Tuesday, April 15, 2014

150-years-ago -- GRANT'S 'OVERLAND CAMPAIGN' GETTING READY

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
April 15, 1864
The enemy's Plans for the Spring campaign--"on to Richmond" again.
Confederate soldier ready for the
Yankee Spring offensive. 
(Photo by M. Jones, Statue at
Chickamauga NMP)
The Washington correspondent of the New York World, under date of the 10th instant, says:
Preparations for the grand movement on Richmond, which will now be delayed by the storm in Virginia, are going forward with quiet but vehement energy. The reorganization of the Army of the Potomac has been generally perfected. Gen. Baldy Smith will command two army corps, which are organizing at Fortress Monroe. The troops under his [commrnd] will be pushed up the Peninsula, whilst the Army of the Potomac keeps Lee's forces vigorously occupied. Gen Burnside will attempt his old route via Goldsboro', cutting the railroad at that point.


The World's correspondent expresses the opinion that this grand combination will compel the rebels to fall back from the line of the Rapidan to the defences of Richmond, and that the greatest battle of the war will be fought in the vicinity of the Confederate capital. He also states that these defences have been strengthened, and that mines have been prepared at "several vital parts."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

150-years-ago RED RIVER CAMPAIGN - Battle of Blair's Landing, La.

[National Park Service summary]

After the battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, Brig. Gen. Tom Green led his men to Pleasant Hill Landing on the Red River, where, about 4:00 pm on April 12, they discovered grounded and damaged Union transports and gunboats, the XVI and XVII army corps river transportation, and U.S. Navy gunboats, with supplies and armament aboard. Union Brig. Gen. Thomas Kilby Smith’s Provisional Division, XVII Corps, troops, and the Navy gunboats furnished protection for the army transports. Green and his men charged the boats. When Green attacked, Smith’s men used great ingenuity in defending the boats and dispersing the enemy. Hiding behind bales of cotton, sacks of oats, and other ersatz obstructions, the men on the vessels, along with the Navy gunboats, repelled the attack, killed Green, and savaged the Confederate ranks. The Confederates withdrew and most of the Union transports continued downriver. On the 13th, at Campti, other boats ran aground and came under enemy fire from Brig. Gen. St. John R. Liddell’s Sub-District of North Louisiana troops, which harassed the convoy throughout the 12th and 13th. The convoy rendezvoused with Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks’s army at Grand Ecore, providing the army with badly needed supplies.

[Destruction and Reconstruction by Richard Taylor; pages 177-178]

Brig. Gen. Tom Green, Texas cavalry
division commander, killed in action
April 12, 1864. (Photo. History of the C.W.)
          General [Tom] Green, from Pleasant Hill, had been directing the movements of our advanced horse, a part of which, under Bee, was in front of Grand Ecore and Natchitoches. Advised of the movements of the enemy's fleet, he, with seven hundred and fifty horse and two batteries, left Pleasant Hill for Blair's Landing at 6 o'clock P.M. on the 11th. As in the case of Bagby, he was delayed at Bayou Pierre, and, after hard work, only succeeded in crossing three guns and a part of his horse before the fleet came down on the 12th. Green attacked at once, and leading his men in his accustomed fearless way, was killed by a discharge of grape from one of the gunboats. Deprived of their leader, the men soon fell back, and the fleet reached Grand Ecore without further molestation from the west bank. The enemy's loss, supposed by our people to have been immense, was officially reported at seven on the gunboats and fifty on the transports. Per contra, the enemy believed that our loss was stupendous; whereas we had scarcely a casualty except the death of General Green, an irreparable one. No Confederate went aboard the fleet and no Federal came ashore; so there was a fine field of slaughter in which the imagination of both sides could disport itself.
          With facilities for crossing the Pierre at hand, the fleet, during the 11th and 12th, would have been under the fire of two thousand riflemen and eighteen guns and suffered heavily, especially the transports, crowded with troops. As it was, we accomplished but little and lost General Green.
          Like Mouton, this officer had joined me at an early period of my service in western Louisiana. Coming to me with the rank of colonel, his conspicuous services made it my pleasant duty to recommend him for promotion to brigadier and major-general. Upright, modest, and with the simplicity of a child, danger seemed to be his element, and he rejoiced in combat. His men adored him, and would follow wherever he led; but they did not fear him, for, though he scolded at them in action, he was too kind-hearted to punish breaches of discipline. In truth, he had no conception of the value of discipline in war, believing that all must be actuated by his own devotion to duty. His death was a public calamity, and mourned as such by the people of Texas and Louisiana. To me he was a tried and devoted friend, and our friendship was cemented by the fact that, through his Virginia mother, we were related by blood. The great Commonwealth, whose soil contains his remains, will never send forth a bolder warrior, a better citizen, nor a more upright man than Thomas Green.

        The brigade of horse brought by General Green to Louisiana, and with which he was so long associated, had some peculiar characteristics. The officers such as Colonels Hardiman, Baylor, Lane, Herbert, McNeill, and others, were bold and enterprising. The men, hardy frontiersmen, excellent riders, and skilled riflemen, were fearless and self-reliant, but discharged their duty as they liked and when they liked. On a march they wandered about at will, as they did about camp, and could be kept together only when a fight was impending. When their arms were injured by service or neglect, they threw them away, expecting to be supplied with others. Yet, with these faults, they were admirable fighters, and in the end I became so much attached to them as to be incapable of punishing them.




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

150-years-ago -- RED RIVER CAMPAIGN, The Battle of Pleasant Hill, April 9, 1864.

[Excerpted from Deconstruction and Reconstruction by Richard Taylor, pages 161-175]
(Official Records)
         Sitting by my camp fire to await the movement of Churchill's column, I was saddened by recollection of the many dead, and the pleasure of victory was turned to grief as I counted the fearful cost at which it had been won. Of the Louisianians fallen, most were acquaintances, many had been neighbors and friends; and they were gone. Above all, the death of gallant Mouton affected me. He had joined me soon after I reached western Louisiana, and had ever proved faithful to duty. Modest, unselfish, and patriotic, he showed best in action, always leading his men. I thought of his wife and children, and of his father, Governor Mouton, whose noble character I have attempted to portray.
 
Brig. Gen. T.J. Churchill
(Copy print)
         Churchill's march disturbed these solemn reveries, and I returned to the front, where Walker and Green were awaiting the approaching day. The horse, with a battery, moved early to Pleasant Hill, fourteen miles, leaving Walker and Polignac to follow Churchill's column as soon as it had passed. I rode with Green, and we found many stragglers, scattered arms, and burning wagons, showing the haste of the enemy's retreat. The mill stream, seven miles distant, was reached, then the vicinity of Pleasant Hill, before a shot was fired. A short mile in front of the latter place the enemy was found; and as our rapid advance had left the infantry far to the rear, feints were made to the right and left to develop his position and strength.
        The village of Pleasant Hill occupies part of a plateau, a mile wide from east to west, along the Mansfield and Fort Jesup road. The highest ground, called College Hill, is on the west, and here enters a road from the Sabine, which, sixteen miles to the east, strikes the Red River at Blair's Landing; while, from the necessity of turning Spanish Lake, the distance to Natchitoches and Grand Ecore is thirty-six miles. The Federal fleet, with accompanying troops, was now many miles above Blair's, which by river is forty-five miles above Grand Ecore. Driven from Pleasant Hill to the latter place, the Federal forces would be widely separated, and might be destroyed in detail. Though it appeared to be the enemy's intention to continue his retreat, as he was known to be moving back his trains, yet if undisturbed he might find courage to attempt a junction with his fleet at Blair's Landing; and I did not wish to lose the advantage of the morale gained by success on the previous day.
           Our reconnoissance showed that the Federal lines extended across the open plateau, from College Hill on their left to a wooded height on the right of the road to Mansfield. Winding along in front of this position was a gully cut by winter rains, but now dry, and bordered by a thick growth of young pines, with fallen timber interspersed. This was held by the enemy's advanced infantry, with his main line and guns on the plateau. Separating the gully and thicket from the forest toward Mansfield was an open field, several hundred yards wide near the road, but diminishing in width toward the west. Here the Federal commander had concentrated some eighteen thousand, including A.J. Smith's force, not engaged on the previous day.
           My plan of attack was speedily determined. Orders were sent to the infantry to fill canteens at the mill stream, and to the trains to park there. Shortly after midday the infantry appeared, Churchill in advance; but a glance showed that his men were too much exhausted to attack. They had marched forty-five miles, and were thoroughly jaded. Walker's and Polignac's divisions had been heavily engaged on the previous day, and all were suffering from heat and thirst. Accordingly, two hours were given to the troops to lie down and rest.
           At 3 P.M. Churchill, with two batteries and three regiments of horse, was directed to move to the right and turn the enemy's left. His route was through the forest for two miles to the road coming from the Sabine. The enemy's left outflanked, he was to attack from the south and west, keeping his regiments of horse well to his right, and Walker would attack on his left. This was explained to Churchill, and Mr. T.J. Williams, formerly sheriff of De Soto parish, and acquainted with every road in the vicinity, was sent with him as a guide. On Walker's left, near the road from Mansfield, Major Brent had twelve guns in the wood, with four on the road, where were posted Buchell's and De Bray's cavalry, under General Bee, and Polignac's division, the last in reserve. In the wood on the left of the road from Mansfield, Major, with two brigades of horse dismounted, was to drive back the enemy's skirmishers, turn his right, and gain the road to Blair's Landing. As no offensive movement by the enemy was anticipated, he would be turned on both flanks, subjected to a concentric fire, and overwhelmed. Though I had but twelve thousand five hundred men against eighteen thousand in position, the morale was greatly in our favor, and intelligent execution of orders was alone necessary to insure success.
At 4.30 P.M. Churchill was reported to be near the position whence he would attack; and, to call off attention, Major Brent advanced his twelve guns into the field, within seven hundred yards of the enemy's line, and opened fire. Soon thereafter the sound of Churchill's attack was heard, which the cheers of his men proved to be successful. Walker at once led forward his division by echelons of brigades from his right, Brent advanced his guns, and Major turned the enemy's right and gained possession of the road to Blair's. Complete victory seemed assured when Churchill's troops suddenly gave way, and for a time arrested the advance of Walker and Major.
          The road from the Sabine reached, Churchill formed his line with the two Missouri brigades, General Parsons on the right, and the two Arkansas, General Tappan, on the left. Advancing three fourths of a mile through the forest, he approached the enemy's line, and found that he had not gained ground enough to outflank it. Throwing forward skirmishers, he moved by the right flank until the Missouri brigades were on the right of the Sabine road, the regiments of horse being farther to the right. Churchill should have placed his whole command on the right of the Sabine road, and he would have found no difficulty in successfully executing his orders. In his official report he states "that had my [his] line extended a half mile more to the right, a brilliant success would have been achieved"; and he gives as the reason for not so disposing his force that he judged, from information furnished by his guides, the enemy's left to be already outflanked.
          The attack ordered, the Missourians threw themselves on the enemy, drove him from the gully and thicket, mounted the plateau, broke an opposing line, captured and sent to the rear three hundred prisoners, got possession of two batteries, the horses of which had been killed, and reached the village. Here a Federal brigade, left by Churchill's error on his right, attacked them in flank and rear, while their rapid charge had put three hundred yards between them and the Arkansas brigades, delayed by the gully. The enemy's reserve was thrust into this opening and advanced in front. Finding themselves assaulted on all sides, the Missourians retreated hastily, and in repassing the gully and thicket fell into much confusion. Colonel Hardiman, commanding the horse, checked the enemy, and Parsons rallied his men on the line first formed by Churchill. The Arkansas brigades had forced the gully and mounted the plateau as the Missourians retreated, whereupon they fell back, their left brigade (Gause's) running into Walker's right (Scurry's) and impeding its advance. Gause imagined that Scurry had fired on him; but as his entire loss in the action amounted to but fifteen killed and fifty-nine wounded, out of eleven hundred men, there appears little ground for this belief. Churchill's two batteries followed the Missourians, and with much difficulty reached the plateau, where they opened an effective fire. When the infantry retreated three carriages broke down in the attempt to get through the thicket and fallen timber, and the guns were lost. Night ended the conflict on this part of the field, and both sides occupied their original positions. We brought off three hundred prisoners, but lost three guns and one hundred and seventy-nine prisoners from Churchill's command. Out of two thousand men, the Missourians lost three hundred and thirty-one in killed and wounded, and the Arkansas brigades, of equal strength, one hundred and forty-two.
          Within a few minutes of the time when our whole line became engaged, an officer came to inform me that General Walker was wounded. Directing Polignac to move up his division and hold it in readiness, I left General Green in charge of the center and hastened to Walker, whose division was now fully engaged in the wood. I found him suffering from a contusion in the groin, and ordered him to retire, which he unwillingly did. Here it was that our right gave way in the manner described. Scurry's brigade of Walker's, disordered by the sudden retreat upon it of Gause, was heavily pressed by the enemy. Scurry and his men struggled gallantly, but required immediate relief; and to give it, Waul and Randall on their left were ordered to drive back the line fronting them. Never was order more thoroughly executed. Leading on their fine brigades with skill and energy, these officers forced back the Federals and relieved Scurry.
          Meanwhile, the fire of Brent's guns had overpowered a Federal battery posted on the plateau in front of the road from Mansfield. The confusion attending the withdrawal of this battery, coupled with the fierce attack of Waul and Randall, led General Green to believe that the enemy was retreating, and he ordered Bee to charge with his two regiments of cavalry, Buchell's and De Bray's. Bee reached the plateau, where he was stopped by a heavy fire from infantry, in the wood on both sides of the road. Some men and horses went down, Buchell was mortally wounded, and Bee and De Bray slightly. The charge was premature and cost valuable lives, but was of use in moral effect. I returned to the road as Bee, with coolness and pluck, withdrew. Brent advanced his guns close up to the opposing line, Polignac attacked on Randall's left with his reduced but stubborn division, and Green urged on his dismounted horsemen, cleared the wood from the Mansfield to the Blair's Landing road, and at nightfall held the position previously occupied by the Federal battery.
Brig. Gen. Camille Polignac
(Copy print)
          Severe fighting continued in the dense thicket, where Polignac, Randall, Waul, and Scurry were steadily driving back the enemy. Approaching twilight obscured the wood, but resistance in front was becoming feeble, and, anxious to reach the village, I urged on our men. As Randall and Waul gained ground to the front, they became separated by a ravine in which was concealed a brigade of Federals. Isolated by the retreat of their friends, these troops attempted to get out. Fired on from both sides of the ravine, a part of them appeared on the field in front of Brent's guns, to be driven back by grape. With heavy loss they at length succeeded in escaping through the thicket. A letter from the commander was subsequently captured, wherein he denounces the conduct of his superiors who abandoned him to his fate. However true the allegation, it is doubtful if his brigade could have rendered more service elsewhere. The suddenness of its appearance stopped our forward movement, and a cry arose that we were firing on our own people. The thickening gloom made it impossible to disabuse the troops of this belief, and I ordered them to withdraw to the open field. The movement was made slowly and in perfect order, the men forming in the field as they emerged from the thicket. The last light of day was fading as I rode along the line, and the noise of battle had ceased.
          Churchill came to report the result of his attack, and seemed much depressed. I gave such consolation as I could, and directed him to move his command to the mill stream, seven miles to the rear, where he would find his trains and water. A worthy, gallant gentleman, General Churchill, but not fortunate in war.
          The mill stream was the nearest water to be had, and I was compelled to send the troops back to it. The enemy made no attempt to recover the ground from which his center and right had been driven. Bee picketed the field with his cavalry, his forage wagons were ordered up from the mill stream, and it was hoped that water for his two regiments could be found in the wells and cisterns of the village. Sounds of retreat could be heard in the stillness of the night. Parties were sent on the field to care for the wounded, and Bee was ordered to take up the pursuit toward Grand Ecore at dawn, to be followed by the horse from the mill stream as soon as water and forage had been supplied. These dispositions for the morning made, worn out by fatigue and loss of sleep, I threw myself on the ground, within two hundred yards of the battle field, and sought rest. The enemy retreated during the night, leaving four hundred wounded, and his many dead unburied. On the morning of the 10th Bee pursued for twenty miles before he overtook his rear guard, finding stragglers and burning wagons and stores, evidences of haste.
          In the two actions of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill my loss in killed and wounded was twenty-two hundred. At Pleasant Hill we lost three guns and four hundred and twenty-six prisoners, one hundred and seventy-nine from Churchill's, and two hundred and forty-seven from Scurry's brigade at the time it was so nearly overwhelmed. The Federal loss in killed and wounded exceeded mine, and we captured twenty guns and twenty-eight hundred prisoners, not including stragglers picked up after the battle. The enemy's campaign for conquest was defeated by an inferior force, and it was doubtful if his army and fleet could escape destruction.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

150-years-ago -- RED RIVER CAMPAIGN -- The Battle of Mansfield, La., April 8, 1864.

[Excerpted from Destruction and Reconstruction by Richard Taylor, pages 161-165]
(Official Records)

        General Churchill, commanding the Missouri-Arkansas troops at Keachi, was ordered to march for Mansfield at dawn of the 8th, and advised that a battle was impending. My medical director was instructed to prepare houses in the village for hospitals, and quartermasters were told to collect supplies and park surplus wagons. An officer with a small guard was selected to preserve order in the town, and especially among the wagoners, always disposed to "stampede." Walker and Mouton were ordered to move their divisions in the morning, ready for action, to the position selected; and a staff officer was sent to Green, with instructions to leave a small force in front of the enemy, and before dawn withdraw to the appointed ground. These arrangements made, a dispatch was sent to General Kirby Smith at Shreveport, informing him that I had returned from the front, found the enemy advancing in force, and would give battle on the following day, April 8, 1864, unless positive orders to the contrary were sent to me. This was about 9 P.M. of the 7th.
              My confidence of success in the impending engagement was inspired by accurate knowledge of the Federal movements, as well as the character of their commander, General Banks, whose measure had been taken in the Virginia campaigns of 1862 and since.
        On the morning of the 7th of April Admiral Porter left Grand Ecore with six gunboats and twenty transports, on which last were embarked some twenty-five hundred troops. The progress of these vessels up the river was closely watched by an officer of my staff, who was also in communication with General Liddell on the north side. Banks began his movement from Grand Ecore to Pleasant Hill on the 6th, with an estimated force of twenty-five thousand. Though lateral roads existed, his column marched by the main one, and in the following order: Five thousand mounted men led the advance, followed by a large wagon train and much artillery. Infantry succeeded, then more wagons and artillery, then infantry again. In the afternoon of the 7th I knew that the front and rear of his column were separated by a distance of twenty miles.
Sgt. Paul Thibodaux, Co. F,
18th Louisiana Infantry, Mouton's
Brigade and Division. He is seen
here on the cover of General
Mouton's Regiment: The 18th
Louisiana Infantry by Michael
Jones (Courtesy of C.J. Knobloch,
grandson)
        My troops reached the position in front of Sabine cross-road at an early hour on the 8th, and were disposed as follows: On the right of the road to Pleasant Hill, Walker's infantry division of three brigades, with two batteries; on the left, Mouton's, of two brigades and two batteries. As Green's men came in from the front, they took position, dismounted, on Mouton's left. A regiment of horse was posted on each of the parallel roads mentioned, and De Bray's cavalry, with McMahon's battery, held in reserve on the main road. Dense forest prevented the employment of much artillery, and, with the exception of McMahon's, which rendered excellent service, none was used in the action.
         I had on the field fifty-three hundred infantry; three thousand horse, and five hundred artillerymen—in all, eight thousand eight hundred men, a very full estimate. But the vicious dispositions of the enemy made me confident of beating all the force he could concentrate during the day; and on the morrow Churchill, with forty-four hundred muskets, would be up.
          The forenoon of the 8th wore on as the troops got into position. Riding along the line, I stopped in front of the Louisiana brigade of Mouton's division, and made what proved to be an unfortunate remark to the men: "As they were fighting in defense of their own soil I wished the Louisiana troops to draw the first blood." But they were already inflamed by many outrages on their homes, as well as by camp rumors that it was intended to abandon their State without a fight. At this moment our advanced horse came rushing in, hard followed by the enemy. A shower of bullets reached Mouton's line, one of which struck my horse, and a body of mounted men charged up to the front of the 18th Louisiana. A volley from this regiment sent them back with heavy loss. Infantry was reported in the wood opposite my left. This was a new disposition of the enemy, for on the 6th and 7th his advance consisted of horse alone; and to meet it, Mouton was strengthened by moving Randall's brigade of Walker's from the right to the left of the road. To cover this change, skirmishers were thrown forward and De Bray's regiment deployed in the field.
           The enemy showing no disposition to advance, at 4 P.M. I ordered a forward movement of my
Brig. Gen. Alfred Mouton,
killed at Mansfield.
(Photographic History
of the Civil War)
whole line. The ardor of Mouton's troops, especially the Louisianians, could not be restrained by their officers. Crossing the field under a heavy fire of artillery and small arms, the division reached the fence, paused for a moment to draw breath, then rushed into the wood on the enemy. Here our loss was severe. General Mouton was killed, as were Colonels Armand, Beard, and Walker, commanding the 18th, Crescent, and 28th Louisiana regiments of Gray's brigade. Major Canfield of the Crescent also fell, and Lieutenant-Colonel Clack of the same regiment was mortally wounded. As these officers went down, others, among whom Adjutant Blackman was conspicuous, seized the colors and led on the men.
           Polignac's brigade, on the left of Gray's, also suffered heavily. Colonel Noble, 17th Texas, with many others, was killed. Polignac, left in command by the death of Mouton, displayed ability and pressed the shattered division steadily forward. Randall, with his fine brigade, supported him on the right; while Major's dismounted men, retarded by dense wood, much to the impatience of General Green, gradually turned the enemy's right, which was forced back with loss of prisoners and guns.
       On the right of the main road General Walker, with Waul's and Scurry's brigades, encountered but little resistance until he had crossed the open field and entered the wood. Finding that he outflanked the enemy's left, he kept his right brigade, Scurry's, advanced, and swept everything before him.
           The first Federal line, consisting of all the mounted force and one division of the 13th army corps, was in full flight, leaving prisoners, guns, and wagons in our hands. Two miles to the rear of the first position, the 2d division of the 13th corps brought up, but was speedily routed, losing guns and prisoners; and our advance continued. Near sunset, four miles from our original position, the 19th army corps was found, drawn up on a ridge overlooking a small stream. Fatigued, and disordered by their long advance through dense wood, my men made no impression for a time on this fresh body of troops; but possession of the water was all-important, for there was none other between this and Mansfield. Walker, Green, and Polignac led on their weary men, and I rode down to the stream. There was some sharp work, but we persisted, the enemy fell back, and the stream was held, just as twilight faded into darkness.
      Twenty-five hundred prisoners, twenty pieces of artillery, several stands of colors, many thousands of small arms, and two hundred and fifty wagons were the fruits of victory in the battle of Mansfield. Eight thousand of the enemy, his horse and two divisions of infantry, had been utterly routed, and over five thousand of the 19th corps driven back at sunset. With a much smaller force on the field, we invariably outnumbered the enemy at the fighting point; and foreseeing the possibility of this, I was justified in my confidence of success. The defeat of the Federal army was largely due to the ignorance and arrogance of its commander, General Banks, who attributed my long retreat to his own wonderful strategy.
             Night put an end to the struggle along the little stream, and my troops camped by the water.

A dispatch was sent to General Kirby Smith, at Shreveport, to inform him of the result of the day's fighting, and of my intention to push the enemy on the following morning. Leaving instructions for Green, with all the mounted force, to pursue at dawn, I rode to Mansfield to look after our wounded and meet Churchill. The precautions taken had preserved order in the village throughout the day. Hospitals had been prepared, the wounded brought in and cared for, prisoners and captured property disposed of. Churchill came and reported his command in camp, four miles from Mansfield, on the Keachi road; and he was directed to prepare two days' rations, and march toward Pleasant Hill at 3 A.M.

Monday, April 7, 2014

150-years-ago -- RED RIVER CAMPAIGN, BATTLE OF WILSON'S FARM, LA.

[Excerpted from Destruction and Reconstruction by Richard Taylor, pages 160-161]
      
 
From the Official Records of the War of
the Rebellion.
      On the morning of the 7th of April, [Brig. Gen. James] Major, from Pleasant Hill, reported the enemy advancing in force; whereupon [Brig. Gen. Tom] Green went to the front. Later in the day the southerly wind brought such distinct sounds of firing to Mansfield as to induce me to join Green. Riding hard, I suddenly met some fifty men from the front, and reined up to speak to them; but, before I could open my mouth, received the following rebuke from one of the party for a bad habit: "General! if you won't curse us, we will go back with you." I bowed to the implied homily, rode on, followed by the men, and found Green fighting a superior force of horse. Putting in my little reënforcement, I joined him, and enjoyed his method of managing his wild horsemen; and he certainly accomplished more with them than any one else could have done. After some severe work, the enemy's progress was arrested, and it became evident that Green could camp that night at a mill stream seven miles from Pleasant Hill, a matter of importance.
Pvt. William P Barns
13th Texas Cavalry
(9th  Plate Ambrotype, M.D.
Jones Collection)
The roads in this region follow the high ridge dividing the drainage of Red River from that of the Sabine, and water is very scarce. Between Pleasant Hill and Mansfield but two streams are found, the one above mentioned, and a smaller, seven miles nearer to the latter place. For twenty miles from Pleasant Hill toward Natchitoches there was little or no water; and at Pleasant Hill itself we had exhausted the wells and reduced the store in cisterns during our stay. This, as it affected movements and positions of troops, should be borne in mind.

           Leaving Green, I returned to Mansfield, stopping on the road to select my ground for the morrow. This was in the edge of a wood, fronting an open field eight hundred yards in width by twelve hundred in length, through the center of which the road to Pleasant Hill passed. On the opposite side of the field was a fence separating it from the pine forest, which, open on the higher ground and filled with underwood on the lower, spread over the country. The position was three miles in front of Mansfield, and covered a cross-road leading to the Sabine. On either side of the main Mansfield-Pleasant Hill road, at two miles' distance, was a road parallel to it and connected by this Sabine cross-road.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Report of Col. George W. Baylor, Second Arizona Cavalry, commanding Major’s cavalry brigade, of operations April 7-18.
Headquarters Major’s Brigade,
In the Field, Louisiana, April 18, 1864.
      CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that on the 7th instant Colonel Madison’s regiment began skirmishing with the enemy’s advance, falling back slowly. Colonel Lane formed our brigade to receive the enemy. My regiment was placed on the left wing, and was strongly posted on the crest of a hill, being dismounted. Colonel Madison having fallen back, was ordered to support me, and took position on my right (left center), Lane’s regiment on the right center, and Chisum’s on the right wing. The enemy charged boldly up to within 50 yards of our position, but the men stood their ground firmly, loading and firing with great coolness. This close work soon became too hot for the enemy, and when we charged them with a yell they broke in confusion. Here Lieut. F.B. Chilton, commanding Company B, wounded severely, both of Baylor’s regiment. We drove them back nearly a mile, when we found them in greatly superior force, and were obliged in turn to fall back to prevent being flanked. Our ammunition being nearly exhausted, Colonel Lane ordered us to fall back until we could get a fresh supply. We took position in rear of the mill, but our artillery and other cavalry continued to fight until nightfall, when the enemy withdrew. We slept on our arms all night.

[Official Records, War of the Rebellion, Vol 34, Part I, pages 616-617]

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

150-years-ago - RED RIVER CAMPAIGN - Gathering of the Forces

[Excerpted from Destruction and Reconstruction by Richard Taylor, pages 157-159]

Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor
Cmdr. of Army of Western Louisiana
(Copy print, M.D. Jones collection)
The enemy's advance reached Natchitoches, by the river road, on the 31st, and McNeill and Herbert were directed to fall back slowly toward Pleasant Hill, thirty-six miles. I remained in the town until the enemy entered, then rode four miles to Grand Ecore, where, in the main channel of Red River, a steamer was awaiting me. Embarking, I went up river to Blair's Landing, forty miles by the windings of the stream, whence was a road, sixteen miles, to Pleasant Hill. Four miles from Blair's was Bayou Pierre, a large arm of the river, crossed by a ferry. At Pleasant Hill, on the 1st of April, Walker and Mouton, with their infantry divisions, artillery, and trains joined me, as did Green with his staff. From the latter I learned that De Bray's regiment of cavalry, with two batteries and trains, was in march from Fort Jesup. As the enemy was moving from Natchitoches, and could strike the Jesup road across country, De Bray was ordered to push forward his artillery and wagons, and look well to his right. He reached Pleasant Hill after dark. The enemy attempted to impede the march, but was driven off, with a loss of five wounded to De Bray. During the day our horse, toward Natchitoches, had some skirmishing.
It appeared that General Major, with the remainder of Green's horse, could not get up before the 6th, and he was directed to cross the Sabine at Logansport and march to Mansfield, twenty miles in my rear. This insured his march against disturbance; and, to give him time, I halted two days at Pleasant Hill, prepared for action. But the enemy showed no disposition to advance seriously, and on the 4th and 5th the infantry moved to Mansfield, where on the following day Major, with his horse and Buchell's regiment of cavalry, joined. General Major was sent to Pleasant Hill to take charge of the advance.

De Bray's and Buchell's regiments have been spoken of as cavalry to distinguish them from mounted
Col. Augustus C. Buchel
(Texas State Cementery)
infantry, herein called horse. They had never before left their State (Texas), were drilled and disciplined, and armed with sabers. Buchell's regiment was organized in the German settlement of New Braunfels. The men had a distinct idea that they were fighting for their adopted country, and their conduct in battle was in marked contrast to that of the Germans whom I had encountered in the Federal army in Virginia. Colonel Buchell had served in the Prussian army, and was an instructed soldier. Three days after he joined me, he was mortally wounded in action, and survived but a few hours. I sat beside him as his brave spirit passed away. The old "Fatherland" sent no bolder horseman to battle at Rossbach or Gravelotte.

During this long retreat of two hundred miles from the banks of the Atchafalaya to Mansfield, I had been in correspondence with General Kirby Smith at Shreveport, and always expressed my intention to fight as soon as reënforcements reached me. General Kirby Smith thought that I would be too weak to meet the enemy, even with all possible reënforcements, and suggested two courses: one, to hold the works at Shreveport until he could concentrate a force to relieve me; the other, to retire into Texas and induce the enemy to follow us.

My objection to the first suggestion was, that it would result in the surrender of the troops and Shreveport, as it would be impossible to raise a new force for their relief; and to the second, that its consequences would be quite as disastrous as a defeat, as it would be an abandonment of Louisiana and southern Arkansas. The men from these States might be expected to leave us, and small blame to them; while from the interior of Texas we could give no more aid to our brethren on the east of the Mississippi than from the Sandwich Islands. General Kirby Smith did not insist on the adoption of either of his own suggestions, nor express an approval of mine; but when Mansfield was reached, a decision became necessary.


Three roads lead from this place to Shreveport, the Kingston, Middle, and Keachi. The distance by the first, the one nearest to the valley of Red River, is thirty-eight miles; by the second, forty; and by the third, forty-five. From Keachi, five and twenty miles from Mansfield and twenty from Shreveport, roads cross the Sabine into Texas. Past Mansfield, then, the enemy would have three roads, one of which would be near his fleet on the river, and could avail himself of his great superiority in numbers. This was pointed out to the "Aulic Council" at Shreveport, but failed to elicit any definite response.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

150-years-ago -- RED RIVER CAMPAIGN

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
March 18, 1864

A Confederate soldier with musket.
(Liljenquist Family Collection, Library of Congress)
NEW ORLEANS INTELLIGENCE 

The Mobile Tribune publishes some into intelligence from New Orleans, brought by a gentleman who has gotten through the lines. It says:

In speaking of Banks's expedition to Texas. he says it was in command of Gen. Whitsett, Gen. Sanks having never left New Orleans, and that the expedition was a complete failure. A large number of the negro regiments had mutinied while at Brasos Santingo, and were under arrest there The first or second Metropolitan regiment, and some other white troops, deserted and joined the Juarez party in Mexico.

An Austrian count named Allindauskt, a General in the Federal army, and his staff, and Col. Colbaugh, chief of Gen. McPherson's staff, had publicly announced through the New Orleans papers that they would leave shortly to join the Mexican army.

He says that every steamboat that arrives down the river bears the most indisputable proofs that Gen. Logan's men are at their posts, as they are completely riddled with bullet holes. The pilothouses are made bullet proof by having two thicknesses of boiler iron encased around them, and in some instances they are casemated — but notwithstanding the strength of these "life preservers," several boats have arrived with the pilot-houses completely torn off and the pilot killed. Pilots are now charging $500 up and $500 down, and but few are offering at that. Business of every description is very dull, and almost everybody is leaving for the North and Europe.

There are but few troops in New Orleans now. Some 4,000 cavalry under a Gen. Lee comprise the greater part. About 6,000 cavalry are stationed at Madisonville to protect the vessels which are engaged in supplying the city with wood and lumber. Wood, he says, sells at $13 per cord, and coal at $40 per ton, and both articles are exceeding scarce at that.

The description he gives of the Fort Jackson emeute makes it of much greater importance than any account we have yet heard. He says that the negroes in all the different forts and barracks then mutined at the same time. At Fort Jackson they killed 27 white officers, and that while the row was going on they sent the 9th Connecticut, 28th Massachusetts and 12th Maine regiments down from the city to quell it. Amongst the vessels sent down was the "Pembina." She is now lying amongst the fleet off Fort Powell. She is reported to be a very crank vessel, but has a heavy armament. She has one 200 pound15 inchParrott mounted amidships, three howitzers on the stern, and one 12-pounder on her bow. Some 217 of the negroes, he says, have been court martials and condemned to be shot — and the order has been sent on by Gen Banks to Abe Lincoln, and their execution only awaits his approval.