Page images



current. În three days the work was accomplished, and on the 11th and 12th six gunboats and two tugs were goi over the upper falls. They then one after another, with their hatches battened down, took the shute of the dam, cheered loudly by the wlļole army as they successively passed safely through. It was a great engineering success—the entire fleet being saved-thanks to the skill of an engineer who dared to attempt an undertaking that all had ridicúled. Porter could hardly moderate his delight at this unexpected deliverance of his fleet, and heapęd encomiums on Bailey, whom the Government very properly rewarded with the star of a Brigadier-General.

Porter in his report said: “Words are inadequate to express

the admiration I feel for the abilities of Lieutenant Colonel Bailey. This is, without doubt, the best engineering feat ever performed. Under the best circumstances a private company would not have completed this work under one year, and, to an ordinary mind, the whole thing would have appeared an impossibility. Leaving out his abilities as an engineer, and the credit he has conferred upon the country, he has saved to the Union a valuable fleet worth nearly two millions of dollars. More, he has deprived the enemy of a triumph which would have emboldened them to carry on this war a year or two longer; for the intended departure of the army was a fixed fact, and there was nothing ieft for me to do, in case that event occurred, but to destroy every part of the vessels, so that the rebels could make nothing of them. The highest honors the Government can bestow on Colonel Bailey can never repay him for the service he has rendered the country.”

The fleet, however, did not get off entirely scatheless, The gunboats Signal and Covington, having been sent down the river from Alexandria to convoy the Warner, a boat loaded with cotton, unexpectedly came upon a series of

[blocks in formation]

rebel batteries about thirty miles from the place. These batteries were so concealed, that their existence was not dreamed of until they opened on the boat loaded with cotton-piercing her boilers almost instantly, and sending her, a helpless wreck, against the opposite bank. The rebel troops fired at the same time with musketry, killing and wounding nearly two hundred soldiers that were aboard of her. Others were killed in trying to escape to the shore. The Signal and Covington at once rounded to and pushed back to help the transport, but soon found that they had enough to do to take care of themselves. Their steam pipes were soon cut, and their boilers perforated with shot, yet they gallantly maintained the unequal contest for five hours. Lieutenant George P. Lord, commanding the Covington, fired his last charge of ammunition—then spiked his guns, set fire to his vessel, and with what was left of his crew, escaped to the shore. Soon the flaming boat blew up with a loud explosion. Lieutenant Edward' Morgan, of the Sig. nal, maintained the contest for half an hour longer, but finding that he was only exposing his men to useless slaughter, abandoned it. His decks being strewn with the wounded who had gallantly stood by him to the last, he could not consent to set fire to his vessel, and so he gave permission for all to escape as they best could. But few, however, got off, for in attempting to climb the opposite bank they became a fair mark for the sharp-shooters, and were dropped, one after another, into the river.

When Banks heard of this disaster, he sent out a body of cavalry and dispersed the rebels.

Both fleet and army now came back to the Mississippi, and Canby was sent to take the place of Banks in the field, while the latter returned to New Orleans to confine himself to the civil duties of his department. This ended his mili. tary career of which his friends had expected so much.


[blocks in formation]

The expedition, whoever planned it, was ac faolish, one, while Banks, in carrying it out, showed a great lack of military sagacity. With the enemy, in his immediate front; he was caught with hiş army widely scattered apart, and his trains anywhere but where they should have been, Beaten in detail, he was driven back in disgrace, and the whole expedition turned out a mortifying failure, and came very near being & great catastrophe. Its chief object seemed to have been to gather cotton, of which large quantities were known to be in this section. It was a bad speculation, however, on the part of the Government, and most disastrous to the military reputation of the Commander. If Franklin, whom the Secretary of War had sent to Banks in a fit of spleen, had been at the head of it, a different result would have been reached.

It is proper to state that though this expedition was started., almost simțltaneously with the movement of the two great armies under Sherman and Grant, it had ņo connection whatever with it. It was organized previous to the assumption of supreme command by Grant, or it never would have þeen organized at all. It had been sanctioned by those unfortunate strategists, Halleck and Stanton, and hence had to proceed. Nothing was left for Grant to do but to hurry it forward as fast as possible, and have it out of his way

before his great movements commenced. Hence, as far back as the 15th of March, he notified Banks of the importance of capturing Shreveport at the earliest possible day, and that if he should "find that the taking of it would occupy from ten to fifteen days more time, than General Sherman had given to his troops to be absent from their command-he would send them back at the time specified by General Sherman, even if it led to the abandonment of the main object of the Red River

r expedition, for this force was necessary to movements east of the Mississippi; that should his expedition prove successful, he would hold Shreveport and the Red River



with such force as he might deem necessary, and return the balance of his troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans, commencing no move for the further acquisition of territory unless it was to make that ,then held by him more easily held; that it might be a part of the spring campaign to move against Mobile; that it certainly would be if troops enough could be obtained to make it without embarrassing other movements; that New Orleans would be the point of departure for such an expedition ; also that he had directed General Steele to make a real move from Arkansas as suggested by him, (General Banks,) instead of a demonstration, as Steele thought advisable."

Grant told him, moreover, to move as quickly as possible abandon Texas altogether, and, leaving only a portion of his

army to guard the Mississippi, to prepare to co-operate with Farragut against Mobile. This would keep a part of the Southern army away from Richmond, while the farther he went toward Shreveport, the less use he was to Grant. Hence, as we have said, the only interest the General-in Chief took in the expedition, was to have it over with as speedily as possible.

But all these battles and expeditions in the East and West, were isolated affairs, having no bearing on the mighty movement about to be made. They caused some noise and much angry feeling and vituperation, but the burdened trains and crowded boats, steadily moving without noise and observation southward, were the really great events of those four months. These separate successes or disasters were the mere by-play to the great drama about to open—the dim and far-off flashes along the edge of the storm-cloud, which was soon to darken all the heavens, and shake the earth with its thunder.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]








HE long delay of Grant in front of Washington awak.

ened much surprise, but he had resolved not to move till he was ready. No order to move at a certain day, like that of President Lincoln formerly to the Army of the Potcmac, without consulting the General-in-Chief, was given. The public might grumble and grow impatient, but he had learned from experience the folly of such a course, azd detezmined to let Grant take his own time, if he did not move till mid-summer. The lesson he had learned, had been a costly one to the country, and to our brave soldiers, but it was learned at last—that the General-in-Chief should be left to carry out his own plans without interference from politicians or the Secretary of War. This settled determination of his, neither to meddle with military movements himself, nor let others do it, filled every one with hope, and was a good augury of the future. The public settled down patiently into the conviction that Grant was to be left untrammeled, and the Secretary of War to be confined to his legitimate du'es, for which he was eminently qualified. At length the first of May, the appointed time, came, and

« PreviousContinue »