Doc. 27.-Major-General Banks's Official reports.
Port Hudson campaign.
To the Secretary of War:sir: The military objects contemplated by the orders which I received upon assuming command of the Department of the Gulf, dated November eighth, 1862, were, the freedom of the Mississippi, an expedition to Jackson and Marion after the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and the occupation of the Red River country as a protection for Louisiana and Arkansas, and a basis of future operations against Texas. I assumed command of the department December sixteenth, 1862. The eighteenth of December, Brigadier-General Cuvier Grover, with ten thousand (10,000) men, was ordered to take possession of Baton Rouge, then held by the enemy. This was the first step toward the reduction of Port Hudson. The Island of Galveston, Texas, had been captured in October, and was then occupied or held by the navy. Information had been received, previous to my arrival at New Orleans, of a contemplated attack for the recovery of that position by the enemy. Upon consultation with Rear Admiral D. G. Farragut and Major-General Butler, both of whom recommended the measure, the Forty-second Massachusetts volunteers, Colonel Burrill commanding, were sent to occupy the island in support of the navy. Brigadier-General A. J. Hamilton, who had been commissioned as military governor of Texas, and who accompanied my expedition to New Orleans with a large staff, also pressed my occupation of Texas with the greatest earnestness; and it was in deference, in a great degree, to his most strongly expressed wishes, that the expedition was undertaken, though it was fully justified by the information which had been received of a proposed attack by the enemy, as well as by the advice of the naval and military authorities of the department. Three companies of this regiment, under command of Colonel Burrill, arrived at Galveston Island on the twenty-seventh of December, 1862, and by the advice of the naval officers, landed on the twenty-eighth. On the morning of the first of January, 1863, they were attacked by about five thousand (5,000) of the enemy, who gained possession of the island by a bridge from the main land, which had been left unimpaired during the entire occupation of the island by our forces. The naval forces were attacked at the same time by the cotton-clad gunboats of the enemy, which resulted in the capture of our land force, numbering two hundred and sixty men, including their officers, the steamer “Harriet Lane,” two coal transports, and a schooner; and the steamer “Westfield” was blown up by its commanding officer. The losses in killed and wounded were but slight. The balance of the regiment did not arrive at Galveston Island until the second of January, the day after the attack. Upon the discovery of the condition of affairs by the capture of one of the rebel pilots, they returned to New Orleans. This attack upon our forces had been in contemplation for a long time. It succeeded solely because the bridge connecting the island with the main land had been left in possession of the enemy. Had the troops sent for its occupation arrived a day or two earlier, or in sufficient time to have destroyed the bridge, the attack would have been defeated. The possession of this island, and its military  occupation, would have been of great importance to the government in all operations in that part of the country. It would have held a large force of rebel troops in the vicinity of Houston, enabled us to penetrate the territory of Texas at any time, or to concentrate our forces on the Mississippi, and rendered unnecessary the expedition of 1864 for the reestablishment of the flag in Texas. Colonel Burrill and his men remained in captivity more than a year, and after much suffering, were exchanged in the spring of 1864. It is true, as stated by Major-General Halleck, in his report of the fifteenth November, 1863, as General-in-Chief of the army, that “this expedition was not contemplated or provided for in General Banks's instructions;” but having undoubted information of an immediate attack by the enemy, and of the purpose entertained by General Butler to reinforce the navy by a detachment of land troops, as well as the direct approval of this purpose by Admiral Farragut as commander of the naval forces in the Gulf, it would have been inexcusable, if not criminal, had I declined to maintain the occupation of so important a position, when so slight a force was required, upon the ground that it was not contemplated or provided for in my instructions. I regarded the loss of Galveston in its consequences, though not in the incidents immediately attending its capture, as the most unfortunate affair that occurred in the department during my command. Galveston, as a military position, was second in importance only to New Orleans or Mobile. The defensive positions of the enemy in the department were Port Hudson on the Mississippi, which was strongly fortified and held by a force of not less than eighteen thousand (18,000) men. On the Atchafalaya, the water communications toward Red River were defended by strong works at Butte à la Rose, and on Bayou Teche by strong land fortifications near Pattersonville, called Fort Bisland, extending from Grand Lake on the right to impassable swamps on the left of the Teche Bayou. Butte á la Rose was defended by the gunboats of the enemy, and a garrison of three hundred to five hundred men; and Fort Bisland on the Teche, by a force of twelve thousand to fifteen thousand men, distributed from Berwick's Bay to Alexandria and Grand Ecore on Red River. These positions covered every line of communication to the Red River country and the upper Mississippi. The first object was to reduce the works at Port Hudson. This could be done by an attack directly upon the fortifications, or by getting possession of the Red River for the purpose of cutting off supplies received by the garrison from that country. My command upon my arrival at New Orleans, with the troops that accompanied me, was less than thirty thousand, (30,000.) There were fifty-six regiments, of which twenty-two regiments were enlisted for nine months only, the terms of service of a part expiring in May, a part in July, and all in August. None of the regiments or men had seen service, and few had even handled a musket. The military positions held by our forces extended from the Floridas to Western Texas on the Gulf, and upon the Mississippi from its mouth to Port Hudson, Key West, Pensacola, and Ship Island on the Gulf, were strongly garrisoned, and threatened constantly with attack by the enemy. Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and English Bend, on the lower river; New Orleans, Bonne Carre, Donaldsonville, Plaquemine, and Baton Rouge, on the upper river; and Forts Pike and Macomb on Lake Ponchartrain leading to the Gulf, and Berwick's Bay, were open to the incursions of the enemy, and necessarily strongly held by our forces. None of these could be evacuated except the town of Pensacola, leaving a garrison in the permanent works at the navy yard. All these positions were constantly threatened by an active and powerful enemy, who could concentrate at any point he pleased. That at Galveston had been captured by a force of not less than twenty-four men to one. It was deemed inexpedient, with but slight knowledge of the condition of affairs, in the absence of any absolute necessity, to greatly weaken or expose any position then in our possession. After garrisoning these numerous posts, the strongest force I could command for permanent offensive operations against Port Hudson did not exceed twelve or fourteen thousand. It was impossible to attack so strong a position, garrisoned by a force so much larger, with any chance of success. Attention was, therefore, turned to the west of the Mississippi, to the Atchafalaya and Teche, with a view of getting command of the waters, by which our gunboats could reach Red River, and communicate with the forces, naval and military, at Vicksburg, and cut off the supplies of the enemy west of the Mississippi. The first effort to accomplish this was made in an unsuccessful endeavor to open the Bayou Plaquemine, which communicated with the Atchafalaya near Butte à la Rose. The command of Brigadier-General Weitzel, on Berwick's Bay, had been increased, the first and second week in January, to forty-five hundred men, with a view to operations upon the Teche, for the purpose of destroying the works and dispersing the forces of the enemy on that bayou. On the eleventh of January he made a successful invasion of the Teche country, repulsed the forces of the enemy, and destroyed the gunboat “Cotton.” This relieved Berwick's Bay from the danger of an attack by the enemy's most formidable gunboat, in case our forces, naval and military, moved up the Atchafalaya toward Butte á la Rose. An attempt was then made to get possession of