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“At the close of the engagement, the victorious party found itself without rations tand water. To clear the field for the fight, the train had been sent to the rear upon the single line of communication through the woods, and could not be brought to the front during the night. There was water neither for man nor beast, except such as the now exhausted wells had afforded during the day for miles around. Previous to the movement of the army from Natchitoches, orders had been given to the transport fleet, with a portion of the 16th corps, under the command of Gen. Kilby Smith, to move up the river, if it was found practicable, to some point near Springfield landing, with a view of effecting a junction with the army at that point on the river. The surplus ammunition and supplies were on board these transports. It was impossible to ascertain whether the fleet had been able to reach the point designated. The rapidly falling river, and the increased disliculties of navigation, made it appear almost certain that it would not be able to attain the point proposed. A squadron of cavalry, sent down to the river, accompanied by Mr. Young, of the engineer corps, who was thoroughly acquainted with the country, reported, on the day of the battle, that no tidings of the fleet could be obtained on the river; and we were compelled to assume that the increasing difficulties of navigation had prevented it, even if disaster had not occurred from the obstructions which the enemy had placed in the river.
“These considerations, the absolute deprivation of water for man or beast, the exhaustion of rations, and the failure to effect a connection with the fleet on the river, made it necessary for the army, although victorious in the terrible struggle through which it had just passed, to retreat to a point where it would be certain of communicating with the fleet, and where it would have an opportunity of réorganization. The shattered condition of the 13th army corps and the cavalry made this indispensable. The wounded were gathered from the battle-field, placed in comfortable hospitals, and left under the care of competent surgeons and assistants. . The dead remaining on the field were, as far as possible, buried during the night. The next day, medical
supplies and provisions, with competent attendants, were sent in for the sustenance of the wounded; and at daybreak the army reluctantly fell back to its position at Grand Ecore, for the purpose of communicating with the fleet and obtaining supplies; to the great disappointment of the troops, who, flushed with success, were cager for another fight.”
It certainly would seem that the impulse of the soldiers was, in this case, more trustworthy than the discretion of the General. For, the want of water was at least as great on the part of the enemy as on ours, and can not have amounted to an absolute drouth in a region generally wooded and not absolutely flat, nor streamless, with Sabine river within a day's march on one flank, and Red river as near on the other. It is surely to be regretted that our army, if unable to advance, had not moved by the right flank to Ited river, or simply held its ground for two or three days, while its wounded were sent away to Grand Ecore, instead of being abandoned to the enemy.
Banks admits a loss of 18 guns only on the Sth, with 125 wagons, and claims a gain of three guns on the 9th ; at the close of which day, he reports that
“The troops held in reserve moved sorward at the critical moment, and maintained our position, from which the enemy was driven precipitately and with terrible destruction of life. IIe fled to the woods upon the right, and was pursued with great energy by the whole of our forces, until it was impossible in the darkness to distinguish friend from foe. The losses were great on both sides; but that of the Rebels, as we could judge from the appearance of the battle-field, more than double our own.”
Banks admits a total loss of 3,969 men in the collisions of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April–289 killed, 1,541 wounded, and 2,150 missing, mostly prisoners—and says that we fought and won at Pleasant IIill with 15,000 against 22,000. The simple fact that Taylor, and Pollard after him, with Kirby Smith's report of the campaign, are silent with regard to the Tebel losses, is eloquent on this point. Assuming Banks's entire loss during this campaign at 5,000 men, it is morally certain that he inflicted at least equal loss on the Rebels. Even in guns—counting those captured with Fort de Russy—they had nothing to boast of Still, the prestige of victory was with them, the mortification of highraised, blasted hopes, with us. We had undertaken to crush the Rebel power west of the Mississippi, and had fitted out costly expeditions— naval as well as military—for that end; and had ingloriously failed. Not only were the Rebels encouraged by this, but the timid and the wavering Louisianians and Texans were attached to the Rebel cause; while the cowering, silent, long-expectant, heart-sick Unionists of the South-west were plunged into a new abyss of bitter anguish and despair.
Gen. Danks fell back, unassailed, to Grand Ecore; the enemy now giving more immediate attention to Porter's fleet, which had worked its way slowly and laboriously up the river to Springfield landing; where the Rebels had sunk a large steamboat across the channel to arrest its progress. Just as Porter was commencing operations for its removal, a courier from Gen. Banks brought tidings of the reverse at Sabine Cross-roads, and the recoil of our army; with directions to turn back; which were sadly obeyed. The river was remarkably low, and still fall
ing; the difficulty of navigating it with our lighter gunboats and transports almost insuperable; and now the enemy commenced annoying us at every bend and from every covert; the banks being often so high that their sharp-shooters could with perfect impunity fire over them at the men hard at work on the decks of our vessels, getting them over the numerous shoals and bars. The first attack was made at a point called Coushatta; after that, Harrison, with 1,900 cavalry, and 4 guns, persistently annoyed us: our vessels making at best but 30 miles per day; and compelled to tie up at night, which enabled him easily to keep up with them. At length,” a more determined attack was made from the right or south bank, by 2,000 infantry (Texans) with 2 guns, led by Gen. Tom Green, whose head was blown off by a shell. and one of his guns disabled, before his men could be quieted. Never was attack more reckless than that made by his infuriated, rum-crazed followers, who fancied that they could carry gunboats in that narrow, crooked channel, by infantry charges; and would not be undeceived until the Lexington, Lt. G. M. Bache, got them under a raking fire of canister, which soon strewed the bank for a mile with their bodies. Porter reports their loss here at 500. Kilby Smith's land force of course càoperated with the gunboats in the contest. The lesson was so impressive that 5,000 Rebels, who were hastening to intercept the fleet at a point below, concluded, on hearing of it, to defer the enterprise. Meantime, our fleet pursued its arduous voyage till, at Compte,” several being hopelessly aground, Porter
* April 12.
* April rà.
hastened down to Gen. Banks, at Grand Ecore, six miles below; when troops were sent up to their relief; and they were brought down without further annoyance. At Grand Ecore, Porter found most of his larger vessels aground— several of them drawing a foot more water than there was on the bar at that point. While he was getting them over, the Eastport, which had gone eight miles farther down, was sunk; and several days' hard work were required to stop her leaks, pump her out, and get her afloat again. By this time, Banks had concluded to continue his retreat to Alexandria and below—the return of Smith's force to the other side of the Mississippi being imperatively
required—and six days were con
sumed" after the Eastport was afloat in arduous efforts to get her to Alexandria, she running fast aground eight times by the way. At last— Banks's army being now 60 miles ahead, the Eastport having been divested of her guns to induce her to float, and only three of the lighter gunboats left to convoy her—she went hard aground again, when scarcely thirty miles below Grand Ecore, and could not be got afloat; whereon Porter reluctantly gave the order for her destruction—Lt. Com'g I’helps being the last to leave her, after applying a match to the train whereby she was blown up, set on fire, and completely demolished. At this moment, 1,200 Rebels, on the right bank, made a rush to board the Cricket, which stood out from the bank and opened on them with grape and canister, while the Fort IIindman and another gunboat ob
tained a cross-fire on them, and in five minutes there was not a Rebel in sight; nor did they again make their appearance till our boats had
reached Cane river, 20 miles below;
when, on rounding a point, they were saluted from the right bank by 18 Rebel guns. The Cricket, acting Master H. II. Gorringe, was ahead, and received every shot from the Rebel battery; most of them going through her. Her after gun was struck by a shell and disabled; every gunner being killed or wounded. At that moment, another shell exploded by her forward gun, sweeping off every gunner, and, entering the fire-room, left but one man there unwounded. IIer decks had by this time been deserted. But Adm. Porter, who was on board, took command, improvising gunners from the negroes on board, put an assistant in place of the chief engineer, who had been killed, stepped to the pilot-house, where one of the pilots had been wounded, and ordered her run by the battery; and it was done, under a terrible fire. Admiral Porter now attempted to head her up stream ; but this proved impracticable: so he let her drift around the point, so that he could, with his two still serviceable guns, shell the IRebel battery in the rear. In the disturbance thus occasioned, the light-draft Juliet and pump-boat Champion, lashed together, were enabled to escape from under the bank where they had helplessly drifted—out of the Rebel fire—the Juliet having been disabled and had her steam-pipe cut by the Rebel balls. The Hindman, from above, now • joining the Cricket below in enfilading the enemy's battery, the Champion was enabled to tow the Juliet to a place of comparative safety. Still, the Hindman dared not attempt to pass: so Porter, in the Cricket, ran down three or four miles to a point where he had directed two iron-clads from below to meet him ; getting aground by the way, and losing three hours in getting afloat again. IIe reached the appointed rendezvous after dark; finding there the iron-clad Osage fighting a Rebel field-battery on shore, at which the Lexington had been firing also ; having been hulled fifteen times, but had only one man killed. Darkness now fell; and it was impossible to return to the Hindman; which, however, ran the battery above, having her wheelropes cut away by their shot, and hence whirling around as she drifted by, being badly cut up in the process. The Juliet likewise got by, badly damaged, with 15 of her crew killed or wounded; while the Cricket had been hulled 38 times and had 25 disabled—half her crew. The IIindman had 3 killed and 4 wounded. The Champion was disabled, set on fire, and destroyed. No further annoyance was experienced in reaching Alexandria. Admiral Porter estimates that he had killed and wounded at least 500 of the Rebels on his way down; while his own loss was less than 100. The loss of Gen. Green was severely felt by the enemy. Porter attributes his reverses to the low state of the river; saying:
* April 21–6.
inches per day—a most unusual occurrence—this river being always full till the middle of June.”
It was reported that the Rebels had induced this anomaly, by damming the outlets of several of the quite capacious lakes which discharge into this river.
Gen. Banks remained at Grand Ecore till the fleet was well on its way below; meantime, the Rebel General Bee, with some 8,000 men and 16 guns, had taken a strong position at the crossing of Cane river, 40 miles below, and, with the river on one hand and an impenetrable swamp on the other, expected to stop here our army; which, when it should be deeply involved in front, the rest of the Rebel army was to strike in flank and rear. Banks, apprised of this arrangement, moved suddenly at daybreak” from Grand Ecore, marching his army nearly the whole 40miles, before halting for the night, so as to strike Beeunexpectedly next morning.
Arrived at the river,” Emory, with his 1st division, menaced the enemy directly in front; while Gen. H. W. Birge, with his own brigade and Col. Francis Fessenden's of the 19th (Franklin's) corps, moving three miles upstream, flanked the Rebel position, striking heavily on its right; the charge being led with great gallantry by Col. Fessenden, who was here severely wounded. The movement was a complete success: the worsted Rebels abandoning their position and retreating in disorder, on the Fort Jessup road, leading south-westward into Texas. Of course, the attack on Kilby Smith, covering our rear, failed also ; the Rebel charge being repulsed, and not renewed. Mower's (16th) corps was in line on Kilby
Smith's right, but had no chance to fight. Our loss here at the front was 200: Kilby Smith's, at the rear, was only 50. The enemy's must have been greater.” IIere—as the return of Gen. Smith's force to its proper department had long since been demanded, and was now imperatively insisted on—a farther retreat was deemed inevitable; and the river was now so low that the fleet could not be got over the falls. For a time, its destruction seemed imminent; but Lt.-Col. Joseph Dailey, engineer of the 19th corps, had foreseen this difficulty, and, on the battle-field of Pleasant IIill, while our troops awaited the Itebel onset, had suggested to Gen. I'ranklin a means of overcoming it. Franklin approved the project; so did Banks, when it was imparted to lim ; but Admiral Porter evinced Ino faith or interest in it till some time afterward. Iłut Danks's official sanction was sufficient; so Bailey set to work,” and soon had a main dam of timber and stone constructed across the channel of the river—here 758 feet wide, 4 to 6 deep, and running at the rate of 10 iniles per hour—a little below the fall, whereby the depth of water in the main channel on the rapid was increased over five feet. Eight or nine days' work of many willing hands had nearly completed this dam, and had rendered the falls passable ly our largest boats above them, when the impetuous current swept* away a part of it; whereupon, the Admiral—(who had several of his gunboats at the head, preparing to
make the passage, and might have laad them taken down)—on rising
next day, rode up and ordered the Lexington to be sent down before the water—by this time considerably lower—should have fallen too far; and this was obeyed with entire success. The gunboat took the chute without a balk, and then rushed like an arrow through the narrow aperture in the lower dam; pitched down the roaring torrent; hung for a moment on the rocks below; and was then swept on into deep water, when she rounded gracefully to the bank, amid the thunderous cheer of thirty thousand loyal voices. She had received no damage whatever. Porter, apprehensive that he had seen the last of dam-building, ordered the Neosho to follow directly; her hatches being battened down, and every precaution taken to insure her safe descent. Iłut her pilot lost heart as he neared the leap, and stopped her engine; so that for a moment her hull was submerged by the current. She rose directly, however, and was swept along to safety with only one hole knocked through her bottom, which was stopped the next hour; the II indman and Osage following her without accident or damage. In fact, two sunken coal-boats, forming part of the dam, whose loss had been deplored, had only been forced around nearly parallel to the current, so as to form a buffer or cushion, whereby our vessels were prevented from running on ugly rocks which might have proved their destruction. The deeper gunboats were still above. Iłut Iłailey now renewed his efforts, with our whole army as his free-handed assistants; and, in three
T*Rilby Smith testifies:
ported a heavy loss on their part of killed and wounded.” * April 30. * May 9.