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BANKS IN THE INTERIOR OF LOUISIANA.

599

1863.

The air soon became thick with sulphurous smoke, and when the bonfire was a smoldering heap the darkness was most profound. Still the fight went on, and grape, canister, and shrapnel shot, and the bullets of sharpshooters, swept murderously over the decks as the vessels went

a March 14, nearer the bluff, and when, at one o'clock in the morning,' after a contest of an hour and a half, the firing ceased, only the Hartford and her consort, the Albatross, had passed by. The Mississippi had run aground abreast the central heaviest battery, where her commander (Melancthon Smith) fought her under the concentrated fire of many large guns for half an hour, when he abandoned her and set her on fire. Lightened by the consumption of the flames, she floated down the river with her fine armament of twenty-one heavy guns and two howitzers, and was blown into fragments several miles below by the explosion of her magazine. The other vessels of the fleet, badly bruised, returned to their anchorage near Prophet's Island, and General Banks, whose force was too light to attempt the capture of Port Hudson at that time, whose garrison was reported to be sixteen thousand effective men, returned to Baton Rouge; not, however, with the intention of abandoning the enterprise.

Banks now sent a large portion of his movable troops again into the Louisiana region west of the Mississippi. He concentrated his forces at Brashear City, on the Atchafalaya, when, on the 10th of April, General Weitzel crossed over to Berwick without opposition, but discovered that the Confederates were in considerable force on his front, under General Richard Taylor, one of the most active of the trans-Mississippi Confederate leaders. General Emory's division crossed on the 12th, and all moved toward Franklin, driving the foe before them until he reached Fort Bisland and his other works near Pattersonville, where he made a stand. On the same day Banks sent General Grover with his division, on transports and four gun-boats,' up the Atchafalaya and Lake Chestimachee to Irish Bend, a short distance from Franklin, and on the flank of the Confederates, with the intention of gaining their rear and cutting off their retreat, should they be driven from Fort Bisland. It was a most difficult landing-place, and besides the delay in getting ashore, Grover was compelled to withstand a vigorous attack. He repelled the assailants, but the time consumed in the struggle enabled Taylor to abandon Fort Bisland and escape. Taylor burned several steamboats at Franklin and fled toward Opelousas, destroying the bridges behind him, and making a stand at Vermilion Bayou. He had been followed rapidly by cavalry, artillery, and Weitzel's brigade, with a part of

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RICHARD TAYLOR.

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Emory's division, under Colonel Ingraham, as a support. So close was the pursuit, that Taylor could not get five transports, laden with commissary stores and ammunition at New Liberia, out of harm's way, and these, with an incomplete iron-clad gun-boat, were destroyed.

Emory came up with Taylor at Vermilion Bayou on the 17th. The latter was driven after a sharp contest, burning the bridges behind him ; and on the 20th Banks entered Opelousas in triumph, and sent cavalry to Washington, six miles farther on. During this retreat the Queen of the West, which, as we have seen, was captured in the Red River by the Confederates,' and had come down the Atchafalaya to Lake Chestimachee, was assailed by the National gun-boats and destroyed, and her crew were

made prisoners of war. And on the day when Banks entered • April 20, Opelousas, the gun-boats, under Lieutenant-commanding A. P.

Cooke, captured Butte à la Rose, with its garrison of sixty men, two heavy guns, and a large quantity of ammunition, and opened the way through the Atchafalaya to the Red River, the Arizona passing through and reaching Admiral Farragut above Port Hudson, on the 2d of May.

On the 22d of April Banks moved on from Opelousas toward Alexandria, General William Dwight, of Grover's division, with detachments of cavalry and artillery, leading. Taylor retreated before these to Fort De Russy. That post he also abandoned as Banks came rapidly on, and fled through Alexandria toward Shreveport.” Admiral Porter had ascended the Red River with a fleet of gun-boats, and seized Alexandria on the 6th of May, and on that evening the advance of Banks's column, under General Dwight, entered the town. Weitzel was pressed forward in pursuit of Taylor nearly to Grande Ecore, beyond Natchitoches, when the fugitive force had so diminished that it was of little account, and the chase was abandoned. The most considerable and by far the most fertile region of Louisiana was now

in the possession of the Government forces, and on the 7th of

May Banks wrote officially: “We have destroyed the enemy's army and navy, and made their reorganization impossible by destroying or removing the material. We hold the key of the position. Among the evidences of our victory are two thousand prisoners, two transports, and twenty guns taken, and three gun-boats and eight transports destroyed.”3

Banks's attention was now turned again to the Mississippi, for it was many weeks before General Taylor was able to organize a respectable force of Confederates in Louisiana. Banks had been informed by Farragut, while he was at Brashear City, that Grant would send him twenty thousand men from his large army near Vicksburg, to assist in the capture of Port Hudson, with the intention of then employing the combined forces in the capture of

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1 See page 589.

2 On the march a letter froin Governor Moore, of Louisiana, to General Taylor, fell into the hands of General Banks. It contained an order from the Governor for Taylor to retreat slowly to Alexandria, and, if pressed, to retire to Texas. An intercepted letter showed that on the day before the advance of Banks's army from the vicinity of Brushear City, Taylor had intended to attack that post.

3 At Opelousas Banks issued an order (May 1st, 1563) announcing his purpose of organizing "a corps d'armée" of colored troops, to be designated as the “Corps d'Afrique," to consist, ultimately, of eighteen regi. ments, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. He expressed a desire to detail, for temporary or permanent duty, the best officers of the army for the organization, discipline, and instruction of that corps, with the conviction that it would render important si'rvice to the Government. The prejudices and opinions of men, he said, were in no way involved in the transaction, and he significantly inquired, “ Why should not the negro contribute whaterer is in his power for the cause in which he is as deeply interested as other men ?"

BANKS INVESTS PORT HUDSON.

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the former place. Banks was preparing for these movements, when, on the 12th of May, he received a letter from Grant, dated two days before, informing him that he had crossed the Mississippi in force, and had entered on the campaign along the line of the Big Black River, which resulted so gloriously. He asked Banks to join him in this new movement against Vicksburg; but the latter, wanting sufficient transportation on the Red River, and unwilling to leave New Orleans and the “repossessed” territory of Louisiana at the mercy of the strong garrison at Port Hudson, and the possible force General Taylor might gather, declined. He sent General Dwight to Grant with satisfactory proof of the wisdom of his decision, and on the 14th and 15th of May he put his army in motion at Alexandria for an investment of Port Hudson. Grant having sent word back by Dwight that he would endeavor to spare Banks five thousand men for an effort to capture that stronghold, all the transports at hand were laden with troops, and the remainder were marched to Simm's Port. There they crossed the Atchafalaya, and moved down the west side of the Mississippi to a point opposite Bayou Sara, where they crossed on the night of the 23d, and proceeded to invest Port Hudson from the north on the following day. At the same time General C. C. Augur, marching up from Baton Rouge, invested it on the May 24, south with three thousand five hundred men.

Here we will leave General Banks for a while, and follow General Grant in his campaign on the flank and rear of Vicksburg.

We left Grant late in April, with troops, transports, and gun-boats, below Vicksburg, prepared to cross and open a new series of operations against that stronghold. At that time some of his cavalry which had been left in Tennessee were engaged in a most extensive and destructive raid through Mississippi, spreading terror everywhere in the region of its track. The story may be thus briefly told, though in its details it presents one of the most remarkable events on record. On the 17th of April, Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, of the Sixth Illinois cavalry, left La Grange, Tennessee, with his own regiment, and the Seventh Illinois and Second Iowa, the latter commanded respectively by Colonels Edward Prince and Edward Hatch, marched southward, sweeping rapidly through Ripley, New Albany, Pontatoc, Houston, Clear Spring, Starkville, and Louisville, to Newton, in the heart of the rich western portion of Mississippi, and behind all of the Confederate forces with which Grant had to contend. These horsemen were scattered in detachments, as much as prudence would allow, striking the Confederate forces which had been hastily gathered here and there to oppose them, breaking up railways and bridges, severing telegraph-wires, wasting public property, and, as much as possible, diminishing the means of transportation of the Confederates in their efforts

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to aid the army at Vicksburg. Their marches were long and very severe each day, often through tangled swamps, dark and rough forests, and across swollen streams and submerged plains. At Newton, being below Jackson,

they turned sharply to the southwest toward Raleigh, and pushed rapidly through that town to Westfield and Hazelhurst. They halted at Gallatin, where they captured a 32-pounder rifled Parrott gun, with fourteen hundred pounds of gunpowder, on the way to Grand Gulf. They pushed on to Union Church, a little behind Natchez, where they had a skirmish, when, turning back, they struck the New Orleans and Jackson railway a little north of Brookhaven, and proceeded to burn the station-house, cars, and bridges at the latter place. Then they went to Bogue Chitto with a similar result, and pressing southward

to Greensburg, in Louisiana, they marched rapidly westward on the Osyka and Clinton road to Clinton, fighting Confederates that lay in ambush at Amite River, and losing LieutenantColonel Blackburn, of the Seventh Illinois, who was mortally wounded.

The 2d of May was the last day of the great raid. They marched early, burned a Confederate camp at Sandy Creek Bridge, and, a little later, captured Colonel Stewart and forty-two of his cavalry on Comite River. This

was the crowning act of their expedition, and at noon on that « May 2,

day the troops that remained with Grierson, wearied and worn,

and their horses almost exhausted, entered Baton Rouge, in the midst of the plaudits of Banks's troops stationed there.

Grierson had sent back the Second Iowa and about one hundred and seventy-five men of other regiments, and with a little less than one thousand men he made the raid, one of the most remarkable on record. In the space of sixteen days they had ridden six hundred miles in a succession of forced marches, often in drenching rain, and sometimes without rest for two days, through a hostile country, over ways most difficult to travel, fighting men and destroying property. They killed and wounded about one hundred of the foe, captured and paroled full five hundred, destroyed three thousand stand of arms, and inflicted a loss on the Confederates of property valued at about six millions of dollars. Grierson's loss was twenty-seven men and a number of horses. Twenty-five horses were drowned in crossing an overflowed swamp, eight miles wide, on the Okanoxubee River. The smallness of his loss of men and horses was remarkable, considering the hazards, fatigues, and privations they had encountered. Detachments sent out here and there to destroy were chased and attacked by some of the thousands sent for the purpose from Vicksburg and Jackson, and sometimes they would be compelled to ride sixty miles in a day, over blind, rough, and miry roads, in order to regain the main body. During the twenty-eight hours preceding their arrival at Baton Rouge, the whole body had traveled

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GRANT'S ARMY CROSSES THE MISSISSIPPI.

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seventy-six miles, engaged in four skirmishes, and forded the Comite River, in which many of the horses were compelled to swim. Grierson's experience caused him to declare that the Confederacy was but “a shell," and subsequent events justified the opinion.

Grant's first movement toward the Big Black region was to direct Porter to make a naval attack on the batteries of Grand Gulf. This was done on the morning of the 29th of April,o and after a contest of five hours and a half the lower batteries were silenced. The upper ones were too high to be much affected. The Confederates had field-batteries that were moved from point to point, and the sharp-shooters who filled the

rifle-pits on the hill-sides were extremely JUNG

mischievous to the people on the gunboats. It was evident that the post could not be taken; so at a little past noon Grant ordered a cessation of the battle, and directed Porter to run by the batteries with gun-boats and transports, as he had done at Vicksburg and Warrenton, while the army should move down to a point opposite Rod ney, where it might cross without much opposition. At six o'clock that evening Porter again attacked the batteries, and under cover of the fire all the transports passed by in good condition. Three of Porter's gun-boats were much injured in the fight and in the passage of the batteries, and he lost

twenty-four men killed and fifty-six wounded. The injured vessels were soon paired and made ready for active service.

Informed by a negro that there was a good road from Bruinsburg (half-way between Grand Gulf and Rodney) to Port Gibson or the Bayou Pierre, in rear of Grand Gulf, Grant decided to cross at that point. At daylight the next morning the gun-boats and transports commenced ferrying the troops. So soon as the Thirteenth

corps, under McClernand, was landed, it was Grierson's RAID.

pushed forward toward Port Gibson with three days' rations, followed by the Seventeenth corps under McPherson, which had lately come down from beautiful Lake Providence,' as fast as it crossed the river. The advance was met by a Confederate force the next morn

6 May 1. ing at two o'clock, eight miles from Bruinsburg, where the foe was pressed back, but was not pursued until daylight. McClernand then pushed on

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1 The picture on page 604, giving a view of a portion of the shore of Lake Providence, a little west of the Mississippi, in Upper Louisiana, is from the pencil of Henri Lovie. The fine building in the foreground was the head-quarters of General MoPherson during the time his troops were encamped on the lake. It was the residence of Dr. Sellers.

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