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250

NEGROES EMPLOYED IN THE WAR.

opposition to the enlistment of negro soldiers was very strong. It was illustrated by the fact that, when, in May, 1863, the Fifty-fourth (colored) Massachusetts, which performed such gallant acts at Fort Wagner under Colonel Shaw,' was ready to start for South Carolina, the Superintendent of the Police of New York declared, in answer to a question, that they could not be protected from insult in that city, if they should attempt to pass through it. So they sailed directly from Boston for Port Royal. But there was soon a change of public sentiment on the subject there, a few months later, as we have observed,' when a regiment of colored troops, bearing a flag presented by the women of the city and cheered by thousands, marched through its streets for the battle-field. From that time such troops were freely enlisted everywhere, and as freely used; and the universal testimony of experts is, that as soldiers they were equal to the white men. Nearly two hundred thousand of them fought for the preservation of our free institutions, in which their own race was deeply involved. Their brethren in bondage had been freely used by the Confederates from the beginning of the war, not as soldiers, but as laborers, as we have observed. We frequently saw notices of their enrollment into the military service of the Conspirators, but arms were never put into their hands. It would have been a fatal experiment, and the Oligarchy knew it. They were organized into companies, under white leaders, but were always “armed and equipped with shovels, axes, spades, pickaxes, and blankets.” Such employment of the colored race by the Confederates, in carrying on the war, was well known, yet the Opposition in Congress and elsewhere most strenuously opposed their enlistment as soldiers; but the Government went steadily forward in the path of prescribed duty, and in March, 1863, Adjutant-General Thomas was sent to the Mississippi Valley for the express purpose of promoting the enlistment of colored troops. In that work he labored zealously. He visited Memphis, Helena, Vicksburg, and other places where large numbers of colored people were gathered, and he addressed them on the subject of emancipation, their duties as citizens, and the importance of their doing all in their power to assist the Government in its struggle for life against the common enemy of both. He also addressed the National officers and soldiers in favor of the employment of colored troops, reminding them that the strength of the Confederate cause lay, in a large measure, in the employment of negroes in the cultivation of the soil while the white people were in the army, and showing that it was policy in every way, either by enlisting the negroes in our armies, or otherwise employing them, to deprive the enemies of the Government of the labor of these men. “All of you," he said," will some day be on picket-duty, and I charge you all, if any of this unfortunate race come within your lines, that you do not turn them away, but receive them kindly and cordially. They are to be encouraged to come to us; they are to be received with open arms; they are to be fed and ctothed; they are to be armed.”

1 See page 204

See page 91

THE RED RIVER EXPEDITION.

251

CHAPTER IX.

THE RED RIVER EXPEDITION.

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171

• Jan, 28,

1864.

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ET us now look across the Mississippi River and see what was occurring there in 1864.

We left General Banks at New Orleans, after his failure to “repossess” Texas in the autumn and early winter of 1863, engaged in planning another expedition to that State, the first important work to be the cap

ture of Galveston. While so engaged he received a dispatch from General Halleck, dated the 4th of January, informing him that it was proposed to operate against Texas by the line of the Red River, that route having “the favor of the best military opinions of the generals of the West.” Halleck proposed to have the expedition to consist of the forces of Banks and Steele, and such troops as Grant might spare for the winter, to act in combination or in co-operation, together with gun-boats. He informed Banks that both Grant and Steele had been written to, and instructed him to communicate with them upon the subject. The grand object was the capture of Shreveport, on the Red River, near the boundary between Louisiana and Texas; the capture or dispersion of the Confederates in that region, then under General E. Kirby Smith,' as commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, and then the recovery of Texas and the opening of the way for trade in the immense supplies of cotton in the latter State.

The objections to this route, which Banks had hitherto urged, still existed, and he had apprehensions of disastrous results in a campaign without a unity of command and purpose. But so often had this inland route been urged upon him by Halleck, as the most feasible way for winning a conquest of Texas, that he did not feel at liberty to offer serious opposition again; so he promptly replied, on the day when he received Halleck’s dispatch, that with the forces proposed the expedition might be successful and important, and that he should cordially co-operate in the movement. He thought it proper, however, to send to the General-in-Chief a memorial prepared by his chief engineer (Major D. C. Houston), on the proposed expedition, in which was explicitly stated the obstructions to be encountered and the measures necessary to accomplish the objects in view. It recommended as indispensable to success: (1.) Such complete preliminary organization as would avoid the least delay in movements after the campaign had opened; (2.) That a line of supply be established from the Mississippi, independent of water-courses, because these would become unmanageable at certain seasons of the year;

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I See page 501, volume IL

252

PLAN OF TIIE RED RIVER EXPEDITIOX.

(3.) The concentration of the forces west of the Mississippi, and such other force as should be assigned to this duty from General Sherman's command, in such a manner as to expel the enemy from Northern Louisiana and Arkansas; (4.) Such preparation and concert of action among the different corps engaged as to prevent the enemy, by keeping him constantly employed, from operating against our positions or forces elsewhere; and (5.) That the entire force should be placed under the command of a single general. Preparations for a long campaign was also advised, and the month of May was indicated as the point of time when the occupation of Shreveport might be anticipated. “Not one of these suggestions,” said General Banks, in his report, “so necessary in conquering the inherent difficulties of the expedi

, tion, was carried into execution, nor was it in my power to establish them."

The general plan laid out was for Admiral Porter to move from Vicksburg with a powerful fleet of armored gun-boats and transports, carrying ten thousand men of Sherman's old army, under General A. J. Smith, and, passing up the Red River, capture Fort de Russy, and join Banks at Alexandria. The latter was to march overland from the Atchafalaya to Alexandria with his disposable force, say sixteen thousand men, while General Steele, with about fifteen thousand men, operating independently, should

move directly on Shreveport from Little Rock. The Confederates in that region, according to the most reliable reports, were disposed as follows: Magruder, with about fifteen thousand effective men, was in Texas, his main body covering Galveston and Houston; Walker's division, about seven thousand strong, was on the Atchafalaya and Red River, from Opelousas to Fort de Russy; Mouton's division, numbering about six thousand men, was between the Black and Washita rivers, from Red River to Monroe; and Price, with a force of infantry

estimated at five thousand, and of cavalry from seven to ten thousand, held the road from Monroe to Camden and Arkadelphia, in front of Steele. Magruder could spare ten thousand of his force to resist an attack from the east, leaving his fortifications on the coast well garrisoned, while Price could furnish at least an additional five thousand from the north, making, with those in the vicinity of the Red River, an army of from twenty-five to thirty thousand men-a force equal to any that could be brought against them, even with the most perfect unity and co-operation of commands. Considering this disposition of the Confederate forces, we perceive that the problem was presented by authority for solution, How shall the National forces achieve a victory in the campaign by threatening Shreveport with forty thousand men, so disposed in parts

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FREDERICK STEELE.

I General Banks's Report to the Secretary of War,

General Banks's Report to the Secretary of War.

TROOPS AT SIMMS' PORT.

253

1

that a solid and easily movable body of twenty-five thousand men may quickly strike each separate portion of the divided forty thousand in turn, with superior numbers ? To the practical solution of this problem the Nationals now addressed themselves.

Being charged with other important duties at this time which required his presence in New Orleans, General Banks intrusted the arrangement of his portion of the expedition to General Franklin, who was to move on the 7th of March, and reach Alexandria on the 17th. Meanwhile, Admiral Porter, who had agreed to meet Banks there on that day, was promptly at the mouth of the Red River on the 7th, with his powerful fleet of fifteen iron-clads and four light steamers,' and there he was joined on the 11th by the transports, with four divisions of Sherman's army, under General A. J. Smith, and the Marine Brigade, under General Alfred Ellet, three thousand strong. There was just water enough for the larger gun-boats to pass; and on the morning of the 12th they moved up the river, led by the Eastport. That vessel, with others that might follow, was charged with the duty of removing obstructions in the river, and to amuse Fort de Russy by a feigned attack until the army should land at Simms' Port, on the Atchafalaya, and get in the rear of that post, to attack it.

To cover the landing of the troops on the site of Simms' Port (the town had been destroyed), nine of the gun-boats turned into the Atchafalaya, followed by the transports. The crew of the Benton landed, and drove back Confederate pickets upon their main body, three miles in the rear; and when the divisions of Generals Mower and T. Kilby Smith landed," the entire opposing force fell back toward Fort de Russy.

• March 13, Mower, with a brigade, then reconnoitered toward Yellow Bayou, when he found that the Confederates had fled from a post there, burning the bridge behind them.

It was now decided to land the whole column, and march it overland to Fort de Russy, a distance of about thirty miles; and at daybreak on the morning of the 14th it moved, in light marching order, Mower in the advance. Very soon the Nationals began to feel their foe, and they were compelled to skirmish with the Confederate cavalry, in front and rear, nearly all the way, until they approached the fort in the afternoon. They had marched, fought, and built a bridge over the Yellow Bayou (which consumed two hours), since dawn, and now, without rest, attacked the fort, which was armed with eight siege-guns and two field-pieces, two of the former in position to command the river.

In the mean time the gun-boats had removed the obstructions in the

1864.

1 Porter's feet consisted of the following vessels: Essex, Commander Robert Townsend; Benton, Lieutenant-Commander James A. Green; Lafayette, Lieutenant-Commander J. P. Foster; Choctar, Lieutenant-Commander F. M. Ramsey; Chillicotho, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant 8. P. Couthony; Ozark, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant George W. Browne; Louisville, Lieutenant-Commander E. K. Owen; Carondelet, Lieutenant-Commander J. G. Mitchell; Eastport, Lieutenant-Commander S. L. Phelps; Pittsburg, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant W. R. Hoel; Mound City, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant A. R. Langthorne; Osage, Lier tenant-Commander T. O. Selfridge; Neosho, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Samuel Howard; Ouachita, Lieuten ant-Commander Byron Wilson; and Fort Hindman, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant John Pearce. These wen the armored vessels. The lighter boats consisted of the Lexington, Lieutenant George M. Bache; Cricket, Acting Master H. H. Gorringe; Gazelle, Acting Master Charles Thatcher; Black Hawk, Lieutenant-Com. marder K. R. Breese.

? The First and Third Divisions of the Sixteenth Army Corps, and First and Fourth Divisions of the Seventeenth Army Corps.

254

THE EXPEDITION TO ALEXANDRIA.

March, 1864.

) March.

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 Eustport 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

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.

1 With the works, 10 guns, and 1,000 muskets, the Nationals captured 283 prisoners. Their own loss Fas only 34, of whom 4 were killed. The Confederates lost 9 killed and wounded.

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