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Chapter 15:

Taylor had camped on the battle ground of Pleasant Hill. The same night Gen. Kirby Smith joined him for consultation. A jar of plan at once manifested itself between the two commanders. The question arose of borrowing some of Taylor's victorious troops. Smith was anxious to utilize such valuable material in his efforts to clear Arkansas of Steele. On his side Taylor was eager to keep on chasing Banks with his victorious army. Well acquainted with the peculiar features of the country, he had already planned to bag Banks somewhere between Cane river and Red river. He had hit upon a narrow road crossing a distance of about seven miles. This road skirted an impassable swamp. Smith's special design was to take from Taylor's little force Walker's and Churchill's divisions. Naturally Taylor demurred to the plan. This would leave him with but 6,000 men for the work he had in mind. He did not forget, however, that his small army was compact with fighting men, with valiant service behind them. At last, a compromise was effected. Smith promised to return at once the troops, if Steele retreated. At that, Taylor himself offered to lead the advance, thinking, after getting through with Steele, he would still have his trusty army to finish with Banks. To this Smith agreed, the more willingly because, between the two, [152] Steele in Arkansas would be surely disposed of. As to west Louisiana, Smith was without fear. General Taylor, who had routed Banks, would take care of him.

Smith and Taylor went to Shreveport together, and with them marched Walker's and Churchill's divisions, but at Shreveport Smith changed his mind. He suddenly decided himself to go after Steele, on the expedition in Arkansas, which engaged him for some time. From Shreveport, therefore, Taylor set out to hunt up the fleeing column of Banks, which he struck first at Natchitoches on April 22d, defeated his enemy and pursued him with daily marching and fighting. Always trusting to catch up with the foe, his fighters, eager and hopeful, had never once halted during the day. Taylor's main movement generally followed the bends of Red river, to keep it from the enemy's boats; and his present attention was specially directed against the gunboats coming down, frightened at the news of Banks' defeat. A sorry ending to the dream of the joint triumph of army and navy—his army fleeing, and the fleet, that fleet so much trusted in, so hopefully associated with the proud beginnings of his wrecked campaign, scurrying down Red river, painfully eyeing the banks, and none too sure of saving itself from the dangerous union of low water and hostile batteries. On April 26th an event, brilliant in execution, aided in annihilating one gunboat and one transport. Lieutenant-Colonel Caudley, with 200 sharpshooters and Cornay's St. Mary's Cannoneers were posted at the junction of Cane and Red rivers, sternly waiting for the gunboats known to be escaping from above as best they might At 6 p. m. one gunboat, with a transport, appeared in sight. The united fire of cannoneers and sharpshooters proved fatal to both, silencing and crippling the gunboat, which drifted helplessly out of sight. The transport fared worse, a shell shortly after having exploded its boiler with terrible effect. ‘Over 100 bodies were brought on shore, and [153] about 80 others will die from scalding steam.’ (Taylor's report, April 27, 1864.)

The death of Captain Cornay in this skirmish cast a gloom over the success. Like that of General Green, a few days before, Cornay's death was a clear misfortune to the army, occurring during its otherwise fortunate and victorious pursuit of Banks. Cornay had proved an officer of rare promise. Between him and his company existed a tie of brotherhood far more than usual from the association of camps. He was devoted to his battery, valuing its reputation, already acquired from its Spartan fidelity exhibited at Fort Jackson in April, 1862, a fidelity which the cannoneers sustained by an untarnished record of service during the campaign now striking the rivets from West Louisiana. Cornay, who had kept his cannoneers always in the van, had at last fallen where he preferred to fall, his face to the foe.1

Taylor was true to his creed, told in words as simply strong as valor: ‘I shall fight the enemy wherever I shall find him.’ At Cloutierville, not having force enough to impede the retreat with main strength, he fell back upon the trap which he had planned to set at Monett's ferry. He had, in the chase, chanced into that very road skirting the impassable swamp of which he had dreamed at Pleasant Hill. It was a veritable culde-sac from which an army, once in, could not easily escape. Into this trap the retreating army could not but enter. The small end of the bag was at the ferry. Taylor had ordered Bee, a valued lieutenant, to hold the ferry before the arrival of the enemy. Apparently, Bee misapprehended precisely why he was to be at the crossing. Before the Federals appeared, he had already withdrawn [154] his troops from the gate.2 The enemy, seeing the door Wide open, did not hesitate to march through. This did not escape Taylor's eye. Noticing that the scrambling retreat of the Federals continued, Taylor, from the rear, knew that his cul-de-sac had been irretrievably spoiled. Banks, always looking for Steele, still belated, and never having studied military traps, had unconsciously slipped through Taylor's fingers.

It is always a defeated army which signalizes its departure by ravages upon the abandoned country. The Federals in fleeing, in 1864, emphasized this military truth beyond cavil. They destroyed the Red river valley, which they could only spoil, but could not hold. During May, the Confederates continued forcing a considerable part of Banks' army to confront it, meeting the part pluckily, sometimes inflicting loss upon it, at times suffering loss themselves, yet always steadily and irresistibly expediting the exodus of the invading columns. From May 14th to 18th, skirmishes were the rule around Avoyelles prairie. At Mansura and Moreauville, sharp encounters took place between the rear guard in force, and pursuers light in numbers, yet ardent in spirit. Our gunners handled their pieces with coolness and precision. By this time the rear guard was getting hurried.

Alexandria, in the retreat from Mansfield, had been burned. The burning of the town was stoutly ascribed by the Federals to accident. After doing this mischief the enemy attempted to leave the city by the Bayou Boeuf road. Here stood Polignac to check them. Foiled [155] on that road they repeated the effort on the Red river road. On May 15th Wharton was at Marksville to fight them. At this point ensued a brilliant cannonade which resembled war. Polignac, still with Mouton's superb but now skeleton division, found it impossible to stop the retreat of four brigades supported by a detachment of the Thirteenth army corps. While he remained, however, he held his ground sturdily, withdrawing only when it suited him—true Frenchman that he was—with drums beating and fifes playing a fanfare of defiance.

From this on the Federals constantly retreated and constantly resisted, yet always fighting with numbers on their side. At Yellow bayou, May 18th, near the Atchafalaya, ‘the haven where they would be,’ Wharton, like a wolf-dog, was at them again, attacking them fiercely. All the enemy had crossed except A. J. Smith's Vicksburg veterans. Unfortunately, Wharton forgot that his right wing was that resting on the bayou. In order to check Smith's crossing, he had only to mass on his right wing. Instead of doing this, he massed on his left wing. This left rested upon the interior line, away from the bayou. Wondering at his good fortune, Smith crossed the Atchafalaya on May 19, 1864, with haste. Thus, there where Banks' campaign had opened two months before in pride, it now closed in disaster. Bee's blunder cost Taylor Banks' army. Wharton's blunder cost him Smith's division. With the Federals on the thither side of the Atchafalaya, Taylor's chase of them ended. It had been a drawn-out chase, with 200 miles between its close and Mansfield. With that end, which was deliverance, Peace now folded her wings and brooded in quiet from War's alarms over rural Louisiana. Of this quiet, Taylor, who was there, wrote twelve years after the surrender of Louisiana, as of his own knowledge: ‘From the action of Yellow Bayou to the close of the war not a gun was fired in the Trans-Mississippi department.’ [156]

More even than her Beauregard, Taylor had fought for his native State on her own soil; had wrought with singleness of heart for her deliverance from her foes. Subjected like her to the crooked measures of Reconstruction, he still maintained his scorn for shams, his hate of hypocrisy. After a visit to Europe he wrote, in 1873, a book containing at once his share in the war and his place in that troubled peace which followed war. Taylor wrote as he fought, roughly yet gayly, with firm hand on the hilt of his naked sword. His book is himself in type—caustic, fiery, given unto satire, master of epigrams. He held, with Napoleon I, a method of composition sonorous with battle. As he had fought for his State in her stress, so did her cherish her in her degradation. His style, whether in scorn or love, is as brilliant as the gleam of his sword. With its flash before us, I commit Richard Taylor, Liberator of Confederate Louisiana, to his fame.

General Banks found in his own peculiar fashion a justification for his enforced, if not disastrous, defeat.3 After vainly waiting for Porter's fleet at Grand Ecore, Banks proceeded to Alexandria. Thence, he found a swift way to the Atchafalaya; thence, to New Orleans; thence, after a little more warfare, to Massachusetts. Once there, true type of the political soldier, he utilized his war experience by seeking election in his old congressional district. He received the station, of all others, which he knew best how to fill at once with honor to himself and to his State's advantage.

On the 11th of May General Banks was relieved, at his own request, by Maj.-Gen. R. S. Canby. General Canby [157] did no fighting in Louisiana For that, Mansfield and Pleasant Hill had amply provided.4

After the collapse of Banks' expedition up the river, Richard Taylor was appointed by President Davis to the command of the department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana. This department included the district of the Gulf, Maj.-Gen. Dabney H. Maury; district of North Alabama, Brig.-Gen. P. D. Roddey; district of Central Alabama, Brig.-Gen. D. W. Adams; district of Mississippi and East Louisiana, Maj.-Gen. Franklin Gardner; the fortified city of Mobile on the south, and the invincible remnant of the cavalry corps of N. B. Forrest on the north. The return for his department November 20, 1864, shows the following Louisiana troops included: In Maury's command—Twenty-second regiment infantry, brigade of Gen. Alpheus Baker. In Gardners command, brigade of Gen. George B. Hodge-First cavalry, Col. John S. Scott; Third cavalry; Col. Daniel Gober's mounted infantry; Maj. Frederick N. Ogden's cavalry battalion; Col. Frank P. Powers' Mississippi and Louisiana cavalry. The First Louisiana heavy artillery was at Mobile, and Maj. Washington Marks was in command of the water batteries.

When Mobile, so long defiant, was threatened by formidable land forces in the spring of 1865, Forts Morgan and Gaines having fallen in the previous August, Gibson's Louisiana brigade reported to Gen. St. John Liddell in command. The First, Sixteenth and Twentieth regiments [158] were at that time consolidated under Lieutenant-Colonel Lindsay; the Fourth battalion and Twenty-fifth regiment under Colonel Zacharie; the Nineteenth was commanded by Maj. Camp Flournoy, and the Sharpshooters by Col. F. L. Campbell. The Fourth, Thirteenth and Thirtieth were also consolidated. Capt. Cuthbert H. Slocomb's Washington artillery was there, commanded by Lieutenant Chalaron, under Col. Melancthon Smith, commanding the right wing of the defenses. Fenner's battery, Lieutenant Cluverius, and Captains John H. Lamon's and Edward G. Butler's companies of the First heavy artillery were assigned to the left wing, under Colonel Fuller. At battery McIntosh, under Maj. W. C. Capers, were Companies A and D of the First heavy artillery; at battery Gladden, Companies B and G, under Capt. R. C. Bond; and at battery Missouri, Capt. James Gibney, were Companies E and K, Twenty-second regiment, and Holmes' light artillery.

General Gibson was assigned in the latter part of March to command of the defenses of Spanish Fort, Liddell taking charge at Blakely. He had his brigade, about 500 rifles under Colonel Campbell, Holtzclaw's and Ector's brigades, about 500, and. Col. I. W. Patton's artillery, 360 strong. Gibson, on taking command, found that be had an enormous amount of intrenching to do, and to gain time by a bold show of strength sent the Louisianians in a charge against the Federal line, made gallantly by them, and serving its purpose in preventing an assault. General Canby's two army corps sat down to a regular siege on March 27th. Gibson's works were soon almost surrounded by batteries, but he held out staunchly for two weeks, during which time his men had scarcely any rest, either with the rifle or the spade. On the 8th of April the Federals obtained a lodgment in the works, and that night Gibson skillfully withdrew his troops, under orders not to risk their capture. He retreated to Mobile and thence to Meridian, General Taylor's headquarters. [159] General Gibson estimated the loss of his whole command at 93 killed, 45 wounded and 250 captured, out of a total of less than 2,000. Said Gibson, in closing his report: ‘Lieut. A. G. Clark of my staff, commandant of the post, was killed while charging at the head of the garrison guard to dislodge the enemy when he had turned the left flank. Louisiana has not lost during the war a truer man or a more thorough-going soldier. The list might be prolonged, for we left behind, filling soldiers' graves, many of the bravest and the best; and if any credit shall attach to the defense of Spanish Fort, it be. longs to the heroes whose sleep shall no more be disturbed by the cannon's roar. “ On May 8th, upon the occasion of the surrender of General Taylor, General Gibson issued an address to the Louisiana brigade, in which he said: ” There is nothing in your career to look back upon with regret. You have always been in front of the enemy; you have never feasted in soft places in the rear, nor fought your battles at comfortable firesides. Your banners are garlanded with the emblems of every soldierly virtue. More than twenty battlefields have seen them unfurled. They were never lowered save over the bier of a fallen comrade. Forget not the good and true men who have fallen. ... Comrades, henceforth other duties will devolve upon you. Adversities can only strengthen the ties that bind you to your country and increase the obligations you owe to her interests and her honor. As soldiers you have been among the bravest and most steadfast, and as citizens be law-abiding, peaceable and industrious. You have not surrendered and will never surrender your self-respect and love of country.’

Taylor, in his new department, without a strong army, was as much a problem in the field as he had been when with Stonewall Jackson in the valley of Virginia, or teaching Banks the art of war in West Louisiana. On May 8, 1865, he surrendered to General Canby at Citronelle, 40 miles north of Mobile. [160]

North Louisiana, when freed by Richard Taylor, one of her sons, from the invader's chains, stood erect among her children. The shackles had fallen from the once stately limbs, now withered by their rust. In her chair of state sat Henry Watkins Allen, a Paladin who had won spurs of gold; a citizen spotless in chivalry; a veteran weak in body, yet counting it all glory to suffer for his State. No Confederate State, it seems to the author, had better war-governors than Louisiana had from 1861-65. One, Thomas Overton Moore, had stood at her cradle; the other waited sorrowing at her coffin. To the end Allen, a maimed figure of valor, watched the shell reverently lest stranger hands profane the corpse. [161]

1 Louisiana, recalling his truth and their constancy, should slope her standard before the names of F. O. Cornay and his gallant cannoneers of St. Mary's. To her, when other men slunk from her side in peril and shame, he and they stood as true as dial to sun!

2 General Bee, who reported that his 2,000 men were in line under seven hours continuous fire before giving up the ferry, said in his defense: ‘That I was not successful was because success was impossible. ... I claim for my troops (Gould's, Wood's, Terrell's, Liken's, Yager's, Myer's and Vincent's cavalry) the highest praise for their gallantry, patient endurance of fatigue, and never-failing enthusiasm.’ Gen. John A. Wharton wrote to Bee, June 30th, ‘From an examination of the ground, and from a full knowledge of your force and that of the enemy, I am satisfied that you could not have maintained yourself at Monett's ferry.’

3 ‘The fact that the gunboats were unable to pass Grand Ecore until the 7th, justifies the belief that their advance had been prevented by the low stage of water, and governed the army exclusively in its retrograde movement to Grand Ecore.’—General Banks' report, April 16, 1864.

4 In January, 1865, it appeared that the brigade of Gen. Allen Thomas, consisting of the Seventeenth, Twenty-sixth, Twentysev-enth, Twenty-eighth and Thirty-first Louisiana infantry, Weatherly's battalion (late Miles' legion), Wade's light artillery and acompany of heavy artillery, was at Alexandria, then the headquarters of Gen. S. B. Buckner, lately assigned to the district of Western Louisiana. The Crescent regiment was also in that vicinity, and the Third Louisiana was at Shreveport. At a later date there was a considerable concentration of troops in apprehension of another campaign on the Red river. With other Louisiana troops reported there, was the Seventh cavalry. Vincent's brigade held the Confederate front toward Opelousas. (Federal reports.)

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