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Operations of the army.


Capture of Natchitoches, La.

in the field, near Natchitoches, La., April 2, 1864.
The army under General Banks having arrived from various points at Alexandria, on Monday morning, March twenty-eighth, General Lee, at the head of his cavalry division, dashed out in the direction of Natchitoches, where it was supposed the enemy would be found in some force. Early on the following morning he reached Cane River, and immediately commenced the erection of a bridge. Owing to the width of the stream, the inclemency of the weather, and other drawbacks, it was not completed until late at night, when the General crossed over and moved to within a short distance of Natchitoches, twenty-five miles distant. On Thursday morning he advanced to the town, and was met by the enemy, whom he completely routed after a brisk but short skirmish. The rebels lost six or eight killed and wounded and twenty-five prisoners. Union loss none.

General Dick Taylor commanded the rebels. His force was supposed to number one thousand men at least.

All day Friday General Lee waited for the infantry and artillery to come up, and this morning, learning that the rebels were falling back toward Pleasant Hill, he started in pursuit with the First brigade, Colonel Lucas; Third brigade, Colonel Robinson; Fourth brigade, Colonel Dudley. The Fourteenth New-York cavalry had the advance, under command of Major Bassford. After marching a distance of fifteen miles, Major Bassford came suddenly upon the enemy, posted in a strong position. They opened upon him with artillery, when the gallant Major immediately ordered a charge, and the willing boys obeyed with a cheer. At them they went, their bright sabres gleaming in the sunshine, and the rebels falling back rapidly. Major Bassford pursued them seven miles, killing and wounding some, and taking many prisoners. Fearful of being cut off from the main body, the Major withdrew from the pursuit, but fought them gallantly until the arrival of Colonel Lucas. The Colonel was not long in coming up, and immediately formed his whole brigade in line. He moved forward a short distance, and was met with what promised to be a determined resistance, but they could not withstand the fury of his onslaught, and were compelled to give way, after a very severe fight of about one hour.

The hottest of the fight took place at Crump's Hill, where the roads leading from Pleasant Hill and Fort Jessup come together on the Shreveport road, and about twelve miles distant from both the first-named places. Captain Rawle's battery of the Fifth United States artillery took a very active and creditable part in the fight.

Colonel Dudley came up with his brigade in time to give the rebels a few parting shots.

Colonel Robinson's brigade was in the rear, but is now on the ground, ready to take part in the action to-morrow, if the rebels see proper to accept the offer of battle; and they may be compelled to fight, whether they like it or not.

The fight took place in a densely wooded and uneven country, known as the Piny Woods, and both cavalry and artillery found it difficult to operate.

The force opposed to us was composed of the First and Second Louisiana; Fifth, Seventh, and Bray's Texas cavalry; Moreton's brigade; and one battery of artillery, numbering in all about three thousand men. Walker's division was camped here last night, but moved on to Pleasant Hill this morning. The rebels have now all fallen back toward Pleasant Hill, where it is thought they will make a stand.

General Lee was on the field, and gave the direction of affairs in a manner that convinced all parties that he knew exactly what was to be done, and how to do it. He seems determined that the laurels won on other fields shall not wither or fade, and that if energy, ability, courage, and constant watchfulness are of avail, another star shall be added to the one that already glitters on his shoulder. He has not only opened the main roads so far, but he has sent expeditions right and left, and driven the guerrillas almost entirely from the country.

Our loss was one private of the Fourteenth New-York cavalry, one private of the Second Louisiana cavalry, two privates of the Second Illinois cavalry, and one private of the Sixteenth Indiana mounted infantry.

Many rebels were killed and wounded, and about sixty taken prisoners.

Our cavalry lost about thirty horses killed and wounded.

General Lee speaks in the highest terms of the bravery and skill of the officers and men engaged, and is perfectly satisfied with the result of the engagement.


[534]

headquarters detachment Sixteenth and Seventeenth army corps, on board steamer Clara Bell, Grand Ecore, La., April 5, 1864.
expedition after Harrison's guerrillas.

Brigadier-General A. J. Smith, commanding detachment of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth army corps, reached this celebrated point on Sunday afternoon, Admiral Porter's fleet of ironclads having preceded our transports up this crooked river. Major-General Banks and staff arrived here at sundown Sunday, on his flagship Black Hawk. Our gunboats met with no opposition on the trip up the river. A gang of rebels fired from the steep banks of the river upon a small steam-tug without injuring any one on board. Natchitoches, one of the oldest and most picturesque towns in this State, which is six miles from Grand Ecore by land, was occupied by the advance of General Lee's cavalry force, without any molestation from the enemy on Saturday. Our colors now float from the town-house, and the inhabitants appear to be perfectly reconciled to the sudden entree of the “Yankee horde” into their peaceful but sadly impoverished town, and thus far no insults have been offered our troops, who seem to reciprocate this respect by behaving with the utmost decorum. The ladies have been known to look upon some of our gallant soldiers as they passed beneath their balconies without a frown, which indicates a hopeful state of feeling, for generally the feminine gender in this section of the socalled Confederacy are most virulent rebels, and they never allow an opportunity to pass without hurling bitter invectives against the Northern people and their abominable institutions.

The exceedingly low water in Red River this season, has operated most seriously against our projected movements, causing a postponement of the victories which are sure to greet our forces in this department as soon as the advance on Shreveport begins. At present we are at a standstill, several transports and gunboats having got aground on the way up from Alexandria. Admiral Porter feels quite confident a sufficient rise will take place within three or four days to admit of the passage of all our transports and the iron-clad fleet. In crossing the falls at Alexandria, the Eastport, one of our most valuable and formidable iron rams, ran aground on the shoals, and for thirty hours her condition caused the most serious apprehensions, all attempts to haul the grim monster off by means of hawsers proving ineffectual. The efforts of several tugs and transports finally released her from her perilous position without any serious injury.

expedition to Campti.

At half-past 8 o'clock Monday morning, General A. Smith ordered Colonel Gooding, commanding the Sixth Massachusetts cavalry, to proceed with the following troops upon a reconnoissance to the town of Campti, six miles distant, for the purpose of capturing or dislodging a band of Harrison's guerrillas, numbering some three hundred men: Three hundred of the Second New-York cavalry, two hundred from the Third Rhode Island, and one hundred men from the Eighteenth New-York cavalry, together with two regiments of infantry under command of Colonel Hubbard of the Fifth Minnesota, comprising the Thirty-fifth Iowa, Lieutenant Keeler, and the Fifth Minnesota volunteers. As our cavalry scouts advanced within a mile of the town, the rebels, who were concealed behind trees and bushes, opened a fearful and deadly fire upon them, causing many a brave fellow to writhe in the dust. Our skirmishers were at once dismounted and deployed, with the expectation of flanking the enemy. As fast as our men advanced, however, the chivalrous foe retreated, endeavoring to draw our men toward the town. Finding it impossible to get within carbine-range, Colonel Gooding ordered a charge in the direction of a small bridge spanning a bayou, where the rebels appeared to be making a stand. At the word of command, our cavalry dashed bravely on to the foe; but, sad to relate, an unforeseen misfortune thwarted all their heroic attempts to dislodge the enemy. Arriving at the bridge, our squadrons were suddenly halted in considerable disorder by discovering that several planks had been removed from the flooring of the bridge. The enemy, during the confusion, took advantage of our dilemma and poured a heavy volley into our men from their hidingplaces on the opposite bank of the bayou. It was at this point that Adjutant Dunn, while gallantly leading on his men, fell mortally wounded, a bullet piercing his head, Few lives have fallen at the hands of the merciless foe during this war that will be more universally lamented than warm, noble, generous-hearted Adjutant Dunn, the pride of his regiment. Colonel Gooding at once deployed his infantry and cavalry, and was in the act of flanking the town, experiencing great difficulty in crossing the bayou, when, unfortunately, the gunboats approached, and, hearing the firing, they opened upon the town with one or two of their heaviest guns. Several shells burst in close proximity to our advance, and Colonel Gooding, after endeavoring to signal the boats by waving his handkerchief, failed to attract the attention of the officers of the fleet. Major Davis, of the Third Rhode Island cavalry, was sent on board to notify the gunboats of the mischief. The rebels embraced the opportunity to retreat, and thus all our efforts to capture them were foiled.

Our loss was much heavier than that of the enemy, the cavalry sustaining the entire loss in killed and wounded. I am indebted to Surgeon A. T. Bartlett, of the Thirty-third Missouri volunteers, for the following list of casualties. The wounded are now being placed on board the steamer Jennie Rogers, preparatory to their removal to Alexandria, where suitable hospitals have been established for the reception of sick and wounded troops. Our loss was ten killed and eighteen wounded.


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