April 17, 1864: Grant wants Banks to hit Mobile

Gen. David Hunter

Grant was always a bit ambivalent about the Red River expedition, and the last thing he wants is for it to delay his planned attack on Mobile. He is developing a plan in which Banks will attack Mobile while Sherman moves on Atlanta simultaneously, keeping rebel armies occupied separately. In the meantime, he sends General Hunter to instruct Banks in the field. He doesn’t know that Banks is basically in retreat, but in any case he wants him to come back. “I would much rather the Red River expedition had never been begun than that you should be detained one day after the 1st of May in commencing your movement east of the Mississippi.”

Official Records:


CULPEPER COURT-HOUSE, VA., April 17, 1864.
Major General D. HUNTER,
U. S. Volunteers:

In giving the instructions to Major General N. P. Banks, a copy of which accompanies this, the design was to impress upon the general particularly two points: First, the importance of commencing operations at the very earliest possible moment against Mobile, so that his movement may serve as co-operative with those of the other armies in the field; second, that he should take with him the greatest number of troops possible from his command. In fixing the Rio Grande as the only point in Texas to retain possession of, I do not intend to take from him all discretion about what should be held. If there should be any point on the Gulf easily defended against largely superior forces which, in the opinion of General Banks, it would give us great advantages in future operations to retain possession of, then he can hold such place. The same rule must apply in fixing garrison s for holding the Mississippi River. General Banks can tell much better from where he is than I can from here what points are necessary to hold and what is necessary to hold them.

Referring to General Banks’ letter of the 2nd of April to Major-General Halleck,* giving the strength of garrisons at the different points held by him, to with, Rio Grande, 3,000; Matagorda Bay, 3,277; Pensacola, 900; Key West, 791; New Orleans, 1,125; Baton Rouge, 1,565; Plaquemine, 620, and Port Hudson, 9,409, it looks to me that all might be taken from Matagorda, or 2,000, if the place is of such importance that it should be held; from Baton Rouge one half might be taken, and 7,000 might be taken from Port Hudson. This is my judgment from here. It is of the first importance that we should hold Red River. This, you will observe, I have turned over to General Steele, in order that General Banks might have a greater number of troops to move with. If, however, General Steele Banks will have to supply the deficiency until re-enforcement can be got to General Steele. Already several regiments have gone to Little Rock to re-enforce him, probably 2,000 men, and when some troops ordered from Saint Louis to West Kentucky get through with the work of driving Forrest from the State, they, too, can be sent. The whole re-enforcement for General Steele, however, cannot be relied ont over 5,000 men. Fort Smith and the Indian Territory having been added to the Department of Arkansas may give General Steele sufficient additional troops as to materially strengthen him also.

General Banks has always been very vigilant in the organization of colored troops. It is to be hoped that his expedition up Red River will give a large number of recruits of this class. All acquired in this way, however, being without organization or discipline, could not be counted as so many men for defense of garrisons. Three of them, though, might count equal to one veteran soldier in fixing the number to leave behind at any one place. All plans for the attack on Mobile are left to General Banks. He will make his movements to take place elsewhere, it is not at all probable that the enemy can make any effort at raising the siege, if Mobile is once invested. Should the place be difficult to take from the number of troops held to defend it, the success of holding them there will be great.

You will remain with General Banks until his move from New Orleans is commenced and a landing effected at Pascagoula, or such place as may be selected bring to me, wherever I may be, such report of operations as General Banks may then wish to forward. Write to me fully how you find matters immediately on your first interview with General Banks.

U. S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.
[Inclosure.]

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CULPEPER COURT-HOUSE, VA., April 17, 1864.
Major General N. P. BANKS,
Commanding Department of the Gulf:

Owing to the difficulty of giving positive instructions to an instant commander respecting his operations in the field, and being exceedingly anxious that the whole army should act nearly as a unit, I send Major-General Hunter, an officer of rank and experience, bearer of duplicate copy of instructions sent you, of the 31st of March,* together with written instructions for General Hunter’s guidance in your and his interview.

It is not intended that General Hunter shall give orders in my name further than the instructions addressed to him are such orders, but to express more fully my views than I can well do on paper, and to remain with you until such time as you will be able to say definitely at what time you will commence your movement against Mobile.

In your letter of the 2nd of April, brought by Lieutenant Towner, you, in anticipation of the enemy falling back from Shreveport, propose a movement through Texas in pursuit of him. You had not when the letter was written received my instructions of the 31st of March. I hope those instructions reached you before such a movement was commenced. I would much rather the Red River expedition had never been begun than that you should be detained one day after the 1st of May in commencing your movement east of the Mississippi.

If you have commenced to move from Shreveport to the interior of Texas, or away from the Red River in any direction, retrace your steps on receipt of this. No matter what you may have in contemplation, commence your concentration, to be followed without deadly by your advance on Mobile. Hopin that General Hunter will find you back at New Orleans, with the work of concentration commenced,

I remain, &c.,
U. S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

Posted in Alabama, Arkansas, David Hunter, Mobile, Nathaniel P. Banks, Red River Campaign, Ulysses S. Grant | Leave a comment

April 16, 1864: Porter’s report to Sherman

Nathaniel P. Banks
Nathaniel Banks; not Porter’s favorite general.

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Porter follows up on his brief dispatch with a lengthy report to Sherman. This unusually full and well-written document is notable in several ways. First, as before, Porter is disgusted with the management of the Red River campaign by the “political general” Banks. He describes the result of Banks’ mismanagement of the Mansfield/Pleasant Hill battles as “the singular spectacle of two armies running away from each other, both claiming the victory.” He reaffirms that he can’t take his boats back downriver due to the low water, suggesting that Steele be reinforced to help them hold on until next year. Finally, he becomes just the last in a long string of Union commanders to note that it can be easier to move an army through a productive rebel territory subsisting on the land than trying to extend and maintain a lengthy supply line.


From

FLAG-SHIP CRICKET, OFF ALEXANDRIA, LA., April 16, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Mil. Div. of the Miss., Nashville, Tenn.:

DEAR GENERAL: I wrote you a hurried note the other day by General Corse, and I imagine your disappointment at having your well-laid plans interfered with and having part of your command mixed up in an affair the management of which would be discreditable to a boy nine years of age. You need not blush, however, for anything that was done by your troops. General A. J. Smith was not in the fight on the first day, but on the second day, when Franklin’s corps, which behaved nobly, began to waver before the wild and desperate shocks of the rebels, who came on shouting like madmen, he, with 8,000 men, charged through Franklin’s ranks and met the incoming devils with a “Hi! hi!” that brought them to a full stop. Smith’s men then poured in their volleys, which cut up the rebels into mince-meat; they turned and fled, and your boats chased them 3 miles, until every one of them disappeared, leaving General Smith in possession of the battle-ground, all the killed and wounded, twelve pieces of our artillery lost the day before, two of which he brought off.

At this important moment, when there was not a rebel within 6 miles of us, General Smith was ordered to retreat. He begged permission to remain long enough to bury his dead and remove his wounded, all of which was denied him. The Confederates sent in a flag of truce six hours after, asking permission to bury their dead, and found the cannon they had left behind them, and the killed and wounded in possession of the field. The general will never get over it as long as he lives; he cried like a child at having to leave his poor fellows on the field. I am, however, getting a little ahead of my story. I must give you a little sketch of the first day’s fight, and tell you how it happened.

General Banks, you must know, has organized 6,000 infantry into mounted cavalry under the command of General Lee, who travels with 250 wagons and a camp train of many persons. He was not satisfied with his large command, but made frequent applications to General Franklin for 2,500 infantry as a guard to the cavalry. Franklin persistently refused to give him these men, very properly arguing that without them Lee would not be precipitating a battle, while with them he might get the army into a fight when they were not prepared for it.

On the 6th instant the army of General Banks left Grand Ecore. The fleet left at the same time for Springfield Landing, which we were to reach on Sunday, the 10th, at 12 o’clock. We made our time to the the minute, with difficulties enough to appall a stout heart. General A. J. Smith left Grand Ecore the next day after the grand army, and had a terrible time in getting to the front through the numerous trains which completely blocked up the road. The same day that General Smith left Grand Ecore General Lee was sent in advance with his cavalry to reconnoiter, his whole train of wagons in his rear (250 in all) close after him; the army, consisting of the Nineteenth Corps, under Franklin, some regiments of negroes, and the Thirteenth Corps, under Ransom, were coming on behind in only one road and in no particular order, as far as I can learn. There was sharp skirmishing in the front by the cavalry, who were apparently driving the enemy (that is the enemy were leading them into a trap), and Lee was sending Franklin messages to lend him 2,500 men with which to annihilate them. Franklin sent him word that he was not sent out to bring on a battle, and to fall back at once and act on the defensive until the main body of the army came up. Unfortunately, at this time General Banks rode to the front, and Franklin said he saw there was going to be terrible work. Lee’s messages reached Banks, and he ordered Ransom whit 2,500 men to re-enforce Lee. Ransom protested against this disposition of his men, stating that they would be sacrificed, but General Banks ordered the movement. Franklin then prepared for the consequences which he knew were to follow. In a short time the cavalry, emboldened by the small support, brought on a fight. The part of the Thirteenth Corps did its best to support them, but, opposed to about 15,000 infantry, were swept away almost to a man. The cavalry broke and fled back on the wagons, the wagons stampeded and blocked up the road, while such a scene ensued as was never seen before except at Bull Run.

Franklin opened his ranks and let the flying mass through, and received the rebels with such a murderous fire that they were soon dispersed, leaving many killed and wounded on the field. The rebels fought well that day, indeed desperately, coming up to the charge in a compact body and filling up their ranks as their men fell like veterans. It was just such a time as our men would have desired in the open field, but the panic created by the disorder at first was too great to get the men to do their work thoroughly. There was enough done, however, to allow us to hold our position and recover our lost trains. To expect to recover again the eighteen guns we lost was out of the question. They were mixed up with the trains, and the rebels had secured them with 100 rounds of ammunition each. Three of the best batteries in the army were lost and most of the men killed or wounded. Part of Nims’ battery was taken and all the ammunition wagons.

At 1 o’clock that night the army retreated back to Pleasant Hill, the fugitives arriving at Grand Ecore reporting that the army was cut to pieces, and I hear that when the general and staff arrived at Pleasant Hill he had lost all command of himself. I do not wonder at that. An uneducated soldier may be cool and pleasant enough in the hour of victory, but the true general is best known in the hour of defeat. General Banks lost all his prestige, and the men talked so openly of him that our officers had to check them and threaten to have them punished. Retreat was still the order of the day, and the army was ordered to fall back on Grand Ecore. The reason given was want of provisions. The rebels, however, pushed their advantage and attacked us on our own ground, charging right at the Nineteenth Army Corps which met them like men, sweeping them away with artillery and musketry. Still on they came, and Franklin’s commenced to waver, when General Smith came on with that splendid charge and scattered them like sheep.

Out of 500 cavalry that charged on A. J. Smith’s division only 1 man escaped; every saddle was emptied. He saved the fortunes of the day, and chased the rebels, as I have stated in the former part of this letter. The latter retreated 15 miles without stopping, and our army soon followed their example, showing the singular spectacle of two armies running away from each other, both claiming the victory. Certain it is that the rebels sent in a flag of truce asking permission to bury their dead, and finding no one there, they took possession of the field with all our killed and wounded, the guns they had lost themselves, and have held it ever since. Our pickets do not extend ever beyond Natchitoches, but we are encamped at Grand Ecore, the headquarters of the general near the big red brick house of De Russy’s.

A. J. Smith is encamped on the plain above the bluffs, outside of the present line of defense. The gun-boats are drawn up in line in front of A. J. Smith, who will have to take our fire over his head, which he is willing to do. While all the fighting was going on on shore the fleet was slowly and painfully working its way up Red River, through snaggy bends, logy bayous, shifting rapids, and rapid chutes. The rebels, frightened to death, went on before us, burning all the fine cotton (bales being hid in the woods), but destroying none of the corn or cattle. Of these we found an abundance, and though we only stopped at three or four places there was enough and more to satisfy the troops without touching the rations. It struck me very forcibly that this would have been the route for the army, where they could have traveled without all that immense train, the country supporting them as they proceeded along. The roads are good, wide fields on all sides, a river protecting the right flank of the army, and gun-boats in company. An army wound have no difficulty in marching to Shreveport in this way.

There is Bayou Pierre to pass, and some bridges to be built, but this is child’s play to our Western men, and “not so bad as being beaten” in a pine barren, with only one road through it, and that a narrow one, where troops cannot pass carts. I send you a correct map,* which I think will give you a good idea of the views I have expressed, if you have not got it already, knowing this country as well as you do. Why General Banks went through a desert, where he could not even find water (so he says), instead of a prolific country, I cannot say. You know I have always said that Providence was fighting this great battle its own way, and brings these reverses to teach us, a proud, stiff-necked, and unthankful people, how to be contented under a good Government, if peaceful times come again. I hope it will teach us not to place the destinies of a great nation in the hands of political generals or volunteer admirals.

When I arrived at Springfield Landing I found a sight that made me laugh; it was the smartest thing I ever knew the rebels to do. They had gotten that huge steamer, New Falls City, across Red River, 1 mile above Logy Bayou, 15 feet of her on shore on each side, the boat broken down in the middle, and a sand-bar making below her. An invitation in large letters to attend a ball in Shreveport was kindly left stuck up by the rebels, which invitation we were never able to accept. We had landed, though, at Springfield Landing with many hundred thousand rations, twenty-six transports, and six gun-boats. Word had already gone to General Dick Taylor, at Mansfield, that the transports contained many men (a large force), whereas we only had 2,000 under General Kilby Smith; still that report shook the rebels.

We surprised the guard who were watching our movements; my boat, the Cricket, came on them suddenly; our men rushed on shore, nearly taking them while eating their supper, and the letter was lying on the table giving an account of our “strong force.” When the recipient was in the act of reading it he got away to carry the news to Taylor, who would have been in full retreat on Shreveport had General Banks not appeared on the field on the morning of the 8th. While discussing the feasibility of getting the Falls City out of the way (we were provided with everything to do it) a courier rode in the tell us that Banks had been badly whipped and was in full retreat to Grand Ecore, and that the transports and troops were ordered “to return without delay,” and easier thing said than done. We had disembarked the troops, none dreaming of anything but victory to one of the best appointed armies I ever saw in the field, and after getting in our pickets and getting the troops on board, I reversed the order of steaming, and with a heavy heart started downward, anticipating that the rebels, flushed with victory, with our army in full retreat before them, would come in on our flank and cut us to pieces.

The banks were height above our pilot houses, and sharpshooters could annoy us with impunity. I was much annoyed when I found that General Banks’ quartermaster had added to the convoy ten large steamers which I had expressly stipulated with General Kilby Smith were not to come up the river. We were detained six hours lightening one of them loaded with ammunition, and the others were constantly getting into trouble. General Kilby Smith was in no way responsible for this outrageous proceeding, for it was done after we department from Grand Ecore, and that officer left nothing undone to co-operate with me and carry the expedition through successfully.

On all occasions I found General Smith ready and willing to co-operate in the same harmonious manner that has always existed between the Navy and the Army of the Tennessee. I am sure nothing will occur to interrupt that good feeling. As I anticipated, the rebels were soon aware of our turning back, and were after us like a pack of wolves. They assailed us from every point, but the dispositions that were made always foiled-them. We always drove them away with loss. The large transports so impeded us that it was with difficulty we made more than 20 miles a day, and it seemed that everything we came in contact with belonging to Banks’ army was disorderly and a drawback to us. My gun-boats were helping them off of sandbars half the time, they having no disposition to help each other.

Small bands of 100 or 150 had followed us along until we arrived at a place called Graff’s Bluff, where our friends, the negroes, informed us that the rebels had a battery. It was above 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and I laid to the bank while two gun-boats could get into position to whip the battery. They were permitted to occupy the place quietly, and I began to think there was none about. We shelled the woods in all directions and they kept quiet. At this moment a tremendous fire of musketry and heavy cannon, interspersed with artillery, broke out about 3 miles behind us. It sounded like a heavy battle. Hearing all the guns of the gun-boats, I did not fear for the result. It lasted so long that I at last turned my head upstream to join in the fray, and met a gun-boat a coming down, whose captain told me it was all over and the rebels had fled, so I tied up to the bank again, expecting the attack in front, when the firing commenced again and lasted until nearly sunset; in all, two hours.

It turned out to be what I had been expecting, and attack with artillery and infantry, 2,000 strong, in our rear, General Kilby Smith and two transports being divided from the main body by the artillery, which it was not proper to pass until silenced by the gunboats. This body of men was commanded by General Green, the best man they have, and one in whom the rebels place more confidence than anyone else. He led his men to the very edge of the banks, they shouting and yelling like madmen. They were handsomely received by the Osage and Lexington in the old style. General Smith, in the Hastings, with part of his men poured in his fire, and amongst us the rebels were cut into mince-meat. General Green and Colonel Chisum had their heads blown off with an 11-inch shell.

The ground was covered with killed and wounded and without great loss to ourselves. We shipped out 2,000 rebels, and kept 5,000 more in the rear of us from advancing, not liking the reports of the first party’s reception. This saved us from further molestation as far as large parties were concerned, but we were terribly annoyed by small bands. It being moonlight I ordered all the transports to leave, and had they taken advantage of the time they would have arrived in Grand Ecore next morning.

After getting them all ahead I reversed the order of sailing and followed them up, but when I arrived at camp I found them so mixed up and aground that I pushed on, and in three hours had General A. J. Smith under way with five regiments of infantry and a field battery. He arrived just in time to outflank the rebels with their heavy field battery, which they kept exclusively for the transports, hiding it when the gunboats came along. It was a most exciting and interesting week; much danger of being cut off unless aided by General Banks, which aid was not sent until I asked for it in person.

Someone got in in a quartermaster’s boat who reported everything safe, and General Smith on that account did not go himself, though ready to start at a moment’s notice. Finally all came in safely, not losing a rope yarn. You men behaved splendidly and coolly, and General Kilby Smith like a brave and gallant officer. I shall always feel proud to be associated with him, and we will both timely remember for many a day the perilous scenes we have gone through together. I found General A. J. Smith much depressed at some things that had occurred, but anxious to go out and whip the rebels, which we are able to do without any trouble. Instead of that I think General Banks is watching for an opportunity to retreat. If General Smith should leave him there would be a general stampede and much loss of material, and General A. J. Smith would be made the scapegoat.

Finding the water falling I sent down my largest gun-boats, and regret to say that the Eastport ran on a torpedo and sank. The damage was slight, and the shock only noticed by a few persons on board, and it was not for some time after they found water in her hold. She was five hours sinking, but we have no pumps that could save her. The captain forgot to put canvas under her bottom, which would have saved her. Unless we have more water I shall be kept above the falls, but with a land force at Alexandria I can hold my own until next year. We must hold the country, general, and not have to go over all this again.

Had Banks been victorious, as any ordinary general would have been, we would have had no trouble at all, but he has led all hands into an ugly scrape. I did all I could to avoid going up this river with him, but he would have thrown all the blame of failure on me had I failed to go. I have risked a great deal and only hope for a rise of water to get over the falls.

There are all kinds of surmises on the subject. We have had no rise this year at all. Do you think it will come? You know the nature of these rivers, having resided here so long. I have written you a long letter and said to you confidentially what I would not say to anyone else, knowing that it will go no farther. I am just down from Grand Ecore; have come to provide pumps to save the Eastport, which I will do if Banks don’t retreat; if he does I will blow her up; am getting her guns off at once. Now, what is to become of Steele? Banks has sent him a messenger. Will he (think you) be sacrificed, or can he take care of himself? Why not re-enforce him well and let him finish the job so badly begun? If this matter is left in this state it will be lasting disgrace to us. The rebels had 22,000 men, about 19, 0000 effective. Losing General Green has paralyzed them; he was worth 5,000 men to them.

Wishing you success in all your undertakings, and asking your forbearance for writing you so long a letter, I remain, truly and sincerely, yours,

DAVID D. PORTER,
Rear-Admiral.

Posted in Arkansas, David Porter, Frederick Steele, Nathaniel P. Banks, Red River Campaign, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

April 15, 1864: Futile struggling over the Red River

William Tecumseh Sherman

Apparently Sherman hasn’t yet received the dispatch from Porter saying that A.J.Smith’s troops will be late. He asks Grant to hurry Steele and hurries Steele himself, blaming Steele for the delay — in error, as it turns out. Meanwhile Banks is telling Steele that he can’t move forward, and asking Steele to come to him. That’s not happening either.

Official Records:


NASHVILLE, TENN., April 15, 1864-10 a.m. (Received 3.15 p. m.)
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,
Culpeper, Va.:
I have a dispatch from Little Rock of April 10, giving dates from General Steele of April 7, at Camden. He had had considerable skirmishing, in all of which he was successful, and had halted and sent back to Pine Bluff for provisions and ammunition. It seems to me his movement is very slow, and he may be so late in reaching Red River as to keep Generals Banks and A. J. Smith away behind time.
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General

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NASHVILLE, TENN., April 15, 1864.
General STEELE,
Via Little Rock:

Dispatch of 7th from Camden is received. I know that General Grant expects Generals Banks and A. J. Smith’s forces to come out of Red River for some other work very soon, and you should push with all possible speed to make a junction on Red River. Banks’ forces should by this time be in Shreveport.
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General.

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GRAND ECORE, LA., April 15, 1864.
Major General F. STEELE:
GENERAL:
* * * *

The enemy is in larger force than was anticipated by the Government, and has manifested his determination to fight for the posses-
sion of Shreveport and the country he now occupies, which was not anticipated by many of our officers. The lines upon which we operate are so far separated from each other that it is impossible for either of us to sustain effectively the forces of the other. If you can join us on this line I am confident we can move to Shreveport without material delay, and that we shall have an opportunity of destroying the only organized rebel army west of the Mississippi.
* * * *

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
Major-General.

Posted in Arkansas, Frederick Steele, Nathaniel P. Banks, Red River Campaign, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

April 14, 1864: Porter to Sherman: Sorry.

David Dixon Porter

Porter writes in disgust to Sherman about the defeat and retreat of Banks’ army. The gunboats are in trouble due to low water on the Red River, and they can’t sent back A.J. Smith’s division as planned as a result. Porter blames the entire debacle on Banks, a “political general.”


Official Records:

MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON, Flag-Ship Cricket, off Grand Ecore, La., April 14, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Mil. Div. of the Mississippi, Nashville, Tenn.:

DEAR GENERAL: You will no doubt feel much disappointed at not having General A. J. Smith’s division returned to you in the time expected, but you will be reconciled when I assure you that the safety of this army and my whole fleet depend on his staying here. His is the only part of the army not demoralized, and if he was to leave there would be a most disastrous retreat. The army has been shamefully beaten by the rebels. There is no disguising the fact, notwithstanding the general commanding and his staff try to make a victory. Armies victorious don’t often go back as this one has done. Your part of it maintained its reputation and saved the army from being beaten in the two days’ fight. It is too long a tale to write, but some of these days I will give you a full and fair account of it. The defeat arose from sending 6,000 raw cavalry to attack an army of 25,000 men, said cavalry being accompanied by over 200 wagons. It was only supported by 2,500 men, and when these were overpowered by vastly superior numbers the cavalry fell back on them; the wagons stampeded and fell into the hands of the enemy. General Corse has heard it all and will tell you all about it. I was averse to coming up with the fleet, but General Banks considered it necessary to the success of the expedition, and I now can’t get back again, the water has fallen so much. This has been terrible work; worse, if anything, than Deer Creek. There we had plenty of water; here no water, and thousands of sharpshooters. The gunboats has some satisfaction out of the rebels yesterday. A couple of brigades, flushed with victory, made an attack upon two of them, and, excited by liquor, fought like madmen, coming up to the edge of the bank, where they were what down like sheep. It is said we killed the rebel General Green, their best man.

I cannot express to you my entire disappointment with this department. You know my opinion of political generals. It is a crying sin to put the lives of thousands in the hands of such men, and the time has come when there should a stop be put to it. This army is almost in a state of mutiny and not fit to go into a fight. They would follow A. J. Smith, though, anywhere. The more I see of
that old gentleman the more I like him. He is a regular trump, and has no give-up in him. I have been up as far as Loggy Bayou, and there was brought to a dead stand by a large steamer sunk in the channel, resting on each bank. It was providential, or I might have gone farther, and would have been cut off to a certainty. I am not sure that Banks will not sacrifice my vessels now to expediency; that is, his necessities. I only wish, dear general, that you had taken charge of this Red River business. I am sure it would have had a different termination. I am very tired and must close for the present.

Wish best wishes, &c., I remain,
DAVID D. PORTER,
Rear-Admiral.

Posted in Arkansas, David Porter, Gunboats, Nathaniel P. Banks, Red River Campaign, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

April 13, 1864: Even more miscegenation

The Miscegenation Ball

This item from the Richmond Daily Dispatch doesn’t use the newly coined term “miscegenation,” but
“amalgamation” appeared in the same hoax pamphlet. Here the editor dismisses the loss of the Yankees (with their “patent medicines, puritanism, and pumpkin pies”) as they become an “empire of mulattoes”. There’s also a hint of the “lost cause” mythos, as the essay dwells on the presumed hypocrisy of Northern involvement in the slave trade.


Results of Amalgamation.
The Yankee project of commingling their breed with the African race is open to this dreadful objection — What will become of the Yankees ?

We feel assured they have never weighed the awful consequences of such a catastrophe. The Yankee race blotted out of existence ! They have threatened to exterminate the South, and behold, they are about to exterminate themselves ! Alas ! what will become of the cause of civilization, of humanity, of progress, without Yankees ? What will the world do for steam engines and wooden nutmegs, philanthropic associations, and paper soled shoes, and patriotism, and patent medicines, puritanism and pumpkin pies, cuteness and codfish, without Yankee Doodles?

Did that blessed Mayflower cross the wide ocean for such an end ? Was Pilgrim Rock consecrated for such a superstructure ? Did the saintly Pilgrim Fathers fit out slave ships for the coast of Africa and sell the cargoes to the South with abylden that these sable heathens were to be united in wedlock to the descendants of the true believers ?–We wish that their grim old specters could revisit the earth and receive the due reward of their deeds in beholding the final result of their notable system for improving the morals, religion, and politics of mankind.

It is not for us to complain of the great loss which mankind at large must suffer from the deprivation of Yankees.Three years of self denial have enabled us to dispense with even such a luxury as their companionship. We find that, by dint of manly fortitude and abstemiousness, we can manage to exist without Harper, Beecher, Greeley, Everett, or any of their works. But how can Yankeedom give itself up in this wholesale suicide, immolate the memory of its ancestry, and slaughter that ” manifest destiny” which was to appropriate the whole continent of America to the Yankee race ?

The Confederacy can look with philosophical composure upon this tragical performance. We are not to be astonished at this time of day at any exhibition which Yankees may make. After all the atrocities and diablerie which for three years we have beheld and suffered, winding up in the effort to make a bonfire of a city of fifty thousand souls, we are not to be amazed by any new wickedness which Yankee ingenuity can invent. Having cohabited spiritually with the Devil till their souls have become as black as the ace of spades, it is right and proper that they should adopt some process by which their bodies will approximate the complexion of their souls. Our only sympathy is with the sable medium of this national transformation. The polishing of Yankee boots, which has hitherto been their chief occupation in the free States, will now give place to the polishing of the entire Yankee nation, an achievement which no human power has yet been able to accomplish. A quarter of a century hence, the United States bids fair to be an empire of mulattoes, inheriting some improvement, perhaps, upon its abolition blood; but a sad depreciation of the African stock, which, in its lowest thraldom, was never so debased as when its “rich currents” commingle with the vile spawn of Black Republicanism.

Posted in Miscegenation, Racism, Slavery | Leave a comment

April 12, 1864: Fort Pillow

Massacre at Fort Pillow

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops conducted an extended raid in western Kentucky and Tennessee starting in mid-March, 1864, and on April 12 they surrounded and captured Fort Pillow, 40 miles north of Memphis. The fort was defended largely by black Union troops, and after the surrender, most of them were killed by Forrest’s men. The New York Times ran several accounts of the massacre.

CAIRO, Thursday, April 14.
On Tuesday morning the rebel Gen. FORREST attacked Fort Pillow. Soon after the attack FORREST sent a flag of truce demanding the surrender of the fort and garrison, meanwhile disposing of his force so as to gain the advantage. Our forces were under command of Major BOOTH, of the Thirteenth Tennessee (U.S.) Heavy Artillery, formerly of the First Alabama Cavalry.

The flag of truce was refused, and fighting resumed. Afterward a second flag came in, which was also refused.

Both flags gave the rebels advantage of gaining new positions.

The battle was kept up until 3 P.M., when Major BOOTH was killed, and Major BRADFORD took command.

The rebels now came in swarms over our troops, compelling them to surrender.

Immediately upon the surrender ensued a scene which utterly baffles description. Up to that time, comparatively few of our men had been killed; but, insatiate as fiends, bloodthirsty as devils incarnate, the Confederates commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks, including those of both colors who had been previously wounded.

The black soldiers, becoming demoralized, rushed to the rear, the white officers having thrown down their arms.

Both white and black were bayoneted, shot or sabred; even dead bodies were horribly mutilated, and children of seven and eight years and several negro women killed in cold blood. Soldiers unable to speak from wounds were shot dead, and their bodies rolled down the banks into the river. The dead and wounded negroes were piled in heaps and burned, and several citizens who had joined our forces for protection were killed or wounded.

Out of the garrison of six hundred, only two hundred remained alive.

Among our dead officers are Capt. BRADFORD, Lieuts. BARR, ACKERSSTROM, WILSON, REVEL and Major BOOTH, all of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry.

Capt. POSTON and Lieut. LYON, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, and Capt. YOUNG, Twenty-fourth Missouri, Acting-Provost-Marshal, were taken prisoners.

Maj. BRADFORD was also captured, but is said to have escaped; it is feared, however, that he has been killed.

The steamer Platte Valley came up at about half-past 3 o’clock, and was hailed by the rebels under a flag of truce. Men were sent ashore to bury the dead, and take aboard such of the wounded as the enemy had allowed to live. Fifty-seven were taken aboard, including seven or eight colored. Eight died on the way up. The steamer arrived here this evening, and was immediately sent to the Mound City Hospital, to discharge her suffering cargo.

Among our wounded officers of colored troops are Capt. PORTER, Lieut. LIBBERTS and Adjt. LEMMING.

Six guns were captured by the rebels, and carried off, including two ten-pound Parrotts and two twelve-pound howitzers. A large amount of stores was destroyed or carried away.

The intention of the rebels seemed to be to evacuate the place, and move on toward Memphis.

LATER.

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CAIRO, Thursday, April 15.

Two negro soldiers, wounded at Fort Pillow, were buried by the rebels, but afterward worked themselves out of their graves. They were among those brought up in the Platte Valley, and are now in hospital at Mound City.

The officers of the Platte Valley receive great credit from the military authorities for landing at Fort Pillow, at eminent risk, and taking our wounded on board, and for their kind attentions on the way up.

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REPORTS FROM ST. LOUIS.

ST. LOUIS, Friday, April 15.
The correspondent of the Union, who was on board the steamer Platte Valley at Fort Pillow, gives even a more appalling description of the fiendishness of the rebels than our Cairo dispatches.

Many of our wounded were shot in the hospital. The remainder were driven out, and the hospital was burned.

On the morning after the battle the rebels went over the field, and shot the negroes who had not died from their wounds.

Several of the guns captured by FORREST at Fort Pillow were spiked before falling into his hands. Others were turned upon gunboat No. 7, which, having fired some 300 rounds and exhausted her ammunition, was compelled to withdraw. Although a tinclad, she received but slight injury.

Gen. LEE arrived and assumed the command at the beginning of the battle. Previous to which Gen. CHALMERS directed the movements.

FORREST, with the main force, retired after the fight to Brownsville, taking with him the captured funds.

While the steamer Platte Valley lay under flag of truce, taking on board our wounded, some of the rebel officers, and among them Gen. CHALMERS, went on board, and some of our officers showed them great deference, drinking with them, and showing them other marks of courtesy.

Many of those who had escaped from the works and hospital, who desired to be treated as prisoners of war, as the rebels said, were ordered to fall into line, and when they had formed, were inhumanly shot down.

Of 350 colored troops not more than 56 escaped the massacre, and not one officer that commanded them survives. Only four officers of the Thirteenth Tennessee escaped death.

The loss of the Thirteenth Tennessee is 800 killed. The remainder were wounded and captured.

Gen. CHALMERS told this correspondent that, although it was against the policy of his Government to spare negro soldiers or their officers, he had done all in his power to stop the carnage. At the same time he believed it was right.

Another officer said our white troops would, have been protected had they not been found on duty with negroes.

While the rebels endeavored to conceal their loss, it was evident that they suffered severely. Col. REED, commanding a Tennessee regiment, was mortally wounded. There were two or three well filled hospitals at a short distance in the country.

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A LETTER FROM A NAVAL OFFICER.

The following letter has just been received by Mr. BLOW, of Missouri, respecting the treatment of our soldiers after the surrender of Fort Pillow:

UNITED STATES STEAMER “SILVER CLOUD,” MISSISSIPPI RIVER, April 22, 1864.

SIR: Since you did me the favor of recommending my appointment last August, I have been on duty aboard this boat.
I now write you with reference to the Fort Pillow massacre. I write, because most of our crew are colored, and I feel personally interested in the retaliation which our Government may deal out to the rebels, when the fact of the merciless butchery is fully established.

Our boat arrived at the fort about 7 1/2 A.M., on Wednesday, the 13th, the day after the rebels captured the fort. After shelling them, whenever we could see them, for two hours, a flag of truce from the rebel Gen. CHALMERS was received by us, and Capt. FERGUSON, of this boat, made an arrangement with Gen. CHALMERS for the paroling of our wounded and the burial of our dead; the arrangement to last until 5 P.M. We then landed at the fort, and I was sent out with a burial party to bury our dead.

I found many of the dead lying close along by the water’s edge, where they had evidently sought safety; they could not offer any resistance from the places where they were, in holes and cavities along the banks; most of them had two wounds. I saw several colored soldiers of the Sixth United States Artillery, with their eyes punched out with bayonets; many of them were shot twice and bayonetted also. All those along the bank of the river were colored. The number of the colored near the river was about seventy. Going up into the fort, I saw there bodies partially consumed by fire. Whether burned before or after death I cannot say, any way there were several companies of rebels in the fort while these bodies were burning, and they could have pulled them out of the fire had they chosen to do so.

One of the wounded negroes told me that he had’nt done a thing, and when the rebels drove our men out of the fort they (our men) threw away their guns and cried out that they surrendered; but the rebels kept on shooting them down until they had shot all but a few. This is what they all say.

I had some conversation with rebel officers, and they claim that our men would not surrender, and in some few cases they could not control their men, who seemed determined to shoot down every negro soldier, whether he surrendered or not. This is a flimsy excuse, for after our colored troops had been driven from the fort, and they were surrounded by the rebels on all sides, it is apparent that they would do what all say they did, throw down their arms and beg for mercy.

I buried but very few white men; the whole number buried by my party and the party from the gunboat New Era was about one hundred.

The rebels had burned some of the white dead.

I can make affidavit to the above if necessary.

Hoping that the above may be of some service and that a desire to be of service will be considered sufficient excuse for writing to you, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ROBERT S. CRITCHELL,
Acting-Master’s Mate, U.S.N.
Hon. H.T. BLOW, member of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Posted in Nathan Bedford Forrest, Tennessee | 4 Comments

April 11, 1864: Banks to Steele — retreating

Nathaniel P. Banks

Banks gives Steele the bad news. His claim of victory on the 8th is overdrawn, but his troops did win a tactical victory on the 9th at Pleasant Hill. Nevertheless, the campaign is over, and they’ve retreated to Grand Ecore.

Official Records:


GRAND ECORE, April 11, 1864.
Major-General STEELE:

We have met the enemy in full force on the 8th and 9th and beat him both times, but have been compelled to fall back for want of water. His force is 22,000. Smith, Price, Green, and Taylor are here. Mouton is killed. The enemy will attack us, or assault you in force. Both must be ready. I shall communicate with you as often as possible.

N. P. BANKS,
Major-General, Commanding.

Posted in Arkansas, Frederick Steele, Nathaniel P. Banks, Red River Campaign | Leave a comment

April 10, 1864: Need troops at Poplar Bluff

Eleven Point River
The Eleven Point River in southern Missouri

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Just as a change of pace, a little news of affairs in extreme southern Missouri, where rebel guerrilla forces were causing constant problems for Union loyalists. The Unionists in the area petitioned Gen. Rosecrans for a post to be established at Poplar Bluff, but the commander at Pilot Knob feels that Doniphan would be a more likely place for an outpost. Availability of forage is the big problem, as the country was mostly hilly and wooded and not very productive.

Official Records:


HEADQUARTERS POST,
Pilot Knob, April 12, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded to General Ewing, commanding District of Saint Louis, Mo.
Within is in answer to telegram of the 8th instant. Major Wilson is fully acquainted with the country referred to; has been down there many times. He can be fully relied upon. I entirely agree with him in regard to placing troops at Doniphan, &c. His whole statement consist of my own opinion.

JNO. N. HERDER,
Lieutenant Colonel First Infantry, M. S. M., Commanding Post.

PATTERSON, MO., April 10, 1864.
Major-General ROSECRANS:

SIR: We the loyal citizens of Wayne, Butler, and Ripley Counties, would humbly petition the establishment of a post at Poplar Bluff, Butler County, and at Doniphan, Ripley County, or otherwise grant us permission to organize home guards for our defense. There are not a dozen loyal men (I mean what I say; they can’t say shibboleth) left in Butler and Ripley Counties. They are about all driven from homer or killed, their arms lying idle; their families reduced almost to a state of starvation. A post of infantry at these places would answer almost as well as cavalry, for those demons can never be subdued by raids. Their paths must be watched. If an order was issued for every loyal man from eighteen to fifty to take up arms and scout the country until jayhawking was no more it would soon cease.

If neither can be granted, please inform your most obedient servants,
H. C. DAVIDSON,
HIRAM WALKER.
[And 44 others.]

HEADQUARTERS,
Patterson, Mo., April 10, 1864.
Lieutenant Colonel JOHN N. HERDER,
Commanding at Pilot Knob, Mo.:

SIR: Your telegram has been received. I do not think it would be practicable to place troops at Poplar Bluff or Doniphan, making them dependent upon the country for forage, even after grazing becomes good, as there is no forage in this country worth mentioning; but twenty wagons would supply three companies at Doniphan with full rations of forage and provisions from Pilot Knob. Considerable bacon may be procured in the country, and after the 15th of May beef-cattle could be obtained; this with the corn that can be obtained in scouring the country would reduce the transportation required, and after the 15th of September there would be, I would suppose, sufficient forage in the country to subsist a command of that size. Applications are being made to me daily by citizens of Oregon, Ripley, and Butler Counties to furnish them assistance to remove their families from that country.

Up to this time I have not encouraged them in removing, advising them to wait and see if troops would not be sent there to remain and protect them. It seems very hard for every loyal man to be driven away from that country by a mere handful of guerrillas. It is out of the question to operate against them effectively at so great a distance, with such a scarcity of forage and provisions in the country, but if stationed among them, well supplied, we might soon kill and drive out these devils and restore peace and quiet to those counties; and instead of the citizens being supported by the Government the coming winter, they would be enabled to support themselves and to supply the Government troops in that country. I prefer Doniphan to Poplar Bluff because it commands the range of guerrillas on Currant River, and is centrally located between Black River swamps and Eleven Points River. I think the placing of troops at that point would be productive of much good, if well supplied.

I have the honor to be, colonel, your most obedient servant,
JAMES WILSON,
Major, Commanding Outpost.
[Indorsement.]

Posted in Missouri, William Rosecrans | Leave a comment

April 9, 1864: Pleasant Hill

Nathaniel P. Banks
Nathaniel Banks

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In an excerpt from Banks’ report on the Red River Campaign, he takes up where he had left off after the battle of Mansfield to describe the battle of Pleasant Hill. Taylor attacked Banks’ forces again the day after Mansfield, with some initial success. Banks exaggerates the Confederate losses compared to his own in this report; the Union lost nearly as many men as they did. The Union troops held, though, and at the end of the day were in possession of the field. Although this makes the battle tactically a Union victory, Banks gave up on the Red River campaign at this point, retreating back down the river. Banks devotes considerable space in this report to justifying that decision, and it is fair to say that he was under pressure from Grant to wrap it up promptly, while the fears about the falling water level preventing the naval gunboats from descending the river were very well founded. In any case. the Red River campaign would be a near-total disaster for the Union.

I’ve appended at the end Banks’ dispatch on this date to Adm. Porter, telling him of the decision to fall back to Grand Ecore.

Official Records:


From Pleasant Grove, where this action occurred, to Pleasant Hill was 15 miles. It was certain that the enemy, who was within the reach of re-enforcements, would renew the attack in the morning, and it was wholly uncertain whether the command of General Smith could reach the position we held in season for a second engagement. For this reason the army toward morning fell back to Pleasant Hill, General Emory covering the rear, burying the dead, bringing off the wounded, and all the material of the army. It arrived there at 8.30 on the morning of the 9th, effecting a junction with the forces of General Smith and the colored brigade under Colonel Dickey, which had reached that point the evening previous.

Early on the 9th, the troops were prepared for action, the movements of the enemy indicating that he was on our rear. A line of battle was formed in the following order: First Brigade, Nineteenth Corps, on the right, resting on a ravine; Second Brigade in the center, and Third Brigade on the left. The center was strengthened by a brigade of General Smith’s forces, whose main force was elf in reserve. The enemy moved toward our right flank. The Second Brigade withdrew from the center to the support of the First Brigade. The brigade in support of the center moved up into position, and another of General Smith’s brigades was posted to the extreme left position on the hill, in echelon to the rear of the left main line.

Light skirmishing occurred during the afternoon. Between 4 and 5 o’clock it increased in vigor, and about 5 p. m., when it appeared to have nearly ceased, the enemy drove in our skirmishers and attacked in force, his first onset being against the left. He advanced in two oblique lines, extending well over toward the right of the Third Brigade, Nineteenth Corps. After a determined resistance this part of the line gave way and went slowly back to the reserves. The First and Second Brigades were soon enveloped in front, right and rear. By skillful movements of General Emory the flanks of the two brigades, now bearing the brunt of the battle, were covered. The enemy pursued the brigades, passing the left and center, until he approached the reserves under General Smith, when he was met
by a charge led by General Mower and checked. The whole of the reserves were now ordered up, and in turn we drove the enemy, continuing the pursuit until night compelled us to halt.

The battle of the 9th was desperate and sanguinary. The defeat of the enemy was complete, and his loss in officers and men more than double that sustained by our forces. There was nothing in the immediate position or condition of the two armies to prevent a forward movement the next morning, and orders were given to prepare for an advance. The train, which had been turned to the rear on the day of the battle, was ordered to reform and advance at daybreak. I communicated this purpose at the close of the day to representations subsequently received from General Franklin and all the general officers of the Nineteenth Corps, as to the condition of their respective commands for immediate active operations against the enemy, caused a suspension of this order, and a conference of the general officers was held in the evening, in which it was determined, upon the urgent recommendation of all the general officers above named, and with the acquiescence of General Smith, to retire upon Grand Ecore the following day.

The reasons urged for this course by the officers commanding the Nineteenth and Thirteenth Corps were, first, that the absence of water made it absolutely necessary to advance or retire without delay. General Emory’s command had been without rations for two days, and the train, which had been turned to the rear during the battle, could not be put in condition to move forward upon the single road through dense woods, in which it stood, without difficulty and loss of time. It was for the purpose of communicating with the fleet at Springfield Landing from the Sabine Cross-Roads to the river, as well as to prevent the concentration of the Texan troops with the enemy at Mansfield, that we had pushed for the early occupation of that point.

Considering the difficulty with which the gun-boats passed Alexandria and Grand Ecore, there was every reason to believe that the navigation of the river would be found impracticable. A squadron of cavalry, under direction of Mr. Young, who had formerly been employed in the surveys of this country and was now connected with the engineer department, which had been sent upon a reconnaissance to the river, returned to Pleasand Hill on the day of the battle with the report that they had not been able to discover the fleet nor learn from the people its passage up the river. (The report of General T. Kilby Smith, commanding the river forces, states that the fleet did not arrive at Loggy Bayou until 2 p. m. on the 10th of April, two days after the battle at Sabine Cross-Roads.) This led to the belief that the low water had prevented the advance of the fleet. The condition of the river, which had been steadily falling since our march from Alexandria, rendered it very doubtful, if the fleet ascended the river, whether it could return from any intermediate point, and probable, if not certain, that if it reached Shreveport it would never escape without a rise of the river, of which all hopes began to fail. The forces designated for this campaign numbered 42,000 men. Less than half that number was actually available for service against the enemy during its progress.

The distance which separated General Steele’s command from the line of our operations (nearly 200 miles) rendered his movements of little moment to us or to the enemy, and reduced the strength of the fighting column to the extent of his force, which was expected to be from 10,000 to 15,000 men. The depot at Alexandria, made necessary by the impracticable navigation, withdrew from our forces 3,000 men under General Grover. The return of the Marine Brigade to the defense of the Mississippi, upon the demand of Major-General McPherson, and which could not pass Alexandria without its steamers nor move by land for want of land transportation, made a further reduction of 3,000 men. The protection of the fleet of transports against the enemy on both sides of the river made it necessary for General A. J. Smith to detach General T. Kilby Smith’s division of 2,500 men from the main body for that duty. The army train required a guard of 500 men. These several detachments, which it was impossible to avoid, and the distance of General Steele’s command, which it was not in my power to correct, reduced the number of troops that we were able at any point to bring into action from 42,000 men to about 20,000. The losses sustained in the very severe battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April amounted to about 3,969 men, and necessarily reduced our active forces to that extent.

The enemy, superior to us in numbers in the outset, by falling back was able to recover from his great losses by means of re-enforcements, which were within his reach as he approached his base of operations, while we were growing weaker as we departed from ours. We had fought the battle at Pleasant Hill with about 15,000 against 22,000 men and won a victory, which for these reasons we were unable to follow up. Other considerations connected with the actual military condition of affairs afforded additional reasons for the course recommended. Between the commencement of the expedition and the battle of Pleasant Hill a change had occurred in the general command of the army, which caused a modification of my instructions in regard to this expedition.

Lieutenant-General Grant, in a dispatch dated the 15th March, which I received on the 27th March, at Alexandria, eight days before we reached Grand Ecore, by special messenger, gave me the following instructions:

Should you find that the taking of Shreveport will occupy ten or fifteen days more time than General Sharman gave his troops to be absent from their command you will send them back at the time specified in his note of (blank date) March, even if it should lead to the abandonment of the main object of the expedition. Should it prove successful, hold Shreveport and Red River with such force as you deem necessary and return the balance of your troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans.

These instructions, I was informed, were given for the purpose of having “all parts of the army, or rather all armies, act as much in concert as possible,” and with a view to a movement in the spring campaign against Mobile, which was certainly to be made “if troops enough could be obtained without embarrassing other movements; in which event New Orleans would be the point of departure for such an expedition.” A subsequent dispatch, though it did not control, fully justified my action, repeated these general views and stated that the commanding general “would much rather the Red River expedition had never been begun that that you should be detained one day beyond the 1st of May in commencing the movement east of the Mississippi.”

The limitation of time referred to in these dispatches was based upon an opinion which I had verbally expressed to General Sherman at New Orleans, that General Smith could be spared in thirty days after we reached Alexandria, but it was predicted upon the expectation that the navigation of the river would be unobstructed; that we should advance without delay at Alexandria, Grand Ecore, or elsewhere on account of low water, and that the forces of General Steele were to co-operate with us effectively at some point on Red River, near Natchitoches or Monroe. It was never understood that an expedition that involved on the part of my command a land march of nearly 400 miles into the enemy’s country, and which terminated at a point which we might not be able to hold, either on account of the strength of the enemy or the difficulties of obtaining supplies, was to be limited to thirty days. The condition of our fores, and the distance and difficulties attending the further advance into the enemy’s country after the battles of the 8th and 9th against an enemy superior in numbers to our own, rendered it probable that we could not occupy Shreveport within the time specified, and certain that without a rise in the river the troops necessary to hold it against the enemy would be compelled to evacuate it for want of supplies, and impossible that the expedition should return in any event to New Orleans in time to co-operate in the general movements of the army contemplated for the spring campaign. It was known at this time that the fleet could not repass the rapids at Alexandria, and it was doubtful, if the fleet reached any point above Grand Ecore, whether it would be able to return. By falling back to Grand Ecorce we should be able to return. By falling back to Grand Ecore we should be able to ascertain the condition of the fleet, the practicability of continuing the movement by the river, reorganize a part of the forces that had been shattered in the battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th, possibly ascertain the position of General Steele and obtain from him the assistance expected for a new advance north of the river or upon its southern bank, and perhaps obtain definite instructions from the Government as to the course to be pursued.

Upon these general considerations, and without reference to the actual condition of the respective armies, at 12 o’clock midnight on the 9th I countermanded the order for the return of the train, and directed preparations to be made for the return of the army to
Grand Ecore. The dead were buried and the wounded brought in from the field of battle and placed in the most comfortable hospitals that could be provided, and surgeons and supplies furnished for them. A second squadron of cavalry was sent, under direction of Mr. Young, of the engineer department, to inform the fleet of our retrograde movement and to direct its return, if it had ascended the river, and on the morning of the 10th the army leisurely returned to Grand Ecore. The wounded were immediately visited by Dr. Sanger, who took with him clothing, rations, medicines, and other supplies, and reported them in comfortable condition. The fleet sailed from Grand Ecore on the 7th and reached its destination at Loggy Bayou on the evening of the 10th, one day after the battle at Pleasant Hill and two days after the engagement at Sabine Cross-Roads. General T. Kilby Smith received a verbal message the evening of the 10th, and on the morning of the 11th written orders to return. The transports were in a crippled condition, rudders unshipped and wheels broken. The enemy attacked the fleet on its return near Pleasant Hill Landing on the 12th, with a force of 2,500 cavalry, a strong reserve infantry, and a battery of six guns, under General Green but the troops, protected by cotton bales and bales of hay, with the gun-boats, kept up a deadly fire, and drove the enemy from the river.

For two miles the bank was strewn with the wounded and dead.

Banks to Porter:

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
Pleasant Hill, April 9, 1864.
Rear-Admiral D. D. PORTER,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron:

The land column that was intended for the movement against Shreveport encountered a superior force 4 miles this side of Mansfield, and, being unable to communicate with the forces from the river, has been compelled to retreat. It is now our expectation to fall back to Grand Ecore. You will make your dispositions accordingly. the fighting was very sharp, but, from the situation of the country, it has been impossible to bring but a portion of our forces against the entire strength of the enemy. The loss of the enemy has been very severe; ours serious. General Ransom has been wounded.

If possible, send a communication to General Steele.

I am, &c.,
N. P. BANKS,
Major-General, Commanding.

Posted in Arkansas, David Porter, Nathaniel P. Banks, Red River Campaign | Leave a comment

April 8, 1864: Mansfield

Nathaniel P. Banks
Nathaniel Banks

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In an excerpt from Banks’ report to Stanton about the Red River campaign, he describes the battle of Mansfield. Banks’ troops were attacked by a somewhat larger force under Confederate General Richard Taylor, and in some prolonged fighting were driven back with considerable losses. As he describes it, Emory’s division stopped the Confederates from entirely routing the Union troops. The battle resumed the next day at Pleasant Hill.

Official Records:

The army was put in motion for Shreveport, via Pleasant Hill and Mansfield, April 6. General Lee, with the cavalry division, led the advance, followed by a detachment of two divisions of the Thirteenth Corps, under General Ransom; First Division, Nineteenth Corps, under General Emory, and a brigade of colored troops under command of Colonel Dickey, the whole under the immediate command of Major-General Franklin. The detachments of the Sixteenth Army Corps, under command of Brigadier General A. J. Smith, followed on the 7th, and a division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, under Brigadier General T. Kilby Smith, accompanying Admiral Porter on the river as a guard for the transports. The fleet was directed to Loggy Bayou, opposite Springfield, where it was expected communications would be established with the land forces at Sabine Cross-Roads, a distance of 54 miles by land from Grand Ecore, and 100 miles by water.

I remained with a portion of my staff to superintend the departure of the river and land forces from Grand Ecore until the morning of the 7th and then rode rapidly forward, reaching the head of the column at Pleasant Hill the same evening, where the main body encamped. General Smith’s command was at the rear of the column on the march, but passed the negro brigade on the route to Pleasant Hill. A very heavy rain fell all day on the 7th, which greatly impeded the movement of the rear of the column, making the road almost impassable for troops, trains, or artillery. The storm did not reach the head of the column. In passing the troops from Natchitoches to Pleasant Hill I endeavored as much as possible to accelerate their movements.

The enemy offered no opposition to their march on the 6th. On the 7th, the advance drove a small force to Pleasant Hill, and from there to Wilson’s farm, 3 miles beyond, where a sharp fight occurred with the enemy posted in a very strong position, from which they were driven with serious loss and pursued to Saint Patrick’s Bayou, near Carroll’s Mill, about 9 miles from Pleasant Hill, where our forces bivouacked for the night. We sustained in this action a loss of 14 men killed, 39 wounded, and 9 missing. We captured many prisoners and the enemy sustained severe losses in killed and wounded. During the action General Lee sent to General Franklin for re-enforcements, and a brigade of infantry was sent forward, but the firing having ceased it was withdrawn. The officers and men fought with great spirit in this affair.

At daybreak on the 8th, General Lee, to whose support a brigade of the Thirteenth Corps, under Colonel Landram, had been sent by my order, advanced upon the enemy, drove him from his position on the opposite side of Saint Patrick’s Bayou, and pursued him to Sabine Cross-Roads, about 3 miles from Mansfield. The advance was steady but slow, and the resistance of the enemy stubborn. He was only driven from his defensive positions on the road by artillery. At noon on the 8th, another brigade of the Thirteenth Corps arrived at the cross-roads under Brigadier-General Ransom to relieve the First Brigade.

The infantry moved from Pleasant Hill at daybreak on the 8th, the head of the column halting at Saint Patrick’s Bayou in order that the rear might come up. I passed General Franklin’s headquarters at 10 a. m., giving directions to close up the column as speedily as possible, and rode forward to ascertain the condition of affairs at the front, where I arrived between 1 and 2 o’clock. General Ransom arrived nearly at the same time, with the Second Brigade, Thirteenth Corps, which was under his command in the action at the
cross-roads. I found the troops in line of battle, the skirmishers sharply engaged, the main body of the enemy posted on the crest of a hill in thick woods on both sides of a road leading over the hill to Mansfield on our line of march. It was apparent that the enemy was in much stronger force than at any previous point on the march, and being confirmed in this opinion by General Lee, I sent to General Franklin, immediately upon my arrival, a statement of the facts and orders to hurry forward the infantry with all possible dispatch, directing General Lee at the same time to hold his ground steadily, but not advance until re-enforcements should arrive.

Our forces were for a long time stationary, with some skirmishing on the flanks. It soon became apparent that the entire force of the enemy was in our front. Several officers were sent to General Franklin to hurry forward the column. Skirmishing was incessant during the afternoon. At 4.30 p. m. the enemy made a general attack all along the lines, but with great vigor upon our right flank. It was resisted with resolute determination by our troops, but overpowering numbers compelled them, after resisting the successive charges of the enemy in front and on the flank, to fall back from their position to the woods in rear of the open field, which they occupied, retreating in good order. The enemy pressed with great vigor upon the flanks, as well as in front, for the purpose of getting to the rear, but were repulsed in this attempt by our cavalry.

At the line of woods a new position was assumed, supported by the Third Division of the Thirteenth Army Corps, under General Cameron, which reached this point about 5 p. m., and formed in line of battle under the direction of Major-General Franklin, who accompanied its advance. The enemy attacked this second line with great impetuosity and overpowering numbers, turning both flanks and advancing heavily upon the center. The assault was resisted with gallantry, but the troops, finding the enemy in the rear, were compelled to yield the ground and fall steadily back. The road was badly obstructed by the supply train of the cavalry division, which prevented the retreat of both men and artillery. We lost ten of the guns of Ransom’s division in consequence of the position of the train, which prevented their withdrawal. Repeated efforts were made to reform the troops and resist the advance of the enemy, but though their progress was checked, it was without permanent success.

Brigadier General W. H. Emory, commanding First Division, Nineteenth Corps, had been early notified of the condition of affairs, and directed to advance as rapidly as possible and form a line of battle in the strongest position he could select, to support the troops in retreat and check the advance of the enemy. The order to advance found him 7 miles to the rear of the first battle-ground. He assumed a position at Pleasant Grove, about 3 miles from the cross-roads, on the edge of the woods commanding an open field, sloping to the front. The One hundred and sixty-first New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Kinsey commanding, were deployed as skirmishers and ordered to the foot of the hill, upon the crest of which the line was formed to cover the rear of the retreating forces, to check the pursuit of the enemy, and give time for the formation of the troops.

General Dwight, commanding First Brigade, formed his troops across the road upon which the enemy was moving, commanding the open field in front. The Third Brigade, Colonel Benedict commanding, formed to the left, and the Second Brigade, General McMillan,
in reserve. The line was scarcely formed when the One hundred and sixty-first New York Volunteers were attacked and driven in. The right being threatened, a portion of McMillan’s brigade formed on the right of General Dwight. The fire of our troops was reserved until the enemy was at close quarters, when the whole line opened upon them with most destructive volleys of musketry. The action lasted an hour and a half. The enemy was repulsed with very great slaughter. During the fifth a determined effort was made to turn our left flank, which was defeated. Prisoners reported the loss of the enemy in officers and men to be very great. General Mouton was killed in the first onset. Their attack was made with great desperation, apparently with the idea that the dispersion of our forces at this point would end the campaign, and with the aid of the steadily falling river leave the fleet of transports and gun-boats in their hands or compel their destruction. Nothing could surpass in impetuosity the assault of the enemy but the inflexible steadiness and valor of our troops. The First Division of the Nineteenth Corps, by its great bravery in this action, saved the army and navy. But for this successful resistance to the attack of the enemy at Pleasant Grove, the renewed attack of the enemy with increased force could not have been successfully resisted at Pleasant Hill on the 9th of April. We occupied both battle-grounds at night.

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