Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

. (page 47 of 113)
Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 47 of 113)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

McKinstry, of the Monongahela, was
badly wounded. Several of our ves-
sels carried ugly marks thereafter;
but the loss of the Mississippi, with
her splendid armament of 21 large
guns and 2 howitzers, was our prin-
cipal disaster.

Gen. Banks returned forthwith to
Baton Bouge ; his immediate object
being accomplished ; while he judged
the force holding the Port entirely
too strong '* to be besieged by his lit-
tle army — a point whereon Gen.Hal-
leck deems him in error. Our col-
umns were again impelled westward
to Brashear City and thence across
Berwick's Bay;"* the main body
moving thence on Franklin, while
Gen. Grover's division was sent by
transports up the Atchafalaya and
Grand Lake to Irish Bend, above
Fort Bisland, where he effected a
landing with great diflSculty — ^the
water being shallow for over a mile
from shore, precluding his expected
cooperation in Gen. Banks's move-
ment. Here he was soon attacked
with vigor, but held his ground and
beat off the enemy. Still, the attack
sufficed to keep open the road for
Gen. Dick Taylor, who, evacuating
Fort Bisland, and burning several
steamboats, retreated on Opelousas ;
making a brief stand at Yermilion
Bayou, and losing heavily, as he re-
ports, by desertion and straggling —
much of his force being made up of

unwilling conscripts, who improved
every opportunity to escape and re-
turn to their homes. Taylor reports
his men at but 4,000 in all, and blames
his subordinate^ Gen. Sibley, for per-
sistent disobedience of orders and
other unsoldierly conduct. During
his retreat, the famous Queen of
the West was assailed by our gun-
boats in Grand Lake, whither she
had worked her way down the Atch-
afalaya from Red river,and destroyed;
her crew being mide prisoners.

Banks was delayed by Taylor's
burning, as he fted, the bridges over
the many bayous and sluggish water-
courses of this re^on; but he entered
Opelousas in triumph on the same
day " that our gunboats, under Lt.-
Com'g A. P. Cooke, captured Butte k
la Bose, opening the Atchafalaya to
Bed river; so that communication
was reestablished," through the gun-
boat Arizona, with AdnSral Farra-
gut, at the mouth' of that stream.
And now a new advance was rapidly
made " by our army to. Alexandria ;
Taylor, evacuating Fort De Eussy,
again retreating on Shreveport with-
out a fight; while Admiral Porter
came up the river with his fleet, and
Louisiana, save its north-west comer,
was virtually restored, or subjugated,
as you wiU. Gen. Banks sent Weit-
zel, with a part of his army, on the
track of the flying Rebels, nearly to
Grand Ecore; when Taylor's force
was so reduced that it did not seem
worth farther pursuit ; and he was
unable to retake the field for weeks.
Banks reports his captures in this
campaign at 2,000 prisoners and 22

** He says, in his official report, citing Brig.-
Qen. W. W. R. BeaU, of the garrison, as his au-
thority :

"The strength of the enemy at Port Hudson
WM then believed to be fh>m 18,000 to 20,000.

It is now known, yrith absolute certainty, that
the garrison, on the night of the 14th of March,
1863, was not less than 16,000 oflTective troope.*'

" April 9-10. " April 20.

» May 2. *• May 5-9.

Digitized by




guns; while lie had seized 2 and de-
stroyed 8 Rebel steamers, beside three
gunboats. An intercepted letter
showed that Taylor had purposed to
attack Brashear City the day prior
to our advance to and attack on Fort

Gen. Banks had been notified by
Admiral Farragut, while at Brashear
City, that Gen. Grant — then at his
wits' end before Vicksburg — ^wonld
spare him 20,000 men for a move-
ment on Port Hudson — a proffer
which was soon afterward, and most
fortunately, retracted. Grant's plan
was to join teams and help Banks
reduce Port Hudson, when the latter
should help him reduce Vicksburg :
an arrangement to which Gen* B.
very gladly assented. Grant's corps
designed to cooperate against Port
Hudson was to be at Bayou Sara
May 25th ; but on the 12th Banks
was advised by letter" from Grant
that he had crossed the Mississippi
in force, and had entered oq his cam-
paign which proved so successful.
Of course, he had now no corps to
spare, but proposed instead that
Banks should join him in his move-
ment against Vicksburg. This the
latter was obliged to decline, lacking
the reqnired transportation, and not
daring to leave New Orleans and all
we held in Louisiana at the mercy
of the strong Rebel garrison of Port
Hudson, of whose batteries Farragut
had recently had so sore an experi-
ence ; to say nothing of Dick Tay-
lor's return, strongly reenforced, from
the side of Texas. So Banks, send-
ing Gen. Wm. Dvright to Grant to
* explain his position, wisely decided
to move with all his available force
against Port Hudson, where he could

be in position either to defend New
Orleans belo'iv, or to reenforce, in an
emergency, or be reenforced by.
Grant above. And Grant, on hear-
ing all the facts as set forth by Gen.
Dwight, heartily concurred in this
decision ; offering to send Banks 5,000
men so soon as he could spare them.

Gen. Banks, directly after D wight's
return to Alexandria, put "* his army
in motion ; sending all he had trailb-
portation for by water ; the residue
marching by land to Simmsport,
where they were with difficulty
ferried across the Atchafalaya, and
moved down the right bank of the
Mississippi till opposite Bayou Sara,
where they crossed," and, marching
16 miles next day, proceeded forth-
with to invest Port Hudson from the
north; while Gen. C. C. Augur,
with 3,500 men from Baton Kouge,
in like manner invested it on the

Gen. Gardner, commanding at
Port Hudson, sent Col. Miles to resist
their junction behind his fastness by
striking Augur on his march ; but he
was repulsed with a loss of 160 men ;
while our right wing above, under
Gens. Weitzel, Grover, and Dwight,
drove the garrison, after a sharp
fight, within their outer line of in-
trenchments. The next day," they
joined hands with Augur behind the
Rebel works, and the investment of
the Port, save on the side of the river,
was complete.

Reports being current that the
enemy had withdrawn — ^that there
was only a handfiil of them left be-
hind their works, &c. — ^Banks, after
thorough reconnoissance and giving
time for preparation, gave the order
for a sreneral assanlt. That assanlt

Dated the lOth.

'Maf 14-15.

'l!nghtofHa7 23.

* Uaj 26.

Digitized by




£— floaih fiMtion.


SicplanaUoM .*

I to Q— Batteries.

F— East BmtfoD.
O, H— Large forts.

was gallantly made ; " but with the
usual ill BUCcesB of attempts to carry
elaborate, extensive, skiUfully plan-
ned works, enfilading and suppcnting
each other, by merely hurling masses
of men against them. Intended, of
course, to be simultaneous in every
quarter, it fiuled to be so. Our bat-
teries opened early in the morning ;
and, after a vigorous bombardment
Gens. Weitzel, Grover, and Paine,
cm our right, assaulted with vigor at

10 A. M., while G^en. Augur, in our
center, and Gen. T. W. Sherman, on
our left, did not attack in earnest till
2 p« M. Meantime, the Hartford
cmd Albatross above, and the Mo-
nongaliela, Bichmond, Genesee, and
Essex below the Eebel river batte-
ries, under the dii-ection of Admiral
Farragut, rained shot and shell upon
the besieged, who had already been *
compelled by our fleet to abandon
their southernmost battery ; spiking

•May 27.

Digitized by



its guns. In tliis day's fight, the fleet
probably did the greater execntion
on the Bebels, whose attention was
mainly absorbed by the land attack :
its fire dismotinting several of their
heavy guns, and taking in reverse
their landward defenses.

Never was fighting more heroic
than that of onr army, assailing
• nearly equal numbers behind strong
defenses, approached only through
almost impassable abatis, swept by
Rebel shell and grape. If valor
could have triumphed over such odds,
they would have carried the works ;
but only abject cowardice or pitiable
imbecility could have lost such a
position to so small an army; and
the Rebels also fought well. "We
gained groxmd on both flanks ; hold-
ing it thereafter on the north, where
two n^ro regiments (1st and 3d
Louisiana) vied with the bravest:
making tiiree desperate charges on
Rebel batteries, losing heavily, but
maintaining their position in the
hottest forefront. to the close. The
1st Louisiana (colored) Engin^rs
were also on trial that day, and justi-
fied the most sanguine expectations
by their good conduct. Not that
they fought better than our White
veterans: they did not, and could
not : but there had been so much in-
credulity avowed as to negro courage,
so much wit lavished on the idea of
negroes fighting to any purpose, that

Gen. Banks was justified in accord-
ing especial tsommendation to these ;
saying, " No troops could be more
determined or more daring.'^ The
conflict closed about sunset.

We lost in this desperate struggle
293 killed, including Cols. Clarke,
6th Michigan, D. S. Cowles, 128th
New York (transfixed by a bayonet),
Payne, 2d Louisiana, and Chapin,
30tii Mass., with 1,549 wounded,^
among whom were Gen. T. W. Sher-'
man, severely, and Gen. Neal Dow,
slightly. The Rebel loss was of course
much less — ^probably not 300 in all.**

There was a truce next day to en-
able us to bury our dead; after
which, our solcjiers addressed them-
selves in sober earnest to the arduous
labor of digging and battering their
way into the works which had proved
impervious to their more impetuous
endeavor. This was no holiday task,
under the torrid sun of a Southern
June, with Rebel sharp-shooters close
at hand, ever on the keen watch for
chances to obey the Donnybrook in-
junction, * Wherever you see a head,
hit it ;' but our boys worked with a
will; and soon the pick and spade
were pushing zig-zag trenches up to
the Rebel works ; while the heavy
guns of our batteries, alternating
their thunders with those of the
fleet, gave fresh illustrations of the
truth that ' there is no peace for the

"* Gen. Banks reported that the 15th Arkan-
sas, out of a total of 292, lost during the siege
132; of whom 76 feU this day.

" The followhig extracts fh>m the diary of a
Rebel soldier (John A. Kennedy, Ist Alabama),
who was captured while endeavoring to make
his way out through our lines with a letter in
cipher from GUrdnw to Jo. Johnston, giyes the
most yivid inside view of the siege:

*'Mdy 29.— The fight continued until long after
id^t yesterday evenhig. The fight has opened

— it opened at daybreak. The fight has been
very warm to-day. I received a shot in the
foot, but it is slight The Yanks attempted to
charge the works, but was repulsed. It has
douded up and is raining. We have a muddy
time — a very wet time for sleeping.

"ifoy30.— The fight opened at dayKght
Our company has three wounded in the hoepitaL
The Yanks have been sharp-shooting all day.
We have lost but one man belonging to com-
pany B. The Yanks are building rifle-pits—
they fire very dose. I have been sharp-shoot-
ing some to-dsy. The boys sre Teiy Uvdy.

Digitized by




Gen. Banks's position was far from
enviable. His small army — now
scarcely nnmbering 12,000 effective
men — was isolated in a thinly settled,
paitiall V devastated,exliaasted,and in-
tenselynostile region. It was largely
composed of nine-months men, whose
terms of service had expired or
wonld soon expire, whose hearts
yearned toward loved ones far away,
and who decidedly preferred a sure
prospect of going home to their

chance (if shot) of going to heaven.
There were some 2,500 Rebel cavalry
in close proximity to his rear, in ad-
dition to the garrison of 6,000 or
over in his front ; his necessary con-
centration for this siege had lefk
nearly all Louisiana open to Dick
Taylor, who would inevitably retrace
his steps across the country out of
which he had so lately been driven, •
capturing and conscripting by the
way; and he might, very possibly,

^^May 31. — We had a very hot time last night
We have quit living like men and are living like
hogs. The Yanks have built rifle-pits with port-
holes. Our battery was eilenoed this morning;
5 of company A was wounded. Our regiment
has lost 26 lolled and 40 or 50 wounded. We
have been relieved from our position by Miles's
Legion. We will return to our position, I g^ess,
to-morrow. The Yanks a^e shelling from the
lower fleet. Ten of us are going at a time to
camps to get dean clothes.

" Jun« 1. — I was on guard last night The
Yanks shelled us last night, but did no damage.
Sam Hag^n and Bob Bailey was killed by a rifle
cannon-shot this morning. The Yanks are still
sharp-shooting, also using their artillery. They
have dismounted all our guns. They are the
best artillerists I ever saw. The lower fleet has
pitched us a few shots from Long Tom.

''June 2. — The lower fleet shelled us last night
I am a little unwell this morning. There has
not been much fighting to-day. The artillery is
booming occasionally, and the sharp-shooters are
still popping away. The Yanks threw a few
balls at one of our batteries near us to-day. It
is reported that we have reenforcements be-
tween ClintoQ and Osica.

'* June 3. — ^Tbe Yanks has been shooting all
around us to-day. The Hessions seem to be ra-
ther afraid to attempt to storm our works again *
but seem rather inclined to starve us out I
hope we will receive reenforcements in time to
prevent it. Heaven help us I

^^JuM 4. — ^I am very unwell this morning. The
lower fleet shelled us last night. The shells
made the boys hunt a place of safety ; such as
ditches, rat-holes, trees, etc. We are going to
oar old position. I am sick at camp.

**Jtm« 6. — We are still besieged by the Yanks.
Another day has passed and no reenforcements.
Sim Herring was wotmded in the head to-day.
The Yanks are still sharp-shooting, also using
their artillery with but little effect We bear a
great many different reports.

"Jtme 6.— The river is falling very fast. It
is very, very hot weather. Several shots from
'Whistling Dick' came over our camp to-day.
Sewell is shdling the Yanks. I expect to go to
the breastworks in the morning. Several of the
boys are at camp, skik.

'* Jidie 7.— Another day has dawned and no re-

enforcements. I shall go to the breastworks
this morning. The Yanks are still popping
away from their rifle-pits. One of company B
was killed to-day while looking over the breast-
work. It is very, very hot, and we have lain in
the ditch all day.

"«7tine 8. — ^The Yanks began to sharp-shoot at
daybreak. We had two men killed yesterday.
I am afraid some of our company will get shot
next Another day has dawned and no reen-
forcements, but I hope we will receive them
soon. The Yanks have been shelling our
breastworks, but no dam^ done. It is very
disagreeable sittmg in these dirty ditches — but
this the Confederate soldier expects and bears
cheerfully ; but another long hot day has passed,
and who knows what may be our situation at
this time to-morrow evening?

" June 9. — ^The Yanks attempted a charge last
evening but was repulsed. Whistling Didc is at
work to-day; it has played a AiU hand, toa
Whistling Dick is tearing our camps all to pieces.
Charley Dixon and Berry Hagin was wounded
by fV'agments of our cook shelter, which was
shot down. Our sick has been removed to the
ravine. It is difficult to get something to eat
The Yankee artillery is playing upon us all
around. The Heshiws burned our commissary
with a shell to-day.

'* June 10. — Another day and night has pAssed,
and this poor, worn-out garrison has received no
assistance. We have lain in the ditches twentj
days, and still there is no prospect of succor —
but I truly hope we will soon receive reenforce-
ments. The men is getting sick very fast The
Yankee artillery is keeping a dreadful noise. I
and Mormon have been detailed for some extra
duty. The Hessions gave us a few rounds as we
were crossing the field. I received dispatches
from the General in person.

'^Jme ll.^The Yanks used their artillery at
a tremendous rate last night I went to or at-
tempted to visit Col. Steedman^s headquarters.
I had a gay time trying to find them ; falling In
ravines, etc I was in a hot place, shure. We
captured a Yankee Captain and Lieutenant last
night The Yanks seemed diapoaed to make a
general assault last night^'

At this point, the journal suddenly stops ; the
author having been taken prisoner.

Digitized by




bring from Texas a force sufficient
to capture New Orleans itself. Jo.
Johnston, with an orerwhelming
force, might swoop down from Jack-
son at any moment; Alabama and
Georgia mignt supply a fresh force
adequate to the raising of the siege
and the rout of the besi^ers ; add to
which, Lee — so recently victorious at
Chancellorsville — might dispatch a
corps of veterans by rail for the re-
lief of Gardner and his important
post. The Eebel line of defense was
three or four miles long; ours, encir-
cling theirs, of course considerably
longer ; so that a stealthy concentra-
tion of the garrison on any point
must render it inmiensely stronger
there, for a time, than all who could
be rallied to resist it. "With Vicks-
burg proudly defying Grant's most
strenuous efforts, and Lee impelling
his triumphant legions across the
Potomac, the chances were decided-
ly against the undisturbed prosecu-
tion of this siege to a successful issue.

After a fortnight's steady digging
and firing, a fresh attempt was made,''
under a heavy fire of artillery, to es-
tablish our lines within attacking dis-
tance of the enemy's works, so as to
avoid the heavy losses incurred in
moving over the ground in their
front. Our men advanced at 3 a. m.,
working their way through the diffi-
cult abatis ; but the movement was
promptly detected by the enemy, and
defeated, with the loss on our side of
some scores as prisoners.

Four days later, a second general
assault was made:" G«n. Dwight,
on our left, attempting to push up
unobserved through a ravine and rush
over the enemy's works while his at-
tention should be absorbed by the

more palpable advance of Gens. Gro-
ver and Weitzel on our right. Nei-
ther attack ftiUy sticceeded ; but our
lines were permanently advanced, at
some cost, fix)m an average distance
of 300 yards, to one of 60 to 200
yards from the enemy's works ; and
here our men intrenched themselves
and commenced the erection of new
batteries. On our left, an eminence
was carried and held which com-
manded a vital point of the defenses,
known as Hhe Citadel'; and which
enabled Dwight, some days later, to
seize and hold a point on the same
ridge with ^ the Citadel,' and only ten
yards from the enemy's lines. Banks
professes to think the day's gains
worth their price; but, as he had
few men to spare, he did not choose
to pay at that rate for any more
ground, restricting his efforts thence-
forth to digging and battering; Far-*
ragut still cooperating to make the
slumbers of the besi^ed as uneasy as
might be.

That garrison was not beaten : it
was worn out and starved otit. A
shell fired its mill, burning it, with
over 2,000 bushels of com. Its guns
were successively disabled by the re-
markable accuracy of our fire, till but
15 remained effective on the land-
ward defenses. Its ammunition for
small arms was gradually expended,
until but twenty rounds per man re-
mained ; and but little more for the
artillery. Its meat at length gave
out ; when its mules were killed and
their flesh served out ; the men eat-
ing it without grumbling. Bats
stood a poor chance in their peopled
trenches: being caught, cooked,
eaten, and pronoimced equal as food
to squirrels. And thus the tedious

" June 10.

» June 14.

Digitized by



baurs rolled on, until the. last hope
of seasonable relief had all but faded
into the deadly stupor of blank de-

And still the besiegers worked on ;
losing some men daily by cannon-
balls and the more deadly Mini6
bullet of the sharp-shooter, but gain-
ing ground foot by foot, until our
saps on the right had been pushed
up to the very line of the defenses ;
while on our left a mine had been
prepared for a charge of thirty bar-
rels of powder, where its explosion
must have caused the destruction of
' the Citadel.'

Even had the garrison been full
fed and in healthy vigor, they
could not have held the place a
week longer, unless by successful sal-
lies that virtually raised the siege;
whereas, they were utterly exhausted,
debilitated, and worn out by famine,
overwork, and lack of sleep; until*
the hospitals were crowded with
them, and not half their number
could have stood up to fight through
a day's* earnest battle.

Suddenly, our batteries and gun-
boats shook " the heavens with one
tremendous salute, while cheer upon
cheer rose fix>m behind our works,
rolling from the gunboats above to
those below the defenses, and back
again, in billows of unmistakable
exultation. It was not ^ the glorious
Fourth,' but two days after it ; and
the sinking hearts of the besieged
anticipated the tidings before our
men shouted across to them, " Vioks-


needed to be told that, if that was
the truth, further resistance was
folly — that r^nforcements would
soon be steaming down the river

which would render holding out im-

That evening, Gardner summoned
a council of his six highest subordi-
nates, who imanimousl^ decided that
the place must be surrendered.
Thereupon, he opened communica-
tion with Banks, asking if the new0
shouted across the lines was authen-
tic. Banks, in reply, inclosed him
Gen. Grant's letter, announcing the
surrender; whereupon, Gardner ap-
plied for a cessation of hostilities,
with a view to negotiations as to
terms. This was declined. The
Kebel commander then averred his
willingness to surrender on condi-
tions; when conferees were appointed
on either side, and terms of capitula-
tion finally agreed" upon, whereby
the garrison became prisoners of
war ; our forces entering and taking
formal possession next morning;
when thousands of the victors and
the vanquished met and fraternized
rather as friends who had been tem-
porarily estranged, than as enemiee
BO lately confronted in mortal strife.

Gen. Banks does not report hig
aggregate loss in this siege; but it
can hardly have fallen short, in the
entire 45 days, of 8,000 men ; in-
cluding, beside those already named,
Cols. Bean, 4th Wise., Holcomb, Ist
La., Smith, 160th N. T. (Zouaves),
Lt.-Cols. Lowell, 8th N. H., Rodman,
381^ Mass., and other valued offi-
cers. Brig.-Gten. Paine was wounded
in the assault of Jun^ 14th.' Banks
says the Eebels admitted a loss dur-
ing the siegt of 610 only ; but he is
confid^it that it could not have beta
less than 800 to 1,000; as he found
500 wounded in the hospitals — ^most
of them severely in the head, by the



Digitized by




bnllets of our sharp-Bhooters. His
prisoners captured in the Port (the
jrick and wounded inclusive) were
6,408, of whom 455 were officers;
while his own forije that day was
less than 10,000 men. His captures,
during the campaign so glorionsly
terminated, he states at 10,584 men,
73 guns, 6,000 small arms, beside 3
gunboats, 8 other steamboats, and
cotton, cattle, &c., &c., to an im-
mense value.

Gen. Banks's sudden withdrawal
from Alexandria and the Eed river,
and the employment of nearly all his
disposable force in the si^e of Port
Hudson, necessarily proffered oppor-
tunities which Dick Taylor was on
the alert to improve. Collecting in
Upper Louisiana a force of some
thousands, including several regi-
ments, mainly of cavalry, from Tex-
as, he, early in June, reoccnpied
Alexandria and Opelousas; moving
thence rapidly down the Atchafalaya,
as if making directly for New Or-
leans. His approach appeared to
have been made known to our offi-
cers at the front only by vague rumors,
often circulated on purpose to mis-
lead; but our advanced posts were

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 47 of 113)