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Battle of Pleasant Hill.

in the field, Pleasant Hill, La., Saturday, April 9, 1864.
General Andrew Jackson Smith, commanding detatchments Sixteenth and Seventeenth army corps, after being delayed five hours by a brigade cavalry wagon-train long enough for transporting the troops of a good-sized army, reached Pleasant Hill at sundown yesterday, according to his promise with General Banks several days previous. It was only through the greatest personal exertions of General Smith that his troops were hurried through the thick pine country, while the narrow road was completely blocked up with this long train, half of the wagons filled with trunks, chairs, valises, and other cumbersome baggage, such as greatly embarrass, and oftentimes, as in the disaster of yesterday, imperil the lives of thousands of men.

Finding the officers in charge were not competent men, General Smith at once ordered Colonel Shaw, commanding Third brigade, to place the Fourteenth Iowa infantry in front with fixed bayonets, and, if necessary, fight their way through the road. Finding it useless to dally longer, the sleepy, indigent crowd got waked up, and, rather than submit to a bayonet-charge, they concluded to “get up and git,” as the soldiers say. Late in the afternoon quite heavy cannonading was heard about fourteen miles distant, and shortly after, one of General Banks's staff-officers reported to General Smith with despatches. From this officer we learned that General Lee's cavalry forces and a portion of the Thirteenth army corps were indulging in some pretty heavy skirmishing with the enemy about four miles beyond Pleasant Hill.

General Smith sent back word that notwithstanding the needless delay of five hours, he would have his command at Pleasant Hill at the promised time, Friday night. At sunset on Friday, the sound of fifes and drums innumerable, whistling and beating their lively martial music, told of the arrival of “Whitey Smith,” as the boys call him, and “Smith's guerrillas,” as they delight to be called. In an hour's time the troops were snugly encamped on the old Methodist camp-meeting grounds, not, however, before a vigorous assault was made on the buildings, which disappeared as if by magic. There is a peculiar style of legerdemain practised by our soldiers in relation to the procurement of fire-wood, which must be seen to be appreciated.

We had retired to our sumptuous couches, with the broad canopy of a clear starlight sky above us, stretched our exhausted forms upon the consecrated soil where, in days of yore, the Gospel of Christ was preached to listening and repentant sinners, when a solitary horseman dashed up to headquarters with the doleful tidings of the great calamity that had befallen our forces. So extensive a disaster was supposed to be impossible, and the cavalryman who brought the startling intelligence came near being placed under arrest for making false statements. An hour later, Colonel Clark, of General Banks's staff, arrived at General Smith's headquarters and imparted the gloomy information. An order was at once issued by General Smith for his troops to be in readiness before daylight for a march. Nothing beyond some slight skirmishing along our front, at Pleasant Hill, disturbed the monotony of Saturday forenoon.

At noon, two or three buildings were set on fire and burnt to the ground, in order to give our artillery full range on the low belt of woods that skirted the open hollow in front of the rebel lines. The nature of the ground on which our lines of defence were formed, rendered it necessay for an open-field fight, if the enemy should venture to attack us. Pleasant Hill is a small village of about two hundred inhabitants, situated on a slight eminence, thirty-five miles from Grand Ecore. The town boasts of a miserable one-story hut, which was dignified with the name of hotel, three stores, and an academy. At a quarter past four o'clock Saturday afternoon, while the wagon-trains of the Nineteenth army corps were moving rapidly to the rear, the enemy suddenly opened on our right and centre with four pieces of artillery, which was promptly responded to by the Twenty-fifth New-York battery, and the First Vermont battery.

The disposition of our troops was as follows: On the left, Colonel Lynch, Second brigade, Third division, Sixteenth army corps, consisting of the Fifty-eighth and One Hundred and Nineteenth Illinois regiments, and Eighty-ninth Indiana, with the First Vermont battery, of the Nineteenth army corps. Centre--Colonel Moore's First brigade, comprising the Forty-ninth and One Hundred and Seventeenth Illinois regiments, with the One Hundred and Seventy eighth New-York, while immediately in their rear, for support, the Third Indiana battery was masked, with the Forty-seventh Illinois regiment of infantry and the Ninth Indiana battery. General Franklin, with the Nineteenth army corps, was strongly posted on the left, where his men gallantly withstood the galling fire of the enemy. Colonel Shaw, commanding Third brigade, Third division, Sixteenth army corps, consisting of the Fourteenth, Twenty-seventh, and Thirty-second Iowa regiments, with the Twenty-fourth Missouri, were holding an exposed position on our extreme right, assisted by the Twenty-fifth New-York battery.

General Dwight was ordered to support Colonel Shaw's right flank, but neglected to do so, and, in consequence of this lack of proper support, the rebels nearly flanked Colonel Shaw's brigade, inflicting a heavy loss in killed, wounded, and missing. General Joseph A. Mower commanded the First division, Sixteenth army corps, and he handled his men in a scientific manner during the entire engagement. The statement of the New Orleans Era, that Colonel Gooding was sent out with his cavalry brigade to bring on an engagement. with the enemy is not true. Colonel Gooding received orders to proceed on a short distance, as far as prudent, from Pleasant Hill, for the purpose of bringing in as many of our [536] stragglers as he could find, and at the same time to ascertain, while out, the whereabouts of the enemy.

He had proceeded not more than a mile and a half from Pleasant Hill when he came upon a large body of rebel cavalry, who were within close support of solid phalanxes of infantry, the bayonets of which gleamed through the dense woods wherever the sun's rays penetrated. According to his instructions, Colonel Gooding commenced falling back slowly and in good order, at the same time continuing to reply to the fire of the enemy. While thus retreating, Colonel Gooding lost some thirty men, killed, wounded, and missing, and it was at this period that Captain Basset and Lieutenant Hall, of the Second New-York veteran cavalry were severely wounded, Lieutenant Hall surviving his injuries but a short time. Colonel Gooding had a very narrow escape from instant death, a Minie ball cutting the crown of his felt hat in two places.

We had barely finished our frugal meal at four o'clock on Saturday afternoon, when the previous quietude was suddenly disturbed by the roar of the enemy's artillery and quite rapid musketry firing on our left. During the forenoon, General Banks had evidently decided upon a retreat, as a large body of troops were ordered to fall back to Grand Ecore, thirty-five miles distant. Among the troops sent back were Colonel Dudley's and Colonel Gooding's cavalry brigades, the remnant of the once formidable Thirteenth army corps, several batteries, and nearly, if not all, of the colored troops, as I could not learn of any of the latter participating in Saturday's fight.

Hundreds of wagons were likewise sent to the rear. In fact, preparations were made to fall back to Grand Ecore on Saturday night. The reason for this retrograde movement was the lack of subsistence for our troops, and forage for our horses. The report of our anticipated retreat was received with expressions of dismay and disgust by the officers of the Sixteenth army corps, all expressing a desire to press on toward Mansfield, some fourteen miles distant, the point where Friday's disgrace occurred. From Mansfield, it was General A. J. Smith's intention to push a sufficient force toward Red River, eighteen or twenty miles, where a junction could have been formed with the balance of his forces, some two thousand men, belonging to the Seventeenth army corps, and under the immediate command of Brigadier-General Kirby Smith.

Here our transports were ordered to rendezvous until further instructions were received. Our commissary and ammunition boats were to be met at this point, and after establishing communication, it would have been an easy matter to supply our men with rations for ten days or more, enabling them to pursue the enemy, who, we learned from undoubted authority, were in want of water, which could not be found within fourteen miles of the battle-field. Our forces controlled all the water within a circle of ten or twelve miles, and the rebels suffered severely for want of water. This fact is corroborated by the prisoners whom we captured on Saturday.

The weather on Saturday was most unpropitious for a fair fight. The morning air was intensely cold, and a more cheerless, disheartened sea of bronzed countenances I never beheld. Each private seemed to comprehend the vast magnitude of our needless disaster. There was a gloomy silence apparently pervading every camp, and we could hear no gladsome shouts of victory ring throughout the decimated ranks. It is useless to deny that the universal opinion of the rank and file was that our repulse was an ignominious defeat, which ordinary generalship might have foreseen and prevented.

The wind howled piteously through the trees, fanning the long pendants of gray, funereal-like moss which decked the tops of the tall, waving cypress and pines. The sky was shrouded with portentous clouds, while dense volumes of dust partially concealed the long pontoon-trains as they rumbled heavily to the rear. At halfpast four o'clock precisely, the rebel cavalry advanced toward the right and centre, the exultant foe yelling in the most fiendish manner, at the same time brandishing their sabres in the air.

On they came, at a slow trot, in good order, as they neared our lines gradually quickening their pace, while close in their rear came the three solid battle-lines of the enemy, shouting an indescribable battle-cry, which would cause the nerves of the timid to vibrate, reminding one of all the ferocity of savages. From out the woods belched the enemy's artillery, when there arose from the crouching forms of several thousand loyal men a fearful roll of musketry, opening wide gaps in the rebel lines; but they were as speedily closed, and the enraged foe, with a sudden dash, threw his gigantic force against our front, and for a moment our whole line seemed to waver, giving way a few yards.

The suspense of this fearful moment was terrible to bear, for it did seem to portend defeat. In another moment our artillery scattered grape and canister in appalling quantities upon the exasperated enemy, literally mowing them down as with an enormous scythe. With deafening cheers, and waving of starry banners, our lines pressed on the rear lines, going into the latter conflict at the “double-quick.” It was now five o'clock, and the battle was at its highest, raging with unabated fury, the long and deadly roll of musketry continuing until night, spreading her sable mantle over the bloody picture, screened the combatants from each other's view, and put an end to that day's hostilities.

There was something more than solemn grandeur in the scene at Pleasant Hill at sunset on Saturday, April ninth. Standing on a slight eminence which overlooked the left and centre of our lines, I could see the terrific struggle between our well-disciplined troops and the enemy. The sun shone directly in the faces of our men, while the wind blew back the smoke of both the enemy's fire and that of our own gallant men, into our [537] ranks, rendering it almost impossible, at times, to distinguish the enemy in the dense clouds of smoke. All of a sudden our whole front seemed to gather renewed strength, and they swept the rebels before them like chaff, following them up closely.

The enemy made another desperate stand, when

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