Confederate infantry at the 2010 Battle of Pleasant Hill Reenactment.
(Photo by Mike Jones)
By Mike Jones
The 2010 reenactment at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana had as close to perfect weather has it has ever had on Saturday, April 10. There was also a good turn out of the living history reenactors, sutlers and most importantly the public. This is a reenactment of two important battles of the Red River Campaign in 1864, the Battle of Mansfield on April 8, and the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9. For the reenactment, the first day's event Saturday was commemorating Mansfield, on the Pleasant Hill battlefield, and Sunday, April 11, the Battle of Pleasant Hill on the actual battlefield. Also on Saturday at 5 p.m. a ceremonial dedication of a new monument honoring Louisiana's Confederate soldiers was held at Mansfield State Historic Site, which is about 13 miles north of Pleasant Hill.
Confederate infantry (Photo by Mike Jones)
Saturday's reenactment of the Battle of Mansfield went very smoothly. The Confederate and Union reenactors performed professionally and well. There was an excellent artillery exchange between the two sides to open the event. Then a cavalry engagement between the Blue and the Gray. Confederate infantry then clashed with the federals in a lively exchange.
The battle lasted about an hour. The great thing about this reenactment, for me, is being able to celebrate my Confederate heritage and honor my Confederate ancestors. Confederate flags were in full display in this great commemorative event.
In the actual historic battle, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor led his Confederate Army of Western Louisiana against the Union Army of the Gulf led by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks. The Northern invaders, numbering about 40,000, came with a massive Union fleet of gunboats and transports. The initial target was Shreveport, the Confederate capital of the Trans-Mississippi Department, and then the bluecoats planned invade Texas from there. Another important aspect of the invasion was to confiscate as much cotton as possible for the New England textile mills.
Lt.Gen. Richard Taylor
(Copy print, Mike Jones collection)
To counter this massive invasion, Taylor had about 8,000 Confederate infantry, cavalry and artillery at the Battle of Mansfield April 8, and 12,000 at the Battle of Pleasant Hill, April 9. He had a division of Louisiana and Texas infantry under Brig. Gen. Alfred Mouton, a Texas infantry division under Maj. Gen. John Walker, and a Texas cavalry corps under Brig. Gen. Tom Green. At Pleasant Hill, Taylor was reinforced by an Arkansas infantry division commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas Churchill.
Banks made a tactical blunder by separating from the federal fleet and taking a narrow road to Shreveport. His line troops were also hampered by the Union wagon trains, which separated the various combat units.
Taylor initially faded back from the invaders until he found a good defensive position below the town of Mansfield. During the day of April 8, the federals probed the Confederate line but made no direct assault. Finally that afternoon, Taylor launched a direct assault on the federals, with Mouton hitting the front of the enemy line and Walker outflanking them. The attack was a great success, but costly to the Confederates. General Mouton and many officers and men were killed and wounded. The bluecoats retreated in confusion back to Pleasant Hill.
The next day, Taylor, reinforced by the Arkansas troops, attacked Banks' new battleline, which was also reinforced and better organized. The fighting was intense but the federals held their line at great cost to the Confederates. However, at the end of the day, Banks decided to call off the invasion and begin a long retreat back to New Orleans. Taylor lost the initiative when Confederate department commander Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith ordered him to send a large portion of his army up to Arkansas to counter a Union invasion from that quarter. It is estimated that the federals lost about 4,000 casualties in the Red River Campaign, and the Confederates about 1,500.
Confederate artillery after opening fire at the 2010 Battle of Pleasant Hill Reenactment.
(Photo by Mike Jones)