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GENERAL BANKS AT NEW ORLEANS.
God for the results as far as they go. May He have you in His keeping through whatever chances are before you. No country can ever fail that has men capable of suffering what your iron-clads had yesterday to endure."
Hardly anything of importance occurred in the department of the South for some time after this. We may, however, note here the destructive raids, in the beginning of June, led by Col. Montgomery, with several companies of negro soldiers, assisted by gun boats at landings on the Combabee River, where many valuable plantations were destroyed, and on the coast of Georgia, where great damage was inflicted on Brunswick and Darien in an ascent of the Altamaha River. As to further operations against Charleston, it was considered necessary for success that military occupation should be had of Morris Island, and that land batteries should be erected on that island to assist in the reduction of Fort Sumter. This being a work requiring especially engineering skill and ability, the • authorities at Washington thought best to relieve Hunter of his command, and, early in June, to send in his place Gen. Q. A. Gillmore.
In a former chapter (see p. 190), we gave an account of important operations in the department of the Gulf, and on i he Mississippi River. We ask the reader again to take up the thread of the narrative, and note the operations which, in the summer of 1863, resulted so gloriously for the Union cause as to break down the rebel power on the Mississippi, cut- off the u Confederacy" entirely from all aid west of the great
river, and restore both Vicksburg and Port Hudson to their rightful owners.
Gen. Butler had been relieved of his command at New Orleans, in December, 1862. No special reason was ever assigned for this act on the part of the government; but it was generally supposed that, as he had gone through with some very severe and very odious labor, and was besides obnoxious to a large number of citizens, to foreign consuls and such like, the authorities at the capital deemed it better to place some one else in charge of the department, who might begin, as it were, anew, and manage matters more quietly and satisfactorily all round. Gen. N. P. Banks was the man selected, and the choice was considered to be a good one in every point of view.
This able officer was engaged, in the autumn of 1862, in fitting out an expedition in the North, the destination of which was kept as secret as possible, but was supposed to be intended for the South, and especially for the benefit of Texas. Having made all his arrangements, Gen. Banks sailed from New York at the beginning of December, 1862,* with some fifty vessels and about 10,000 men, and on the 16th of the same month, at New Orleans, formally assumed command of the department of the gulf. His opening proclamation was judicious, conciliatory, and to the point. "The duty with which
* In company with Gen. Banks there sailed also a number of law officers, constituting the provisional court of Louisiana. For an interesting article, giving the history of this court, its appointment, the numerous and instructive cases which came before it, its decisions, etc., see Appleton's "Annual Cyclopadia" for 1863, pp. 770-776.
I am charged," he said, "requires me to assist in the restoration of the government of the United States. It is my desire to secure to the people of every class all the privileges of possession and enjoyment which are consistent with public safety, or which it is possible for a beneficent and just government to confer. . . . The Valley of the Mississippi is the chosen seat of population, product and power on this continent. In a few years twentyfive millions of people, unsurpassed in material resources and capacity for war, will swarm upon its fertile rivers. Those who assume to set conditions upon their exodus to the Gulf, count upon a power not given to man. The country washed by the waters of the Ohio, the Missouri and the Mississippi, can never be permanently severed. . . . This country cannot be permanently divided. Ceaseless wars may drain its blood and treasure, domestic tyrants or foreign foes may grasp the sceptre of its power, but its destiny will remain unchanged. It will still be united. God has ordained it."
A week later, Banks addressed the people of Louisiana, setting forth the conditions of the Emancipation Proclamation of Mr. Lincoln in special reference to that state, in which he not only enjoined patience and forbearance on the difficult and unsettled relations of master and slave, but also declared, in plain terms, that the rebellion must necessarily result in the destruction of slavery. "The first gun at Sumter," he remarked, "proclaimed emancipation. The continuance of the contest, there commenced, will consummate that
end, and the history of the age will leave no other permanent trace of the rebellion. Its leaders will have accomplished what other men could not have done." *
"When President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was confirmed and set forth as complete, on the 1st of January, 1863, (p. 272), portions of Louisiana, it will be recollected, were especially exempted from its provisions. This left the condition of the negroes subject to the laws of Congress which had been passed, and the exigencies of military rule in the department. The latter of course forbade vagrancy and crime, as sources of disorder in the community. It was necessary in some way to adjust the relations of capital and negro labor. This was done by authorizing the Sequestration Commission sitting in the state, to establish with the planters a proper system of remuneration, for which the negroes should be required to render faithful service. "This," said Gen. Banks, "may not be the best, but it is now the only practical system. Wise mou will do what they can when they cannot do what they would. It is the law of success. In three years from the restoration of peace under this voluntary system of labor, the state of
* We are sorry to state here, for the credit of New Orleans, that the riotously disposed people of the city, elated at having got rid of Butler, were ready to abuse the leniency of his successor. Anonymous letters filled with threats, cheering of Jeff. Davis in the streets, insulting language towards the military authorities, and such like, brought forth from Gen. Banks a prompt and severe rebuke. He also gave all concerned clearly to understand, that he would punish violations of order and propriety "with the sharpest severity known tc the military laws."
FARRAGUT RUNS THE BATTERIES.
! Louisiana will produce threefold the i produce of its most prosperous year in the past."
Banks, at an early day, attempted to send reinforcements to Galveston , Texas; but it was too late. Magruder had captured the troops there at the beginning of January (p. 278).
The next attempt, of a military kind, in the department, was in the region of the Bayou Teche, west of the Mississippi, where the rebels were committing depredations, aided by a gun boat named the Cotton. On the 11th of January, Gen. Weitzel crossed to Brashear City, and embarked his men for the ascent of the Atchafalaya, the cavalry and artillery proceeding by land, j The Cotton took refuge in the Bayou Teche, where she was not long after I attacked by a gun boat, supported by the troops under Weitzel. Matters soon began to look so badly for the rebels that they set the Cotton on fire to prevent her capture. Having accomplished this result, the gun boats were withdrawn, and the troops returned to their encampment at Thibodeaux.
In the early part of March, Banks concentrated his force at Baton Rouge, in number about 25,000 men. Twenty miles above, the rebels I were strongly entrenched at Port Hudson, the most important position held by them on the Mississippi below Vicksburg. Situated on an elevated, almost perpendicular cliff, at a contracted bend of the stream, where the narrowed current ran with great violence, its formidable line of batteries threatened deI struction to any hostile fleet, while on the land side the approach, easily capa
ble of defence, was beset by swamps and other apparently invincible obstacles.
The first movement of importance in this quarter was made by the navy, in aid of the operations of Grant and Por ter against Vicksburg. At the beginning of February, it will be remembered (p. 250) that Commander Ellet led the way in the Queen of the West in the passage of the batteries at that place, the design being to interrupt the enemy's supplies from the west of the Mississippi. After inflicting much damage in this way, the vessel was lost by the treachery of a pilot, while ascending Bed Biver. On receiving the news of this misfortune, Admiral Farragut determined to run past the rebel batteries at Port Hudson, and assist the operations of Porter on the river from above. The land forces of Banks were at the same time to threaten Port Hudson on the rear, and as far as possible divert their attention from Farragut's movements.
This daring attempt on the part of Farragut, was made in the night of Saturday, March 14th. At nine and a half o'clock, P.m., he led the way at the head of his fleet on the flag-ship Hartford, accompanied by the gun boat Albatross, made fast to her port side. The other gun boats followed, and six mortar vessels were brought up to shell the works. As soon as the Hartford came within range of the rebel batteries, a sharp fire was opened upon her, which was returned with shot and shell. In the midst of this fire she succeeded in passing the batteries with the Albatross. The Richmond, Genessee and Monongahela which followed, were not so fortunate, receiving injuries which prevented their passing the batteries.
The Mississippi, the last in the line, now advanced, and was pushing forward successfully, when she grounded on the west bank of the river, exposed to the enemy's batteries astern, on the bow, and opposite to her. Finding it impossible, after intense effort, to get her off, it was resolved to abandon her. The engines were ordered to be destroyed, the guns spiked, and the ship set on fire. The officers and crew were hurried on shore, and were nearly all saVed. The fire raged on the ship for an hour, when the water, flowing aft, settled her stern, and she gradually slid off into the current, her guns discharging, and shells on deck exploding in every direction, until she was blown in pieces. This was about half past five P.m. The officers and crew lost everything except what they stood in. They saved nothing, and they left nothing in the hands of the rebels.
Banks, meanwhile, had led his troops from Baton Rouge in three divisions, under command of Gens. Augur, Grover and Emory, to Springfield Cross Roads, about five miles from Port Hudson. There was some skirmishing with the rebel pickets, but no important ad1863 vance beyond. On the night of the 14th of March, the cannonading of the fleet was distinctly heard by the soldiers, who also saw the light of the burning Mississippi. The next day the troops, according to orders, returned to Baton Rouge.
* In Halle \k's opinion, expressed at a subsequent
date, "Had our land forces invested Port Hudson at this time, it could have been easily reduced, as its garrison was weak. This would have opened communication by the Mississippi with Gen. Grant at Vicksburg. But the strength of the place was not then known, and Gen. Banks resumed his operations by the Teche and Atchafalaya."
The passage of the batteries by Far- 1 ragut enabled him, as we shall see further on, to render material assistance to Porter and the army of Grant in the passage of the Vicksburg batteries, and especially in the blockade of the Red River. When this was accomplished, he left his flag-ship, the Hartford, above, and returned by the Atchafalaya to take part in the final operations for the reduction of Port Hudson.
Banks's attention was now turned to that part of Louisiana west of New Orleans, and bordering on the Teche River. Since the expedition of Weitzel in January (see p. 299), the rebels in that quarter had erected new fortifications and concentrated their forces, aided by a fleet of gun boats, at several stations on the Teche River, with the intention, it was supposed, of threatening New Orleans. Banks, suspending operations for the time against Port Hudson, advanced with his forces to Berwick, where he arrived on the 11th of April, and commenced a series of active movements, which speedily swept the enemy from their strongholds throughout this central region from the Gulf to the Red River.
At the outset of the march, on the 12 th and 13th of April, there was a prolonged engagement of Emory's and Weitzel's divisions with the enemy, at an entrenched position in the vicinity of Pattersonville, at 301
Ch. XXVII.] OPERATIONS IN THE TECHE REGION.
the mouth of the Teche. After a series of sharp encounters, the rebels, having suffered a heavy loss, on the night of the 13th abandoned their positions.
Meanwhile, Grover had, with the force tinder his command, and a number of transports and gun boats, ascended Grand Lake from Brashear City, and effected a landing in the enemy's rear at Irish Bend. Having crossed the Teche at that place, our troops marched towards Franklin, and, on the 14th of April, routed the rebels after their retreat from the batteries below. These fled in confusion, burning, in their retreat, two gun boats and a number of steamers on the Teche. Banks advanced with his forces to New Iberia, and took possession of and destroyed in the vicinity the extensive salt works, which had been a constant source of supply to the rebels.
On the 14th of April, our fleet encountered the rebel ram Queen of the West, which, after her capture on the Red River, had been brought into the Atchafalaya River, and had now descended to Grand Lake to attack the advancing Union forces. As she was moving onward to the assault, a shell from one of the gun boats exploded a box of ammunition on her deck, when she was immediately enveloped in flames. Strenuous efforts were made by the fleet to save the lives of her crew, and ninety-five were taken from the vessel and the water. About forty, it was supposed, perished. The vessel was burnt to the water's edge, but her guns were saved.
Banks lost no time in pushing vigorously forward. On the evening of the
17th of April, Grover met the rebels at Bayou Vermilion. They were strongly entrenched, with a battery of six pieces of artillery. After destroying the bridge over the bayou, the enemy made a hasty retreat. Some delay occurred in rebuilding the bridge; but on the 19th, the march was resumed, and continued to the vicinity of Grand Coteau, and on the following day Opelousas was occupied by our troops. A cavalry advance was made to Washington, on the Courtebleau, a distance of six miles. Gen. Dwight was ordered to push forward through Washington towards Alexandria. This was done, with excellent success, notwithstanding the rebels had destroyed several important bridges over the bayous in their retreat. Buttea-la-Rose was taken, on the 20th of April, by Lieut. Cooke of the navy, with his gun boat and four companies of infantry, and thus was secured what Banks called the key of the Atchafalaya. "We hold," he said, "the key of the position. Among the evidences of our victory are 2,000 prisoners, two transports, and twenty guns (including one piece of the Valvado battery), taken; and three gun boats and eight transports destroyed. The Union loss in these engagements was very slight."*
* While at Opelousas, Gen. Banks issued an order, dated May 1st, 1803, in which he proposed to organize a corps d'armee consisting of negroes, to be designated as the "Corps d'Afrique." The plan was, to have eighteen regiments of 500 in each (9,000 in all), representing all arms, infantry, artUlery, and cavalry, with appropriate uniforms, etc. There was more or less diversity of opinion as to enlisting negroes and making them part of the army. The experience, however, of the next year, and Gen. Thomas's investigations and labors in connection with negro enlistments, proved favorable to the plan of using them as helpers in putting down the rebellion.