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 re├źnforcements reached me. General Kirby Smith thought that I would be too weak to meet the enemy, even with all possible re├źnforcements, 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.

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