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Mr. Elliot's Army record.

By J. Albert Holmes
My acquaintance with our late friend and associate, Charles D. Elliot, dates from the birth of the Somerville Historical Society. From the acquaintance thus formed there naturally sprang a friendship that grew and strengthened, till the memory only remained.

I was quick to learn that we had, not a little, but much in common. In a heart-to-heart talk one day, friend Elliot made a remark that prompted me to tell him something of my feelings and emotions on that Sunday morning, December 14, 1862, as I stood on the parapet at Fort St. Philip and witnessed the passing of the fleet of transports bearing General Banks and his troops to New Orleans to relieve General Butler. Whereupon he very quietly and modestly said: ‘I accompanied that expedition.’ This was the first intimation I had of his connection with the Union Army. Needless to say, a fraternal feeling existed between us from that moment.

If from this point I quote freely from the History of the Nineteenth Army Corps, and from Mr. Elliot's paper on ‘The Siege of Port Hudson,’ read before the Somerville Historical Society, and printed in Historic Leaves for October, 1908, and from others, I trust you will hold me blameless.

The quality of the work of Mr. Elliot as an engineer and draftsman had become widely known, but the drawing of a plan of the siege of Yorktown, Va., from notes of General Henry L. Abbot, of Cambridge, was so finely executed that, in order to express his appreciation of the work, General Abbot procured for Mr. Elliot an appointment from the War Department as Assistant Topographical Engineer, [65]

Leaving the virtues of the turkey to be discussed by others, Mr. Elliot, in his young, patriotic, and vigorous manhood, on the day before Thanksgiving took train for New York, and on December 4, 1862, embarked on the transport North Star with General Banks' headquarters staff, Nineteenth Army Corps, for the Department of the Gulf.

Upon arriving at New Orleans, December 14, 1862, General Banks took command December 15, although formal orders were not issued till December 17. So promptly did General Banks act that on December 16 General Grover's expedition got under way for Baton Rouge, and arrived there on December 17. The new staff of the department included Major David C. Houston, Chief Engineer, and Captain Henry L. Abbot, Chief of Topographical Engineers; the latter would therefore be regarded as Mr. Elliot's immediate commander. It appears from his paper on Port Hudson that Mr. Elliot commenced immediately to practice one branch of his profession, for he says that on January 14, 1863, he completed a detailed map of the Mississippi River from New Orleans to about thirty miles above Vicksburg—a piece of professional work that did him great credit. And now begins the first forward movement of the Nineteenth Army Corps in which Mr. Elliot participated. ‘By March 7, leaving T. W. Sherman to cover New Orleans, and Weitzel to hold strongly La Fourche, Banks had a marching column composed of Augur's, Emory's, and Grover's divisions, 15,000 strong. On March 9 tents were struck, to be pitched no more for five hard months.’ The troops proceeded to Baton Rouge, and there awaited the arrival of the delayed fleet. On March 12, all having arrived, General Banks for the first time reviewed his army. On March 13 and the day following the army marched to the rear of Port Hudson. Here the engineers found plenty of work in store for them, for the maps were more imperfect than usual; even the road by which the guns were to have gone into battery did not exist! Admiral Farragut's moving a portion of his fleet above Port Hudson before the hour agreed upon, and his signal either [66] not heard or not reported, placed General Banks in an awkward predicament. Briefly, the expedition was abandoned, and Banks returned to Baton Rouge, and then to New Orleans. On April 8 Mr. Elliot again moved with headquarters to Brashear, and for the next six weeks Banks, with Emory, Grover, and Weitzel, was skirmishing and fighting along the bayous of western Louisiana to the Red River. The two divisions into which the army had now been divided were commanded by Generals Banks and Grover, respectively. On April 12 Banks crossed to Berwick City, and here Mr. Elliot failed to connect with his horse and equipments, which mishap afforded him the opportunity of marching on foot for thirty miles, meanwhile participating in the capture of Fort Bisland, so called, on Bayou Teche. This was on April 13 and 14.

Here Banks ran up against Taylor's troops strongly entrenched on both banks of the Teche, while our troops were astride of it. After a stiff fight of two days Taylor made good his retreat at night, because Grover was so delayed in his march that he failed to get in Taylor's rear, as planned, and block his line of retreat. Brushing aside or pushing forward the Confederates, Banks reached Opelousas, ‘which,’ Mr. Elliot writes,

is one of the cleanest and prettiest towns in Louisiana. Here I rode in with our cavalry, and under orders seized and put a guard over the State Land Office, in which I found not only innumerable plans of that part of Louisiana, but also many arms stored under heaps of old papers and rubbish, among them the sword of the Confederate Colonel Riley, who had been killed in a recent engagement, and also the commission of another officer in the rebel army. Under instructions, I turned over all these trophies to our Provost Marshal. Soon after entering the town, I rode out to the outskirts, and narrowly escaped capture by an ambuscade in the woods near by, being warned by a slave to turn quickly, as the horsemen whom I was riding out to meet in the thick woods were rebels, not Union men, as I had supposed.

On the march to Alexandria (reached about May 8) I was [67] taken sick with congestion of the lungs, or pleuro-pneumonia, and given clearly to understand that this was my last march; but, thanks to pleasant weather and several days' rest, I was soon convalescent. Reconnaissances by the Engineer Corps showed that there were fairly good roads nearly to the Mississippi; so orders were given, and the army commenced its march down the Red River. I, being on the invalid list, was carried down by boat . . . to Bayou Sara (May 21), several miles north of Port Hudson. From Bayou Sara we marched on the night of May 21 to the battlefield of Plains Store, arriving at 2 o'clock in the morning of May 22. I was carried in an ambulance. Augur had been attacked by the Confederates on May 21, but had driven them back behind their works with considerable loss. Banks' forces from the North now joined Augur's from the South, and the investment of Port Hudson was complete.

On what date Mr. Elliot reported for duty I find no record, but it is well known that he rendered efficient service throughout the siege. He writes: ‘New batteries were erected, zigzags or approaches commenced, heavy guns borrowed from the Navy mounted, mines planned, and everything gave promise of a long and tedious siege. Our saps and approaches were run towards the rebel works to within a very short distance, and a mine was nearly completed and ready for its powder. This was done under the supervision of the Nineteenth Army Corps Staff of Engineers, who suffered severely at Port Hudson, three being killed and one wounded, out of less than a dozen of us in all.

’ The mine was not exploded. Port Hudson unconditionally surrrendered July 8, 1863. From this date till July 26 Mr. Elliot had charge of the engineer's office, preparing meanwhile the official plan of the siege. This, too, was the work of an expert. In September he accompanied General Franklin on the Sabine Pass expedition. In October he took part in the second expedition under Franklin in the Teche district. This, also, was abandoned. Returning to New Orleans, he was stricken with malarial fever. For a short time in November he was detailed for service at Fort [68] Butler, and then to the Department of West Florida, under General Asboth, in December. Early in 1864 he was appointed engineer officer to General Grover in a proposed campaign against Mobile, where he had charge of construction of field fortifications in East Louisiana, for which he received from General Grover a personal letter commending him for his faithful and efficient service in designing and constructing the fortifications at Madisonville, on the east shore of Lake Pontchartrain. In the midst of this work the Red River campaign was entered upon, and Mr. Elliot was assigned to duty in this newly-formed army. He participated in all the fortunes and misfortunes of this campaign till Alexandria, on the Red River, was reached, when he was brought to a sudden halt by his not-to-be-avoided enemy, malarial fever, which entirely incapacitated him for further service in the Union Army.

Having executed the work in the army to which Providence had called him to the entire satisfaction of his commanding officers, Mr. Elliot, as a citizen engineer, received his honorable discharge from the Union service and returned to his Massachusetts home in April, 1864. I have tried to give, though briefly and imperfectly, a chronological account of our late associate's army service. Let me add that commanding officers in the army have their own peculiar methods of showing their appreciation of the value of a man. Twice, at least, Mr. Elliot received special mention for meritorious service in the field, and was twice urged to accept a commission, both of which commissions he modestly declined to accept, the one act of his long and eminently useful life I deeply regret, because thereby he rendered himself ineligible to membership in the Grand Army of the Republic, for the comrades of which order he said and did so much! Nevertheless, for what he was and for what he did we revere his memory. Having conscientiously given the best there was in him to our common country in its time of dire necessity, he was satisfied to retire from the service with an honorable discharge as a citizen of this Grand Republic.

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