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REBELLION RECORD, 1864.
the pirates that infested our coast and preyed of January, stating that "with the forces proupon our commerce. The been at liberty to operate upon the Mississippi, Steele, and my own disposable force-I concurred army would have posed"- -to wit, General Sherman and General or to cooperate with the army of the Tennessee, in the opinion that the Red River was the shortby the Alabama River and Montgomery, in the est and best line of defence for Louisiana and campaign against Atlanta. are substantially expressed in my despatches of Texas, and that with my own forces and those of These general views Arkansas, and as a base of operations against the twelfth and thirtieth of December, 1863. If General Steele, and the assistance of General successfully accomplished, it would have enabled Sherman, the success of the movements on that the government to concentrate the entire forces line might be made certain and important, and of the department of the Gulf, as occasion should that I should cordially cooperate with them in require, at any point on the river or coast, against executing the orders of the government. an enemy without water transportation or other means of operation than by heavy land marches, or to move by land into the rebel states east or west of the Mississippi. The winter months offered a favorable opportunity for such enterprise. I remain, sir,
Your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
THE RED RIVER CAMPAIGN.
To the Secretary of War:
the proposed combined movement - which had In order that the inherent difficulties attending been thoroughly tested in the campaign of 1863 and 1864, and which I had represented with as much earnestness as seemed to be propermight be presented in a manner most likely to gain attention, I directed Major D. C. Houston, chief engineer of the department - who possessed the highest claims to favorable consideration, from professional qualifications and experience, and his acquaintance with the route-to While engaged in earnest efforts to effect the River, which had been long under consideration. prepare a memorial upon operations on Red capture of Galveston, with a view to these general This was transmitted to the headquarters of the operations, contemplated for the winter campaign, army, and appeared to have received the attenI was informed by a despatch received January tion and approval of the General-in-Chief. It twenty-third, and dated January fourth, that "it stated with precision the obstacles to be encounwas proposed that General Steele should advance tered, and the measures necessary to accomplish to Red River if he could rely upon your (my) the object in view. No change would be recooperation, and be certain of receiving supplies quired in this statement, if it had been written in on that line;" and that "the best military opin- review rather than in anticipation of the camions of the Generals of the west seemed to favor paign. It recommended as a condition indispenoperations on Red River, provided the stage of sable to success. the water would enable the gunboats to cooper-nary organization as would avoid the least delay First. Such complete prelimiate; " that "this would open a better theatre of in our movements after the campaign had opened. operations than any other for such troops as Second. That a line of supply be established General Grant could spare during the winter." from the Mississippi, independent of water I was also informed that Major-General Grant courses. and Major-General Steele had been written to, west of the Mississippi, and such other force, Third. The concentration of the forces and I was instructed to communicate with them as should be assigned to this duty from Genupon this subject. to expel the enemy from northern Louisiana eral Sherman's command, in such a manner as and Arkansas. Fourth. Such preparation and concert of action among the different corps employed as to prevent the enemy, by keeping him constantly employed, from operating against our positions or forces elsewhere; and, Fifth. That the entire force should be placed under the command of a single General. Preparations for a long campaign were advised, and the month of May indicated as the point of time when the occupation of Shreveport might be anticipated. Not one of these suggestions, so necessary in conquering the inherent difficulties of the expedition, was carried, into execution, nor was it in my power to establish them. The troops under command of General Steele were acting indecommunicated to me, and at such distance that pendently of my command, under orders not it was impossible to ascertain his movements, or to inform him of my own, so that we might cooperate with or support each other. The deGeneral Sherman, though operating upon the tachment of troops from the command of Major
Having made known my plan of operations on the coast, and fully stated, at different times, the difficulties to be encountered in movements by land in the direction of Alexandria and Shreveport, I did not feel at liberty to decline participation in the campaign, which had been pressed upon my attention from the time I was assigned to the command of this department, and which was now supported by the concurrent opinions of the General officers in the west, on account of difficulties which might be obviated by personal conference with commanders, or by orders from the General-in-Chief. It was not, however, without well-founded apprehensions of the result of the campaign, and a clear view of the measures (which I suggested) indispensable to success, that I entered upon this new campaign.
The necessity of a perfect unity of command and of purpose, as well as of constant communication between the forces assigned to this duty, and then separated by hundreds of miles, was too apparent to admit of question.
I replied to this despatch on the twenty-third