Horace Greeley.

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

. (page 77 of 113)
Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 77 of 113)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

estimated it at fully 1,000, and say
we had but 100 killed and wounded.

As a consequence of this disaster,
Washington, at the head of Pamlico
sound, was soon evacuated by Gen.
Palmer ;** some of our departing sol-
diers disgracing themselves and their
flag by arson and pillage ere they left.

Capt Cooke, of the Albemarle,
being naturally somewhat inflated by
his easy triumph over two unmailed
gunboats, our remaining gunboats in
those waters, under Capt. Melano-
thon Smith, were disposed to tempt
him to a fresh encounter, on mco^
equal terms. They had not long to
wait for it. The Mattabesett, Sassa-
cus, and Wyalusing, were lying 20
miles off the mouth of the Roanoke,
when our picket-boats, which had
been sent up the river to decoy the
ram from tmder the protecting bat-
teries of Plymouth, reported her
coming ;'* and soon she was decried
bearing down, accompanied by the
river steamboat Cotton Plant, and
what was lately ottr gunboat Bomb-
sheU. The former — ^beingtoofi^ilfor
such an encounter — put back, with
her 200 sharp-shooters and boaiders,
to Plymouth ; and the contest began-
The Albemarle was heavily iron-clad
and armed with very large Whitr
worth guns ; and our vessels of course
played around her, seeking to inject
their iron into her weakest quarter :
the Sassacus taking occasion to poiff
one broadside at close range into the
Bombshell, which compelled her to
strike her flag and fall out of the
range of fire. AAer a spirited can-
nonade at short range, ^e Sassacos
struck the Albemarle at fuU speed,
crowding her hull under water, but
not sinking her. And now these
life-and-death wrestlers exchanged
100-pound shots at five or six paces;
the gunners of the Sassacus watching
for the opening of a port by the Al-
bemarle, and trying — sometimes with
success — ^to fire a sheU or shot into it
before it could be closed again ; as,
from the ram's mailed sides or deck,

»AppU 20^


"Mays, 3 P.M.

Digitized by




the largest' bolts, fired at tills distance,
rebounded like dry peas. At length,
the ram put a shot through one of
of her adversary's boilers, killing 3
and wounding 6 of her men, and fill-
ing her with scalding steam, from out
which the shrieks of the scalded were
piercingly heard. And now the chief
engineer of the Sassacus was com-
pelled to call his men to follow him
into the fire-room, and there to drag
the fires from beneath the uninjured
b«iler, which was on the brink of
explosion ; while the engine had be-
come entirely unmanageable.

Out of the thick, white cloud which
enveloped the two combatants, fre-
quently irradiated by the fiashes of
guns, the Albemarle soon emerged,
limping off toward her sheltering
fort; still keeping up her fire; the
Sassacus moving slowly in pursuit,
working on a vacuum alone. We
had the Bombshell, with her 4 rifled
guns, as a trophy ; while the siege
of Newborn — which the Albemarle
had set forth to form the naval part
of, while that post had afready been
sxmtmioned by Hoke, on the assump-
tion that "the river and sound were
blockaded below" — ^was indefinitely

The Albemarle made good her re-
treat, and never cared to renew the
encounter. Months afterward, she
was still 8 miles up the Eoanoke,
lying at a dock, behind a barricade
of logs, when Lt Wm. B. Gushing
slipped" up the river in a steam-
launch and, under a fierce fire from
the monster, lowered a torpedo-boat,
rowed it to and under the overhang
of the Albemarle and fired it, at the

same instant that one of the enemy's
shots crashed through the torpedo-
boat, utterly destroying it. The
launch likewise was instantly dis-
abled ; but Gushing, spuming every
call to surrender, ordered his men to
save themselves as they best could ;
himself dropping into the water and
swimming down stream half a mile,
when he crawled out at daybreak,
and hid in an adjacent swamp;
through which he slowly, cautiously
worked his way until he found a
skiff in a creek, and, at 11 p. m., was
on board one of our vessels in the
offing. The Albemarle sunk like a
stone, and was never more trouble-
some to friend or foe.

Plymouth — Hoke being busy on
the James — ^was now easily retaken *•
by our fieet under Gom'r Macomb,
who captured a few prisoners, some
guns and warlike stores.

Of Bumside's extensive conquests
in North Garolina, but little more
than Newborn and Eoanoke island
remained to us, after the loss of
Plymouth and the abandonment of
Washington; and Hoke was intent
on reducing our possessions still ftuv
ther, when the pressure of our ad-
vance in Virginia summoned the
greater part of his force to the de-
fense of Richmond.

Two or three unimportant raiding
expeditions were sent out from New-
bem during the Summer; and one
from Roanoke island, led by Gen.
Wild and composed of colored troops,
penetrated far into Gamden county ;
bringing off 2,500 slaves, many horses
and cattle, and destroying much
grain ; at a total cost of 13 men. .

'Oct 27.

"Oct. 31.

Digitized by






Gbk. Bastks was in New Orleans,
intent on farther operationB against
Texas by way of Galveston and the
sea-coast, when he received' a dis-
patch from Halleck, prescribing (or,
as Halleck says, "suggesting") a to-
tally different plan of campaign. Its
line of operations was the Eed river ;
its object, the capture of Shreveport,
with the rout and dispersion of Kirby
Smith's army, culmmating in the re-
covery of Texas and a boundless sup-
ply of cotton for our mills and for ex-
port. To this end. Admiral Porter,
with a strong fleet of iron-clads and
transports, was to embark at Yicks-
burg, 10,000 of Sherman's old army
under Gen. A. J. Smith, and move
with them up Bed river, capturing
by the way Fort de Bussy, remov-
ing all impediments, and meeting at
Alexandria Gen.Bank8, who, with his
16,000 to 17,000 disposable men, was
to march overland from the Atchafar
laya to the designated point of junc-
tion; while Gen. Steele, with the bulk
(15,000) of his Arkansas force, was
to move on Shreveport directly from
Little Bock. In other words: we
were to threaten Shreveport with
40,000 men, so disposed that the en-
emy, with a compact, mobile force of
25,000, might fight them all in turn
with superior numbers, and so cut

them up in detail. It was a very
old blunder, so often repeated in our
struggle that none could plead igno-
rance of its oft-tested and certain
effect; but braying in a mortar
would be effective only with those
who do not need it. Had Steele's
men been brought down the Arkan-
sas in boats, and added to Banks^s
and Smith's forces, the issue must
almost certainly have been differ-
ent. But Gen. Steele's demonstra-
tion, though designed to be simulta-
neous and cooperative with Banks's,
was entirely independent;' while
G^n. Smith's quota was only loaned
to Banks fcN* a brief period, and was
subject to recall in entire disregard
of his authority. Had such a move-
ment missed failing, it would have
been a disparagement of good gen-
eralship evermore.

Banks's own force was to have
moved from Franklin on the 7th of
March, so as to be at Alexandria on
the 17th : but the General was busy
at New Orleans, and intrusted the
immediate command of his force to
Gen. Franklin ; who was not ready
to start till the 13th, and had not
fully reached Alexandria till the
26th; though his cavalry advance,
under Gen. A. L. Lee, had arrived
on the 19th«

* Jao. 23, 1864.

"Gen. Banks, before the Committee on the
Conduct of the War, testified that—

"The truth was, that while four forces — Gen.
8teele*s, Gen. Sherman^s (under Gen. SmithX
Admiral Porter^s, and my own — ^were operating
together, neither one of them had a right to give

any order to the other. Gen. Smith never made
any report to me, but considered his as snbscaa*
tially an independent force. * * * It took us 20
days to communicate with Gen. Steele; and then
we could only state our own position, t»k what
he was doing, and give advice ; but we cookl
not tell whether he followed the adrioe or tuo^
nor what he was doing/*

Digitized by




Ere tldfl, Admiral Porter^ with 15
iron-clads and four lighter steam-
boats, had reached* the mouth of
Eed river, where he was joined* by
Gen. A. J. Smith and his 10,000 men
in transports, and proceeded next day,
pioneered by the Eastport, up the Red
to Simmsport, which was evacuated
by the Eebels, who fell back on Fort
de Kussy. Nine of our gunboats en-
tered the Atchafalaya, followed by
the land force; while the residue,
followed by the transports, continued
up the 'Redy where the Eastport, in
advance, was for hours engaged in
removing the Bebel obstructions of
piles and chains in the channel, which
months had been given to construct-
ing and strengthening. These being
dli^osed of, the Eastport and Neosho
passed them, and pushed forward to
Fort de Russy, where Smith had by
this time arrived; and he, after a
few shots from the Eastport, assault-
^ed and carried the works, capturing
10 guns and 283 prisoners. Smith,
who had started from Simmsport at
daylight, marched 40 miles, built a
bridge that detained him two hours,
taken a large and strong fort by as-
sault, after considerable skirmishing
and cannon-firing, had his day's
work done and the fort fully in pos-
session before sunset. The main
Rebel force, about 5,000 strong, un-
der Qen. Walker, retreated up the
river. Porter at once sent his swift-
est vessels up to Alexandria, which
was abandoned without a struggle.*

The Eastport had come up the night

But here commenced the real dif-
ficulties of the undertaking. There
was hardly water enough in the river
to float our heavy iron-clads up to
this point ; and here was a considera-
ble fall or rapid, up which about half
of them were forced with great effort.
Porter wisely left five or six of the
heaviest below, though Banks deemed
naval cooperation essential to the
success of the undertaking. One hos-
pital-ship was sunk and lost in get-
ting up. As there was but 6 feet
wat^r in the diannel at the fall,
while our vessels drew from 7i to 10
feet, it is not surprising that 7 or 8
days* were spent in getting over those
vessels that went higher. During the
halt here, Gen. Warner, with four
brigades of Smith's corps, surprised'
a Rebel post at Henderson's hill, 21
miles westward, capturing 4 guns,
250 men, and 200 horses.

But embarrassments multiplied.
Gen. McPherson, now in command
at Vicksburg, called for the return
of the marine brigade, 8,000 strong,
of Smith's corps, to its special duty
of guarding the Mississippi from
raids ; and it had to be sent. Then
it was found necessary to make Alex-
andria a d6p6t of supplies, which
could not be carried farther; and
Gen. 0. Grover's division of 8,000
more were left to garrison it. And,
as no cooperation could be expected
from Steele,' Banks's 40,000 men

•MarohT. «MarchlL •MarchlG.

* March 26 to April 3. * March 21.

* Banks sajs, in hia official report:

"The partial disintegration of the aeyeral
commands assigned to this expedition was a
cause of emharrassment, though not entirely
of failure. The command of M^j.-Gen. Steele,
which I was informed by Mi^.-Oen. Sherman
would be about 15|000, was in fact but 7,000,

and operating upon a line eoTeral hundred miles
distant, with purposes and results entirely un-
Icnown to me. Feb. 6, 1 was informed by Gen.
Steele that, if any advance was to be made, it
must be by the Washita and Red rivers; and
that he might be able to move his command, by
the way of Pine Bluff, to Monroe, for this pur-
pose. Tliis would have united our forces on
Red river, and insured the success of the cam-
paign. Feb. 28, he informed me that he could

Digitized by





were already reduced, though scarce-
ly a shot had been fired, to about
20,000, Part of these had already
been pushed on, 80 miles farther, to

Natchitoches* — ^ihe enemy skirmish-
ing sharply at intervals with our van,
but making no stubborn resistance.
QeiL A. L. Lee, scouting in advance to
Pleasant Hill, 36 miles farther, found
the enemy in force; while some of
Pricfe's men, here taken prisoners,
reported a concentration in that
neighborhood of troops from TjBxas
(under Green) and from Arkansas;
raising the aggr^ate Rebel force
barring the road to Shreveport to
about 25,000 men, with 76 guns.

Shreveport was 100 miles from
Natchitoches — ^the direct road (which
was taken) passing through a sandy,
barren, mainly pine-covered, nearly
uninhabited country. The river,
which had been confidently expected
to rise, was unequivocally, steadily
falling ; and our gunboats could not
pass Grand Ecore."

Banks should have stopped here;
but Smith's corps must soon leave, in
obedience to peremptory orders from
Q^n. Grant, who had work cut out
for it elsewhere ; and Banks's array,
its General inclusive, was hungry
for Shreveport. A partisan encoun-

not move by way of Monroe ; and March 4, the
day before my command was ordered to move,
I was informed by Gen. Sherman that he had
written to Gen. Steele *to push straight for
Shreveport* March 5, 1 was informed bv Gen.
Halleck that he had no information of Gen.
Steele^s plans, further than that he would be di-
rected to facilitate my operations toward Shreve-
port. March 10, Gen. Steele informed me that
the objections to the route I wished him to take
(by the way of Red river) were stronger than
ever, and that he 'would move with all his
available force (about 7,000 men) to Washington,
and thence to Shreveport* I received informa-
tion, March 26, dated March 15, fh>m Miy'.-Gen.
Halleck, that he had 'directed Gen. Steele to
make a real move, as sug^gested by you (Banks),
instead of a denwnstratiar^ as he (Steele) thought
advisable.* In April, Gen. Halleck informed me
that he had telegraphed Gen. Steele * to cooper-
ate with you (Banks) on Red river, with all
his available forces.* April 16, 1 was informed,
under date of the 10th, by Gen. Sherman, that
Gen. Steele*8 entire force would cooperate with
me and the navy. In May, I reoaved informa-

tion fh)m Gen. Steele, dated April 28, that be
could not leave Camden unless supplies were
sent to him, as those of the country were ex-
hausted; that we 'could not help each other
operatinig on lines so wide apart;* that he could
not say definitely that be oould join me * at asy
point on Red river at any given time ;* and, from
the distance that separated us, that I could ren-
der no assistance to him — an opinion in whidi I
entirely concurred. I never received authority
to give orders to Gen. Steele. My instructuns
limited me to commuoicatmg with him upon the
subject of the expedition. I have no doubt
that Gen. Steele did all in his power to insure
success; but, as communication with him was
necessarily by special messenger, and occupied
fh>m 15 to 20 days at each communication, it
was impossible for either of us fully to compre-
hend the relative positions of the two armies, or
to assist or to support each other.**

•April 2-3.

>* Natchitoches is on the oU (deserted) chan-
nel of Bed river ; Grand Eoore is on its new chan*
nel, four nules farther ncMrtJu

Digitized by




ter," north of Red river, between
CoL O. P. Gooding's brigade of 1,500
cavalry and a Eebel force under
Harrison, wherein Gooding came out
ahead, stimulated the pervading ea-
gerness to advance.

* Forward' was the word, and
Natchitoches was left behind on the
6th : Gen. A. L. Lee, with the cav-
alry, in the van; next. Gen. Ran-
som, with two thin divisions of the
13th corps ; then Gen. Emory, with
the Ist division of the 19th corps and
a Black brigade : the whole advance
immediately commanded by Gen. W.
B. Franklin; Gen. A. J. Smith, with
part of the 16th corps, followed next
morning ; but, as the iron-clads had
been unavoidably left behind, a divi-
sion of the lYth corps, 2,500 strong,
under Gen. T. Kilby Smith, was
guarding the transports creeping up
the river, under orders to halt and
communicate with the army at Loggy
bayou, half way to Shreveport. Gen.
Banks left Grand Ecore on the morn-
ing of the 7th, reaching the van at
Pleasant Hill before night. A rain
that day, which had greatly retarded
the rear of our extended column, had
not reached its front.

Gen. Banks found that Lee had that
afternoon had a sharp fight with a
body of Rebels ; worsting and driving
them 9 miles to St. Patrick's bayou,
where our van halted for the night.
Our loss in this affair was 62 men.

Gen. Lee pushed on at daybreak
next morning; driving the enemy
three miles farther to Sabine Cboss-
RoADs, three miles below Mansfield,
where he encountered the Rebel ' Ar-
my of the trans-Mississippi,' under
Kirby Smith, Dick Taylor, Mouton,
and Green, numbering not less than

20,000 men. Here Banks, reaching
our front at li p. m., found our men
in line of battle, the skirmishers hotly
engaged ; the main body of the foe
hidden in pine woods behind the
crest of a hill, across which ran the
only road to Shreveport.

Banks had passed Franklin some
mUes back, and had ordered him to
send forward a brigade of infantry
and dose up to the front ; and he now
sent back to hurry him up. Qen.
Ransom, with a single brigade of
infantry, had already come up when
Banks arrived. Lee was ordered to
hold his ground, but not attempt to
advance. Messenger after messenger
was sent back to hurry Franklin;
the skirmishing growing gradually
hotter; until, at 4^ p. m., the Rebels
having, in overwhelming force, out-
flanked our handful on both wings,
made a grand charge, which was
gallantly resisted ; but the odds were
three or four to one, and our front
recoiled from the field wherein their
line was formed to the woods this
side, losing heavily.

It was now 6 p. m. ' Gen. Franklin
had come up, with G^n. Cameron's
(3d) division of the 13th corps, and a
new and somewhat stronger line was
formed; which the e3nilting foe at
once flanked and charged, crushing
it back in spite of its desperate re-
sistance. And now the narrow,
winding forest-road was found so
choked with the supply-train of Lee's
division that any orderly retreat be-
came impossible, and 10 of Ransom's
guns were lost, with perhaps 1,000
prisoners, including Col. Emerson,
67th Lidiana. G^ns. Franklin and
Ransom, and Col. Robinson, 3d cav-
alry brigade, were wounded, and Col.

"April 4.

Digitized by




J. W. Vance, 96th Ohio, and Lt-CoL
Webb, 77th Illinois, killed. Eepeat-
ed attempts to reform onr disheart-
ened men, so as to present a fresh
barrier to the enemy's victorious ad-
vance, proved of no avail. The
Press (Philadelphia) had a corre-
spondent watching the fight, who thus
reports its melancholy finale :

'^The reader will nnderstaDd that our
forces were in an ODen space — a pine- wood
clearing — ^that our line of advance was one
single, narrow road ; and that, having made
the attack ourselves, we found the enemy
superior, and were compelled to make a de-
fensive fight. There were other troubles.
The country was so formed that artillery
was almost useless. We could not pl%ce a
battery without exposing it in a manner
that suggested madness; and yet we had
the guns, and were oompell^ to fight them.
A further disadvantage was to be found in
the long trains that followed the different
divisions. The cavalry had the advance ;
immediately behind, came the baggage-
wagons, moving in a slow, cumbersome
manner, and retarding the movements of
the infantry. This made it impossible for
us to have our divisions in supporting dis-
tance; and, when the time came for that
support, it could not be rendered. Gen.
Banks perceived tliis at once ; but it was
too late to remedy it, and he was compelled
to fight the battle in the best manner pos-
sible. Ransom^s division had been engaged
and routed. Cameron^s division was in the
thickest of the fight. Gen. Franklin had
arrived on the field, and a division of his
magnificent corps, under Gen. Emory, was
pushing along rapidly. Gen. Banks person-
ally directed the fight. Every thing that
man could do he did. Occupying a position
80 exposed that nearly every horse ridden
by his staff was wounded, and many killed,
he constantly disregarded the entreaties of
those around, who begged that he would
retire to some less exposed position. Gen.
Stone, his chief of stan^ with his sad, earnest
face, that seemed to wear an unusual ex-
pression, was constantly at the front, and
by his reckless bravery aid much to encour-
age the men. And so the fight raged. The
enemy were pushing a temporary advan-
tage. Our army was merely forming into
position to make a sure battle.

^^ Then came one of those nnaoooontable
events that no genius or oonrage can con-
trol. I find it impossible to describe a
scene so sudden and bewildering, although
I was present, partly an actor, partly a

spectator, and saw plainly every thing that
took place. The battle was progressing
vigorously. The musketry firing was loud
and continuous; and, having recovered
from the danger experienced by Ransom^s
division, we felt secure of the position. I
was slowly riding along the edge of a
wood, conversing with a friend, who had
just ridden up, about the events and pros-
pects of the day. We had drawn into '
the side of the wood to allow an ammuni-
tion wagon to pass; and, although many
were observed going to the rear, some on
foot and some on horseback, we regarded it
as an occurrence familiar to every battle,
and it occasioned nothing but a passing re-

'' I noticed that most of those thus wildly
riding to the rear were negroes, hangers-on,
and serving-men ; for, now that we have
gone so deeply into this slaveholding coun-
try, every non-commissioned officer has a
servant, and every servant a mule. These

Eeople were the first to show any panic ;
ut their scamper alcmg the road only gave
amusement to the soldiers who pelted them
with stones and whipped their flying ani-
mals with sticks to increase their speed*
Suddenly, there was a rush, a shout^ the
crashing of trees, the breaking down of rails,
the rush and scamper of men. It was as
sudden as though a thunder-bolt had fallen
among us and set the pines on fire. What
caused it, or when it commenced, no one
knew. I turned to my companion to in-
quire the reason of this extraordinary pro-
ceeding; but, before he had a chance to
reply, we found ourselves swallowed up, as
it were, in a hissing, seething, bubbling
whirlpool of agitated men. We could not
avoid the current; we could not stem it;
and, if we hoped to live in that mad com-
pany, we must ride with the rest of them.
Our line of battle had siven way. Gen.
Banks took ofiT his hat and implored his men
to remain; his stafif-offioers did the same:
but it was of no avail. Then the General
drew his saber and endeavored to rally his
men ; but they would not listen. Behind
him, the Rebels were shouting and advanc-
ing. Their musket-balls filled the air with
that strange, file-rasping sound that war has
made familiar to our fighting men. The
teams were abandoned by the drivers, the
traces cut, and the animals ridden off by
the frightened men. Bareheaded riders
rode with agony in their faces ; and, for at
least ten minutes, it seemed as if we were
going to destruction together. It was my
fortune to see the first battle of Bull Run,
and to be among those who made that cele-
brated midnight retreat toward Washing-
ton. The retreat of the 4th division was
as much a rout as that of the first Federal

Digitized by



army, with the exception that fewer men
were engaged, and oar men fought hc^re
with a valor that was not shown on that
•erions, sad, mock-heroic day in July." "

Gen. Emory, advancing beliind
Franklin, had been .early advised
that matters were dubious at the
front, and directed to take a position
wherein to stop the mischief. Ad-
vancing four miles farther, he halted
his division at Plkasant Grove,
three miles behind Sabine Cross-
roads, and disposed it for the emer-
gency. It held the western edge of
a wood, with an open field in front,

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 77 of 113)