previous next

Red River expedition.

At the

Map of the Red River expedition.

beginning of 1864 another attempt was made to repossess Texas by an invasion by way of the Red River and Shreveport. General Banks was directed to organize an expedition for that purpose at New Orleans, and General Sherman was ordered to send troops to aid him. Admiral Porter was also directed to place a fleet of gunboats on the Red River to assist in the enterprise, and General Steele, at Little Rock, Ark., was ordered to co-operate with the expedition. Banks's column, led by General Franklin, moved from Brashear City, La. (March 13), by way of Opelousas, and reached Alexandria, on the Red River, on the 26th. Detachments from Sherman's army, under Gen. A. J. Smith, had already gone up the Red River on transports, captured Fort de Russy on the way, and taken possession of Alexandria (March 10). They were followed by Porter's fleet of gunboats. From that point Banks moved forward with his whole force, and on April 3 was at Natchitoches, near the river, 80 miles above Alexandria, by land. At that point Porter's vessels were embarrassed by low water, and his larger ones could proceed no farther than Grand Ecore. A depot of supplies was established at Alexandria, with a wagon-train to transport them around the rapids there, if necessary.

The Confederates had continually retreated before the Nationals as the latter advanced from Alexandria, frequently stopping to skirmish with the vanguard. From Grand Ecore Banks pushed on tow- [387]

The fight between the gunboats and the sharp-shooters.

ards Shreveport, 100 miles beyond Natchitoches, and Porter's lighter vessels proceeded up the river with a body of troops under Gen. Thomas K. Smith. At that time the Confederates from Texas and Arkansas under Generals Taylor, Price, Green, and others were gathering in front of the Nationals to the number of about 25,000, with more than seventy cannon. So outnumbered, Banks would have been justified in proceeding no farther, but he and Smith, anxious to secure the object of the expedition, pressed forward. The Confederates fell back until they reached Sabine Cross Roads, 54 miles from Grand Ecore, were they made a stand. It was now evident that the further advance of the Nationals was to be obstinately contested. The Trans-Mississippi army, under Gen. E. Kirby Smith, was there 20,000 strong. A fierce battle occurred (April 8), which resulted in disaster to the Nationals.

The shattered columns of Franklin's advance fell back 3 miles, to Pleasant Grove, where they were received by the fine corps of General Emory, who was advancing, and who now formed a battle line to oppose the pursuers. There another severe battle was fought, which ended in victory for the Nationals (see Pleasant Grove, Battle of.). Although victorious, Banks thought it prudent to continue his retreat to Pleasant Hill, 15 miles farther in the rear, for the Confederates were within reach of reinforcements, while he was not certain that Smith, then moving forward, would arrive in time to aid him. He did arrive on the evening of the 8th. The Confederates, in strong force, had followed Banks, and another heavy battle was fought (April 9) at Pleasant Hill, which resulted in a complete victory for the Nationals (Pleasant Hill, Battle of.). Then, strengthened in numbers and [388] encouraged by victory, Banks gave orders for an advance on Shreveport; but this was countermanded. In the meanwhile the gunboats, with Gen. Thomas K. Smith's troops, had proceeded as far as Loggy Bayou, when they were ordered back to Grand Ecore. In that descent they were exposed to the murderous fire of sharpshooters on the banks. With these the Nationals continually fought on the way. There was a very sharp engagement at Pleasant Hill Landing on the evening of the 12th. The Confederates were repulsed, and Gen. Thomas Green, the Confederate commander, was killed.

Meantime, Banks and all the land troops had returned to Grand Ecore, for a council of officers had decided that it was more prudent to retreat than to advance. The army was now again upon the Red River. The water was falling. With difficulty the fleet passed the bar at Grand Ecore (April 17). From that point the army moved on the 21st, and encountered 8,000 Confederates, on the 22d, with sixteen guns, under General Bee, strongly posted on Monet's Bluff, at Cane River Ferry. On the morning of the 23d the van of the Nationals drove the Confederates across the stream, and after a severe struggle during the day, General Birge, with a force of Nationals, drove the Confederates from the ferry, and the National army crossed. Its retreat to Alexandria was covered by the troops under Gen. Thomas K. Smith, who skirmished at several points on the way—severely at Clouterville, on the Cane River, for about three hours. The whole army arrived at Alexandria on April 27. At that place the water was so low that the gunboats could not pass down the rapids.

It had been determined to abandon the expedition against Shreveport and return to the Mississippi. To get the fleet below the rapids was now urgent business. It was proposed to dam the river above and send the fleet through a sluice in the manner of “running” logs by lumbermen. Porter did not believe in the feasibility of the project; but Lieut.-Col. Joseph Bailey (q. v.) performed the service successfully. The whole expedition then proceeded towards the Mississippi, where Porter resumed the service of patrolling that stream. The forces of Banks were placed under the charge of Gen. E. R. S. Canby, on the Atchafalaya, and Gen. A. J. Smith's

The fleet passing the Dam.

[389] troops returned to Mississippi. A strong confronting force of Confederates had kept Steele from co-operating with the expedition. He had moved from Little Rock with 8,000 men, pushed back the Confederates, and on April 15 had captured the important post at Camden, on the Wachita River; but after a severe battle at Jenkinson's Ferry, on the Sabine River, he had abandoned Camden and returned to Little Rock. So ended the disastrous Red River campaign.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1864 AD (1)
April 27th (1)
April 17th (1)
April 15th (1)
April 9th (1)
April 8th (1)
April 3rd (1)
March 13th (1)
March 10th (1)
26th (1)
22nd (1)
21st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: