Chapter 9: the Red River expedition.
- Object of the Red River expedition, 251.
-- plan of the expedition, 252.
-- land and naval forces for the expedition, at Simms's Port, 253.
-- the expedition to Alexandria
-- Franklin's overland March
-- the rapids at Alexandria, 254.
-- advance from Alexandria
-- threatening dangers, 255.
-- advance upon Shreveport, 256.
-- the Trans-Mississippi Confederate Army
-- approach to Sabine cross
-- Roads, 257.
-- battle at Sabine cross-roads, 258.
-- battle of Pleasant Grove, 259.
-- battle of Pleasant Hill, 261.
-- retreat of the Nationals to Grand Ecore ordered, 262.
-- retreat of the War vessels impeded, 263.
-- the Army and Navy at Grand Ecore, 264.
-- battle at Cane River, 265.
-- a fight on the Red River, 266.
-- the Red River Dam, 267.
-- passage of the Red River rapids, 268.
-- end of the Shreveport or Red River expedition, 269.
-- General Steele's Army in Arkanass
-- battle at Jenkinson's Ferry, 272.
-- Steele's Army at little Rock, 273.
Let us now look across the Mississippi River
and see what was occurring there in 1864.
We left General Banks
at New Orleans, after his failure to “repossess” Texas
in the autumn and early winter of 1863, engaged in planning another expedition to that State, the first important work to be the capture of Galveston
While so engaged he received
a dispatch from General Halleck
, dated the 4th of January, informing him that it was proposed to operate against Texas
by the line of the Red River
, that route having “the favor of the best military opinions of the generals of the West
proposed to have the expedition to consist of the forces of Banks
, and such troops as Grant
might spare for the winter, to act in combination or in co-operation, together with gun-boats.
He informed Banks
that both Grant
had been written to, and instructed him to communicate with them upon the subject.
The grand object was the capture of Shreveport
, on the Red River
, near the boundary between Louisiana
; the capture or dispersion of the Confederates
in that region, then under General E. Kirby Smith
as commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, and then the recovery of Texas
and the opening of the way for trade in the immense supplies of cotton in the latter State.
The objections to this route, which Banks
had hitherto urged, still existed, and he had apprehensions of disastrous results in a campaign without a unity of command and purpose.
But so often had this inland route been urged upon him by Halleck
, as the most feasible way for winning a conquest of Texas
, that he did not feel at liberty to offer serious opposition again; so he promptly replied, on the day when he received Halleck
's dispatch, that with the forces proposed the expedition might be successful and important, and that he should cordially co-operate in the movement.
He thought it proper, however, to send to the General-in-Chief
a memorial prepared by his chief engineer (Major D. C. Houston
), on the proposed expedition, in which was explicitly stated the obstructions to be encountered and the measures necessary to accomplish the objects in view.
It recommended as indispensable to success: (1.) Such complete preliminary organization as would avoid the least delay in movements after the campaign had opened; (2.) That a line of supply be established from the Mississippi
, independent of water-courses, because these would become unmanageable at certain seasons of the year;
（3.) The concentration of the forces west of the Mississippi
, and such other force as should be assigned to this duty from General Sherman
's command, in such a manner as to expel the enemy from Northern Louisiana
; (4.) Such preparation and concert of action among the different corps engaged as to prevent the enemy, by keeping him constantly employed, from operating against our positions or forces elsewhere; and (5.) That the entire force should be placed under the command of a single general.
Preparations for a long campaign was also advised, and the month of May was indicated as the point of time when the occupation of Shreveport
might be anticipated.2
“Not one of these suggestions,” said General Banks
, in his report, “so necessary in conquering the inherent difficulties of the expedition, was carried into execution, nor was it in my power to establish them.”
The general plan laid out was for Admiral Porter
to move from Vicksburg
with a powerful fleet of armored gun-boats and transports, carrying ten thousand men of Sherman
's old army, under General A. J. Smith
, and, passing up the Red River
, capture Fort de Russy
, and join Banks
The latter was to march overland from the Atchafalaya
with his disposable force, say sixteen thousand men, while General Steele
, with about fifteen thousand men, operating independently, should move directly on Shreveport
from Little Rock
The Confederates in that region, according to the most reliable reports, were disposed as follows: Magruder
, with about fifteen thousand effective men, was in Texas
, his main body covering Galveston
's division, about seven thousand strong, was on the Atchafalaya and Red River, from Opelousas
to Fort de Russy
's division, numbering about six thousand men, was between the Black
and Washita rivers
, from Red River
Frederick Steele. |
, with a force of infantry estimated at five thousand, and of cavalry from seven to ten thousand, held the road from Monroe
, in front of Steele
could spare ten thousand of his force to resist an attack from the east, leaving his fortifications on the coast well garrisoned, while Price
could furnish at least an additional five thousand from the north, making, with those in the vicinity of the Red River
, an army of from twenty-five to thirty thousand men — a force equal to any that could be brought against them, even with the most perfect unity and co-operation of commands.3
Considering this disposition of the Confederate forces, we perceive that the problem was presented by authority for solution,--How shall the National
forces achieve a victory in the campaign by threatening Shreveport
with forty thousand men, so disposed in parts
that a solid and easily movable body of twenty-five thousand men may quickly strike each separate portion of the divided forty thousand in turn,, with superior numbers?
To the practical solution of this problem the Nationals now addressed themselves.
Being charged with other important duties at this time which required his presence in New Orleans, General Banks
intrusted the arrangement of his portion of the expedition to General Franklin
, who was to move on the 7th of March, and reach Alexandria
on the 17th.
Meanwhile, Admiral Porter
, who had agreed to meet Banks
there on that day, was promptly at the mouth of the Red River
on the 7th, with his powerful fleet of fifteen iron-clads and four light steamers,4
and there he was joined on the 11th by the transports, with four divisions5
's army, under General A. J. Smith
, and the Marine Brigade, under General Alfred Ellet
, three thousand.
strong. There was just water enough for the larger gun-boats to pass; and on the morning of the 12th they moved up the river, led by the Eastport
. That vessel, with others that might follow, was charged with the duty of removing obstructions in the river, and to amuse Fort de Russy
by a feigned.
attack until the army should land at Simms
' Port, on the Atchafalaya
, and. get in the rear of that post, to attack it.
To cover the landing of the troops on the site of Simms
' Port (the town had been destroyed), nine of the gun-boats turned into the Atchafalaya
, followed by the transports.
The crew of the Benton
landed, and drove back Confederate pickets upon their main body, three miles in the rear; and when the divisions of Generals Mower
and T. Kilby Smith
the entire opposing force fell back toward Fort de Russy
, with a brigade, then reconnoitered toward Yellow Bayou
, when he found that the Confederates
had fled from a post there, burning the bridge behind them.
It was now decided to land the whole column, and march it overland to, Fort de Russy
, a distance of about thirty miles; and at daybreak on the. morning of the 14th it moved, in light marching order, Mower
in the advance.
Very soon the Nationals began to feel their foe, and they were compelled to skirmish with the Confederate cavalry, in front and rear, nearly all the way, until they approached the fort in the afternoon.
They had. marched, fought, and built a bridge over the Yellow Bayou
(which consumed two hours), since dawn, and now, without rest, attacked the fort, which was armed with eight siege-guns and two field-pieces, two of the former in position to command the river.
In the mean time the gun-boats had removed the obstructions in the,
river, and the Eastport
moved up within range of the fort, just as a heavy artillery duel between the fort and the land troops, which lasted about two hours, was closing.
fired a few shots, when the troops charged, and at half-past 4 o'clock the works were carried, and the Confederates
, about five thousand strong, under General Walker
, retreated up the river.6
Before sunset the Nationals had full possession of the fort, when Porter
sent two of his swiftest gun-boats (Ouachita
) followed by the Eastport
, to reach Alexandria
before the arrival of the fugitives.
This was accomplished, and that place soon fell into the hands of the Nationals without a struggle.
The Confederates burned two steamboats and a considerable quantity of cotton, and then fled up the river, their rear-guard just beyond danger from pursuit, when, on the evening of the 16th,
the transports arrived, on which Smith
's troops had re-embarked at Fort de Russy
These landed and occupied the town.
had left a small force behind to assist the Essex
in destroying the fort, so that it could not be reoccupied by the Confederates
was not ready to move with Banks
's column from the Teche region until the 13th.
He met with very little opposition.
His cavalry division, under General A. L. Lee
, with General Charles P. Stone
's chief of staff), and others of.that officer's military family, reached Alexandria
on the 19th.
followed, and made his Headquarters there on the 24th, but his whole column, composed of the Nineteenth and detachments of the Thirteenth Army Corps, did not reach there until the 26th.
Meanwhile, four brigades of Smith
's forces, led by General Mower
, went out
to attack a Confederate force at Henderson's Hill, twenty-five miles westward.
The expedition, prosecuted in the midst of a cold rain and hail-storm, was eminently successful.
The Confederates were surprised, and lost two hundred and fifty of their men captured, with two hundred horses, and four guns, with their caissons.
A few days later General Smith
's force moved to Bayou Rapide
, twenty-one miles above Alexandria
, in the direction of Shreveport
Formidable difficulties in the way of the expedition now appeared.
are rapids in the Red River
, and at this time the water immediately below them was of barely sufficient depth to float Porter
's heavier iron-clads.
The gun-boats were essential to the success of the expedition, but none of them could easily pass above the rapids.
Finally, after the heaviest labor for more than a week,
about one half of them were forced up, but with the loss of the hospital-vessel, Woodford
, of the marine brigade, wrecked in the rapids.
Many of that corps were then suffering from the small-pox, and were in a very discontented state.
As the transports could not pass the rapids, and as they had no available land or water transportation for advancing farther, they were permitted to return to the Mississippi
, in compliance with an earnest call for them to do so by General McPherson
, at Vicksburg
, who desired them for the special duty of guarding the great river from raids.
reduced the force of the expedition three thousand, and General Banks
was compelled to make an equal deduction from his force by an unforeseen necessity.
It had been intended to carry supplies the whole distance, in the advance on Shreveport
, by water, but the river was now so low that but few transports could pass the rapids, and it was found necessary to establish a depot of supplies at Alexandria
, and a wagon-train to take them from vessels below to vessels above the rapids.
To protect this depot and train required a considerable force, and to that duty General Grover
was assigned, with three thousand men. General Banks
then found his available force with which to move forward from Alexandria
reduced to about twenty thousand men, without any expectation of co-operation with General Steele
There was no unity of command, and experts prophesied, at the beginning of April, a probable failure of the expedition.7
Before the gun-boats had passed up the rapids, General Banks
's column, under General Franklin
, near the river, eighty miles above Alexandria
where he arrived on the 3d of April.
The Confederates had continually retreated before him, frequently stopping to skirmish with his vanguard, but offering no serious resistance, and now they continued their flight toward Shreveport
At about the same time, General Smith
's command was embarked at Bayou Rapide
, and moved up the river with the fleet.
The difficulties and dangers of the expedition increased every hour, for the water in the river, instead of rising, as it was expected it would, was slowly falling, making the navigation more and more difficult.
And now, the advance of Banks
had placed a strong Confederate force between their columns, and that of General Steele
, which was expected to co-operate with them.9
Now, too, another most serious danger to the expedition appeared, in the possibility of its numbers being reduced full one-third more, before its object could be accomplished, by the withdrawal of General Smith
Expecting no delay on account of low water in the Red River
, General Banks
had told General Sherman
, at New Orleans, that the troops under Smith
might be spared from the expedition within thirty days after their arrival at Alexandria
Acting upon this assurance Lieutenant-General Grant
, on assuming supreme command, sent word
to General Banks
that if he should find that the taking of Shreveport
would occupy ten or fifteen days more time than General Sherman
gave his troops to be
absent from their command, he must send them back at the time specified, even if it should lead to an abandonment of the main object of the expedition.
was anxious to have all the armies acting in concert with each other in the contemplated grand and simultaneous movement upon Richmond
, and for that purpose he directed Banks
, in the event of the success of his expedition, to hold Shreveport
and Red River
with such force as he might deem necessary, and return the remainder of his troops to New Orleans as quickly as possible, with a view to a movement on Mobile
, if it should be thought prudent.
So anxious was the new General-in-Chief
for the co-operation of Banks
's force, that, in another dispatch, he said: “I had much rather that the Red River
expedition had never been begun, than that you should be detained one day beyond the first of May in commencing the movement east of the Mississippi
It was under circumstances such as these that the expedition advanced from Natchitoches
, a hundred miles distant, by land, over a barren and almost uninhabited country.
The heavier gun-boats could ascend the river no farther than Grand Ecore
, and from that point all supplies had to be taken in wagons, and on few transports inadequately guarded by armed vessels.
Under these circumstances, and others just mentioned, Banks
would have been justified in going no farther, for he had ascertained that the Confederates
, under Taylor
, and others, were gathering on his front, to the number of about twenty-five thousand, with over seventy guns.
But his own troops and those of General Smith
were anxious to secure the main object of the expedition,11
and so, on the morning of the 6th of April, Franklin
moved forward, with General Lee
's cavalry in the van, followed by two thin divisions of the Thirteenth Corps, under General Ransom
. General Emory
with the First Division12
of the Nineteenth Corps, and a brigade of colored troops, which had just come up from Port Hudson
On the following morning, General Smith
followed with a part of the Sixteenth Corps, while a division of the Seventeenth, under T. Kilby Smith
,. twenty-five hundred strong, went up the river as a guard to the transports, which moved very slowly.
was directed to conduct them to Loggy Bayou
, opposite Springfield
, about half way between Natchitoches
, and there to halt and communicate with the army, at Sabine Cross Roads, fifty-four miles from Grand Ecore
had already encountered the Confederates
In a reconnoissance westward from Natchitoches
on the 2d, with the First, Third, and Fourth Brigades of his division, and, at a distance of about twelve miles from that town, he found the pickets of the foe. These were driven upon the main body, and the whole force was chased to and beyond Crump's Hill, twenty miles from Natchitoches
, before the pursuit ended.
There, where the route of the army would be more to the northwest, General Lee
waited for the head of it to come up.
to attack the enemy whenever he could find him, but not to bring on a general engagement.
On the 7th, he skirmished almost continually with an ever-increasing cavalry force, driving them before him, until he had passed Pleasant Hill
two or three miles, when he found the main body of the Confederate
horsemen, under General Green
, at Wilson
's farm, strongly posted.
There a sharp struggle for two hours occurred, when the Confederates
were driven to St. Patrick's Bayou, near Carroll
's farm, nine miles from Pleasant Hill
, and there Lee
His loss in the engagement was ninety-two men. That of the Confederates
was greater, including many prisoners.
, at Lee
's request, had sent forward a brigade of infantry to his support, but these were withdrawn before reaching the ground, on perceiving that the firing had ceased.
advanced to Pleasant Hill
and encamped, and there General Banks
, who had remained at Grand Ecore
until all the troops had left, reached the front, after a ride of thirty-five miles.
It was now evident that the farther advance of the Nationals would be obstinately contested, and General Lee
, who had been ordered to push forward, asked Franklin
to allow his heavy wagon-train to remain behind, so as to be safe in the event of a sudden and formidable attack, and also requested a supporting infantry force.
By order of General Banks
, Colonel Landrum
's brigade of the Thirteenth Corps was sent to him, and, at daybreak Lee
moved forward, drove the Confederates
from St. Patrick's Bayou, and slowly, by the free use of his artillery, pushed them back to the woods beyond the clearing at Sabine Cross Roads, three or four miles below Mansfield
, where he found the Trans-Mississippi army, full twenty thousand strong, under Generals Kirby Smith
, and Green
Finding the position and strength of his foes much superior to his own, they being behind the crest of a hill covered with pine woods, over which passed the only road to Shreveport
concluded to wait until the main body of the Nationals should come up. But the Confederates
would not. allow him to wait, and so, at noon, when General Ransom
came up with the. Second Brigade of the Thirteenth, to relieve Landrum
's, the two commanders formed a line of battle, and prepared to resist the foe as long as possible.
At this juncture, at a little past noon, General Banks
arrived at the front, and found the skirmishers hotly engaged.
He had passed Franklin
at ten o'clock, giving him directions to close up his column as speedily as possible.
Perceiving the situation, Banks
sent back orders to Franklin
to hurry forward the infantry, at the same time directing Lee
to hold his ground steadily, but not to advance until re-enforcements should arrive.
Every moment the situation of the van of Banks
's army was becoming more critical, for the Confederates
were concentrating to crush it. Officer after officer was sent to hurry Franklin
up, but the head of his column having halted at St. Patrick's Bayou in the morning, and waited, for the remainder to come up, he was too far in the rear to reach the scene of action in time to give assistance.
Skirmishing became hotter and hotter, and was incessant; and at half-past 4 o'clock the whole Confederate force, eight thousand footmen and twelve thousand horsemen, fell upon the Nationals along their whole line, striking with special weight and vigor on their right
The resistance was gallant and desperate for about an hour and a half, but the force of the assailants was so overwhelming in numbers, and their charges were so heavy in front and flank, that the Union
troops were compelled to fall back to the woods in the rear of the open space at the Cross Roads
, with heavy loss, but in good order.
In this retreat, three pieces of Nims
's battery were lost.
The Confederates strove hard to get in the rear of the Nationals, but Lee
's cavalry repulsed them at every attempt.
At about five o'clock General Franklin
came up with the Third Division of the Thirteenth Corps, under General Cameron
, and a new and stronger line was formed, but this was speedily broken up by the Confederates
, who, inspirited by success, fell upon it with great fury, turning its flanks, and striking its center heavily.
This assault, like the first, was stubbornly resisted, but finding the Confederates
gaining their rear, the Nationals fell as steadily back as they could along the narrow, winding forest road, filled with the wagons and mules of the cavalry supply-train.
These so blocked the way that it was difficult for men and artillery to retreat.
There General Ransom
lost ten guns and about a thousand men captured, and Lee
lost nearly the whole of his wagons (one hundred and fifty-six), filled with supplies.
The confusion was terrible, and efforts to re-form the line were unavailing.13 Generals Franklin
, and Colonel Robinson
of the Third Cavalry, were wounded, and Colonel Vance
, of the Ninety-sixth Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Webb
, of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, and Captain Dickey
, of General Ransom
's staff, were killed.
So ended, in disaster to the Union
arms, the battle of Sabine cross Roads
Fortunately for the shattered columns of Franklin
's advance, General W. H. Emory
was then approaching rapidly with his fine division.
He had been advised of the condition of affairs at the front, and was directed to form a line of battle in the strongest position he could select, to support the troops in retreat, and check the advance of the pursuers.
At Pleasant Grove
, three miles behind Sabine Cross Roads, he halted for the purpose at about six o'clock in the evening,, and formed a line in the edge of a wood, with an open field before him sloping to the front.
The One Hundred and Sixty-second New York, Colonel Kinsey
, were deployed as skirmishers, and ordered to the foot of the hill on the crest of which the line was formed, so as to cover the rear of the retreating forces.
Across the road along which the fugitives and pursuers were advancing, General Dwight
formed his (First) brigade, and to the left of him was placed the Third Brigade, from which the skirmishers were taken, commanded by Colonel Lewis Benedict
The Second Brigade, under General McMillan
, was held in reserve.
before the line was fairly formed, the flying columns came dashing on in wild confusion, and passed through the opened ranks to the rear.
The Confederates, close upon their heels, and flushed with the inspiration of victory, fell heavily upon the skirmish line, and pressed it back to the main body.
In strong force they now assailed Emory
, first threatening his right most seriously, which he strengthened by placing McMillan
's reserves on the right of Dwight
Meanwhile the fire of the Unionists had been reserved, but when the foe was at close quarters they opened upon them such murderous volleys of musketry that they recoiled.
A severe battle ensued, which lasted an hour and a half, during which the Confederates
made the most vigorous efforts to turn the National
left, held by Colonel Benedict
With great skill and gallantry that noble officer sustained the attack, and finally the assailants were so thoroughly repulsed, chiefly by his One Hundred and Sixty-second (his own regiment), and the One Hundred and Seventy-third New York, of his brigade, that the battle ceased in that part of the field.
Everywhere else the Confederates
were speedily thrown back with great slaughter.
Among their slain was General Mouton
, who fell dead at the first charge.
Thus ended in victory for the Nationals, just as darkness covered the scene, the sanguinary battle of Pleasant Grove
, where, no doubt, the Confederates
expected to end the campaign by the capture or dispersion of the Union
They knew the water in the Red River
was steadily falling, to the great peril of the gun-boats and transports above the rapids at Alexandria
, and they were elated with the prospect of capturing or destroying them.
With these hopes and desires, they fought desperately at Sabine Cross Roads and at Pleasant Grove
. “Nothing,” said Banks
in his report, “could surpass in impetuosity the assault of the enemy but the inflexible steadiness and valor of our troops.
The First Division of the Nineteenth Corps, by its great bravery in this action, saved the army and navy.”
It should be remembered that it went into action under fire and under the demoralizing effect of stemming a torrent of fugitives.
was victorious at Pleasant Grove
, he thought it prudent to fall back to Pleasant Hill
, fifteen miles in the rear, for the Confederates
were within reach of re-enforcements, while he was not certain that General Smith
could get up in time to aid him should he be attacked in the morning.
So he moved to that position during the night, with General Emory
covering his retreat, and bringing away the army material, after burying his dead and caring for his wounded.
's whole force reached their destination between eight and nine o'clock the next morning.
It was soon discovered that the Confederates
were following closely in strong force, and a line of battle was at once formed at Pleasant Hill
to receive them.
had arrived the evening before with a portion of his troops.
The brigade of colored troops, under Colonel Dickey
, was also there, so that Banks
was ready to meet an attack with about fifteen thousand men. He formed a line of battle with Emory
's division in front, his First Brigade, under Dwight
, taking the right, and resting on a ravine which ran north of the little village of Pleasant Hill
; his Second, General Millan
, in the center; and his Third, Colonel Benedict
, in a ditch on the left, his left resting in an open field.
The Twenty-fifth New York Battery was placed on a hill between the First and Second Brigades.
was along a thickly-wooded acclivity half a mile west of Pleasant Hill
, upon and around which the main body of the Unionists were posted.
A second line was formed of two brigades; and the Thirteenth Corps, with a large portion of General Smith
's command, were held as a reserve.
The army trains, heavily guarded by most of Lee
's cavalry division, the brigade of colored troops, and Ransom
's shattered columns, were sent some distance on the road toward Grand Ecore
, so as to be out of the way of danger in the impending battle, and not be liable to obstruct retreat should it become necessary.
Toward noon the Confederate
advance appeared, skirmishing very cautiously, for Emory
had taught them circumspection the previous evening; and so slight were these demonstrations until the middle of the afternoon, that the general belief was that there would be no attack in force before morning.
That the Confederates
were near in force was well known, for Colonel Gooding
, who went out with his cavalry a mile or two on the Shreve-port road to reconnoiter, was roughly handled by a large body of Texas
horsemen, under Colonel Sweitzer
Between three and four o'clock the Confederates
opened a battery, the skirmishing increased in intensity, and there was an evident intention of attempting to turn Emory
's right, whereupon the Second Brigade, which occupied the center, and lay across the Shreveport
road, along which the foe was advancing, was posted on the right and rear, and its place was supplied by one of Smith
Then the sounds of the skirmish-firing died away, but the lull was brief, and at a few minutes past five o'clock the Confederates
burst out of the woods in heavy lines in all directions,15
driving in the National
skirmishers by two charging columns, and outflanking, by a quick oblique movement, Emory
's left,.held by Benedict
fell upon it with crushing force.
Outnumbered as well as outflanked, and being without any near support, the brigade fell steadily back, fighting gallantly as they were pushed up the acclivity of Pleasant Hill
, suffering heavily until they filed behind Shaw
undertook to break the line of this covering force by a charge with his Texas
cavalry, when he was met by one of the most destructive fires known in the annals of war. Of his regiment, not more than ten escaped death or wounds.17
In the conflict down the slope at the first shock of the onset, and while trying to rally his men to a charge, the gallant Benedict
was first wounded by a bullet in the arm, and a few moments afterward was killed by another, which passed through his head.
No braver or more beloved soldier and citizen than he gave his life for his country during the war.18
While the left was overpowered and pushed back, and the Confederates
succeeded in getting temporary possession of four guns on that flank, Emory
's right stood firm, until, enveloped on three sides by superior force, it was crowded back a little, and allowed the assailants to pass on toward General Smith
's position in reserve, A few volleys were exchanged, when the tide of battle was quickly turned by a heavy counter-charge of some of Smith
's veterans, under General Mower
, and Emory
's troops, which had been skillfully formed on the right of these.
The right of the Confederates
was driven more than a mile by this charge.
The whole of the reserves were ordered up, and the foe was completely routed, and pursued until dark.
in complete victory for the Nationals, the battle of Pleasant Hill
It “was desperate and sanguinary,” said General Banks
in his report.
“The defeat of the enemy was complete, and his loss in officers and men more than double that sustained by our force.19
We fought the battle at Pleasant Hill
with about fifteen thousand against twenty-two thousand men.”
gave orders for a forward movement toward Shreveport
the next morning, and communicated the fact to General Smith
He sent word for his trains to re-form and advance at daybreak, and active preparations were commenced for following up the victory, when representations concerning the condition and circumstances of his command by Franklin
and the general officers
of the Nineteenth Corps, caused a suspension of the order.
A conference of general officers was held that evening, when, upon the urgent recommendation of them all, and with the acquiescence of General Smith
, it was determined to retire upon Grand Ecore
the following day, “to the great disappointment of the troops,” Banks
said, “who, flushed with success, were eager for another fight.”
In the mean time the command of T. Kilby Smith
and the transports had reached Springfield Landing, at Loggy Bayou
, where the river was. obstructed by a sunken steamboat.
Farther advance was not required, for word soon came of the disaster at Sabine Cross Roads, followed by an order from Pleasant Hill
for the troops and flotilla to fall back to Grand Ecore
as quickly as possible.
Obedience was a difficult task, for the troops so sorely smitten by Banks
were turning their attention to the capture or destruction
of the vessels and troops above Grand Ecore
The banks of the river, at its turns, were now swarming with sharp-shooters.
The water was very low, and continually falling, and great labor was necessary in getting the vessels over the numerous bars and shoals.
The men employed in this service were exposed to murderous musket-firing, and the flotilla did not move over thirty miles a day.
The first regular attack upon the vessels, in force, was at Coushattee, by nearly two thousand cavalry, with four guns, under Colonel Harrison
, who, after that, continually annoyed the Nationals, the slow progress of the boats, which were tied up at night, enabling him to keep up with them.
fitted the transports under his command for defense as well as his means would allow, by barricading them with boxes, barrels, bales of hay, and the mattresses of the steamers.
He felt that the salvation of both the gun-boats and the transports depended much upon the valor and fortitude of his troops, for the water was so low that the cannon on the war-vessels could do but little execution upon the high banks, at short range.
He succeeded in mounting two thirteen-inch Rodman
guns on a platform upon the hurricane deck of the Emerald
, and these performed excellent service, not only in action, but in keeping the Confederates
at a respectful distance.
On the evening of the 12th the most determined attack was made on a part of the flotilla, near Pleasant Hill landing
, where a heavy transport lay aground.
A large majority of the gun-boats and transports, including Porter
's flag-ship, with the Admiral
on board, had gone down the river, leaving two or three gun-boats and transports with General Smith
's command behind.
Doubtless aware of this weakening of the forces on the river, caused the Confederates
to attempt the capture of the remainder, and accordingly about two thousand infantry and dismounted cavalry, under General Thomas Green
, appeared on the right bank of the river, charged up to its edge, and demanded the surrender of the transports, at the same time opening fire on the monitor Osage
It was answered by a sharp fire from the two Rodman
guns and from other vessels — gun-boats and transports,--with fearful effect.
The first discharge of a Rodman blew off the head of the Confederate
He was one of the most useful officers in Kirby Smith
and his loss was greatly deplored.
The Confederates rallied, and again charged most recklessly, receiving the fire of Smith
's soldiers and of the gun-boats, especially of the Lexington
, Lieutenant Bache
, which gave them a raking fire of canister-shot, that strewed the bank with their dead bodies for a mile.
At the same time Harrison
appeared on the opposite side of the river, and received such rough treatment, that he kept at a distance, and the whole flotilla passed down toward Grand Ecore
without much further trouble.
So terrible was the lesson given to the Confederates
in this engagement, that a force of five thousand, which was hastening to intercept the flotilla at a point below, turned back.
In the mean time Banks
and all the land troops had returned to Grand Ecore
, when a part of them were sent six miles up the river, to protect a large portion of the descending gun-boats and transports there aground.
These were speedily brought down without further annoyance.
The army was again upon the Red River
, but the troubles of the expedition were not at an end. Porter
found most of his larger vessels aground at Grand Ecore
, some of them drawing a foot more water than there was on the bar there, and the river was still falling.
The momentous question arose, If it shall be found expedient or necessary to continue the retreat to Alexandria
, and so on to the Mississippi
, how shall the vessels of the expedition be taken over the rapids below?
This question had come up before the battle at Pleasant Hill
. Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey
of the Nineteenth Corps, had foreseen this difficulty, and conceived a way of over-coming it, by damming the river at the foot of the rapids, so as to deepen the waters above, and then, by opening a sluice, have a sufficient depth, as the pent — up volume flowed down, to float the vessels safely through.
He mentioned this project to General Franklin
in the morning before the battle at Pleasant Hill
, who approved it, and after that struggle Franklin
named it to General Banks
, who also approved it. The latter officer, in a personal interview with Admiral Porter
, six days later,
suggested it, in case it was thought best for the expedition to return to the Mississippi
; but the latter evinced no faith in it. He expressed his belief that the Red River
would rise in time to give sufficient water at the rapids, notwithstanding army officers, from long experience in that region, held a contrary opinion.
In a dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy
the day before, he had said: “If nature does not change her laws,. there will, no doubt, be a rise of water,” and to this opinion he adhered until satisfied that nature would not accommodate the fleet, and that the scientific skill of an army officer was necessary to save it from destruction, as we shall observe presently.
succeeded in getting all his vessels over the bar at Grand Ecore
, and then went down the river
, leaving the fleet in charge of Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge
The whole naval force at once started down the river.
When about eight miles below, the Eastport
was sunk by a torpedo, and several days were consumed in getting her afloat.
Meanwhile, General Banks
had received the letter from General Grant
, already alluded to, concerning General Sherman
and he determined
to go on to Alexandria
so soon as the Eastport
should be raised and the fleet be enabled to proceed.
floated on the 21st,
and on that day orders were issued for the army to move; and before dawn the next morning, two divisions, the cavalry under General Arnold
, and the artillery under Captain Classon
, the whole commanded by General Emory
, were on their way toward Cane River
, in rapid march, for it had been ascertained that the Confederates
were gathering on that stream, at the only ferry, to dispute the passage of the Nationals.
They marched forty miles that day, so as to strike the Confederates
early in the morning and force a passage for the army.
About eight thousand Confederates, with sixteen guns, under General Bee
, had taken a strong position on Monet's Bluff, on the east side of Cane River
, at the ferry, which was securely flanked by the unfordable stream on one side and an impassable swamp on the other.
The plan was for Bee
to oppose the passage of the Nationals, and draw them into a sharp engagement, while the remainder of the Confederate army, lying not far distant, should fall upon their flank and rear.
's quick movement deranged the plan.
The Confederates were not ready for its execution.
was there too soon.
His van drove the Confederate
pickets on the west side of the river, across the stream, early on the morning of the 23d,
but the main position was found to be too strong to be carried by direct attack.
It was extremely important to open the way there for the army to cross the river.
A failure to do so implied the necessity of throwing it across the Red River
, in the presence of the enemy on both sides of that stream.
A flanking movement was determined upon.
General H. W. Birge
was ordered to take his own brigade, that of Colonel Fessenden
(Third of the First Division of the Nineteenth Corps), and General Cameron
's division of the Thirteenth Corps, and, crossing the river three miles above the ferry, turn the left of the Confederates
and carry their position in reverse.
The march was made wearily across bayous and swamps, and through tangled woods, and it was late in the afternoon before they reached the desired position, after carrying two strong ones occupied by pickets and skirmishers.
's brigade was assigned the duty of assault.
It was gallantly performed.
After sharp resistance, until dark, the Confederates
fled in disorder along the Fort Jessup
road, toward Texas
, taking their artillery with them.
In this brilliant achievement the National
loss was about two hundred men killed and wounded.
Among the latter was Colonel Fessenden
Meanwhile the main body of the National
army had moved toward Cane River
, and when its advance arrived within range of the cannon on the bluff, the Confederates
opened fire upon them.
A spirited artillery duel ensued, and was kept up at intervals a greater part of the day, while the troops were held in reserve for the purpose of forcing the passage of the river when Birge
This was done, and the action lasted until dark, when, as we have observed, the Confederates
fled, and the bluff was occupied by the Nationals.
In the mean time, that portion of the Confederates
which were expected to fall on the flank and rear of the Nationals, were active, and greatly annoyed the rear of General A. J. Smith
's column, which was covered by
the command of General T. Kilby Smith
The latter was charged with the arduous duty of covering the retreat to Alexandria
He was hotly pressed, and compelled to skirmish with the foe hovering on flank and rear, almost from the beginning of the march; and, on the morning of the 23d,
he had a severe engagement near Clouterville, on the Cane River
, where he formed a battle-line, with General Mower
on his right.
gallantly and skillfully conducted the engagement for about three hours, when the Confederates
, repulsed at every point, withdrew.
The National loss was about fifty men; that of the Confederates
was estimated at one hundred, at least.
On the afternoon of the following day, the whole army moved on without encountering serious resistance, and, on the 27th, entered Alexandria
, after an absence of twenty-four days.
While the army was making its way toward Alexandria
, the navy was having a difficult passage in the same direction.
, as we have seen, was floated, but she was found difficult to manage.
She grounded several times, and finally, at a point about sixty miles below Grand Ecore
,, she became so fast on a bed of logs that she could not be moved.
had offered to help her over the numerous bars, by means of wing dams; but his assistance was declined, for “no counsel of army officers was regarded in nautical affairs.”
Satisfied that she could not be floated before a rise in the river, and finding delay to be very dangerous, on account of the gathering of the Confederates
on the shores of the stream, Porter
ordered her to be blown up. The explosion and ensuing fire made her destruction complete.
At the same time,. more than a thousand Confederates had gathered near, and taking advantage of the situation, rushed to the right bank of the river to board the Cricket
, Master H. H. Goninge
, lying there.
She moved out, and gave them such a storm of grape and canister-shot, while the Fort Hindman
poured a heavy cross-fire upon them, that, in the space of five minutes, not a guerrilla was to be seen.
Then the vessels which had been convoying the Eastport
went on down the river without molestation, until they reached the mouth of Cane River
, twenty miles below, when the Cricket
, which was ahead, with Admiral Porter
on board, received eighteen shots from as many cannon planted on the shore at a bend in the stream.
Nearly every shot went through her; one of her guns was disabled, and every gunner was killed or wounded.
This first fire was followed by a shell, which exploded near her forward gun, killing or wounding every man attached to it, and in the fire-room close by. Her decks were now deserted, when Porter
ordered her to be run by the battery.
It was done, under a heavy fire.
Then, having made gunners of some negroes on board, and placed the navigation of the boat, whose engineer and pilot had been disabled, in other hands, he attempted to assist the other boats still above the battery.
He found he could not do much, so, he ran the Cricket
a few miles down the river, to a point where he had directed the Osage
to meet him, to summon them to the assistance of the Fort Hindman
and two or three other vessels.
He found these fighting a Confederate field-battery.
Darkness fell before the struggle ended, and the Cricket
could not return.
But during the gloom the other
vessels above, ran by the battery at Cane Creek
, and escaped, with the exception of the pump-boat, Champion
, which was disabled and burned.23
After that, the vessels were not impeded on their way to Alexandria
The land and naval forces of the Red River
expedition were now all at Alexandria
found General Hunter
with orders from General Grant
to close up the campaign against Shreveport
as speedily as possible, for Sherman
's troops were wanted eastward of the Mississippi
was sent back with a letter to Grant
, telling him that the fleet was above the rapids, and would be in danger of capture or destruction if abandoned by the army, and informing him that it would require some time to get them below, if it could be effected at all. Any attempt to renew the Shreveport
campaign of course was now out of the question, and all eyes were turned toward the Mississippi
, as the next point of destination for the expedition.
To get the fleet below the rapids was the first work to be accomplished.
did not believe in damming the river, except by words.
did, and ordered Colonel Bailey
to do it. He went to work on Sunday, the first of May, with liberty to employ as many men as he might desire.
Nearly the whole of the army were engaged in the business, in some way, at different times; and on Sunday
Bailey's Red River Dam. |
day, the 8th of May, a main dam of stone and timber, and sunken coal-boats, was finished.24
It stretched across the river, there nearly eight hundred feet in width, and then from four to six feet in depth, and running at the rate of ten miles an hour.
The work was successful.
The water was raised seven feet on the rapids, and that afternoon the gun-boats Osage, Fort Hindman
, and Neosho
two other vessels, passed the rapids, and lay just above the dam. But the greater portion of the fleet was still, and evinced no disposition to move.
inspected the work, and perceiving an immense pressure upon it, feared it might give way before the fleet could pass.
He rode up the shore to a point opposite the fleet, at midnight, and sent a note to Porter
, telling him of his fears, and urging him to put his vessels in condition, by lightening them, to pass over the rapids.
This was not done.
At five o'clock the next morning, a portion of the dam gave way. The three vessels went safely down through the sluice thus made, and the Lexington
, the only one ready, followed with equal safety.
Had all been ready, the whole fleet might have passed over in the course of a few hours, before the water became too shallow.25
The damage to the dam was partially repaired.
It was also strengthened by wing dams, and, on the 12th of May, when it was completed, and the vessels above had been lightened, they all passed into the deeper water below with safety, before eight o'clock the next morning.
Then Admiral Porter
to the Secretary of the Navy
, saying: “There seems to have been an especial Providence
looking out for us, in providing a man [Colonel Bailey
] equal to the emergency. . . . This proposition looked like madness, and the best engineers ridiculed it, but Colonel Bailey
was so sanguine of success, that I requested General Banks
to have it done.”
While the army was detained at Alexandria
on account of the fleet, it was re-enforced
by a large portion of the troops that had been garrisoning ports in the vicinity of Matagorda Bay
, on the Texan coast
They were led by General John A. McClernand
, who left General Fitz-Henry Warren
in command of the remainder at Matagorda
These posts had been evacuated by order of General Grant
; and McClernand
was soon followed by Warren
, who likewise ascended the Red River
, until stopped by Confederate batteries, when he fell back to the remains of Fort de Russy
, and took post there.
had also received a dispatch from Halleck
, in the name of General Grant
, which directed the modification of previous orders, so that no troops should “be withdrawn from operations against Shreveport
and on the Red River
But it was too late, and when the fleet was all below the rapids, and found the back-water of the then brimful Mississippi
, one hundred and fifty miles distant, flowing up to Alexandria
, and thus insuring a safe passage over all bars below, orders were given
for the army to move.
The fleet moved like-wise, with the transports laden with cotton, which had been captured as prize for the navy.27
Caution marked the advance, for the Confederates
were hovering near, and swarming on the banks below.
A week before the expedition moved, the gun-boats Signal
, convoying the transport Warren
down the river, the three bearing about four hundred soldiers, were fired upon
at Dunn's Bayou, thirty miles
, by a large Confederate force, at the morning twilight, and were so badly injured that the Covington
was abandoned and burnt, and the other two vessels were surrendered.
Of the soldiers, about one hundred and fifty were captured, and about one hundred were killed.
The remainder took to the shore and escaped.
Soon afterward, the City Belle
, with a little more than four hundred Ohio
troops, was captured by another guerrilla party, when about one-half of them escaped.
But the army in its march for Simms
' Port met with very little opposition, excepting by a considerable force of Confederate cavalry, who, at daybreak on the 16th, confronted its advance at Mansura
, near Marksville
, where the National
skirmishers and artillery, after pushing the foe back across an open prairie to a wood, kept up a fire for about three hours, until the main body came up. A battle-line was then formed, with General Emory
and his forces on the right, and General A. J. Smith
and his command on the left.
After a sharp but brief struggle, the Confederates
were dispersed, losing a number of men by capture.
Among these were some of the prisoners they had taken on the Signal
some days before.. That evening the army reached the Atchafalaya
' Port, where, under the direction of Colonel Bailey
, a bridge, more than six hundred yards long, was constructed of steamboats.
Over it the wagon-train passed on the afternoon of the 19th, at which time the rear of the army, composed of the command of A. J. Smith
, was attacked at Yellow Bayou
by a Confederate force under Polignac
He was beaten back with a heavy loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, while the Nationals lost one hundred and fifty in killed and wounded.
On the following day
the army crossed the Atchafalaya
, when General E. R. S. Canby
, who had arrived the day before, assumed the, command of Banks
's troops as a part of the forces of the Military Division of West Mississippi, to the charge of which he had been assigned.
then hastened to New Orleans.
returned to Memphis
, stopping on his way up the Mississippi
, in the extreme southeastern part of Arkansas
, to seek a reported force of Confederates, under Marmaduke
, who had gathered there with mischievous intent.
He found them, three thousand strong, near Columbia
, the capital of Chicot County
, posted across a bayou that empties into Lake Chicot
He attacked and drove them away, with a loss of about one hundred men.
They retreated westward, and were no more seen in that region.
's loss was about ninety men. Admiral Porter
, meanwhile, had passed quietly down the Red River
, nearly parallel with the march of the army, and resumed the duty of keeping open and safe the navigation of the Mississippi
Let us now see what the Seventh Army Corps, under General Steele
, was doing in the way of co-operation with the Red River
expedition while it was in progress.
was at his Headquarters at Little Rock
when that expedition moved.
On the 23d of March
he started southward, on the military road, with about eight thousand troops, horse and foot, the former commanded by General Carr
On the previous day General Thayer
, commanding the Army of the Frontier, left Fort Smith
with about five thousand men, for the purpose of joining Steele
; and Colonel Clayton
marched from Pine Bluff
with a small force to the left of Steele
, in the direction of Camden
, a place held and well fortified by the Confederates
That was Steele
's first objective, for Sterling Price
, with a considerable force, was holding a line from that place westward to Washington
, the capital of Hempstead County
It was necessary to dispose of this force before marching toward Shreveport
The roads were so wretched that the junction of forces could not be relied upon, and Thayer
failed to join Steele
The latter had been compelled to skirmish at the crossings of streams all the way from Benton
, and his troops were somewhat worn by fatigue, but, after waiting two days for Thayer
, he pushed on in the direction of Washington
, for the purpose of flanking Camden
, and drawing Price
out of his fortifications there.
He encountered the cavalry of Marmaduke
at almost every step, and day after day skirmished, sometimes lightly and sometimes heavily, with them, until the 10th of April, when he found Price
in strong force across his path at Prairie d'anne, not far from Washington
, prepared to make a decided stand.
had been joined by Thayer
, and he readily accepted battle.
An artillery fight ensued, which lasted until dark.
The Confederates made a desperate attempt in the darkness to capture Steele
's guns, but failed.
He pushed nearer their position the next day, and at the dawn of the 12th attempted to turn their flank, when they retreated to Washington
, pursued for several miles by cavalry.
now heard of the disaster to the Union
troops at Sabine Cross Roads,28
and, instead of pursuing Price
, turned sharply toward Camden
The Confederates quickly perceived his purpose, and, stimulated to stronger action by the news from Western Louisiana
, they made vigorous efforts to save Camden
While his army was corduroying Bogue bottom, one of the worst in the State
, his rear, tinder Thayer
, was strongly attacked by General Dockery
The Confederates were repulsed, and the army moved on, but to find itself confronted by Cabell
These were driven from position to position, and on the evening of the 15th
troops entered Camden
was in a strong place, and supplies could be easily obtained by way of the Washita
, he found Camden
to be an uncomfortable and dangerous post.
The Confederates were swarming thickly around him, for there was no occasion for their employment in the direction of the Red River
. Three days after his arrival they attacked and captured
a forage train, little more than a dozen miles from the Union
lines, by which Steele
lost two hundred and fifty men and four guns.
This was followed by another disaster, five days later, when the escort of a supply-train, which had come down from Little Rock
, and was returning empty, was attacked
twelve miles from Camden
The escort consisted of a brigade of infantry, four guns, and a small cavalry force, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Drake
,, of the Seventy-seventh Ohio.
The assailants were beaten off, and the train and escort pressed on, until again attacked, as it emerged from a swamp at Marks's Mill, by an overwhelming force under General Fagan
A desperate fight ensued between his force and the Forty-third Indiana and Thirty-sixth Ohio, until Drake
was mortally wounded, and the Confederates
had wedged in between the troops in conflict and the Seventy-seventh Ohio, guarding the rear of the train, when all were compelled to surrender.
The National loss was two hundred and fifty men. The negro servants of the officers were butchered after the surrender.
The Confederate loss was estimated at full six hundred.
now felt it necessary to retreat to Little Rock
, for he was informed that Fagan
was marching on that place, and that E. Kirby Smith
had heavily re-enforced Price
He accordingly threw his army across the Washita
on the night of the 26th of April, and at daylight the next morning began a retreat by way of Princeton
and Jenkinson's Ferry, on the Sabine River
At the latter place he was attacked
by an overwhelming force, led by Kirby Smith
's troops were nearly famished, having eaten but little since they left Camden
, and were exceedingly weary.
A part of them had already crossed the river, when the foe struck the Thirty-third Iowa, Colonel Mackey
, covering the rear, a very heavy blow.
The Fiftieth Indiana pressed forward to its aid, when both were pushed back behind the Ninth Wisconsin and Twenty-ninth Iowa.
These were then furiously assailed, when all the troops yet on the south side of the river were ordered up, and a most sanguinary battle ensued, in which General S. A. Rice
was in immediate command of the Nationals.
Three times the Confederates
charged heavily, and were repulsed each time.
Then they threatened the National
right flank, when the Forty-third Illinois and a part of the Fortieth Iowa dashed across a swollen, miry stream, and drove the enemy back.
The latter then made a desperate attempt to crush the left and center.
They turned the extreme left, held by the Thirty-third Iowa, whose ammunition had given out, when four companies of the Fortieth Iowa, led by Colonel Garrett
, hastened to its support, formed under a tremendous fire, and restored the line, when it pressed forward, and for a full hour drove the Confederates
It was a fight by infantry alone, and at noon the Nationals had gained a complete victory.
Then they crossed the river leisurely, and moved on toward Little Rock
, leaving only a burial party behind.
These the Confederates
captured,. and then claimed a victory in the battle of Jenkinson's Ferry.
In that struggle the Confederates
lost over three thousand men, including three general officers
The loss of the Nationals was seven hundred killed and wounded.
pressed on toward Little Rock
as rapidly as possible, to prevent
its capture by Fagan
, and succeeded.
It was a terrible march from Jenkins's Ferry over the swampy country, the half-famished men dragging cannon and caissons over corduroy roads they had made for the purpose, for the animals were so exhausted that they could not draw even the wagons, which had to be destroyed.
A supply-train met them, and on the 2d of May the broken and dispirited troops entered Little Rock
So ended, in all its parts, the disastrous campaign against Shreveport
Its result caused much disappointment and dissatisfaction; and General Banks
was specially blamed for not pressing forward after his victory at Pleasant Hill
The narrative here given, drawn from authentic sources,29
and the reasons offered by General Banks
in his report, seem to the writer to be his sufficient justification in the judgment of candid observers.30
He was nowise responsible for the radically defective plan of the campaign, and his troops evidently did all that it was possible for them to do under the circumstances.
Tail-piece — military recruiting Station.|