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)

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.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Col. Sylvester G. Hill,
35th Iowa Infantry.
(Photo. History of the C.W.)
      The Battle of Henderson Hill occurred March 21, 1864 during the Red River Campaign when part of the 2nd Louisiana Cavalry and Edgar's Battery, 1st Texas Light Artillery were surprised and captured by the 35th Iowa Infantry and 33rd Missouri Infantry at upriver from Alexandria, Louisiana. The Federals made their approach during wretched weather with rain and hail helping mask their approach.
Confederate Cavalryman
      After dark, guided by deserters and jayhawkers, the two Federal regiments pushed forward toward the camp of the 2nd Louisiana Cavalry, commanded by Colonel William Vincent. At about 10:30 p.m., the guards at  eight Confederate picket posts were surprised and captured without a shot being fired. Then at about midnight, the bluecoats found the main Confederate camp, and the 35th Iowa surrounded and captured the Southerners in the house and a section of Edgar's Battery before their presence had been discovered.
       The Confederate guns were ready with horses hitched and two of the pieces loaded with canister, but obviously the men were not ready. The two Federal regiments then fixed bayonets and moved in on the rest of the camp, captured another section of the artillery and then the cavalrymen, some of whowere mounting their horses. Only a few shots were fired in resistance. While  Colonel Vincent escaped, 16 officers and 206 men were captured, along with horses, cavalry equipment, artillery pieces and horses, and the encampment completely destroyed.
      Confederate General Richard Taylor had lost most the available cavalry he had at that time.


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)

Saturday, March 1, 2014


The Richmond Daily Dispatch
March 2, 1864

Upper picture, Sanderson, Fla.; lower, Olustee battlefield.
(Harper's Weekly/Library of Congress)
Battle of Olustee, Florida.
A correspondent of the Lake City Columbian, gives the following interesting account of the fight at Olustee, in Florida: Feb. 20, 1864.

            The great battle of East Florida has been fought and another glorious victory has been won by our gallant soldiery.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan
Confederate commander
(Library of Congress)
            At an early hour this forenoon couriers arrived at distant headquarters with the intelligence that the enemy, seven thousand strong, under command of Major-Gen. Gillmore, had passed the village of Sanderson, en route for the interior of this State. No sooner was this intelligence communicated, than a cavalry force composed of detachments of the 4th Ga., Col. Clinch; 2d Fla., cavalry, Lt.-Col. A. H. Mc nick, and Scott's Battalion, Major G. W. Scott, all under the command of Col. Caraway Smith, 2d Florida cavalry, proceeded forward with the view of ascertaining the strength and position of the enemy. The command of Col. Smith proceeded to a point near the Florida Central railroad, about eighteen miles east of Lake City, where they encountered the advance guard of the enemy. With the view of drawing him nearer to this point where a more advantageous position for our troops had been selected, Col. Smith skirmished slightly with the enemy, and retiring towards this point in excellent order.
          Finding that it was the design of the enemy to destroy the railroad upon his line of march, and to fortify himself at a point about five miles east of this place, Gen Finegan ordered to the front the 64th Ga. regiment, Col. Evans; 32d Ga, Maj Howard; 6th Ga, Col Lofton; 27th Ga, Col Zachary; 1st Ga regulars, Capt Greaves; Bonan's battalion, Major Bonan; 1st Fla special battalion, Lt Col C F Hopkins; 6th Fla battalion, Major P B Bard; 28th Ga. Maj Crawford; 19th Ga, Col O' Neal; 23d Ga, Lt Col Huggins; Flalight artillery, Capt Gamble; Chatham artillery, Capt. Wheaton; and Guerard's battery. These brave and gallant men, under the command of Brig. Gen A H Colquitt and Acting Brig. Gen. G. P. Harrison, 32d Ga, and Caraway Smith — all commanded by Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan--advanced promptly, and with firm and steady step, to resist the advance of the enemy, who had determined to celebrate Washington's birthday in Lake City, and to avenge that place for the resistance offered a few days previously.
          The entire force of the enemy was commanded by Major-Gen. Gilmore; that in the field was under the immediate command of Major-Gen. Seymour, whom, as your readers will remember, was a captain under Major Anderson at the time he surrendered Fort Sumter to Gen. Beauregard.
Your correspondent participated in the battles around Richmond and upon the Peninsula, as he did in this, and is prepared to aver that he never witnessed a more stubborn contested field, and in this opinion he is confirmed by the testimony of veteran soldiers, whose exploits heretofore have been the admiration of their countrymen, and have given name and fame to Southern prowess and valor.
When within a proper distance of the enemy our artillery, under the command of Col. R. B. Thomas, opened a heavy and very determined fire upon them. The artillery of enemy responded briskly, but with little effect to that of ours. Very soon after the commencement of the artillery duel heavy volleys of musketry were poured into the enemy's lines by our troops, killing and wounding a large number of them. Volley after volley reverberated through the air, with nought but the yells and shrieks of our victorious heroes to relieve its monotony.
           The engagement lasted upwards of four hours, during about three of which the enemy contested inch by inch very mutually the advance of our troops. At length, largely superior numbers, engaged in an unholy and unrighteous crusade, were compelled to succumb and to flee before the superior prowess and chivalry of Southern hearts.--The enemy was driven in confusion and disorder a long distance beyond the field of carnage, leaving, in their hasty fight, all their killed, and nearly all their wounded.
        The result of this glorious achievement of our troops many be summed up thus: The enemy's loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners is twenty-eight hundred, one stand of colors, two excellent Napoleons, and three fine 8 inch rifle guns, fifteen hundred stand of arms, and a vast quantity of ordnance, quartermaster's and commissary stores.--Our entire loss is about seventy- five killed and four hundred and fifty wounded.

Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour
Federal commander
(Library of Congress)
         Taken all in all, this day will long be remembered as one upon which one of the most brilliant victories of the war was achieved. Whilst we rejoice in the defeat and disasters which have befallen the invaders of our soil, we have to pause and mourn the deaths of many brave and noble patriots.
It is a matter altogether impossible in a hastily written article as this necessarily is, to communicate in detail the many incidents of the battle.
             The memory of the gallant officers and men who have fallen as martyrs to their country, will long be revered and cherished, for they fell as brave and chivalrous men always fall. The gallantry of our officers and men has never been excelled either in ancient or modern times. Gen. Finegan acted in a manner which entitled him to the highest credit. His conduct upon this occasion, the plans of the battle, the discipline and disposition of his forces, his coolness, judgment, discretion, and gallantry, have won for him a high reputation, and have caused me to regard him as an officer second to none of his rank, and who deserves the everlasting gratitude of our countrymen.

National Park Service Summary
 In February 1864, the commander of the Department of the South, Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, launched an expedition into Florida to secure Union enclaves, sever Rebel supply routes, and recruit black soldiers. Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour moved deep into the state, occupying, destroying, and  liberating,  meeting little resistance on February 20, he approached Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan’s 5,000 Confederates entrenched near Olustee.  One infantry brigade pushed out to meet Seymour’s advance units.  The Union forces attacked but were repulsed. The battle raged, and as Finegan committed the last of his reserves, the Union line broke and began to retreat. Finegan did not exploit the retreat, allowing most of the fleeing Union forces to reach Jacksonville.