing at all until it should be occupied.
had finally to send his chief quartermaster back to Washington
before these deficiencies could be supplied.
had not been informed until he reached New Orleans that the Confederates
held in force any fortified place below Vicksburg
, yet Port Hudson
, 135 miles above New Orleans, was found strongly intrenched, with
Sharp-Shooters of the 75th N. Y. Volunteers picking off the gunners of the Confederate gun-boat “cotton,” in the action at Bayou Teche, La., January 14, 1863.
from a sketch made at the time. |
21 heavy guns in position, and a garrison of 12,000 men-in-creased to 16,000 before Banks
could have brought an equal number to the attack.
could not communicate with the commander of the northern column, and knew practically nothing of its movements.
Under these conditions, all concert between the cooperating forces was rendered impossible from the start, and it became inevitable that the expectations of the Government
would go against Vicksburg
immediately on landing in Louisiana
should be doomed to disappointment.
The Confederate occupation of Port Hudson
had completely changed the nature of the problem confided to General Banks
for solution, for he had now to choose among three courses, each involving an impossibility:
Return of a foraging party of the 24th Connecticut Volunteers to Baton Rouge.
From a sketch made at the time. |
to carry by assault a strong line of works, three miles long, impregnable on either flank and defended by 16,000 good troops; to lay siege to the place, with the certainty that it would be relieved from Mississippi
and the prospect of losing his siege train in the venture; to leave Port Hudson
in his rear and go against Vicksburg
, thus sacrificing his communications, putting New Orleans in peril, and courting irreparable and almost inevitable disaster as the price of the remote chance of achieving a great success.
No word came from Grant
was trying to find a way of turning Port Hudsn on the west by means of the Atchafalaya
, the mouth of Red River
, and tie net-work of bayous, interlacing and intersecting one another, that connect the Atchafalaya
with the Mississippi
, in time of flood overflowing and fertilizing, at other seasons serving as highways for the whole region between the two rivers.
[See map, p. 442.] The Mississippi was unusually high, the narrow and tortuous bayous were swollen and rapid; the levees, nearly everywhere neglected since the outbreak of the war, had in some places been cut by the Confederates
; a large area of the country was under water; while great rafts of drift-logs added to the difficulty of navigation occasioned by the scarcity of suitable steamers and skilled pilots.
Every attempt to penetrate the bayous having failed, Banks
was just turning his attention to the preparations for gaining the same end by a movement from Berwick Bay
by the Atchafalaya
, when the news came that two of Ellet
's rams, the Queen of the West
, after successfully running the batteries of Vicksburg
, had been captured by the Confederates
These gun-boats must therefore be reckoned with in any movement on or beyond the Atchafalaya
, while their presence above Port Hudson
as a hostile force, in place of the reenforcement expected from Admiral Porter
, greatly increased the anxiety Admiral Farragut
had for some time felt to pass the batteries of Port Hudson
with part of his fleet, control the long reach above, and cut off the Confederate
supplies from the Red River
fell in with the admiral's plans, and, concentrating 17,000 men at Baton Rouge
, moved to the rear of Port Hudson
on the 14th of March, with the divisions of Augur
, and Grover
, for the purpose of cooperating with the fleet by dividing the attention of the garrison and gaining a flank fire of artillery on the lower batteries on the bluff.
The field-returns showed 12,000 men in line after providing for detachments and for holding Baton Rouge
had intended to pass the batteries on the 15th, in the gray of the morning, but at the last moment saw reason to change this plan and moved to the attack before midnight. In a naval affair like this the cooperation of the army could not have been very effective at best; the change of hour left us little more than spectators and auditors of the battle between the ships and the forts.
passed up comparatively uninjured, but in the smoke and darkness the rest of the fleet could not go by, and the Mississippi
, stranding, was set on fire and blown up — the grandest display of fireworks I ever witnessed, and the costliest.
[See p. 566.]
This gave the navy command of the mouth of Red River
, and, accordingly, Banks
at once reverted to the execution of his former plan,--a turning movement by the Atchafalaya
That involved disposing of Taylor
's force of about 4000 or 5000 men encamped and intrenched on the Teche
Our force was so much stronger than Taylor
's as to suggest the idea of capturing him in his position, by getting in his rear, simultaneously with a front attack; and this was particularly to be desired, as otherwise he might retire indefinitely into the vast open country behind him and return at his leisure at some inopportune moment.
So perfectly was the movement masked that Taylor
was actually preparing to attack the force in his front (Weitzel
) when the main army began crossing Berwick Bay
crossed on the 9th; Emory
followed; they then bivouacked on the west bank to wait for Grover
So few were the facilities that it took Grover
two days to embark.
Six hours more were lost by a dense fog, and four by the stranding of the Arizona
When the proposed landing-place at Madame Porter
's plantation was reached after dark, the road was found to be under water and impassable, but a practicable way was discovered six miles farther up the lake, at McWilliams's plantation.
There the landing began early on the 13th, and with great difficulty, owing to the shallowness of the water, was completed by 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
Favored by the woods and undergrowth, which concealed their numbers, Vincent
's 2d Louisiana and Reily
's 4th Texas Cavalry, with a section of Cornay
's battery, delayed the advance until Dwight
's brigade, supported by two regiments of Birge
March of the Nineteenth army Corps by the Bayou Sara road toward Port Hudson, Saturday, march 14, 1863.
from a sketch made at the time. |
's battery, went out and drove them away.
At 6 the division took up the line of march to the Teche
and bivouacked at nightfall on Madame Porter
's plantation, five miles distant.
had moved Emory
slowly up the Teche
, seeking to hold Taylor
's forces in position until Grover
could gain their rear.
fell back behind the intrenched lines below Centreville
known as Fort Bisland
, and there a brisk engagement took place on the 13th, Banks
only seeking to gain a good position on both sides of the bayou, and to occupy the enemy's attention, while he listened in vain for Grover
's guns, which were to have been the signal for a direct and determined attack in front.
At night, knowing that Grover
's movement must certainly have been seen and reported daring his passage up Grand Lake
and surmising some miscarriage, Banks
gave orders to carry the works by assault at daylight.
However, early in the night, Taylor
ordered his whole force to fall back on Franklin
; the sounds of the movement were heard, and toward daylight reconnoitering parties discovered the evacuation.
's whole force at once moved in pursuit.
Early in the morning Taylor
advancing against his line of retreat, which here follows the great bow of the Teche
, known as Irish Bend
, struck Birge
's brigade in flank, forced Grover
to develop, and with the
assistance of the Diana3
held him just long enough to make good the retreat.
had made a gallant fight and had extricated himself cleverly.
His reports show his whole force to have been 5000.
had about the same.
We lost at Bisland 40 killed and 184 wounded,--total, 224; at Irish Bend
, 49 killed, 274 wounded, 30 missing,--total, 353.
The losses of the Confederates
are not reported, but they destroyed their two gun-boats and all their transport steamers except one, which we captured, and their troops began to disperse soon after passing Franklin
We captured many prisoners on the march.
Their gun-boats came down the Atchafalaya
too late to dispute Grover
's landing, were defeated by our flotilla, under Lieutenant-Commander A. P. Cooke
, and the Queen of the West
On the 20th Butte
-à--la-Rose, with sixty men and two heavy guns, surrendered to Cooke
, and the same day Banks
Here he received his first communication from General Grant
, dated before Vicksburg
, March 23d, and sent through Admiral Farragut
This opened a correspondence, the practical effect of which was to cause General Banks
to conform his movements to the expectation that General Grant
would send an army corps to Bayou Sara
to join in reducing Port Hudson
moved on to Alexandria
, on the Red River
, to push Taylor
farther out of the way. Taylor
retired toward Shreveport
On the 14th of May the
The baggage train of General Augur's division crossing Bayou Montecino on the march to Port Hudson.
From a sketch made at the time, |
whole command marched on Simsport
, crossed the Atchafalaya
, and moved to Bayou Sara
, where the advance of the army crossed the Mississippi
on the night of the 23d and moved immediately to the rear of Port Hudson
There communication was made with Augur
's two brigades, which had established themselves in position on the 21st, after a brisk engagement, known as the battle of Plains Store,4
just in time, apparently, to prevent the evacuation, which had been ordered by General Johnston
and afterward countermanded by President Davis
we found T. W. Sherman
and two brigades from New Orleans.
When the investment was completed on the 26th, we had about 14,000 men of all arms in front of the works, and behind them the Confederates
had about 7000, under Major-General Frank Gardner
Part of the garrison (three brigades, as it proved) was known to have gone to succor Vicksburg
, and all reports, apparently confirmed by the comparative feebleness of the attack on Augur
at Plains Store, indicated a reduction even greater than had actually taken place.
Nothing was known, of course, of the phenomenal success of Grant
's operations, nor could it have been surmised, while his precarious position in the event of a defeat or even a serious check was obvious enough; the magnitude of the Confederate forces in Mississippi
and the energy habitual to their commanders everywhere, added an additional reason against delay.
Finally the troops themselves, elated by their success in the Teche
campaign, were in the best of spirits for an immediate attack.
For these reasons General Banks
, with the full concurrence of all his commanders, save one, ordered a general assault to be made on the morning of the 27th of May.
Early in the morning Weitzel
, who commanded the right wing on this day, moved to the attack in two lines, Dwight
at first leading, and steadily drove the Confederates
in his front into their works.
Thus unmasked, the Confederate artillery opened with grape and canister, but our batteries, following the infantry as closely as possible, soon took commanding positions within 200 and 300 yards of the works that enabled them to keep down the enemy's fire.
The whole fight took place in a dense forest of magnolias, mostly amid a thick undergrowth, and among ravines choked with felled or fallen timber, so that it was difficult not only to move but even to see; in short, in the phrase of the day, the affair was “a gigantic bush-whack.”
Soon after Weitzel
's movement began Grover
, on his left, moved to the attack at two points, but only succeeded in gaining and holding commanding positions within about two hundred yards of the works.
This accomplished, and no sound of battle coming from his left, Grover
determined to wait where he was for the attack that had been expected in that quarter, or for further orders, and Weitzel
conformed his action to Grover
's: properly in both cases, although it was afterward made apparent that had Weitzel
continued to press his attack a few minutes longer he would probably have broken through the Confederate
defense and taken their whole line in reverse.
To make a diversion, Dwight
caused the two colored regiments on the extreme
Opening of the naval attack on Port Hudson, march 13, 1863. |
right to form for the attack; they had hardly done so when the extreme left of the Confederate
line opened on them, in an exposed position, with artillery and musketry and forced them to abandon the attempt with great loss.
's front the Confederate
works were in full view, but the intervening plain was obstructed by tangled abatis of huge trees felled with their great branches spread as if to receive us with open arms, and these obstructions were commanded by the fire of nearly a mile of the works.
His movement had therefore been meant for a demonstration, mainly in aid of Sherman
, to be converted into a real attack if circumstances should favor; but as the morning wore away and no sound came from Sherman
, General Banks
rode to the left and gave fresh orders for that assault; then, returning to the center about two o'clock, he ordered Augur
to attack simultaneously.
At the word Chapin
's brigade moved forward with great gallantry, but was soon caught and cruelly punished in the impassable abatis.
gallantly led his division on horseback, surrounded by his full staff, likewise mounted, but though the ground in his front was less difficult than that which Augur
had to traverse, it was very exposed, and the formation was, moreover, broken by three parallel lines of fence.
No progress was possible, and when night fell the result was that we had gained commanding positions, yet at a fearful cost.
The next day a regular siege was begun.
was assigned to the command of the right wing, embracing his own and Paine
's divisions and Weitzel
's brigade; while Dwight
was given command of Sherman
's division, raised to three brigades by transferring regiments.
From left to right, from this time, the lines were held in the order of Dwight
, and Weitzel
On the 14th of June, time still pressing, the lines being everywhere well advanced, the enemy's artillery effectually controlled by ours, every available man having been brought up, and yet our force growing daily less by casualties and sickness, Taylor
menacing our communications on the west bank of the Mississippi
, and the issue of Grant
's operations before Vicksburg
in suspense, Banks
ordered a second assault to be delivered simultaneously at daybreak on the left and center, preceded by a general cannonade of an hour's duration.
's attack on the left was misdirected by its guides and soon came to naught.
attacked with great vigor at what proved to be the strongest point of the whole work, the priest-cap near the Jackson
He himself almost instantly fell severely wounded at the head of his division, and this attack also ended in a disastrous repulse, our men being unable to cross the crest just in front of the work, forming a natural glacis so swept by the enemy's fire that in examining the position afterward I found this grass-crowned knoll shaved bald, every blade cut down to the roots as by a hoe.
Our loss in the two assaults was nearly 4000, including many of our best and bravest officers.
The heat, especially in the trenches, became almost insupportable, the stenches quite so, the brooks dried up, the creek lost itself in the pestilential swamp, the springs gave out, and the river fell, exposing to the tropical sun a wide margin of festering ooze.
The illness and mortality were enormous.
The labor of the siege, extending over a front of seven miles, pressed so severely upon our numbers, far too weak for such an undertaking, that the men were almost incessantly on duty; and as the numbers for duty diminished, of course the work fell the more heavily upon those that remained.
From first to last we had nearly 20,000 men of all arms engaged before Port Hudson
, yet the effective strength of infantry and artillery at no time exceeded 13,000, and at the last hardly reached 9000, while even of these every other man might well have gone on the sick-report if pride and duty had not held him to his post.
with his forces, reorganized and reenforced until they again numbered four or five thousand, had crossed the Atchafalaya
at Morgan's Ferry and Berwick Bay
, surprised and captured the garrisons at Brashear City
and Bayou Boeuf
almost without resistance, menaced Donaldsonville
, carried havoc and panic through the La Fourche
, and finally planted batteries on the Mississippi
to cut off our communication with New Orleans.
, however, an assault by about 1500 Texans was repulsed by about 200 men, including convalescents, under Major J. D. Bullen
, 28th Maine,5
and at La Fourche Crossing Taylor
's forces suffered another check at the hands of a detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Stickney
, 47th Massachusetts.
, whose operations were conducted with marked skill and vigor, had everything his own way. In New Orleans great was the excitement when it was known that the Confederate forces were on the west bank within a few miles of the city; but fortunately the illness that had deprived Emory
's division of its commander in the field had given New Orleans
a commander of a courage and firmness that now, as always, rose with the approach of danger, with whom difficulties diminished as they drew near, and whose character had earned the respect of the inhabitants.
Still by the 4th of July things were at such a pass that General Emory
plainly told General Banks
he must choose between Port Hudson
and New Orleans.
was convinced that Port Hudson
must be in his hands within three days.
His confidence was justified.
At last on the 7th of July, when the saphead was within 16 feet of the priest-cap, and a storming party of 1000 volunteers had been organized, led by the intrepid Birge
, and all preparations had been made for springing two heavily charged mines, word came from Grant
Instantly an aide was sent to the “general-of-the-trenches” bearing duplicates in “flimsy” of a note from the adjutant-general announcing the good news.
One of these he was directed to toss into the Confederate
Some one acknowledged the receipt by calling back, “That's another damned Yankee lie!”
Once more the cheers of our men rang out as the word passed, and again the forest echoed with the strains of the Star-spangled banner from the long-silent bands.
Firing died away, the men began to mingle in spite of everything, and about 2 o'clock next morning came the long, gray envelope that meant surrender.
Formalities alone remained; these were long, but the articles were signed on the afternoon of the 8th; a moment later a long train of wagons loaded with rations for the famished garrison moved down the Clinton
road, and on the morning of the 9th a picked force of eight regiments, under Brigadier-General George L. Andrews
, marched in with bands playing and colors flying; the Confederates
stacked arms and hauled down their flag, and the National
ensign floated in its stead.
By General Banks
's order, General Gardner
's sword was returned to him in the presence of his men in recognition of the heroic defense — a worthy act, well merited.
But, stout as the defense had been, the besiegers had on their part displayed some of the highest qualities of the soldier; among these valor in attack, patient endurance of privation, suffering, and incredible toil, and perseverance under discouragement.
And to defenders and besiegers it is alike unjust to say, even though it has been said by the highest authority, that Port Hudson
surrendered only because Vicksburg
The simple truth is that Port Hudson
surrendered because its hour had come.
The garrison was literally starving.
With less than 3000 famished men in line, powerful mines beneath the salients, and a last assault about to be delivered at 10 paces, what else was left to do?
With the post there fell into our hands 6340 prisoners, 20 heavy guns, 31 field-pieces, about 7500 muskets, and two river steamers.6
Many of the guns were ruined, some had been struck over and over again, and the depots and magazines were empty.
The garrison also lost about 500 prisoners or
deserters before the surrender, and about 700 killed and wounded. Our loss was 707 killed, 3336 wounded, 319 missing,--total, 4362.
The army was greatly assisted by Admiral Farragut
's fleet above and below Port Hudson
, and directly by two fine batteries forming part of the siege-works, manned by seamen under Lieutenant-Commander Edward Terry
While the ceremonies of capitulation were going on, Weitzel
's division aboard the transports and hastened to Donaldsonville
to drive Taylor
out of the La Fourche
On the 13th, at Koch
's plantation, Green
suddenly fell upon Weitzel
's advance, composed of Dudley
's brigade and Dwight
's under Colonel Joseph S. Morgan
, and handled them roughly.
We lost 50 killed, 223 wounded, 186 missing,--total, 465,--as well as 2 guns, while Green
's loss was 3 killed and 30 wounded. As the gun-boats could not be got round to Berwick Bay
in time to cut off Taylor
, he crossed Berwick Bay
on the 21st with all his spoils that he could carry away and took post on the lower Teche
, until in September the Nineteenth Corps, reorganized and placed under the command of Franklin
, once more advanced into the Teche
country and drove him back toward Opelousas
After the fall of Vicksburg
and Port Hudson
's division, and the Thirteenth Corps under Ord
, to report to Banks
went to Vicksburg
to consult with Grant
, and Grant
came to New Orleans; together they agreed with Admiral Farragut
in urging an immediate attack on Mobile
This was the only true policy; success would have been easy and must have influenced powerfully the later campaigns that centered about Chattanooga
; but for reasons avowedly political rather than military, the Government
ordered, instead, an attempt to “plant the flag at some point in Texas
The unaccountable failure at Sabine Pass
then the occupation of the Texan coast
by the Thirteenth Corps.
So the favorable moment passed and 1863 wore away.