The Red River campaign.
by Richard B. Irwin, Lieutenant-Colonel, U. S. V., Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of the Gulf.
After the fall of Port Hudson
on the 8th of July, 1863, the forces of the Department of the Gulf, instead of going at once against Mobile
as urged by General Grant
, General Banks
and Admiral Farragut
, and thus lending an effective support to the main operations about Chattanooga
at a critical period, were occupied in attempting to carry out the orders of the Government
to restore the flag in Texas
. General Banks
was informed by General Halleck
that the Government
fully appreciated the importance of the proposed operations against Mobile
but there were important reasons, reasons other than military, why the Texas
movement should be made first and with the least possible delay, by sea or land.
A combined naval and military operation by the Red River
was indicated as the best mode of carrying out the object; the selection of the route was, however, left to General Banks
, but as to the movement itself he was distinctly told there was no choice and that the views of the Government
must be carried out.3
The first attempt to carry then out led to the unfortunate expedition to Sabine Pass
, in September [see Vol.
III., p. 598], the object of which was to gain a footing on the coast by surprise.
Its summary failure put that idea out
of the question, and the route proposed by General Halleck
being at that moment quite impracticable, because the Red River
is only navigable during a few weeks in the spring, General Banks
at once concentrated his troops on the Teche
for a renewal of the attempt by moving directly west across the prairie by way of Niblett's Bluff
However, it did not take long to realize that to march an army three hundred miles across a barren country, with no water in the summer
, and plenty of water but no road in the winter
, was really not to be thought of, especially when the column would have to guard against an active enemy on its flank and rear during the march and to meet and overcome another at its end.
Accordingly, General Banks
reverted to his first idea of making the attempt by sea, and selected the Thirteenth Corps, then commanded by Major-General C. C. Washburn
for the service.
To Major-General N. J. T. Dana
was assigned the duty of effecting the first landing at Brazos Santiago
, at the mouth of the Rio Grande
The expedition, General Banks
himself accompanying it, sailed from New Orleans on the 26th of October, under convoy of the Monongahela
, and Virginia
After encountering a severe “norther” on the 30th, from which the men, animals, and transports suffered greatly, on the 2d of November Dana
landed on Brazos Island
, drove off the small Confederate force on the mainland on the 3d, and on the 6th occupied Brownsville
, thirty miles up the river.
was occupied on the 8th.
With the foot-hold thus gained, General Banks
's plan was to occupy successively all the passes or inlets that connect the Gulf of Mexico
with the land-locked lagoons or sounds of the Texas coast
from the Rio Grande
to the Sabine
in command on the Rio Grande
, a strong detachment, under Brigadier-General T. E. G. Ransom
, embarked on the 16th, landed at Corpus Christi
, occupied Mustang Island
, crossed Aransas Pass
, and moved on Pass Cavallo
, where the Confederates
had a strong work called Fort Esperanza
, commanding the entrance to Matagorda Bay
This was captured on the 30th of December, the Confederates
retiring to the mainland.
These operations, though completely successful so far and at small cost, being, indeed, almost unopposed, were not satisfactory to the Government
However, General Banks
, being committed to the movement, was proceeding to complete the conquest of the Texas coast
by moving in force against the strong Confederate positions at Galveston
and the mouth of the Brazos
when General Halleck
on the 4th of January renewed his instructions of the previous summer for the naval and military operation on the Red River
; this time it was to be on a larger scale, for Steele
was also to advance to the Red River
from the line of the Arkansas
, and General Grant
was to cooperate with such troops as he could spare during the winter from the military division of the Mississippi.
Since it has been claimed that these instructions were not positive, that they only
required General Banks
to communicate with General Sherman
, General Steele
, and Admiral Porter
, it may be enough to
observe that they did
instruct General Banks
to communicate with the officers named, that each of those generals as well as General Grant
received corresponding instructions, that Admiral Porter
read those addressed to General Banks
, and that all five commanders understood and executed these orders in the same sense.5 General Banks
replied, expressing his concurrence in Halleck
This may have been a mistake.
Yet, though a soldier may often be excused, and sometimes even praised, for disobeying orders, he can never be blamed for obeying them when all the conditions are known to his superior, and it is unnecessary to burrow in search of a motive for the cheerful performance of duty.
In an elaborate and carefully prepared memoir by his chief engineer, Major D. C. Houston
, General Banks
presented a clear view of the difficulties to be encountered and the conditions deemed essential to success.
These conditions (all of which except the fourth, in the result, shared the general fate of “ifs,” by being completely disregarded) were, in brief, five: 1.
Complete preliminary organization, so as to avoid delay in movement.
2. A line of supply by land from the Mississippi
, or, in other words, the reconstruction of the railway from De Soto
, and a good and safe wagon-road thence to Shreveport
3. The expulsion of the Confederates
and northern Louisiana
The enemy to be kept fully employed, so as to be prevented from undertaking raids and diversions.
5. One general to command the whole force.
The usual time of highest water in the upper Red River
fixed the date for the movement as about the middle of March.
came to New Orleans on the 1st of March and promptly arranged to send ten thousand men to join Admiral Porter
at the mouth of the Red River
, and, accompanied by the fleet, to be at Alexandria
by the 17th of March, simultaneously with the arrival of Banks
's troops marching north by the Teche
Thus two armies and a fleet, hundreds of miles apart, were to concentrate on a given day at a remote point far within the enemy's lines, situated, moreover, on a river always difficult and uncertain of navigation and now obstructed and fortified.
And here, especially in Sherman
's ready agreement to overlook a fundamental rule of the art of war, we see clearly the earliest sign of that general disregard of the enemy's power of resistance that was so soon to wreck the campaign.
It is noteworthy that the same error was repeated on a greater scale when it was arranged that after once concentrating within the enemy's lines at Alexandria
, the united forces of Banks
, and Porter
should meet those of Steele
within the enemy's lines at Shreveport
, where, roughly speaking, Kirby Smith
was within three hundred miles of either Banks
, while the two Federal commanders, separated from each other at the start by nearly five hundred miles of hostile territory, could only communicate by the rivers in their rear over a long circuit, lengthening as they approached their common enemy in his central stronghold.
In estimating the forces at Kirby Smith
's disposal to meet this triple invasion at 25,000 men, Banks
was, as he had been the year before in the Port Hudson
campaign, virtually correct, although on both occasions the Government
regarded his figures as exaggerated.
Since the forces told off for the Red River
expedition numbered 42,000 officers and men of all arms, of whom Sherman
was to furnish 10,000, Steele
15,000, and Banks
17,000, it is obvious that by concentrating his whole force, Kirby Smith
would be stronger than either column separately, nearly as strong as the whole of Sherman
's force and Banks
's when united and before being weakened by detachments, and therefore possibly stronger than their combined force after providing for the heavy details indispensable to such a movement.
's fleet entered the mouth of the Red River
on the 12th of March, convoying Sherman
's detachment on transports.
On the 13th two divisions of the Sixteenth Corps under Mower
, and Kilby Smith
's division of the Seventeenth Corps, the whole under command of Brigadier-General A. J. Smith
, landed at Simsport
, near the head of the Atchafalaya
, and the next morning marched on Fort de Russy
's division of the Confederate army, under General Richard Taylor
, which was holding the country from Simsport
, at once fell back to Bayou Boeuf
, covering Alexandria
A. J. Smith
's march was therefore unmolested.
He arrived before Fort de Russy
on the afternoon of the 14th, and promptly carried the works by assault, with a loss of 34 killed and wounded, capturing 260 prisoners, eight heavy guns, and two field-pieces.
Meantime the advance of Porter
's fleet had burst through the dam and raft nine miles below, and was thus able to proceed at once up the river, arriving off Alexandria
on the 15th.
followed on the transports with the remainder of the fleet, landed at Alexandria
on the 16th, and occupied the town, Taylor
having retired toward Natchitoches
and called in Mouton
's division from the country north of the river to join Walker
's. A. J. Smith
, with Mower
, followed on the 18th.
and A. J. Smith
were at Alexandria
ahead of time.
himself was detained at New Orleans by the necessity of giving personal attention to special duties confided to him by the President
in connection with the election and the installation, on the 4th of March, of the governor and other officers of the new or, as it was called, the “free State” Government of Louisiana
Some criticism and much ridicule have been wasted on this; the fact being that General Banks
simply carried out the orders of President Lincoln
, just as, for example, was done by General Gillmore
and General Steele
, only that more attention was naturally drawn to Louisiana
as a greater State, and containing the most important city in the South
therefore confided to Franklin
, under whom the Nineteenth Corps had been reorganized and brought up to a high state of discipline and efficiency, the task of preparing and putting in motion the troops of the Department of the Gulf, designated to form part of the expedition.
, when selected for this service, was the second officer in rank in the department, and, in any case, a better selection could not have been
His forces consisted of Emory
's division, and Grover
's two brigades of the Nineteenth Corps, about 10,500 strong, Cameron
's and Ransom
's divisions of the Thirteenth Corps, about 4800, and the newly organized division of cavalry and newly mounted infantry, under Brigadier-General Albert L. Lee
, numbering 4600.
Bad weather had ruined the roads; but on the 13th of March Lee
led the advance of the column from Franklin
, on the Teche
, and, moving by Opelousas
and Bayou Boeuf
, marched into Alexandria
, distant 175 miles, on the 19th, followed by the infantry and artillery on the 25th and 26th.
himself made his headquarters at Alexandria
on the 24th, and there on the 27th he received fresh orders that imposed a new and well-nigh impossible condition on the campaign.
These were the instructions of Lieutenant-General Grant
, dated the 15th of March, on taking command of the army of the United States, looking to the cooperation of the whole effective force of or in the Department of the Gulf in the combined movement early in May of all the armies between the Mississippi
and the Atlantic
, A. J. Smith
was to join the Army of the Tennessee for the Atlanta campaign
, and Banks
was to go against Mobile
were not to be taken by the 25th of April, at latest, then A. J. Smith
's corps was to be returned to Vicksburg
by the 10th, “even if it should lead to the abandonment of the expedition.”
's orders for the expedition were not revoked; it was to go on — only, to make sure that it should not be gone too long, it was put in irons.
might well have given up the campaign then and there; yet there was a chance that Kirby Smith
might not be able to concentrate in time to save Shreveport
; another, still more remote, that he might give the place up without a fight, and a third, more unlikely than either, that Steele
might join Banks
in time to make short work of it. There were twenty-six days left before the latest time at which A. J. Smith
must leave him; so in his dilemma Banks
decided to take these chances.
His delay made no real difference, for the river, though slowly rising, was still so low that the gun-boats had not been able to pass the difficult rapids that obstruct the navigation just above Alexandria
The leading gun-boat, Eastport
, hung nearly three days on the rocks; the hospital steamer, Woodford
, following her, was wrecked, and it was not until the 3d of April that the last of the thirteen gun-boats7
and thirty transports that were finally taken above the rapids had succeeded in making the difficult passage.
Seven gun-boats and the larger transports staid below; the only communication with the upper fleet was by the road around the falls; all supplies had therefore to be landed, hauled round in wagons, and reshipped; and this made it necessary to establish depots and to leave Grover
's division, four thousand strong, at Alexandria
for the protection of the stores and the carry.
At the same time General McPherson
, commanding the Seventeenth Corps, recalled Ellet
Marine Brigade to Vicksburg
, and thus the expedition lost a second detachment of three thousand.
This loss was partly made up by the arrival of a brigade of 1500 colored troops, under Colonel W. H. Dickey
, from Port Hudson
, retiring before the advance of the columns ascending the Red River
and the Teche
under A. J. Smith
, had evacuated Alexandria
, removing all the munitions of war and material except three guns and passing all the transports above the Falls
, and on the 18th of March was with Walker
's and Mouton
's divisions at Carroll Jones's plantation, in the pine forest covering the roads to Shreveport
and the Sabine
, about thirty-six miles above Alexandria
and forty-six below Natchitoches
After the arrival of Lee
's cavalry, A. J. Smith
with his two divisions and Lucas
's brigade of Lee
's division on the 21st to Henderson's Hill, near Cotile
, twenty-three miles above Alexandria
, to clear the way across Bayou Rapides
Here, the same night, in a heavy rain-storm, Mower
skillfully surprised the only cavalry force Taylor
had, the 2d Louisiana, Colonel William G. Vincent
, and with trifling loss captured nearly the whole regiment, about 250 men and 200 horses, together with the four guns of Edgar
This was a heavy blow to Taylor
, since it deprived him of the means of scouting until Green
's cavalry, long looked for, should arrive from Texas
returned to Alexandria
withdrew to Natchitoches
While the navy was occupied in passing the rapids, the advance of the army, on the 27th, took up the line of march, and on the 3d of April the whole force was concentrated near Natchitoches
, the gun-boats and the twenty-six transports carrying A. J. Smith
's corps and the stores having arrived at Grand Ecore
, four miles distant, on the same day. Here General John M. Corse
overtook the expedition, bearing renewed and very special orders from Sherman
for the return of A. J. Smith
's corps by the 10th of April; but the expedition was now within four marches of Shreveport
, and it was agreed to go on. Kilby Smith
's division, 1700 strong, remained with the transports, under orders to proceed under convoy as far as Loggy Bayou
, opposite Springfield
, 110 miles by the river above Grand Ecore
, while A. J. Smith
's divisions, numbering about 7000, moved by land with the rest of the army, now reduced to less than 26,000 officers and men of all arms, including the 2200 colored infantry and engineers, and 1700 cavalry presently detached for service on the north bank.
marched on the 6th of April, Lee
's cavalry in advance, followed by the Thirteenth Corps under Ransom
's division of the Nineteenth, and Dickey
's colored brigade.
A. J. Smith
marched on the 7th, and the same day Admiral Porter
, with Kilby Smith
and six light-draught; gun-boats carrying about seventeen guns, got under way for Loggy Bayou
On the night of the 7th, Lee
's cavalry, after a sharp skirmish with Major
's brigade of Green
's division of Texas
cavalry, bivouacked on Bayou St. Patrice, seven miles beyond Pleasant Hill
at Pleasant Hill
, thirty-three miles from Natchitoches
, and A. J. Smith
a day's march in their rear; the march of the infantry having been retarded by a heavy storm that broke over the rear of the column and cut up the road.
, who had continued to fall back, found himself on the 5th at Mansfield
, covering the roads to Marshall Texas
, and to Shreveport
, with Green
's cavalry coming up at last, and Churchill
division and Parsons
's Missouri division of Price
's army in supporting distance at Keachie
, about half-way between Mansfield
, which are forty-two miles apart.
This gave Taylor
16,000 men with whom he might give battle in a chosen position, while Banks
's force was stretched out to the length of a day's march on a single narrow road in the pine forest and encumbered and weakened by guarding twelve miles of wagons
bearing all his ammunition and provisions through a barren wilderness, deep in the heart of the enemy's country.
Such, indeed, was Kirby Smith
did not wait for that, but, sending back orders for Churchill
to join him early on the morning of the 8th moved out three miles to Sabine Cross-roads, and there formed line of battle with Walker
's, and Green
's divisions, 11,000 strong, and awaited the approach of the Federals
in a well-selected position, in the edge of the wood, commanding on both sides of the road one of the few clearings to be found in that region.
This clearing was about 1200 yards long, 900 wide, and through the middle ran a deep ravine.
's bivouac of the night before was but twelve miles away.
Accompanied by Vance
's brigade of Landram
's division, Lee
marched at daylight, and after meeting with a spirited resistance from three of Green
's regiments, designed to give time for Taylor
to form his line, arrived about noon on the hill at the eastern edge of the clearing that was to be the field of battle.
The main body of the army marched at daybreak and halted between 10 and 11, Ransom
two miles beyond Bayou St. Patrice and Emory
on its banks, to wait for his provision train, which had not come up the night before.
A. J. Smith
moved up to within two miles of Pleasant Hill
forward with Emerson
's brigade, and rode to the front himself at an early hour.
Finding the enemy before him in force, he ordered Lee
to hold his ground and sent back “to hurry forward the column.”
About 4 o'clock, when the two lines had been skirmishing and looking at each other for a couple of hours, Taylor
suddenly delivered his attack8
by a vigorous charge of Mouton
's division on the left of the Pleasant Hill
road, supported on his left by Major
's and Bagby
's brigades of cavalry dismounted.
followed astride and on the right of the road, with Bee
's brigade of cavalry on his right.
The Federal line formed on the cleared slope, and, composed from left to right of the brigades of Dudley
, and Lucas
, with four batteries, about 4500 in all, met with spirit the fierce onset of more than double their numbers, but were soon overcome.
The artillery was powerless in the woods.
's splendid battery, with its honorable record on every field from Baton Rouge
to Port Hudson
, was taken by Walker
's men in the first rush.
, whose headquarters were with Cameron
in front of Bayou St. Patrice, received Banks
's orders to move to the front at a quarter-past three.
He at once sent for Emory
and led forward Cameron
, whose division, advancing at the double-quick, arrived on the field, five miles away, an hour later, just in time to witness and for a brief interval to check the disaster, but not to retrieve it. The whole Union line was again driven back.
To complete the confusion a wild panic ensued among the teamsters of the cavalry train, which was close behind.9
This caused the loss of the guns of two fine batteries, the Chicago Mercantile
and the 1st Missouri, as well as of many prisoners and wagons.
had received the order to advance at twenty minutes to four while in his bivouac on Bayou St. Patrice, and had instantly put his division in motion.
Three miles in rear of the field of battle he met the routed column pressing in great disorder to the rear.
Quickening their pace, his men forced their way through the confused mass of fugitives, negroes, cavalry, camp followers, wagons, and ambulances, and formed line in
a good position to check the pursuit, Dwight
on the right of the road, covered by the 161st New York deployed as skirmishers, Benedict
on the left, and McMillan
in reserve behind Dwight
Hardly was the line formed when Taylor
's victorious troops attacked with great energy, pressing heavily on Dwight
's right; but McMillan
was brought up to his support, and when night shortly fell the attack had been thrown off. Emory
's division held the ground it fought for,10
the retreat was covered and the army was saved — the army that had set out so confidently to take Shreveport
, only two marches beyond; saved by a triumph of valor and discipline on the part of a single division, and of skill on the part of its intrepid commander, from complete destruction at the hands of an enemy inferior in everything, whose entire force ours outnumbered almost as two to one.
But the campaign was lost.
All hope of taking or even reaching Shreveport
within the time fixed for the breaking up of the expedition was at an end. Banks at once ordered a retreat, and sent messengers to notify Kilby Smith
marched at midnight
and at 8 o'clock the next morning, the 9th of April, the army came into position at Pleasant Hill
, where A. J. Smith
had been left, and where what remained of Lee
's cavalry, of Ransom
's corps, now under Cameron
and of Dickey
's colored brigade had been re-formed during the night.
The train, escorted by Dickey
's brigade, was put in motion toward Grand Ecore
, followed by Cameron
and A. J. Smith
remained in position, covering the retreat and approaches to Pleasant Hill
, including the important cross-road to Blair's Landing on the Red River
where it would be easy and might be found best to reunite the army and the fleet.
's and Parsons
's divisions having arrived at Mansfield
after a march of twenty miles from Keachie
, too late in the evening to take part in the battle of Sabine Cross-roads
to march both divisions to the front at 2 A. M., meaning to renew the fight; but when daylight disclosed the retreat of the Union
promptly moved forward with his whole force in pursuit — Green
with the cavalry leading, Churchill
next with his own division under Tappan
, then Parsons
's, and Mouton
's divisions, the last now under Polignac
It was afternoon when the Confederates
found themselves confronted by Emory
in order of battle.
's men were so fagged by their early start and their long march of forty-five miles since the morning of the 8th that they were given two hours rest.
then formed line of battle, Bee
with two brigades of cavalry on the left of the Mansfield
road, with Polignac
in support, Walker
on the right of the road, and Churchill
, with three regiments of cavalry on his right, moving under cover on the right of the Sabine River
, with his own brigade and Bagby
's dismounted, was sent to turn the Federal
right and hold the Blair's Landing road.
The Union troops had rather the advantage of ground, except that the position was easily turned and that they could not stay in it for want of water, of which there was none to be had, and for want of provisions, which were rolling on the way to Grand E]core; the Confederates
were fresh and slightly superior in numbers,14
besides being, with good reason, elated by their signal victory of the day before; however, I think this last advantage may fairly be offset by the steadiness with which the Northern
soldier accepted and the sternness with which he avenged a defeat.
About 5 o'clock Churchill
opened his attack, Parsons
on the right, Tappan
on his left, and fell vigorously on the left of the Union
line, which happened to be the weakest part of Emory
Here was posted Benedict
's brigade, supported on the left by Lynch
's brigade and on the right by Moore
's brigade of Mower
fell dead and his brigade was outflanked and crushed.
At the sound of Churchill
's guns, Walker
, en échelon
of brigades on the right, fell upon Shaw
's division (who had relieved McMillan
's in the front line), enveloped both his flanks, and drove him back; but Emory
quickly ordered a charge of McMillan
brigade, withdrawn from the right and rear and joined by some of Fessenden
's men, who had rallied to his support, while others rallied upon Lynch
, who attacked and broke Parsons
's right; A. J. Smith
then advanced his whole line in a fine charge led by Mower
and completed the overthrow of Parsons
could come to his aid. Tappan
, finding himself exposed to a front and flank fire by the giving way of Parsons
, fell back to re-form.
, who was strongly posted in the woods, stood firm against the combined attacks of Walker
in his front and Bee
on his right.
ordered up Polignac
to their assistance, but the whole Confederate line was now falling back in confusion and the battle was lost.15 Walker
with most of the cavalry retreated six miles to the nearest water, while Polignac
with one brigade of cavalry remained about two miles from the field to cover the retreat.
After the close of the action, Kirby Smith
, having hurried to the front as soon as he heard of the engagement at Sabine Cross-roads.
now determined to move against Steele
; accordingly, during the 10th and 11th, Taylor
withdrew his infantry to Mansfield
, leaving the cavalry under Green
to watch and, if possible, harass the enemy.
At first Banks
was for resuming the advance, but during the night he decided to continue the retreat to Grand Ecore
The whole army was reunited there on the 11th.
then intrenched, threw a pontoon-bridge
across the river, placed a strong detachment on the north side, sent to New Orleans and Texas
for reinforcements, and waited for the fleet, now in great peril.
The fleet arrived at Loggy Bayou
on the afternoon of the 10th, and two hours later received the news of the misfortune at Pleasant Hill
The next morning Kilby Smith
received written orders to return to Grand Ecore
On the 12th Green
, with three or four regiments of cavalry and three guns, posted in ambush on the bluff near Blair's Landing, attacked the fleet and the transports as they were descending the river.
A brisk fight followed; the Confederates
were soon driven off, and their leader killed, by the guns of the Lexington
and the fire of Kilby Smith
's infantry and part of his artillery on the transports.
On the 13th Porter
and Kilby Smith
re-turned to Grand Ecore
, and by the 15th all the gun-boats were back.
The river was falling, and as fast as the vessels could pass the bar they made their way toward Alexandria
was sunk by a torpedo eight miles below Grand Ecore
on the 15th, but was got afloat on the 21st; on the 26th, after grounding several times, she ran hard and fast on a raft of logs fifty miles farther down, and had to
be abandoned and blown up. The other vessels, though several times seriously molested by parties of the enemy on the river bank, reached the falls above Alexandria
When he heard from Admiral Porter
that the Eastport
was afloat, Banks
, on the 22d, marched from Grand Ecore
, and bivouacked the same night at Cloutierville
, after a march of thirty-seven miles. Kirby Smith
had taken the whole of Taylor
's force to go against Steele
, except Polignac
's division, reduced to about 2000 men, and Green
's division of cavalry augmented by a fresh brigade from Texas
, and now commanded by General John A. Wharton
, of Tennessee
The road on which Banks
was marching twice crosses the western arm of the Red River
, called Cane River
, the second time at Monette's Ferry, thirty-six miles below Natchitoches
, with four brigades and four batteries, had taken up a position to contest the passage, while Wharton
(to use Taylor
's expression) worried Banks
On the 23d Emory17
with his own brigade and Fessenden
's, supported by Cameron
's division, to ford the river three miles above the ferry, turn Bee
's left flank, while Emory
engaged his attention in front, and drive him away.
performed this service handsomely, overcoming many difficulties with great skill, and finally leading the brilliant assault of
's brigade that dislodged Bee
from his strong position, and sent him off to Beasley
's, thirty miles away.18
The way being thus cleared, the army marched into Alexandria
on the 25th and 26th, without further serious molestation.
Here General Hunter
was met, bearing fresh, and this time very positive, orders from Lieutenant-General Grant
to bring the expedition to an end.19
These orders were afterward suspended (April 30th); but in any case it was now impossible to abandon the navy in its perilous situation above the rapids, with the river falling, and an active enemy on both banks.
From this danger the navy, from this reproach the army, from this irreparable disaster the country was saved by the genius and skill of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey
, of the 4th Wisconsin regiment, then serving on General Franklin
's staff as chief engineer, and by hard and willing work on the part of the officers and men of the army.
After the capture of Port Hudson
, by means of wing dams and a central boom, had floated and released the Confederate transports Starlight
and Red Chief
found lying on their sides in the mud of Thompson
He now proposed to rescue the fleet in the same way. Stupendous as the work looked, the engineer officers
of the army reported it practicable.20 General Franklin
, himself a distinguished engineer, approved it, and General Banks
gave orders to carry it out.
In the month that had elapsed since the fleet had, even then with some difficulty, ascended the rapids, the river had fallen more than six feet; for a mile and a quarter the rocks were now bare; there were but three feet four inches of water, the gun-boats needing at least seven feet; and in some places the channel, shallow as it was, was narrowed to a mere thread.
The current ran nine miles an hour, the total fall was thirteen.
feet, and at the point just above the lower chute, where Bailey
proposed to construct his dam, the river
was 758 feet wide, with a fall of six feet below the dam. The problem was to raise the water above the dam seven feet, backing it up so as to float the gun-boats over the upper fall.
From the north bank a wing dam was constructed of large trees, the butts tied by cross-logs, the tops toward the current, and kept in place by weighting with stone, brick, and brush.
From the cultivated south bank, where large trees were scarce, a crib was made of logs and timbers, filled in with stone and with bricks and heavy pieces of machinery taken from the neighboring sugar-houses and cotton-gins.
The space of about 150 feet between the wings was closed by sinking across it four of the large coal barges belonging to the navy.
Section of the bracket dam. |
Section of the Tree dam.
Features of the Red River dam. |
The work was begun on the 30th of April and finished on the 8th of May.
The water having been thus raised five feet four and a half inches, three of the light-draught boats passed the upper fall on that day. On the morning of the 9th the tremendous pressure of the pent — up waters drove out two of the barges, making a gap sixty-six feet wide, and swung them against the rocks below.
Through the gap the river rushed in a torrent.
The admiral at once galloped round to the upper fall and ordered the Lexington
to run the rapids.
With a full head of steam she made the plunge, watched in the breathless silence of suspense by the army and the fleet, and greeted with a mighty cheer as she rode in safety below.
The three gun-boats (the Osage
, and Fort Hindman
) that were waiting just above the dam followed her down the chute; but six gun-boats and two tugs were still imprisoned by the falling waters.
So far Bailey
had substantially followed the same plan that had worked so successfully the year before at Port Hudson
but it was now plainly shown to be not altogether applicable against such a weight and volume and velocity of water as had to be encountered here.
He therefore promptly remedied the defect by constructing three wing dams at the upper fall: a stone crib on the south side, and a tree dam on the north side just above the upper rocks, and just below them, also on the north side, a bracket dam, made of logs raised at the lower end on trestles and sheathed with plank.
Thus the whole current was turned into one narrow channel, a further rise of fourteen inches was obtained, making six feet six and a half inches in all; and this
The “Lexington” passing over the falls at the dam. From a War-time sketch. |
new task, by incredible exertions, being completed in three days and three nights, on the 12th and 13th the remaining gun-boats passed free of the danger.22
This accomplished and the reunited fleet being on its way to the Mississippi
, the army at once marched out of Alexandria
, where the column arrived, without serious molestation, on the 16th of May.
improvised a bridge of steamboats across the Atchafalaya
here between six and seven hundred yards wide, and thus, by the 19th, the whole command crossed in safety.
On the day before, however, the rear-guard under Mower
had rather a sharp encounter with Wharton
on Yellow Bayou
, the Confederates
losing 452 killed and wounded to our loss of about 267.
a third messenger was waiting, this time bearing the bowstring, disguised as a silken cord, for though Banks
was for a time left in command of the Department of the Gulf, Canby
was placed over him and took control of his troops as the commander of the newly made Trans-Mississippi division. A. J. Smith
's troops embarked for Vicksburg
on the 22d of May, forty-two days after the date first set for their return and two weeks after the opening of the Atlanta campaign
, in which they were to have been employed.
The Government decided that it was too late to use Banks
's army against Mobile
, and ordered the Nineteenth Corps, consolidated into two divisions, with part of the Thirteenth Corps incorporated, to join the Army of the Potomac.
They arrived just in time to be sent to Washington
to aid in repelling Early
's operations, since they belong to another chapter [see p. 375], it is only necessary to say here that he entered Camden, Arkansas
, ninety miles in a north-easterly direction from Shreveport
, on the 15th of April, just when Banks
got back to Grand Ecore
then left Taylor
to watch and
, and, concentrating all the rest of his army against Steele
, forced him to retreat to Little Rock
On both sides this unhappy campaign of the Red River
raised a great and bitter crop of quarrels.
was relieved by Kirby Smith
, as the result of an angry correspondence; Banks
was overslaughed, and Franklin
quitted the department in disgust; Stone
was replaced by Dwight
as chief-of-staff, and Lee
as chief-of-cavalry by Arnold
; A. J. Smith
departed more in anger than in sorrow; while between the admiral and the general commanding, recriminations were exchanged in language well up to the limits of “parliamentary” privilege.
I have nothing to do with any of these things, but I feel it a duty to express my entire disbelief in all the many tales that seek to cast upon the army or its commander the shadow of a great cotton speculation.
These stories, as ample in insinuation as they are weak in specification, are in the last resort found to be vouched for by nobody.
I am convinced they are false.
The speculators who certainly went with the army as far as Alexandria
, had for the most part passes from Washington
; the policy under which they were permitted to go was avowedly encouraged by the Government
, for reasons of state.
When General Banks
sent them all back from Alexandria
, without their sheaves, they returned to New Orleans furious against him and mouthing calumnies.
All the cotton gathered by the army was turned over first to the chief quartermaster
, and by him to the special agent
of the Treasury Department designated to receive it.24
All the cotton seized by the navy25
was sent to Cairo
, was adjudged “lawful prize of war,” and its proceeds distributed as prescribed by the statute.
At one time it was supposed that the extensive seizures made by the navy led to the burning of the cotton by the Confederates
; the truth is, however, that Kirby Smith
ordered the burning of all the cotton in Louisiana
east of the Ouachita
and south of Alexandria
, estimated by him at 150,000 bales, and then worth $60,000,000, on the 14th of
United States hospital ship, “Red Rover.”
from a War-time photograph. |
March, as soon as he became satisfied that Banks
's army meant to advance once more up the Teche
and A. J. Smith
had then just entered the mouth of the Red River
, but as yet Kirby Smith
neither knew nor expected their coming.
After the Red River campaign
no important operation was undertaken by either side in Louisiana
The Confederate forces in that State held out until the end of the war, when, on the surrender of Kirby Smith
, May 26th, 1865, they were finally disbanded.