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gunboats could give them little support; but, as the famous Rebel ram Arkansas, hitherto so successful, was counted on as a part of the attacking force, supported by two improvised gunboats, and as our front was wooded, with a cross-road and open fields just beyond it, Gen. Williams may fairly be supposed to have understood his business. The battle raged fiercely for two hours, during which the Rebel right was advanced across the lateral road, driving back the 14th Maine, pillaging and burning its camp; and, while four successive assaults were unsuccessfully made on our front, Gen. Clarke made a resolute effort to flank our left and establish himself in its rear. Gen. Williams, anticipating this movement, had placed a battery, supported by two regiments, to resist it; and the Rebels were repulsed with considerable loss. Meanwhile, the 21st Indiana, posted at the crossing of the roads—whose Colonel, suffering from wounds previously received, had twice essayed to join it, and each time fallen from his horse—had lost its Lt.-Col., Reith, Maj. Hayes, and Adj. Latham —the two former severely wounded, the latter killed—when Gen. Williams, seeing Latham fall, exclaimed, “Indianians! your field-officers are all killed: I will lead you!” and was that moment shot through the breast and fell dead; the command devolving on Col. T. W. Cahill, 9th Connecticut. But the battle was already Won. The Rebel attack had exhausted its vitality without achieving any decided success; while the Arkansas,from which so much had been expected, had failed to come to time. Leaving
Wicksburg,"she had steamed leisurely down the river until within 15 miles of Baton Rouge, where her starboard engine broke down; and it had been but partially repaired when the sound of his guns announced to her the . opening of Breckinridge's attack. Coming down to within five miles of the city, she was cleared for action ; when her engine again broke down, and she drifted ashore on the right bank of the river. Her tenders, the Music and the Webb, were of no account without her; and now her strong armament of six 8-inch and four 50-pound guns, with 180 men, could not be brought into action; and our gunboats, the Kineo and Katahdin below, and Essex, Cayuga, and Sumter above Baton Rouge, were enabled to devote their attention to the Rebels on land; firing over the heads of our soldiers at the enemy, nearly two miles distant. It is not probable that their shells did any great harm to the Rebels, and they certainly annoyed and imperiled our own men; but they served Breckinridge as an excuse for ordering a retreat, which a part of his men had already begun. By 10 A.M., his forces were all on the back track, having lost some 300 to 400 men, including Gen. Clarke, mortally wounded and left a prisoner; Cols. Allen, Boyd, and Jones, of Louisiana; Cols. A. P. Thompson and T. II. Hunt, of Kentucky; Col. J. W. Robertson, of Alabama, and other valuable officers. On our side, beside Gen. Williams, and the entire staff of the 21st Indiana, we lost Col. Roberts, of the 7th Vermont; Maj. Bickmore and Adj. Metcalfe, of the 14th Maine; Capt. Eugene Kelty, 30th Massachusetts,
* At 2 A. M., Aug. 3.
and from 200 to 300 others. We took about 100 prisoners, half of them wounded. Neither party had more cannon at the close than at the beginning of the battle; but the Rebels boasted that they had destroyed Federal munitions and camp equipage of very considerable value. Next morning, Commander Porter, with the Essex, 7 guns and 40 men, accompanied by the Cayuga and Sumter, moved up in quest of the Arkansas, whose two consorts had already fled up the river. The ram at first made for the Essex, intending to run her down; but her remaining engine Soon gave out, and she was headed toward the river bank, the Essex pursuing and shelling her; the Arkansas replying feebly from her stern. When the Essex had approached within 400 yards, Lt. Stevens, of the ram, set her on fire and abandoned her, escaping with his crew to the shore. The Essex continued to shell her for an hour; when her magazine was fired and she blew up. Commander Porter, having remained at Baton Rouge until it was evacuated by our troops—who were concentrated to repel a threatened attack on New Orleans—returned up the river” to reconnoiter Rebel batteries that were said to be in progress at Port Hudson. Ascending thence to coal at Bayou Sara, his boat's crew was there fired upon by guerrillas, whereupon some buildings were burned in retaliation; and, the firing being repeated a few days afterward, the remaining structures were in like manner destroyed. A boat's crew from the Essex was sent ashore, some days later, at Natchez, to pro
cure ice for our sick sailors, and was unexpectedly attacked by some 200 armed civilians, who killed or wounded 7 of her crew. Porter thereupon opened fire on the town, bombarding it for an hour, and setting a number of its houses on fire, when the Mayor surrendered. On her way down the river, the Essex had a smart engagement with the rising batteries at Port Hudson.” Gen. Butler's preparations havin
rendered the retaking of New Orleans hopeless, the meditated attack on it was abandoned, and the forces collected for that purpose transferred to other service. An incursion into the rich district known as Lafourche, lying south-west of New Orleans, between that city and the Gulf, was thereupon projected, and General— late Lieut.-Weitzel, was sent with a brigade of infantry and the requisite artillery and cavalry, to réestablish there the authority of the Union. This was a section of great wealth: its industry being devoted mainly to the production of sugar from cane, its population more than half slaves; and its Whites, being entirely slaveholders and their dependents, had ere this been brought to at least a semblance of unanimity in support of the Rebel cause; but their military strength, always moderate, had in good part been drafted away for service elsewhere; so that Gen. Weitzel, with little difficulty and great expedition, made himself master of the entire region,” after two or three collisions, in which he sustained little loss. But the wealthy Whites generally fled from their homes at his approach; while the negroes, joyfully hailing him as their liberator,
speedily filled his camps with crowds of men, women, and children, destitute of food, and fearing to go outside of his lines lest they should be reduced again to Slavery. Gen. Butler, after anxious consideration, felt obliged to subject the whole district to sequestration, in order to secure the cutting and grinding of the game, so as to save the remaining inhabitants from death by famine. Maj. Bell, Lt.-Col. Kinsman, and Capt. Fuller, were appointed a commission, who were to take charge of all personal property, and either apply it to the use of the army or transport it to New Orleans and there sell it to the highest bidders, dispensing to loyal citizens and neutral foreigners their just share of the proceeds, and applying the residue to the uses of the Federal service in this military department. Thus were the negroes employed, paid, and subsisted, the crops saved, and a large sum turned over to the support of our armies, while the number of White loyalists in Lafourche was rapidly and largely increased. Two Congressional districts having thus been recovered, Messrs. Benjamin F. Flanders and Michael Hahn were elected" therefrom to the Federal House of Representatives: the former receiving 2,370 votes, to 173 for others, and the latter 2,581, which was 144 more than were cast against him. The voting was confined to electors under the laws of Louisiana who had taken the Federal oath of allegiance since the repossession of New Orleans; and the aggregate poll in that city outnumbered, it was stated, its total vote for Secession by about 1,000. When Gen. Butler first reached that
city, there were not a hundred persons in Louisiana outside of our army and fleet who would have dared take the oath, however willing to do so. Toward the end of November, Gen. Butler's spies brought him information from the nearest Rebel camps that he had been superseded in his command, and that Gen. N. P. Banks either was or soon would be on his way to relieve him. Some days before information of the purposed change reached our side, Secessionists in New Orleans were offering to bet a hundred to ten that Gen. Butler would be recalled before New Year's. The fact was known to Jefferson Davis before it was to Gen. Banks— long before it was communicated from Washington to Gen. Butler. It is probable that the French Minister, whose Government had not been pleased with Gen. Butler's management in New Orleans, was the immediate source of Rebel assurance on this point. Gen. Banks’s assignment to the Department of the Gulf is dated November 9th, but was not made known to him till some weeks afterward. Gen. Banks reached New Orleans Dec. 14th, was received with every honor, and on the 16th formally assumed the high trust to which he had been appointed. On the 23d, Gen. Butler took personal leave of his many friends, and next day issued his farewell address to the people of New Orleans; leaving for New York, via Havana, by that day's boat. He was not then aware that he had been honored, the day previous, by a proclamation from Jefferson Davis, declaring him a felon, outlaw, and common enemy of mankind, and
* Early in December.
directing any Confederate officer who should capture him to hang him without trial immediately; and further directing that all commissioned officers in his command be regarded as robbers and criminals, deserving death; and each of them, whenever captured, reserved for execution.” Mr. Richard Yeadon, of Charleston, S. C., backed this proclamation by an offer“ of $10,000 reward, payable in Confederate currency, for the capture and delivery of the said Benjamin F. Butler, dead or alive, to any proper Confederate authority. Gen. Butler had taken 13,700 soldiers from the North for the capture of New Orleans. IIe had received no réenforcements since; and he now turned over to his successor 17,800 drilled and disciplined men, including three regiments and two batteries of negroes. IIe sent home to the treasury the sum of $345,000; expended $525,000 in feeding the poor of New Orleans; and turned over about $200,000 to the Commissary and Quartermaster of his successor. IIe had collected, by taxation, assessments, fines, forfeitures, and confiscations, an aggregate of $1,088,000,
which he had faithfully applied to the public service. He had, of course, made himself very unpopular with the wealthy Rebels, whom he had, in proportion to their several volunteer contributions of money in aid of the Rebel cause, assessed for the support of the New Orleans poor, deprived of employment by the war; and he was especially detested by that large body of influential foreigners who, having freely devoted their efforts and their means to the support of the Rebellion, were neither regarded nor treated by him as though they had been honestly neutral in the contest. In his farewell address to the people of New Orleans, he forcibly says:
“I saw that this Rebellion was a war of the aristocrats against the middling men— of the rich against the poor; a war of the land-owner against the laborer; that it was a struggle for the retention of power in the hands of the few against the many; and I found no conclusion to it, save in the subjugation of the few and the disenthrallment of the many. I, therefore, felt no hesitation in taking the substance of the wealthy, who had caused the war, to feed the innocent poor, who had suffered by the war. And I shall now leave you with the proud consciousness that I carry with me the blessings of the humble and loyal, under the roof of the cottage and in the cabin of the slave; and so am quite content to incur the sneers of the salon or the curses of the rich.”
“Mr. Davis's proclamation recites the hanging of Mumford; the neglect of our Government to explain or disavow that act; the imprisonment of non-combatants; Butler's woman order aforesaid; his sequestration of estates in western Louisiana; and the inciting to insurrection and arming of slaves on our side, as his justifications for proclaiming—
“First. That all commissioned officers in the command of said Bonjamin F. Butler be declared not entitled to be considered as soldiers engaged in honorable warfare, but as robbers and criminals, descrving death; and that they and each of them be, whenever captured, reserved for execution.
“Second. That the private soldiers and noncommissioned officers in the army of said Butler be considered as only the instruments used for the commission of crimes perpetrated by his or
ders, and not as free agents; that they, thorefore, be treated, when captured as prisoners of war, with kindness and humanity, and be sent home on the usual parole that they will in no manner aid or serve the United States in any capacity during the continuance of this war, unless duly exchanged. “Third. That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States. “Fourth. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States, when found serving in company with said slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy. [Signed and scaled at Richmond, Dec.28, 1862.]
“JEFFERSON DAVIS.” * Jan. 1, 1863.
*See Vol. I., p. 627–9. *Capt. Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, as early as July 1st, 1861, notified the War Department that the Potomac would “soon be closed by the batteries of the Rebels;” and Secretary Welles réiterated the warning on the 20th of August. “In October, 1861, the Navy Department again urged the matter upon the consideration of the War Department * * * representing that the question was simply: Would the Army cóoperate with the Navy in securing the unobstructed navigation of the Potomac, or, by withholding that cooperation at that time, permit so important a channel of communication to be closed ?” McClellan at last agreed to spare 4,000 men for the cooperative measure; but, when Capt. Craven assembled his flotilla at the appointed time and place, the troops were not on hand. The General's excuse was that his engineers were of the opinion that so large a body of troops could not be landed at Matthias Point— the place agreed upon. Upon Capt. Fox's assurance that the Navy Department would attend to the landing of the troops, he (McClellan) agreed that they should be sent on the following night. Again the flotilla was in readiness; again the troops were missing. No troops were then, nor ever, sent down for that purpose; the only reason elicited from McClellan being that he feared it might bring on a general engagement. Capt. Craven indignantly threw up his command on the Potomac, and applied to be sent to sea—not wishing to lose his own reputation, on account of non-cooperation on the part
of the army.
(The foregoing note is condensed from the first Report of the Joint Committee of Congress on the Conduct of the War.)
*Gen. John G. Barnard, Chief of Engineers to the Army of the Potomac, in a report to Gen. McClellan at the close of the Peninsula campaign, says:
“One of the prominent among the causes of ultimate failure was the inaction of eight months, from August, 1861, to April, 1862. More than any other wars, Rebellion demands rapid measures. In November, 1861, the Army of the Potomac, if not fully supplied with all the ‘materiel,’ was yet about as complete in numbers, discipline, and organization as it ever became. For four months, the great marine avenue to the capital of the nation was blockaded, and that capital kept in a partial state of siege, by a greatly inferior enemy, in face of a movable army of 150,000 men.
“In the Winter of 1861 and 1862, Norfolk could and should have been taken. The navy demanded it, the country demanded it, and the means were ample. By its capture, the career of the Merrimac, which proved so disastrous to our subsequent operations, would have been prevented. The preparation of this vessel was known, and the Navy Department was not without forebodings of the mischief it would do.
“Though delay might mature more comprehensive plans and promise greater results, it is not the first case in which it has been shown that successful war involves something more than abstract military principles. The true policy was to seize the first practicable moment to satisfy the perhaps unreasonable but natural longing of an impatient nation for results to justify its lavish confidence, and to take advantage of an undivided command and untramineled liberty of action while they were possessed.