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The Red River campaign.

by Richard B. Irwin, Lieutenant-Colonel, U. S. V., Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of the Gulf.
After the fall of Port Hudson on the 8th of July, 1863, the forces of the Department of the Gulf, instead of going at once against Mobile as urged by General Grant, General Banks,1 and Admiral Farragut, and thus lending an effective support to the main operations about Chattanooga at a critical period, were occupied in attempting to carry out the orders of the Government to restore the flag in Texas. General Banks was informed by General Halleck that the Government fully appreciated the importance of the proposed operations against Mobile,2 but there were important reasons, reasons other than military, why the Texas movement should be made first and with the least possible delay, by sea or land. A combined naval and military operation by the Red River was indicated as the best mode of carrying out the object; the selection of the route was, however, left to General Banks, but as to the movement itself he was distinctly told there was no choice and that the views of the Government must be carried out.3

The first attempt to carry then out led to the unfortunate expedition to Sabine Pass, in September [see Vol. III., p. 598], the object of which was to gain a footing on the coast by surprise. Its summary failure put that idea out [346] of the question, and the route proposed by General Halleck being at that moment quite impracticable, because the Red River is only navigable during a few weeks in the spring, General Banks at once concentrated his troops on the Teche for a renewal of the attempt by moving directly west across the prairie by way of Niblett's Bluff. However, it did not take long to realize that to march an army three hundred miles across a barren country, with no water in the summer and fall, and plenty of water but no road in the winter and spring, was really not to be thought of, especially when the column would have to guard against an active enemy on its flank and rear during the march and to meet and overcome another at its end.

Accordingly, General Banks reverted to his first idea of making the attempt by sea, and selected the Thirteenth Corps, then commanded by Major-General C. C. Washburn,4 for the service. To Major-General N. J. T. Dana was assigned the duty of effecting the first landing at Brazos Santiago, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. The expedition, General Banks himself accompanying it, sailed from New Orleans on the 26th of October, under convoy of the Monongahela, Owasco, and Virginia. After encountering a severe “norther” on the 30th, from which the men, animals, and transports suffered greatly, on the 2d of November Dana landed on Brazos Island, drove off the small Confederate force on the mainland on the 3d, and on the 6th occupied Brownsville, thirty miles up the river. Point Isabel was occupied on the 8th. With the foot-hold thus gained, General Banks's plan was to occupy successively all the passes or inlets that connect the Gulf of Mexico with the land-locked lagoons or sounds of the Texas coast from the Rio Grande to the Sabine. Leaving Dana in command on the Rio Grande, a strong detachment, under Brigadier-General T. E. G. Ransom, embarked on the 16th, landed at Corpus Christi, occupied Mustang Island, crossed Aransas Pass, and moved on Pass Cavallo, where the Confederates had a strong work called Fort Esperanza, commanding the entrance to Matagorda Bay. This was captured on the 30th of December, the Confederates retiring to the mainland.

These operations, though completely successful so far and at small cost, being, indeed, almost unopposed, were not satisfactory to the Government. However, General Banks, being committed to the movement, was proceeding to complete the conquest of the Texas coast by moving in force against the strong Confederate positions at Galveston and the mouth of the Brazos when General Halleck on the 4th of January renewed his instructions of the previous summer for the naval and military operation on the Red River; this time it was to be on a larger scale, for Steele was also to advance to the Red River from the line of the Arkansas, and General Grant was to cooperate with such troops as he could spare during the winter from the military division of the Mississippi. Since it has been claimed that these instructions were not positive, that they only required General Banks to communicate with General Sherman, General Steele, and Admiral Porter, it may be enough to [347] observe that they did instruct General Banks to communicate with the officers named, that each of those generals as well as General Grant received corresponding instructions, that Admiral Porter read those addressed to General Banks, and that all five commanders understood and executed these orders in the same sense.5 General Banks replied, expressing his concurrence in Halleck's plan. This may have been a mistake. Yet, though a soldier may often be excused, and sometimes even praised, for disobeying orders, he can never be blamed for obeying them when all the conditions are known to his superior, and it is unnecessary to burrow in search of a motive for the cheerful performance of duty. In an elaborate and carefully prepared memoir by his chief engineer, Major D. C. Houston, General Banks presented a clear view of the difficulties to be encountered and the conditions deemed essential to success. These conditions (all of which except the fourth, in the result, shared the general fate of “ifs,” by being completely disregarded) were, in brief, five: 1. Complete preliminary organization, so as to avoid delay in movement. 2. A line of supply by land from the Mississippi, or, in other words, the reconstruction of the railway from De Soto to Monroe, and a good and safe wagon-road thence to Shreveport. 3. The expulsion of the Confederates from Arkansas and northern Louisiana. 4. The enemy to be kept fully employed, so as to be prevented from undertaking raids and diversions. 5. One general to command the whole force. The usual time of highest water in the upper Red River fixed the date for the movement as about the middle of March.

General Sherman came to New Orleans on the 1st of March and promptly arranged to send ten thousand men to join Admiral Porter at the mouth of the Red River, and, accompanied by the fleet, to be at Alexandria by the 17th of March, simultaneously with the arrival of Banks's troops marching north by the Teche. Thus two armies and a fleet, hundreds of miles apart, were to concentrate on a given day at a remote point far within the enemy's lines, situated, moreover, on a river always difficult and uncertain of navigation and now obstructed and fortified. And here, especially in Sherman's ready agreement to overlook a fundamental rule of the art of war, we see clearly the earliest sign of that general disregard of the enemy's power of resistance that was so soon to wreck the campaign. It is noteworthy that the same error was repeated on a greater scale when it was arranged that after once concentrating within the enemy's lines at Alexandria, the united forces of Banks, Sherman, and Porter should meet those of Steele within the enemy's lines at Shreveport, where, roughly speaking, Kirby Smith was within three hundred miles of either Banks or Steele, while the two Federal commanders, separated from each other at the start by nearly five hundred miles of hostile territory, could only communicate by the rivers in their rear over a long circuit, lengthening as they approached their common enemy in his central stronghold. [348]

Map of the Red River, and Arkansas and Missouri campaigns, of 1964.


In estimating the forces at Kirby Smith's disposal to meet this triple invasion at 25,000 men, Banks was, as he had been the year before in the Port Hudson campaign, virtually correct, although on both occasions the Government regarded his figures as exaggerated. Since the forces told off for the Red River expedition numbered 42,000 officers and men of all arms, of whom Sherman was to furnish 10,000, Steele 15,000, and Banks 17,000, it is obvious that by concentrating his whole force, Kirby Smith would be stronger than either column separately, nearly as strong as the whole of Sherman's force and Banks's when united and before being weakened by detachments, and therefore possibly stronger than their combined force after providing for the heavy details indispensable to such a movement.

Porter's fleet entered the mouth of the Red River on the 12th of March, convoying Sherman's detachment on transports. On the 13th two divisions of the Sixteenth Corps under Mower, and Kilby Smith's division of the Seventeenth Corps, the whole under command of Brigadier-General A. J. Smith, landed at Simsport, near the head of the Atchafalaya, and the next morning marched on Fort de Russy. Walker's division of the Confederate army, under General Richard Taylor, which was holding the country from Simsport to Opelousas, at once fell back to Bayou Boeuf, covering Alexandria. A. J. Smith's march was therefore unmolested. He arrived before Fort de Russy on the afternoon of the 14th, and promptly carried the works by assault, with a loss of 34 killed and wounded, capturing 260 prisoners, eight heavy guns, and two field-pieces. Meantime the advance of Porter's fleet had burst through the dam and raft nine miles below, and was thus able to proceed at once up the river, arriving off Alexandria on the 15th. Kilby Smith followed on the transports with the remainder of the fleet, landed at Alexandria on the 16th, and occupied the town, Taylor having retired toward Natchitoches and called in Mouton's division from the country north of the river to join Walker's. A. J. Smith, with Mower, followed on the 18th. Thus Porter and A. J. Smith were at Alexandria ahead of time.

Banks himself was detained at New Orleans by the necessity of giving personal attention to special duties confided to him by the President in connection with the election and the installation, on the 4th of March, of the governor and other officers of the new or, as it was called, the “free State” Government of Louisiana. Some criticism and much ridicule have been wasted on this; the fact being that General Banks simply carried out the orders of President Lincoln, just as, for example, was done by General Gillmore in Florida and General Steele in Arkansas, only that more attention was naturally drawn to Louisiana as a greater State, and containing the most important city in the South. Banks therefore confided to Franklin, under whom the Nineteenth Corps had been reorganized and brought up to a high state of discipline and efficiency, the task of preparing and putting in motion the troops of the Department of the Gulf, designated to form part of the expedition. Franklin, when selected for this service, was the second officer in rank in the department, and, in any case, a better selection could not have been [350] made.6 His forces consisted of Emory's division, and Grover's two brigades of the Nineteenth Corps, about 10,500 strong, Cameron's and Ransom's divisions of the Thirteenth Corps, about 4800, and the newly organized division of cavalry and newly mounted infantry, under Brigadier-General Albert L. Lee, numbering 4600. Bad weather had ruined the roads; but on the 13th of March Lee led the advance of the column from Franklin, on the Teche, and, moving by Opelousas and Bayou Boeuf, marched into Alexandria, distant 175 miles, on the 19th, followed by the infantry and artillery on the 25th and 26th.

Banks himself made his headquarters at Alexandria on the 24th, and there on the 27th he received fresh orders that imposed a new and well-nigh impossible condition on the campaign. These were the instructions of Lieutenant-General Grant, dated the 15th of March, on taking command of the army of the United States, looking to the cooperation of the whole effective force of or in the Department of the Gulf in the combined movement early in May of all the armies between the Mississippi and the Atlantic, A. J. Smith was to join the Army of the Tennessee for the Atlanta campaign, and Banks was to go against Mobile. If Shreveport were not to be taken by the 25th of April, at latest, then A. J. Smith's corps was to be returned to Vicksburg by the 10th, “even if it should lead to the abandonment of the expedition.” Yet Halleck's orders for the expedition were not revoked; it was to go on — only, to make sure that it should not be gone too long, it was put in irons. Banks might well have given up the campaign then and there; yet there was a chance that Kirby Smith might not be able to concentrate in time to save Shreveport; another, still more remote, that he might give the place up without a fight, and a third, more unlikely than either, that Steele might join Banks in time to make short work of it. There were twenty-six days left before the latest time at which A. J. Smith must leave him; so in his dilemma Banks decided to take these chances.

His delay made no real difference, for the river, though slowly rising, was still so low that the gun-boats had not been able to pass the difficult rapids that obstruct the navigation just above Alexandria. The leading gun-boat, Eastport, hung nearly three days on the rocks; the hospital steamer, Woodford, following her, was wrecked, and it was not until the 3d of April that the last of the thirteen gun-boats7 and thirty transports that were finally taken above the rapids had succeeded in making the difficult passage. Seven gun-boats and the larger transports staid below; the only communication with the upper fleet was by the road around the falls; all supplies had therefore to be landed, hauled round in wagons, and reshipped; and this made it necessary to establish depots and to leave Grover's division, four thousand strong, at Alexandria for the protection of the stores and the carry. At the same time General McPherson, commanding the Seventeenth Corps, recalled Ellet's [351] Marine Brigade to Vicksburg, and thus the expedition lost a second detachment of three thousand. This loss was partly made up by the arrival of a brigade of 1500 colored troops, under Colonel W. H. Dickey, from Port Hudson. Taylor, retiring before the advance of the columns ascending the Red River and the Teche under A. J. Smith and Franklin, had evacuated Alexandria, removing all the munitions of war and material except three guns and passing all the transports above the Falls, and on the 18th of March was with Walker's and Mouton's divisions at Carroll Jones's plantation, in the pine forest covering the roads to Shreveport and the Sabine, about thirty-six miles above Alexandria and forty-six below Natchitoches. After the arrival of Lee's cavalry, A. J. Smith sent Mower with his two divisions and Lucas's brigade of Lee's division on the 21st to Henderson's Hill, near Cotile, twenty-three miles above Alexandria, to clear the way across Bayou Rapides. Here, the same night, in a heavy rain-storm, Mower skillfully surprised the only cavalry force Taylor had, the 2d Louisiana, Colonel William G. Vincent, and with trifling loss captured nearly the whole regiment, about 250 men and 200 horses, together with the four guns of Edgar's battery. This was a heavy blow to Taylor, since it deprived him of the means of scouting until Green's cavalry, long looked for, should arrive from Texas. Mower returned to Alexandria and Taylor withdrew to Natchitoches.

While the navy was occupied in passing the rapids, the advance of the army, on the 27th, took up the line of march, and on the 3d of April the whole force was concentrated near Natchitoches, the gun-boats and the twenty-six transports carrying A. J. Smith's corps and the stores having arrived at Grand Ecore, four miles distant, on the same day. Here General John M. Corse overtook the expedition, bearing renewed and very special orders from Sherman for the return of A. J. Smith's corps by the 10th of April; but the expedition was now within four marches of Shreveport, and it was agreed to go on. Kilby Smith's division, 1700 strong, remained with the transports, under orders to proceed under convoy as far as Loggy Bayou, opposite Springfield, 110 miles by the river above Grand Ecore, while A. J. Smith with Mower's divisions, numbering about 7000, moved by land with the rest of the army, now reduced to less than 26,000 officers and men of all arms, including the 2200 colored infantry and engineers, and 1700 cavalry presently detached for service on the north bank. Franklin marched on the 6th of April, Lee's cavalry in advance, followed by the Thirteenth Corps under Ransom, Emory's division of the Nineteenth, and Dickey's colored brigade. A. J. Smith with Mower marched on the 7th, and the same day Admiral Porter, with Kilby Smith and six light-draught; gun-boats carrying about seventeen guns, got under way for Loggy Bayou. On the night of the 7th, Lee's cavalry, after a sharp skirmish with Major's brigade of Green's division of Texas cavalry, bivouacked on Bayou St. Patrice, seven miles beyond Pleasant Hill, Ransom and Emory at Pleasant Hill, thirty-three miles from Natchitoches, and A. J. Smith a day's march in their rear; the march of the infantry having been retarded by a heavy storm that broke over the rear of the column and cut up the road. [352]

Meanwhile Taylor, who had continued to fall back, found himself on the 5th at Mansfield, covering the roads to Marshall Texas, and to Shreveport, with Green's cavalry coming up at last, and Churchill's Arkansas division and Parsons's Missouri division of Price's army in supporting distance at Keachie, about half-way between Mansfield and Shreveport, which are forty-two miles apart. This gave Taylor 16,000 men with whom he might give battle in a chosen position, while Banks's force was stretched out to the length of a day's march on a single narrow road in the pine forest and encumbered and weakened by guarding twelve miles of wagons

Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks. From a photograph.

bearing all his ammunition and provisions through a barren wilderness, deep in the heart of the enemy's country. Such, indeed, was Kirby Smith's plan. However, Taylor did not wait for that, but, sending back orders for Churchill and Parsons to join him early on the morning of the 8th moved out three miles to Sabine Cross-roads, and there formed line of battle with Walker's, Mouton's, and Green's divisions, 11,000 strong, and awaited the approach of the Federals in a well-selected position, in the edge of the wood, commanding on both sides of the road one of the few clearings to be found in that region. This clearing was about 1200 yards long, 900 wide, and through the middle ran a deep ravine. [353]

Lee's bivouac of the night before was but twelve miles away. Accompanied by Vance's brigade of Landram's division, Lee marched at daylight, and after meeting with a spirited resistance from three of Green's regiments, designed to give time for Taylor to form his line, arrived about noon on the hill at the eastern edge of the clearing that was to be the field of battle. The main body of the army marched at daybreak and halted between 10 and 11, Ransom two miles beyond Bayou St. Patrice and Emory on its banks, to wait for his provision train, which had not come up the night before. A. J. Smith moved up to within two miles of Pleasant Hill. Banks sent Ransom forward with Emerson's brigade, and rode to the front himself at an early hour. Finding the enemy before him in force, he ordered Lee to hold his ground and sent back “to hurry forward the column.”

About 4 o'clock, when the two lines had been skirmishing and looking at each other for a couple of hours, Taylor suddenly delivered his attack8 by a vigorous charge of Mouton's division on the left of the Pleasant Hill road, supported on his left by Major's and Bagby's brigades of cavalry dismounted. Walker followed astride and on the right of the road, with Bee's brigade of cavalry on his right. The Federal line formed on the cleared slope, and, composed from left to right of the brigades of Dudley, Vance, Emerson, and Lucas, with four batteries, about 4500 in all, met with spirit the fierce onset of more than double their numbers, but were soon overcome. The artillery was powerless in the woods. Nims's splendid battery, with its honorable record on every field from Baton Rouge to Port Hudson, was taken by Walker's men in the first rush. Franklin, whose headquarters were with Cameron in front of Bayou St. Patrice, received Banks's orders to move to the front at a quarter-past three. He at once sent for Emory and led forward Cameron, whose division, advancing at the double-quick, arrived on the field, five miles away, an hour later, just in time to witness and for a brief interval to check the disaster, but not to retrieve it. The whole Union line was again driven back. To complete the confusion a wild panic ensued among the teamsters of the cavalry train, which was close behind.9 This caused the loss of the guns of two fine batteries, the Chicago Mercantile and the 1st Missouri, as well as of many prisoners and wagons. Emory had received the order to advance at twenty minutes to four while in his bivouac on Bayou St. Patrice, and had instantly put his division in motion. Three miles in rear of the field of battle he met the routed column pressing in great disorder to the rear. Quickening their pace, his men forced their way through the confused mass of fugitives, negroes, cavalry, camp followers, wagons, and ambulances, and formed line in [354] a good position to check the pursuit, Dwight on the right of the road, covered by the 161st New York deployed as skirmishers, Benedict on the left, and McMillan in reserve behind Dwight. Hardly was the line formed when Taylor's victorious troops attacked with great energy, pressing heavily on Dwight's right; but McMillan was brought up to his support, and when night shortly fell the attack had been thrown off. Emory's division held the ground it fought for,10 the retreat was covered and the army was saved — the army that had set out so confidently to take Shreveport, only two marches beyond; saved by a triumph of valor and discipline on the part of a single division, and of skill on the part of its intrepid commander, from complete destruction at the hands of an enemy inferior in everything, whose entire force ours outnumbered almost as two to one.

But the campaign was lost. All hope of taking or even reaching Shreveport within the time fixed for the breaking up of the expedition was at an end. Banks at once ordered a retreat, and sent messengers to notify Kilby Smith and Porter. Emory marched at midnight

Major-General A. J. Smith. From a photograph.

and at 8 o'clock the next morning, the 9th of April, the army came into position at Pleasant Hill, where A. J. Smith had been left, and where what remained of Lee's cavalry, of Ransom's corps, now under Cameron,11 and of Dickey's colored brigade had been re-formed during the night. The train, escorted by Dickey's brigade, was put in motion toward Grand Ecore, followed by Cameron. Emory and A. J. Smith remained in position, covering the retreat and approaches to Pleasant Hill, including the important cross-road to Blair's Landing on the Red River,12 where it would be easy and might be found best to reunite the army and the fleet.

Meanwhile Churchill's and Parsons's divisions having arrived at Mansfield [355] after a march of twenty miles from Keachie, too late in the evening to take part in the battle of Sabine Cross-roads, Taylor ordered Churchill to march both divisions to the front at 2 A. M., meaning to renew the fight; but when daylight disclosed the retreat of the Union forces, Taylor promptly moved forward with his whole force in pursuit — Green with the cavalry leading, Churchill next with his own division under Tappan, then Parsons's, Walker's, and Mouton's divisions, the last now under Polignac.13 It was afternoon when the Confederates found themselves confronted by Emory and Mower in order of battle. Churchill's men were so fagged by their early start and their long march of forty-five miles since the morning of the 8th that they were given two hours rest. Taylor then formed line of battle, Bee with two brigades of cavalry on the left of the Mansfield road, with Polignac in support, Walker on the right of the road, and Churchill, with three regiments of cavalry on his right, moving under cover on the right of the Sabine River road. Major, with his own brigade and Bagby's dismounted, was sent to turn the Federal right and hold the Blair's Landing road.

The Union troops had rather the advantage of ground, except that the position was easily turned and that they could not stay in it for want of water, of which there was none to be had, and for want of provisions, which were rolling on the way to Grand E]core; the Confederates were fresh and slightly superior in numbers,14 besides being, with good reason, elated by their signal victory of the day before; however, I think this last advantage may fairly be offset by the steadiness with which the Northern soldier accepted and the sternness with which he avenged a defeat.

About 5 o'clock Churchill opened his attack, Parsons on the right, Tappan on his left, and fell vigorously on the left of the Union line, which happened to be the weakest part of Emory's position. Here was posted Benedict's brigade, supported on the left by Lynch's brigade and on the right by Moore's brigade of Mower's division. Benedict fell dead and his brigade was outflanked and crushed. At the sound of Churchill's guns, Walker, en échelon

Major-General J. A. Mower. From a photograph.

of brigades on the right, fell upon Shaw of Mower's division (who had relieved McMillan of Emory's in the front line), enveloped both his flanks, and drove him back; but Emory quickly ordered a charge of McMillan's [356]

Alexandria, on the Red River. From a War-time photograph.

brigade, withdrawn from the right and rear and joined by some of Fessenden's men, who had rallied to his support, while others rallied upon Lynch, who attacked and broke Parsons's right; A. J. Smith then advanced his whole line in a fine charge led by Mower and completed the overthrow of Parsons before Tappan could come to his aid. Tappan, finding himself exposed to a front and flank fire by the giving way of Parsons, fell back to re-form. Dwight, who was strongly posted in the woods, stood firm against the combined attacks of Walker in his front and Bee on his right. Taylor ordered up Polignac to their assistance, but the whole Confederate line was now falling back in confusion and the battle was lost.15 Walker and Churchill with most of the cavalry retreated six miles to the nearest water, while Polignac with one brigade of cavalry remained about two miles from the field to cover the retreat. After the close of the action, Kirby Smith joined Taylor, having hurried to the front as soon as he heard of the engagement at Sabine Cross-roads. Kirby Smith now determined to move against Steele in Arkansas; accordingly, during the 10th and 11th, Taylor withdrew his infantry to Mansfield, leaving the cavalry under Green to watch and, if possible, harass the enemy.

At first Banks was for resuming the advance, but during the night he decided to continue the retreat to Grand Ecore.16 The whole army was reunited there on the 11th. Banks then intrenched, threw a pontoon-bridge [357] across the river, placed a strong detachment on the north side, sent to New Orleans and Texas for reinforcements, and waited for the fleet, now in great peril. The fleet arrived at Loggy Bayou on the afternoon of the 10th, and two hours later received the news of the misfortune at Pleasant Hill. The next morning Kilby Smith received written orders to return to Grand Ecore. On the 12th Green, with three or four regiments of cavalry and three guns, posted in ambush on the bluff near Blair's Landing, attacked the fleet and the transports as they were descending the river. A brisk fight followed; the Confederates were soon driven off, and their leader killed, by the guns of the Lexington and Osage and the fire of Kilby Smith's infantry and part of his artillery on the transports. On the 13th Porter and Kilby Smith re-turned to Grand Ecore, and by the 15th all the gun-boats were back. The river was falling, and as fast as the vessels could pass the bar they made their way toward Alexandria. The Eastport was sunk by a torpedo eight miles below Grand Ecore on the 15th, but was got afloat on the 21st; on the 26th, after grounding several times, she ran hard and fast on a raft of logs fifty miles farther down, and had to

Brevet Major-General Joseph Bailey. From a photograph.

be abandoned and blown up. The other vessels, though several times seriously molested by parties of the enemy on the river bank, reached the falls above Alexandria in safety.

When he heard from Admiral Porter that the Eastport was afloat, Banks, on the 22d, marched from Grand Ecore on Alexandria, and bivouacked the same night at Cloutierville, after a march of thirty-seven miles. Kirby Smith had taken the whole of Taylor's force to go against Steele in Arkansas, except Polignac's division, reduced to about 2000 men, and Green's division of cavalry augmented by a fresh brigade from Texas, and now commanded by General John A. Wharton, of Tennessee fame. The road on which Banks was marching twice crosses the western arm of the Red River, called Cane River, the second time at Monette's Ferry, thirty-six miles below Natchitoches. Here Bee, with four brigades and four batteries, had taken up a position to contest the passage, while Wharton and Polignac (to use Taylor's expression) worried Banks's rear. On the 23d Emory17 sent Birge with his own brigade and Fessenden's, supported by Cameron's division, to ford the river three miles above the ferry, turn Bee's left flank, while Emory engaged his attention in front, and drive him away. Birge performed this service handsomely, overcoming many difficulties with great skill, and finally leading the brilliant assault of [358] Fessenden's brigade that dislodged Bee from his strong position, and sent him off to Beasley's, thirty miles away.18 The way being thus cleared, the army marched into Alexandria on the 25th and 26th, without further serious molestation. Here General Hunter was met, bearing fresh, and this time very positive, orders from Lieutenant-General Grant to bring the expedition to an end.19 These orders were afterward suspended (April 30th); but in any case it was now impossible to abandon the navy in its perilous situation above the rapids, with the river falling, and an active enemy on both banks.

From this danger the navy, from this reproach the army, from this irreparable disaster the country was saved by the genius and skill of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, of the 4th Wisconsin regiment, then serving on General Franklin's staff as chief engineer, and by hard and willing work on the part of the officers and men of the army. After the capture of Port Hudson, Bailey, by means of wing dams and a central boom, had floated and released the Confederate transports Starlight and Red Chief found lying on their sides in the mud of Thompson's creek. He now proposed to rescue the fleet in the same way. Stupendous as the work looked, the engineer officers of the army reported it practicable.20 General Franklin, himself a distinguished engineer, approved it, and General Banks gave orders to carry it out.

In the month that had elapsed since the fleet had, even then with some difficulty, ascended the rapids, the river had fallen more than six feet; for a mile and a quarter the rocks were now bare; there were but three feet four inches of water, the gun-boats needing at least seven feet; and in some places the channel, shallow as it was, was narrowed to a mere thread. The current ran nine miles an hour, the total fall was thirteen. feet, and at the point just above the lower chute, where Bailey proposed to construct his dam, the river

Map and sections of the Red River dams above Alexandria.

[359] was 758 feet wide, with a fall of six feet below the dam. The problem was to raise the water above the dam seven feet, backing it up so as to float the gun-boats over the upper fall. From the north bank a wing dam was constructed of large trees, the butts tied by cross-logs, the tops toward the current, and kept in place by weighting with stone, brick, and brush. From the cultivated south bank, where large trees were scarce, a crib was made of logs and timbers, filled in with stone and with bricks and heavy pieces of machinery taken from the neighboring sugar-houses and cotton-gins. The space of about 150 feet between the wings was closed by sinking across it four of the large coal barges belonging to the navy.

Section of the bracket dam.

Crib of Stone and brick.

Section of the Tree dam. Features of the Red River dam.

The work was begun on the 30th of April and finished on the 8th of May. The water having been thus raised five feet four and a half inches, three of the light-draught boats passed the upper fall on that day. On the morning of the 9th the tremendous pressure of the pent — up waters drove out two of the barges, making a gap sixty-six feet wide, and swung them against the rocks below. Through the gap the river rushed in a torrent. The admiral at once galloped round to the upper fall and ordered the Lexington to run the rapids. With a full head of steam she made the plunge, watched in the breathless silence of suspense by the army and the fleet, and greeted with a mighty cheer as she rode in safety below. The three gun-boats (the Osage, Neosho, and Fort Hindman) that were waiting just above the dam followed her down the chute; but six gun-boats and two tugs were still imprisoned by the falling waters.

So far Bailey had substantially followed the same plan that had worked so successfully the year before at Port Hudson,21 but it was now plainly shown to be not altogether applicable against such a weight and volume and velocity of water as had to be encountered here. He therefore promptly remedied the defect by constructing three wing dams at the upper fall: a stone crib on the south side, and a tree dam on the north side just above the upper rocks, and just below them, also on the north side, a bracket dam, made of logs raised at the lower end on trestles and sheathed with plank. Thus the whole current was turned into one narrow channel, a further rise of fourteen inches was obtained, making six feet six and a half inches in all; and this [360]

The “Lexington” passing over the falls at the dam. From a War-time sketch.

new task, by incredible exertions, being completed in three days and three nights, on the 12th and 13th the remaining gun-boats passed free of the danger.22

This accomplished and the reunited fleet being on its way to the Mississippi, the army at once marched out of Alexandria on Simsport, where the column arrived, without serious molestation, on the 16th of May. Bailey improvised a bridge of steamboats across the Atchafalaya,23 here between six and seven hundred yards wide, and thus, by the 19th, the whole command crossed in safety. On the day before, however, the rear-guard under Mower had rather a sharp encounter with Wharton and Polignac on Yellow Bayou, the Confederates losing 452 killed and wounded to our loss of about 267.

At Simsport a third messenger was waiting, this time bearing the bowstring, disguised as a silken cord, for though Banks was for a time left in command of the Department of the Gulf, Canby was placed over him and took control of his troops as the commander of the newly made Trans-Mississippi division. A. J. Smith's troops embarked for Vicksburg on the 22d of May, forty-two days after the date first set for their return and two weeks after the opening of the Atlanta campaign, in which they were to have been employed. The Government decided that it was too late to use Banks's army against Mobile, and ordered the Nineteenth Corps, consolidated into two divisions, with part of the Thirteenth Corps incorporated, to join the Army of the Potomac. They arrived just in time to be sent to Washington to aid in repelling Early's invasion. Of Steele's operations, since they belong to another chapter [see p. 375], it is only necessary to say here that he entered Camden, Arkansas, ninety miles in a north-easterly direction from Shreveport, on the 15th of April, just when Banks got back to Grand Ecore. Kirby Smith then left Taylor with Wharton and Polignac to watch and [361] worry Banks, and, concentrating all the rest of his army against Steele, forced him to retreat to Little Rock.

On both sides this unhappy campaign of the Red River raised a great and bitter crop of quarrels. Taylor was relieved by Kirby Smith, as the result of an angry correspondence; Banks was overslaughed, and Franklin quitted the department in disgust; Stone was replaced by Dwight as chief-of-staff, and Lee as chief-of-cavalry by Arnold; A. J. Smith departed more in anger than in sorrow; while between the admiral and the general commanding, recriminations were exchanged in language well up to the limits of “parliamentary” privilege. I have nothing to do with any of these things, but I feel it a duty to express my entire disbelief in all the many tales that seek to cast upon the army or its commander the shadow of a great cotton speculation. These stories, as ample in insinuation as they are weak in specification, are in the last resort found to be vouched for by nobody. I am convinced they are false. The speculators who certainly went with the army as far as Alexandria, had for the most part passes from Washington; the policy under which they were permitted to go was avowedly encouraged by the Government, for reasons of state. When General Banks sent them all back from Alexandria, without their sheaves, they returned to New Orleans furious against him and mouthing calumnies. All the cotton gathered by the army was turned over first to the chief quartermaster, and by him to the special agent of the Treasury Department designated to receive it.24 All the cotton seized by the navy25 was sent to Cairo, was adjudged “lawful prize of war,” and its proceeds distributed as prescribed by the statute. At one time it was supposed that the extensive seizures made by the navy led to the burning of the cotton by the Confederates; the truth is, however, that Kirby Smith ordered the burning of all the cotton in Louisiana east of the Ouachita and south of Alexandria, estimated by him at 150,000 bales, and then worth $60,000,000, on the 14th of

United States hospital ship, “Red Rover.” from a War-time photograph.


March, as soon as he became satisfied that Banks's army meant to advance once more up the Teche. Porter and A. J. Smith had then just entered the mouth of the Red River, but as yet Kirby Smith neither knew nor expected their coming.

After the Red River campaign no important operation was undertaken by either side in Louisiana. The Confederate forces in that State held out until the end of the war, when, on the surrender of Kirby Smith, May 26th, 1865, they were finally disbanded.

1 Banks to Halleck, July 23d, 30th, and August 1st, 1863. And see General Grant's article, Vol. III., p. 679, of this work.

2 Halleck to Banks, July 24th, August 6th, 10th, and 12th. There is some reason for thinking that the idea may have originated with President Lincoln himself: see Lincoln to Stanton, July 29th, 1863.

3 General Halleck's own opinion of the relative value of the Mobile and Texas campaigns is indicated in his dispatch to General Banks of July 24th: “I think Texas much the most important.”

4 Major-General E. O. C. Ord, who had succeeded Major J. A. McClernand in command of the Thirteenth Army Corps, before Vicksburg, was on sick leave at this time and did not return to the Department of the Gulf, being assigned to duty with the Army of the James in the summer of 1864.

5 General Grant says [p. 108]: “General Banks had gone on an expedition up the Red River long before my promotion to general command. I had opposed the movement strenuously, but acquiesced because it was the order of my superior at the time. . . It is but just to Banks, however, to say that his expedition was ordered from Washington. . . . He opposed the expedition.”--editors.

6 The following summer, even after the Red River failure, General Grant considered that he would be strengthened by having Franklin to command the right wing of his army [see p. 106].--R. B. I.

7 The 13 gun-boats sent up were the Eastport, Chillicothe, Carondelet, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburgh, Osage, Ozark, Neosho, Fort Hindiman, Cricket, Juliet, and Lexington. See The Navy in the Red River, p. 363.--editors.

8 The Confederate accounts of this engagement (called by the Confederates the battle of Mansfield-by us, Sabine Cross-roads; see p. 369) cannot be quite reconciled without reading between the lines. Kirby Smith says the reconnoissance ordered by him was “converted into a decisive engagement.” Taylor says, “Becoming impatient at the delay, . . . I ordered Mouton to open the attack .. .” Lieutenant Edward Cunningham, A. D. C., and Chief-of-Artillery, in a very clear and outspoken letter to his brother, which was intercepted by our troops, says that Mouton attacked “without the knowledge or orders of General Taylor.”--R. B. I.

9 This order of march has been severely criticised, but a little reflection will show that it did not cause but only aggravated a disaster really brought about by accepting battle at the head of a column twenty miles long, at the hands of an enemy formed in complete order of battle, in a position previously chosen by him, where our artillery could not be used.--R. B. I.

10 Taylor says he drove the enemy five miles. “Here the Thirteenth Corps gave way entirely and was replaced by the Nineteenth hurriedly brought up to support the fight. The Nineteenth shared the fate of the Thirteenth.” (The italics are mine.) This is a mistake; the Nineteenth Corps never reached the position of the Thirteenth. Taylor's next paragraph describes the fight with the Nineteenth: “Just as night closed the enemy massed heavily on a ridge overlooking a small creek. . . The fighting was severe for a time, but . . . we encamped on the creek as night fell, the enemy forced back some four hundred yards beyond,”--i. e., the skirmish-line was driven back to Emory's line of battle on the rising ground overlooking the creek.--R. B. I.

11 Ransom having been wounded at Sabine Crossroads.

12 Sixteen miles from Pleasant Hill and forty-five, by the river, above Grand Ecore.

13 Mouton having been killed in the first onset on the 8th.

14 After the battle, each side claimed to have fought superior numbers. I cannot make out that the Union troops, including Gooding's cavalry, which was not engaged, numbered more than 11,000, nor that the Confederate force was less than 13,000: Taylor says he had 12,000 and attacked “twenty odd thousand,” and that “the third army of the enemy in point of numbers on the theater of war was routed and driven from the field with a loss of at least 10,000 men.”--R. B. I.

15 The earliest Confederate dispatches and orders claimed a signal and glorious victory, but Kirby Smith's report of August 28th, 1864, to President Davis, says that “Taylor's troops were repulsed and thrown into confusion. . . . The Missouri and Arkansas troops, with a brigade of Walker's division, were broken and scattered. The enemy recovered artillery which we had taken, and two of our pieces were left in his hands . . . To my great relief I found in the morning that the enemy had fallen back during the night. . . . Our troops were completely paralyzed by the repulse at Pleasant Hill.” (Italics mine.) In the letter already cited, Lieutenant Cunningham says: “That it was impossible for us to pursue Banks immediately — under four or five days--cannot be gainsaid. . . . It was impossible . . . because we had been beaten, demoralized, paralyzed, in the fight of the 9th.”--R. B. I. [And see p. 370.]

16 General A. J. Smith strongly opposed this. General Franklin proposed to march to Blair's Landing to await the return of the fleet. This was probably sound advice, though it would have separated the army temporarily from its train and from the troops that had already gone on to Grand Ecore.--R. B. I.

17 Franklin having been wounded on the 8th.

18 The Union losses in this affair were about 200, of which 153 were in Fessenden's brigade. Colonel Fessenden was severely wounded.--R. B. I.

19 The records show that General Grant wished Hunter to be sent out to relieve Banks, on the strength of private information received, but that the President was not ready for this.--R. B. I .

20 Especially Captain John C. Palfrey, United States Engineers, who had made a careful and complete survey of the rapids.--R. B. I.

21 There the gap between the two wings was closed by a boom of logs, to which, when all was ready, a hawser was attached and carried to the capstan of one of the steamers. With a slow strain the boom was hauled up against the current; then the hawser was cut with an axe, the boom carried away the dam, and the boats, under full headway, steamed out into the Mississippi.--R. B. I.

22 Bailey was made a brigadier-general and received the thanks of Congress. The cribs were soon washed away, but it is said the main tree dam survives to this day, having driven the channel toward the south shore and washed away a large slice of the bank at the upper end of the town.--R. B. I.

23 General Banks speaks of this use of steamboats to form a bridge as the first attempt of the kind; but when we moved on Port Hudson, the year before, the last of the troops and trains crossed over at the same place in substantially the same way.--R. B. I.

24 In a statement presented to the Committee on the Conduct of the War (1865, Vol. II., p. 347) General Banks says:

“ During the Red River campaign, all the property that came into the hands of the army was turned over to the quartermaster, and by him to the Treasury officers. There was no exception to this rule. Every person who accompanied the expedition . . . was notified that trade was prohibited, and the quartermaster and the supervising agent of the Treasury Department informed that whatever property should fall into our hands would be disposed of according to the orders of the Government and the laws of Congress, subject to such claims as should be recognized at Washington.

R. B. I.

25 About 6000 bales, Admiral Porter states.

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