Our prisoners say that the slaughter of the confederates on the first day was enormous; that they lost many times the killed and wounded that we did. They were pretty crazy with Louisiana rum and whisky, and while they rushed forward fearlessly, their aim was not so steady as our men's. Still, they had sharp-shooters, who were cool enough. Our loss of officers was three times as great as usual, according to the number of men. Three out of the four brigade commanders were probably killed, and General Ransom, commanding detachment of corps, was severely wounded. We have but one general and three colonels remaining in the corps — that part of it with us, either fifteen or sixteen regiments. The Eighty-third did finely. When it left the right to move to the left, although the enemy were close to us, and one captain and several men fell, still the regiment marched off coolly and in perfect order, at right shoulder shift arms, ranks well closed up. The gunboats have had some flurries since the transports got down here, and the pickets are assailed occasionally; but there is little danger of an attack here, although it has been expected, and we have been ready for it all the time. Troops at arms at three o'clock, and occasional orders that we shall be engaged in fifteen minutes, or that they are closing in on the right or left. Our hospital teams and supplies are away to the rear. We are in line of battle in the woods, a slashing in front of us, (trees cut down,) and a part of the line extending from the river above to the river below has rifle-pits, breast-works, and batteries. We can whip forty thousand here, but they will not attack us in a place of our own choosing. The river is falling fast, and I expect every hour an order to get out of here.
Missouri Republican account.
Grand Ecore, April 13, 1864.The grand expedition up Red River, which promised such beneficial results, has met with an unexpected and disastrous check. On the sixth of April the Union army, under command of Major-General Franklin, moved from Natchitoches (pronounced Nackitosh) toward Shreveport. Natchitoches is four miles from Red River, the nearest point on the river being Grand Ecore, the place from which this letter is dated. The road from Natchitoches is through a dense forest of pine woods, the surface of the country being broken and hilly. There are but few plantations opened, and nothing upon which to subsist an army. On Thursday night, the seventh, the army camped at Pleasant Hill, a small town in the pine woods, about thirty miles north-east of Natchitoches, on the road to Shreveport. The wagon-road leaves the river to the right some fifteen or twenty miles, rendering the cooperation of the gunboats impossible. Before encamping at Pleasant Hill, there was a sharp cavalry skirmish about two miles beyond that place, resulting in no important advantage to either side. The cavalry encamped about seven miles in advance of the main army. Next morning (Friday, the eighth) the army started toward Mansfield, a distance of seventeen miles from Pleasant Hill. About noon, while the enemy was in line of march, arrived at the front, at a small bayou, where a bridge was being built. General Banks at once assumed command of the army in the field. There was almost constant skirmishing all the way from Pleasant Hill to the place where the battle afterward occurred. When General Banks arrived at the bayou, the Nineteenth army corps were several miles in the rear, the Thirteenth army corps were crossing the newly constructed bridge, and General Lee's cavalry, about five thousand men, some three miles in advance, together with Nim's celebrated battery, the Chicago Mercantile battery, First Indiana, and battery G, of the regular army. The Fourth division, Thirteenth army corps, under command of General Ransom, were hurried forward as a support to the cavalry. About three o'clock P. M., when within two miles of Mansfield, the advance army, consisting of cavalry, artillery, and Fourth division, Thirteenth army corps, above mentioned, while marching through a dense pine forest, there being thick undergrowth of pines on either side of the road, were attacked by the rebels in great force, on both flanks and in the front. The engagement soon became general; the rebels suddenly opening with artillery, and musketry, charging our suprised and panic-stricken columns with terrific yells, evincing a daring and determination worthy of a better cause. General Banks and General Franklin hurried to the front, and were in the thickest of the fight. The artillery was speedily put in position at the extreme front, and for a while did excellent service. Finding the front rather too dangerous for Major-Generals, Banks and Franklin returned to the rear of the wagon-train, just in time to save themselves from capture, as the rebels pressed upon both sides of our army with crushing effect. A ball passed through General Banks's hat. Every thing was soon in the wildest confusion; the wagon-train being in the rear, and in the narrow road, attempted to turn round to fall back, and completely blocked up the way, cutting off the advance both from a way of retreat, and from reinforcements. The rebels had formed in the shape of an isosceles triangle, leaving the base open, and at the apex planting their artillery. Our advance marched directly into the triangle, having the two wing's of the rebel forces on either side of them. These wings were speedily connected, compelling our forces to retreat or surrender. The batteries above mentioned, consisting of twenty pieces in all, were now captured, together with nearly all the officers and men. The Chicago Mercantile battery was captured entire, and I am informed that all her officers and men fell into the hands of the enemy. The Fourth division, Thirteenth army corps, two thousand eight hundred men, under General Ransom, and General Lee's cavalry, about three