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BATTLE OF PLEASANT HILL.
was along a thickly-wooded acclivity half a mile west of Pleasant Hill, upon and around which the main body of the Unionists were posted. A second line was formed of two brigades; and the Thirteenth Corps, with a large portion of General Smith's command, were held as a reserve. The army trains, heavily guarded by most of Lee's cavalry division, the brigade of colored troops, and Ransom's shattered columns, were sent some distance on the road toward Grand Ecore, so as to be out of the way of danger in the impending battle, and not be liable to obstruct retreat should it become necessary.
Toward noon the Confederate advance appeared, skirmishing very cautiously, for Emory had taught them circumspection the previous evening; and so slight were these demonstrations until the middle of the afternoon, that the general belief was that there would be no attack in force before morning. That the Confederates were near in force was well known, for Colonel Gooding, who went out with his cavalry a mile or two on the Shreveport road to reconnoiter, was roughly handled by a large body of Texas horsemen, under Colonel Sweitzer.
Between three and four o'clock the Confederates opened a battery, the skirmishing increased in intensity, and there was an evident intention of attempting to turn Emory's right, whereupon the Second Brigade, which occupied the center, and lay across the Shreveport road, along which the foe was advancing, was posted on the right and rear, and its place was supplied by one of Smith's brigades.' Then the sounds of the skirmish-firing died away, but the lull was brief, and at a few minutes past five o'clock the Confederates burst out of the woods in heavy lines in all directions,' driving in the National skirmishers by two charging columns, and outflanking, by a quick oblique movement, Emory's left, held by Benedict's brigade, fell upon it with crushing force. Outnumbered as well as outflanked, and being without any near support, the brigade fell steadily back, fighting gallantly as they were pushed up the acclivity of Pleasant Hill, suffering heavily until they filed behind Shaw's brigade. Sweitzer undertook to break the line of this covering force by a charge with his Texas cavalry, when he was met by one of the most destructive fires known in the annals of war.
Of his regiment, not more than ten escaped death or wounds. In the conflict down the slope at the first shock of the onset, and while trying to rally his men to a charge, the gallant Benedict was first wounded by a bullet in the arm, and a few moments afterward was killed by another, which passed through his head. No braver or more beloved soldier and citizen than he gave his life for his country during the war."
1 This was the Second Brigade, Third Division, of the Sixteenth Army Corps, commanded by Colonel W. T. Shaw, of the Fourteenth Iowa. The brigade consisted of the Fourteenth, Twenty-seventh, and Thirty-second Iowa, and Twenty-fourth Missouri.
2 The Confederate line of battle was as follows: General Green's division, on the extreme left; that of the slain Mouton, under General Polignac, a French oflicer, on Green's right; next to him General Walker, and a division of Arkansas and Missouri troops, under General Churchill, on the extreme right.
3 This was composed of the One Hundred and Sixty-second (Benedict's own), One Hundred and Sixty. fifth, and One Hundred and Seventy-third New York, and Thirtieth Maine.
** Reserve your fire, boys, until he gets within thirty yards, and then give it to him!” said Colonel Shaw. As the cavalry came dashing up. “each infantry man,” said an eye-witness,“ had selected his victim, and, waiting till the three or four hundred were within about forty yards, the Fourteenth lowa emptied nearly every saddle as quickly as though the order had been given to dismount."
5 Colonel Benedict, then in the prime of life, was a ripe scholar, an able lawyer, and a greatly esteemed citizen of Albany, New York. He entered the service of the Republic at the beginning of the rebellion, and served it faithfully until his death; and in whatever position he was placerl, he was found ever equal to all demands upon him. While in McClellan's army, under Hooker, and fighting gallantly in front of Williamsburg, he was made a captive, and was confined in Libby Prison many
RETREAT TO GRAND ECORE ORDERED.
While the left was overpowered and pushed back, and the Confederates succeeded in getting temporary possession of four guns on that flank, Emory's right stood firm, until, enveloped on three sides by superior force, it was crowded back a little, and allowed the assailants to pass on toward General Smith's position in reserve. A few volleys were exchanged, when the tide of battle was quickly turned by a heavy counter-charge of some of Smith's veterans, under General Mower, and Emory's troops, which had been skillfully formed on the right of these. The right of the Confederates was driven more than a mile by this charge. The whole of the reserves were ordered up, and the foe was completely routed, and pursued until dark. So
ended,“ in complete victory for the Nationals, The BATTLE OF · April 9,
PLEASANT HILL. It “was desperate and sanguinary,” said General Banks in his report.
“ The defeat of the enemy was com. plete, and his loss in officers and men more than double that sustained by our force.' We fought the battle at Pleasant Hill with about fifteen thousand against twenty-two thousand men.”
Banks gave orders for a forward movement toward Shreveport the next morning, and communicated the fact to General Smith that evening. He sent word for his trains to re-form and advance at daybreak, and active preparations were commenced for following up the victory, when representations concerning the condition and circumstances of his command by Franklin and the general officers of the Nineteenth Corps, caused a suspension of the order. A conference of general officers was held that evening, when, upon the urgent recommendation of them all, and with the acquiescence of General Smith, it was determined to retire upon Grand Ecore the following day, “to the great disappointment of the troops," Banks said, “who, flushed with success, were eager for another fight.”
In the mean time the command of T. Kilby Smith and the transports had reached Springfield Landing, at Loggy Bayou, where the river was obstructed by a sunken steamboat. Farther advance was not required, for word soon came of the disaster at Sabine Cross Roads, followed by an order from Pleasant Hill for the troops and flotilla to fall back to Grand Ecore as quickly as possible. Obedience was a difficult task, for the troops so sorely smitten by Banks were turning their attention to the capture or destruction
weeks. On his return he was appointed commander of the One Hundred and Sixty-second New York, just organized, and which was assigned to duty in the expedition under General Banks. In the Departinent of the Gulf, under that commander, the regiment, in the hands of Colonel Benedict, becaine distinguished. He was soon placed in the position of acting-brigadier, and in that capacity performed gallant service before Port Hudson during Banks's siege of that post. He was then in General Dwight's division, which occupied the left of the attacking line. He was ever ready for perilous duty, and often performed it. When, on the 15th of June, Banks called for one thousand volunteers to storm the works at Port Hudson, Colonel Benedict offered to lead a battalion in the perilous duty, which circumstances made unnecessary. His death produced most profound sorrow in the army, and in his native State, where he was widely known and appreciated. The newspapers teemed with eulogies of him, and he was honored with a public funeral in the city of Albany.
i General Banks reported his losses in the severe battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April," at 8,969, of whom 259 were killed, 1,641 wounded, and 2.150 missing. Most of the latter were prisoners. In addition to these, the Nationals had lost in the campaign, thus far, 20 pieces of artillery, 160 wagons, and 1.200 horses and mules, including many that died of disease. The gains were the capture of Fort De Russy, Ales. andria, Grand Ecore, and Natchitoches, the opening of the Red River, and the capture of 2.300 prisoners. 25 pieces of artillery (chiefly by fleet), and 3,000 of cotton. The Confederate losses in the engagements just mentioned were never reported.
RETREAT OF THE VESSELS IMPEDED.
of the vessels and troops above Grand Ecore. The banks of the river, at its turns, were now swarming with sharp-shooters. The water was very low, and continually falling, and great labor was necessary in getting the vessels over the numerous bars and shoals. The men employed in this service were exposed to murderous musket-firing, and the flotilla did not move over thirty miles a day.
The first regular attack upon the vessels, in force, was at Coushattee, by nearly two thousand cavalry, with four guns, under Colonel Harrison, who, after that, continually annoyed the Nationals, the slow progress of the boats, which were tied up at night, enabling him to keep up with them. General Smith fitted the transports under his command for defense as well as his means would allow, by barricading them with boxes, barrels, bales of hay, and the mattresses of the steamers. He felt that the salvation of both the gun-boats and the transports depended much upon the valor and fortitude of his troops, for the water was so low that the cannon on the war-vessels could do but little execution upon the high banks, at short range. ceeded in mounting two thirteen-inch Rodman guns on a platform upon the hurricane deck of the Emerald, and these performed excellent service, not only in action, but in keeping the Confederates at a respectful distance.
On the evening of the 12th the most determined attack was made on a part of the flotilla, near Pleasant Hill landing, where a heavy transport lay aground. A large majority of the gun-boats and transports, including Porter's flag-ship, with the Admiral on board, had gone down the river, leaving two or three gun-boats and transports with General Smith's command behind. Doubtless aware of this weakening of the forces on the river, caused the Confederates to attempt the capture of the remainder, and accordingly about two thousand infantry and dismounted cavalry, under General Thomas Green, appeared on the right bank of the river, charged up to its edge, and demanded the surrender of the transports, at the same time opening fire on the monitor Osage. It was answered by a sharp fire from the two Rodman guns and from other vessels-gun-boats and transports, — with fearful effect. The first discharge of a Rodman blew off the head of the Confederate mander, one of the most useful officers in Kirby Smith's depart
REGION OF THE BED RIVER EXPEDITION.
1 In his report to the Secretary of the Navy on the 14th of April, Admiral Porter claimed the entire credit of the repulse of the Confederates for himself and his command, and did not even mention the presence of Genoral T. Kilby Smith and his troops.
THE ARMY AND NAVY AT GRAND ECORE.
ment, and his loss was greatly deplored. The Confederates rallied, and again charged most recklessly, receiving the fire of Smith's soldiers and of the gun-boats, especially of the Lexington, Lieutenant Bache, which gave them a raking fire of canister-shot, that strewed the bank with their dead bodies for a mile. At the same time Harrison appeared on the opposite side of the river, and received such rough treatment, that he kept at a distance, and the whole flotilla passed down toward Grand Ecore without much further trouble. So terrible was the lesson given to the Confederates in this engagement, that a force of five thousand, which was hastening to intercept the flotilla at a point below, turned back. In the mean time
, Banks and all the land troops had returned to Grand Ecore, when a part of them were sent six miles up the river, to protect a large portion of the descending gun-boats and transports there aground. These were speedily brought down without further annoyance.
The army was again upon the Red River, but the troubles of the expedition were not at an end. Porter found most of his larger vessels aground at Grand Ecore, some of thein drawing a foot more water than there was on the bar there, and the river was still falling. The momentous question arose, If it shall be found expedient or necessary to continue the retreat to Alexandria, and so on to the Mississippi, how shall the vessels of the expedition be taken over the rapids below? This question had come up before the battle at Pleasant Hill. Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, Engineer of the Nineteenth Corps, had foreseen this difficulty, and conceived a way of overcoming it, by damming the river at the foot of the rapids, so as to deepen the waters above, and then, by opening a sluice, have a sufficient depth, as the pent-up volume flowed down, to float the vessels safely through. He mentioned this project to General Franklin in the morning before the battle at Pleasant Hill, who approved it, and after that struggle Franklin named it to General Banks, who also approved it. The latter officer, in a personal
interview with Admiral Porter, six days later, suggested it, in · April 15,
case it was thought best for the expedition to return to the Mis
sissippi; but the latter evinced no faith in it. He expressed his belief that the Red River would rise in time to give sufficient water at the rapids, notwithstanding army officers, from long experience in that region, held a contrary opinion. In a dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy the day before, he had said: “If nature does not change her laws, there will, no doubt, be a rise of water,” and to this opinion he adhered until satisfied that nature would not accommodate the fleet, and that the scientific skill of an army officer was necessary to save it from destruction, as we shall observe presently. Porter succeeded in getting all his vessels over the bar at Grand Ecore,
and then went down the river toward Alexandria, leaving the fleet April 17.
in charge of Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge. The whole naval force at once started down the river. When about eight miles below, the Eastport was sunk by a torpedo, and several days were consumed in getting her afloat. Meanwhile, General Banks had received the letter from General Grant, already alluded to, concerning General Sherman's troops,' and he determined
I See page 255.