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THE EXPEDITION TO ALEXANDRIA.
river, and the Eastport and Neosho moved up within range of the fort, just as a heavy artillery duel between the fort and the land troops, which lasted about two hours, was closing. The Eastport fired a few shots, when the troops charged, and at half past four o'clock the works were carried, and the Confederates, about five thousand strong, under General Walker, retreated up the river. Before sunset the Nationals had full possession of the fort, when Porter sent two of his swiftest gun-boats (Ouachita and Lexington) followed by the Eastport and Neosho, to reach Alexandria before the arrival of the fugitives. This was accomplished, and that place soon fell into the hands of the Nationals without a struggle. The Confederates burned two steamboats and a considerable quantity of cotton, and then fled up the river, their rear-guard just beyond danger from pursuit, when, on the evening of
the 16th, the transports arrived, on which Smith's troops had * March, 1864. re-embarked at Fort de Russy. These landed and occupied the town. General Smith had left a small force behind to assist the Essex and Benton in destroying the fort, so that it could not be reoccupied by the Confederates. General Franklin was not ready to move with Banks's column from the
Teche region until the 13th. He met with very little opposition.
His cavalry division, under General A. L. Lee, with General Charles P. Stone (Banks's chief of staff), and others of that officer's military family, reached Alexandria on the 19th. Banks followed, and made his head-quarters there on the 24th, but his whole column, composed of the Nineteenth and detachments of the Thirteenth Army Corps, did not reach there until the 26th. Meanwhile, four brigades of Smith's forces, led by
General Mower, went out from Alexandria to attack a Confed
erate force at Henderson's Hill, twenty-five miles westward. The expedition, prosecuted in the midst of a cold rain and hail-storm, was eminently successful. The Confederates were surprised, and lost two hundred and fifty of their men captured, with two hundred horses, and four
guns, with their caissons. A few days laterd General Smith's
force moved to Bayou Rapide, twenty-one miles above Alexandria, in the direction of Shreveport.
Formidable difficulties in the way of the expedition now appeared. Near Alexandria are rapids in the Red River, and at this time the water immediately below them was of barely sufficient depth to float Porter's heavier iron-clads. The gun-boats were essential to the success of the expedition, but none of them could easily pass above the rapids. Finally, after the heaviest labor for more than a week,' about one half of them were
forced up, but with the loss of the hospital-vessel, Woodford, • April 2.
of the marine brigade, wrecked in the rapids. Many of that corps were then suffering from the small-pox, and were in a very discontented state. As the transports could not pass the rapids, and as they had no available land or water transportation for advancing farther, they were permitted to return to the Mississippi, in compliance with an earnest call for them to do so by General McPherson, at Vicksburg, who desired them for the special duty of guarding the great river from raids. This
• March 21.
« March 27.
I With the works, 10 guns, and 1,000 muskets, the Nationals captured 283 prisoners. Their own loss was only 84, of whom 4 were killed. The Confederates lost 9 killed and wounded.
reduced the force of the expedition three thousand, and General Banks was coinpelled to make an equal deduction from his force by an unforeseen necessity. It had been intended to carry supplies the whole distance, in the advance on Shreveport, by water, but the river was now so low that but few transports could pass the rapids, and it was found necessary to establish a depot of supplies at Alexandria, and a wagon-train to take them from vessels below to vessels above the rapids. To protect this depot and train required a considerable force, and to that duty General Grover was assigned, with three thousand men. General Banks then found his available force with which to move forward from Alexandria reduced to about twenty thousand men, without any expectation of co-operation with General Steele. There was no unity of command, and experts prophesied, at the beginning of April, a probable failure of the expedition.'
Before the gun-boats had passed up the rapids, General Banks's column, under General Franklin, advanced to Natchitoches, near the river, eighty miles above Alexandria by land,' where he arrived March 28, on the 3d of April. The Confederates had continually retreated before him, frequently stopping to skirmish with his vanguard, but offering no serious resistance, and now they continued their fight toward Shreveport, At about the same time, General Smith's command was embarked at Bayou Rapide, and moved up the river with the fleet. The difficulties and dangers of the expedition increased every hour, for the water in the river, instead of rising, as it was expected it would, was slowly falling, making the navigation more and more difficult. And now, the advance of Banks and Smith had placed a strong Confederate force between their columns, and that of General Steele, which was expected to co-operate with them.
Now, too, another most serious danger to the expedition appeared, in the possibility of its numbers being reduced full one-third more, before its object could be accomplished, by the withdrawal of General Smith's command. Expecting no delay on account of low water in the Red River, General Banks had told General Sherman, at New Orleans, that the troops under Smith might be spared from the expedition within thirty days after their arrival at Alexandria. Acting upon this assurance Lieutenant-General Grant, on assuming supreme command, sent word to General Banks, that if he should find that the taking of Shreveport would occupy ten or fifteen days more time than General Sherman gave his troops to be
1 While the forces under the four commanders, Banks, Smith, Steele, and Porter, were operating together, ** neither one of them," says the first named, in his report, “ had a right to give any order to the other. General Smith never made any report to ine, but considered his as a substantially independent force." He could get no information readily from General Steele." It took as twenty days," Banks said, “to communicate with him," and then the sum of advantage was a simple statement of position, and a few words of advice. Halleck himself said, as late as the 5th of March, that he had no information of General Steele's plans, other than that he was to facilitate Banks's march on Shreveport; and on the day after Banks's arrival at Alexandria, he received a dispatch from Halleck, dated ten days earlier, saying he haul directed General Steele to make a real move on Shreveport, instead of a demonstration only, as that officer had thought advisable. From time to time Banks was told that Steele would co-operate with him, but, at the close of April, the latter sent him word to the effect that co-operation with him was out of the question, for reasons that we shall observe presently.
* Natchitoches is on the margin of the old Red River, four miles southward of Grand Ecore, which is on the bank of the new channel of that stream.
3 A scout was sent from Natchitoches across the country to Steele, and an aid-de-camp (Captain R. T. Dunham) was sent to the same destination by way of the White River, and both succeeded in delivering dispatches. But the operation was of no practical use.
• General Banks received this dispatch at Alexandria, on the eve of his departure for Natchitoches.
ADVANCE UPON SHREVEPORT.
absent from their command, he must send them back at the time specified, even if it should lead to an abandonment of the main object of the expedition. General Grant was anxious to have all the armies acting in concert with each other in the contemplated grand and simultaneous movement upon Richmond and Atlanta, and for that purpose he directed Banks, in the event of the success of his expedition, to hold Shreveport and Red River with such force as he might deem necessary, and return the remainder of his troops to New Orleans as quickly as possible, with a view to a movement on Mobile, if it should be thought prudent. So anxious was the new General-in-Chief for the co-operation of Banks's force, that, in another dispatch, he said: “I had much rather that the Red River expedition had never been begun, than that you should be detained one day beyond the first of May in commencing the movement east of the Mississippi.”
It was under circumstances such as these that the expedition advanced from Natchitoches upon Shreveport, a hundred miles distant, by land, over a barren and almost uninhabited country. The heavier gun-boats could ascend the river no farther than Grand Ecore, and from that point all supplies had to be taken in wagons, and on few transports inadequately guarded by armed vessels. Under these circumstances, and others just mentioned, Banks would have been justified in going no farther, for he had ascertained that the Confederates from Texas and Arkansas, under Taylor, Price, Green, and others, were gathering on his front, to the number of about twenty-five thousand, with over seventy guns. But his own troops and those of General Smith were anxious to secure the main object of the expedition, and so, on
the morning of the 6th of April, Franklin moved forward, with
General Lee's cavalry in the van, followed by two thin divisions of the Thirteenth Corps, under General Ransom. General Emory followed Ransom with the First Division of the Nineteenth Corps, and a brigade of
colored troops, which had just come up from Port Hudson. On April 7.
the following morning,' General Smith followed with a part of the Sixteenth Corps, while a division of the Seventeenth, under T. Kilby Smith, twenty-five hundred strong, went up the river as a guard to the transports, which moved very slowly. General Smith was directed to conduet them to Loggy Bayou, opposite Springfield, about half way between Natchitoches and Shreveport, and there to halt and communicate with the army, at Sabine Cross Roads, fifty-four miles from Grand Ecore.
General Lee had already encountered the Confederates. In a reconnoissance westward from Natchitoches on the 2d, with the First, Third, and Fourth Brigades of his division, and, at a distance of about twelve miles from that town, he found the pickets of the foe. These were driven upon the main body, and the whole force was chased to and beyond Crump's Hill, twenty miles from Natchitoches, before the pursuit ended. There, where the route of the army would be more to the northwest, General Lee waited for the head of it to come up.
1 They were stimulated by a successful encounter on the 4th, near Compte, on the north side of the Red River, by fifteen bundred cavalry, under Colonel O. P. Gooding, with an equal number of Marmaduke's cavalry. Gooding drove them from their camp and captured their equipage.
? This was a division of picked men, composed of the Third lowa, Forty-first, Eighty-first, and Ninety-fifth Illinois, Fourteenth and Thirty-third Wisconsin, and the Fifty-eighth Ohio, all Infantry.
THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI ARMY.
Franklin ordered Lee to attack the enemy whenever he could find him, but not to bring on a general engagement. On the 7th, he skirmished almost continually with an ever-increasing cavalry force, driving them before him, until he had passed Pleasant Hill two or three miles, when he found the main body of the Confederate horsemen, under General Green, at Wilson's fatm, strongly posted. There a sharp struggle for two hours occurred, when the Confederates were driven to St. Patrick's Bayou, near Carroll's farm, nine miles from Pleasant Hill, and there Lee halted. His loss in the engagement was ninety-two men. That of the Confederates was greater, including many prisoners. Franklin, at Lee's request, had sent forward a brigade of infantry to his support, but these were withdrawn before reaching the ground, on perceiving that the firing had ceased. Franklin advanced to Pleasant Hill and encamped, and there General Banks, who had remained at Grand Ecore until all the troops had left, reached the front, after a ride of thirty-five miles.
It was now evident that the farther advance of the Nationals would be obstinately contested, and General Lee, who had been ordered to push forward, asked Franklin to allow his heavy wagon-train to remain behind, so as to be safe in the event of a sudden and formidable attack, and also requested a supporting infantry force. By order of General Banks, Colonel Landrum's brigade of the Thirteenth Corps was sent to him, and, at day break," Lee moved forward, drove the Confederates from
• April 8, St. Patrick's Bayou, and slowly, by the free use of his artillery, pushed them back to the woods beyond the clearing at Sabine Cross Roads, three or four miles below Mansfield, where he found the Trans-Mississippi army, full twenty thousand strong, under Generals Kirby Smith, Taylor, Mouton, and Green.
Finding the position and strength of his foes much superior to his own, they being behind the crest of a hill covered with pine woods, over which passed the only road to Shreveport, Lee concluded to wait until the main body of the Nationals should come up.
But the Confederates would not allow him to wait, and so, at noon, when General Ransom came up with the Second Brigade of the Thirteenth, to relieve Landrum's, the two commanders formed a line of battle, and prepared to resist the foe as long as possible. At this juncture, at a little past noon, General Banks arrived at the front, and found the skirmishers hotly engaged. He had passed Franklin at ten o'clock, giving him directions to close up his column as speedily as possible. Perceiving the situation, Banks sent back orders to Franklin to hurry forward the infantry, at the same time directing Lee to hold his ground steadily, but not to advance until re-enforcements should arrive.
Every moment the situation of the van of Banks's army was becoming more critical, for the Confederates were concentrating to crush it. Officer after officer was sent to hurry Franklin up, but the head of his column having halted at St. Patrick's Bayou in the morning, and waited for the remainder to come up, he was too far in the rear to reach the scene of action in time to give assistance. Skirmishing became hotter and hotter, and was incessant; and at half-past four o'clock the whole Confederate force, eight thousand footmen and twelve thousand horsemen, fell upon the Nationals along their whole linė, striking with special weight and vigor on their right
BATTLE AT SABINE CROSS ROADS.
flank. The resistance was gallant and desperate for about an hour and a half, but the force of the assailants was so overwhelming in numbers, and their charges were so heavy in front and flank, that the Union troops were compelled to fall back to the woods in the rear of the open space at the Cross Roads, with heavy loss, but in good order. In this retreat, three pieces of Nims's battery were lost. The Confederates strove hard to get in the rear of the Nationals, but Lee's cavalry repulsed them at every attempt.
At about five o'clock General Franklin came up with the Third Division of the Thirteenth Corps, under General Cameron, and a new and stronger line was formed, but this was speedily broken up by the Confederates, who, inspirited by success, fell upon it with great fury, turning its flanks, and striking its center heavily. This assault, like the first, was stubbornly resisted, but finding the Confederates gaining their rear, the Nationals fell as steadily back as they could along the narrow, winding forest road, filled with the wagons and mules of the cavalry supply-train. These so blocked the way that it was difficult for men and artillery to retreat. There General Ransom lost ten guns and about a thousand men captured, and Lee lost nearly the whole of his wagons (one hundred and fifty-six), filled with supplies. The confusion was terrible, and efforts to re-form the line were unavailing.' Generals. Franklin and Ransom, and Colonel Robinson of the Third Cavalry, were wounded, and Colonel Vance, of the Ninety-sixth Ohio, LieutenantColonel Webb, of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, and Captain Dickey, of General Ransom's staff, were killed. So ended, in disaster to the Union arms, The BATTLE OF SABINE Cross Roads.
Fortunately for the shattered columns of Franklin's advance, General W. H. Emory was then approaching rapidly with his fine division. He had been advised of the condition of affairs at the front, and was directed to form a line of battle in the strongest position he could select, to support the troops in retreat, and check the advance of the pursuers. At Pleasant Grove, three miles behind Sabine Cross Roads, he halted for the purpose at about six o'clock in the evening, and formed a line in the edge of a wood, with an open field before him sloping to the front. The One Hundred and Sixty-second New York, Colonel Kinsey, were deployed as skirmishers, and ordered to the foot of the hill on the crest of which the line was formed, so as to cover the rear of the retreating forces. Across the road along which the fugitives and pursuers were advancing, General Dwight formed his (First) brigade, and to the left of him was placed the Third Brigade, from which the skirmishers were taken, commanded by Colonel Lewis Benedict. The Second Brigade, under General McMillan, was held in reserve. But
1 An eye-witness wrote: "Suddenly there was a rush, a shout, the crashing of trees, the breaking down of rails, the rush and scamper of men. It was as sudden as though a thunderbolt had fallen among us, and set the pines on fire. What caused it, or when it commenced, no one knew. I turned to my companion to inquire the reason of this extraordinary proceeding, but before he had a chance to reply, we found ourselves swallowed up, as it were, in a hissing, seething, bubbling, whirlpool of agitated men. We could not avoid the current; we could not stem it; and if we hoped to live in that mad company, we must ride with the rest of them. Our line of battle had given away. General Banks took off his hat and implored his men to remain; his staff-officers did the same; but it was of no avail. Then the general drew his saber, and endeavored to rally his men, but they would not listen. Behind him the rebels were shouting and advancing. Their musket-balls filled the air with that strange, file-rasping sound that war has made familiar to our fighting men. The teams were abandoned by the drivers, the traces cut, and the animals ridden off by the frightened men. Bare headed riders roue wi
agony pictured in thei fad for at least ten minutes it seemed as if we were going destruction together."-Correspondent of the Philadelphia Pre88.