Monday, March 3, 2014

150-years-ago -- RED RIVER CAMPAIGN-Fort DeRussy

[Excerpted from Destrucution and Reconstruction, Richard Taylor, 1879, Pages 155-156]

(Library of Congress)

On March 12th Admiral Porter, with nineteen gunboats, followed by ten thousand men of Sherman's army, entered the mouth of Red River. (These numbers are from Federal official reports.) On the 13th, under cover of a part of the fleet, the troops debarked at Simmsport, on the Atchafalaya near the Red, other vessels ascending the latter stream, and on the 14th, under command of General A.J. Smith, marched to De Russy, thirty miles, which they reached about 5 P.M. As stated, the work was incomplete, and had time been given me would have been abandoned. Attacked in the rear, the garrison surrendered after losing ten killed and wounded. Byrd's two hundred men were in rifle pits on the river below, where gunboats, under Commander Phelps, were removing obstructions in the channel. A number of Byrd's men and a few gunners escaped to the swamps and rejoined their commands; but we lost a hundred and eighty-five prisoners, eight heavy guns, and two field pieces. Thus much for our Red River Gibraltar.
Cut off from direct communication by the sudden appearance of the enemy on the 12th, the three mounted companies east of the Atchafalaya were forced to cross at Morgan's Ferry, below Simmsport, and did not rejoin Walker until the 15th. This officer was thereby left without means of information; but, judging correctly of the numbers of the enemy by a personal observation of his transports and fleet, he fell back from his advanced position to the Bœuf, forty miles, where he was united with Mouton and Polignac. His division at this time was reduced to some thirty-three hundred muskets, too weak to make head against A.J. Smith's column.
On the afternoon of the 15th of March the advanced boats of Porter's fleet reached Alexandria, whence all stores had been removed; but, by the mismanagement of a pilot, one steamer was grounded on the falls and had to be burned.
In the "Report on the Conduct of the War," vol. ii., page 192, Colonel J.S. Clarke, aide-de-camp to General Banks, states that Banks's army in this campaign was twenty-eight thousand strong, eighteen thousand under Franklin, ten thousand under A.J. Smith. General Steele, operating from Arkansas, reports his force at seven thousand; and the number of gunboats given is taken from the reports of Admiral Porter to the Secretary of the Navy.
Porter's Northern Invasion Fleet on the Red River
(Library of Congress)

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