Horace Greeley.

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

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sloping toward Mansfield ; and here
Gen. Dwight formed his (Ist) bri-
gade across the road, with the 3d,
Col. Lewis Benedict," on his left;

the 2d, Gen. McMillen, in reserve ;
the 161st N. York, Lt.-Col. Kinsey,
being thrown out in advance as skir-
mishers; Lee's and Franklin's flying
columns being allowed to pass
through and form (if they would)
behind the living rampart thus erect-

Hardly was Emory's formation
completed when the flushed Kebels
came headlong on, driving in our
skirmishers pell-mell, and charging
up the slope as though there were
only the routed fugitives from the
Cross-roads before them. Their leffc
oveiiapping our right. Gen. McMil-
len was thrown forward on that
wing, and our fire reserved until

^ A gnunbling private of the 83d Ohio thus
sums up his view of this affair:

"The battle was shookinglj managed. It
irasi no doubt, a surprise on the General oom-
manding. He endeavored to charge the enemy
with a baprgage-train, but it did n*t work. ♦ ♦ ♦
Oens. Banks and Franklin did n't believe there
was any force in our front but a few skirmish-
ers, and, bj their incredulity, lost the day.**

A letter to The Missouri RqmbKcan has the

*< About 3 P.M., when within two miles of
Kansfield, the advance, consisting of cavalry,
artiUery, and the 4th division, 13th army corps,
while marching through a dense pine forest,
there being a thick undergrowth of p'mes on
either side of the road, were attacked by the Be-
bels in g^reat force, on both flanks and in front
The engagement soon bocame general : the Re-
bels suddenly opening with artillery and mus-
ketry, charging our surprised and panic-stricken
columns with terrific yells, evincing a daring
and determination worthy of a better cause.
Qen. Banks and Gen. Franklin burned to the
fh>nt, and were in the thickest of the fight
The artillery was speedily put in position at the
extreme /h}nt and, for a while, did exoelleut
service. Finding the fVont rather too dangerous
for Major-Generals, Banks and Franklin return-
ed to the rear of the wagon-train, just in time to
save themselves f\rom capture^ as the Rebels
pressed upon both sides of our army with
crushing effect A ball passed through Gen.
Banks's hat. Every thing was soon in the
wildest confusion; the wagon-train, being in the
rear and in (he narrow road, attempted to turn
round to Ml back, and completely blocked up
the way, cutting off the advance both fhun a
way of retreat and from rSenforcements. The
Bebels had formed in the shape of an isosceles

triangle, leaving the base open, and at the apex
planting their artillery. Our advance marcmed
directly into the triangle, having the two wings
of the Rebel forces on either side of tfaem.
These wings were speedily connected, compel-
ling our forces to retreat or surrender. The bat-
teries above mentioned, consisting of 20 pieces
in all, were now captured, together with nearly
all their officers and men. The Chicago Mercan-
tile battery was captured entire, and I am in-
formed that all her ofBoers and men fell into tho
hands of the enemy. The 4 th division, 13th
corps, 2,800 men, under Gen. Ransom, and Gen.
Lee's cavalry, about 3,000 strong, and the bat-
teries above mentioned, were the forces in ad-
vance of the wagon-train. These forces fought
desperately for a while, but gave way to the
superior numbers of the Rebels, and retreated
in great precipitation. The scene of this retreat
beggars all description. Gen. Franklin said of
it, that * Bull Run was not a chxnimstance in
comparison.* Gen^ Ransom was wounded in
the knee, but rode off the field before he was
compeUed, by loss of blood, to dismount Capt
Dickey, of Gen. Ransom's stafl; was shot through
the head and killed instantly. His body
was left on the field. The position of the wag-
on-train in the narrow road was the great blun-
der of the aSair. The rear was completely
blocked up, rendering the retreat very d&^cult,
and, in fact, almost impossible. Cavalry horses
were dashing at full speed through the roads,
endangering infantry and pther pedestrians more
than Rebel musketry: the retreat having be-
come so precipitate that all attempts to make a
stand, for a while, seemed impossible.

" The immense baggage and supply train of
Gen. Lee's cavalry, consisting of 269 wagons,
nearly all fell into the hands of the enemy, to-
gether with the moles attached thereto.**


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they were close upon our line ; when
a deadly volley swept them down
like grass; Gen. Monton being
among the killed. But, though
somewhat astonished, they were not
dismayed ; their superiority in num-
bers more than counterbalancing our
advantage of position. For an hour
and a half, the fighting continued at
close quarters, till darkness arrested
it — all the enemy's impetuous charges
having been repelled by the steady
valor of our men ; their losses being
at least double ours. Emory's divi-
sion had saved our army, and prob-
ably our fleet also."

Smith's veterans were still behind.
To remain on the ground watered
with the blood of both armies was to
fight again at daylight with half our
force against every fighting Rebel
between Shreveport and the Missis-
sippi. To retreat would enable the
worsted foe to claim a second victory.
Banks preferred the substance to the
shadow, and fell back unmolested
during the night 15 miles, to Pleas-
ant Hill: Gen. Emory covering the

retreat, after burying liis dead and
caring for his wotmded, and only
reaching our new position at 8|


Thus far, we had fought against
fearful odds-Kxids that need not,
therefore, should not, have been en-
countered. At Pleasant HiU, the
case was somewhat altered. Gen.
Smith had arrived and halted here
at night, as had Col. Dickey's Black
brigade; swelling Banks's forces to
fully 15,000 men. But for yesterday's
disasters, it might have been nearly
20,000. Our line of battle was form-
ed with Franklin's three brigades in
front, supported by Smith's, where-
of the 2d, composed of the 14th, 27th,
and 32d Iowa, and the 24th Missouri,
under Col. Wm. T. Shaw, 14th Ioto,
were formed directly across the main
road to Shreveport, whereon the Re-
bels must advance, along the thinly
wooded brow of a slight acclivity,
half a mile west of the gentle emi-
nence and petty village of Pleasant
Hill ; though the bulk of our army
was formed, and most of the

** The Chicago Tribune^s oorrespondeDt says':
" About a half a mile from the field, the 3d
division, 13th corps, under Gen. Cameron, came
up and formed in line of battle; and here two
guns of the Mercantile battery were put in posi-
tion and opened with good effect upon the ene-
my. For a short time, it seemed as if a success-
ful rally would be made at this point; but the
effort was in vain. The entire strength of the
Sd division on the field was only 1,600 men, and,
after a short and courageous resistance, the line
gave way. A check, however, had been given
to the panic, and many of the troops formed into
squads and continued the retreat in better order.
Efficient aid was also rendered by Col. Robinson,
commanding a cavalry brigade detaUcd to guard
the trains, who, hearing the rapidly approaching
firing, hastened with a^arge portion of his com-
mand to the front, and, wheeling into line in
perfect order, delivered a most destructive vol-
ley into the Rebels, who were swarming in the
road, and then fell back in good order. For full
a mile from the place where Cameron's division
had met us, the retreat was continued ; the Re-
bels following closely upon our heels, and keep-
ing up a continuous fire, when, all at once, as

we emerged into a more open piece of woods, we
came upon Emory's division, of the 19th oorpa,
forming in magnificent order in line of battle
across the road.

" Opening their ranks to permit the retreating
forces to pass through, each regiment of this
fine division, closing up on the double-quick,
quietly awaited the approach of the Rebels;
and, vrithin less than five minutes, on they came,
screaming and firing as they advanced, but Btill
in good order and with closed ranks. AH it
once, from that firm line of gallant soldiers that
now stood so bravely between us and our pur-
suing foes, there came forth a course of rever-
berating thunders that rolled from flank to flank
in one continuous peal, sending a storm of lead-
en hail into the Rebel ranks that swept them
back in dismay, and left the ground covered
with their killed and wounded. In vam the Be-
bels strove to rally against this terrific fire. At
every effort, they were repulsed ; and, after a
short contest, they fell back, evidently most ter-
ribly punished. It was now quite dark, and
each party bivouacked on the field.**

» April 9.

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fighting took place, on the right
of the road : onr left being refused,
with strong reserves posted npon
and around Pleasant Hill, to be
used as circumstances should dic-

The Rebels had followed onr re-
treating column trom Pleasant Grove,
but not sharply ; and they, from about
11 A.M., cautiously skirmished and
felt of our lines, to find a weak point,
while their forces were coming up
and getting into position, till about 4
p. K., before making a serious attack.
Meantime, Banks had dispatched his
trains and heavy artillery,^ guarded
by most of our cavalry, with the
Black troops and the remains of Han-
som's pulverized division, on the road
to Grand Ecore ; thus weakening our
force at the front, in the belief that
they would not attack till the mor-
row. Our remaining brigade of cav-
alry, Col. O. P. Gooding, had been
sent out to reconnoiter a mile or two
on the road to Shreveport, and had
been roughly handled. But now, a
Eebel battery opened, and their in-
fantry advanced ; when, their inten-
tion of turning our right becoming
manifest, Emory's 3d brigade, Col.
Benedict, moved to the support of
his Ist on that flank, and Shaw's
brigade of Smith's corps aforesaid
moved forward and took its position
in our front; so that, when the ene-
my charged in earnest, the brunt
of the fight fell on this gallant bri-

gade. It could hardly have found
one more able or willing to meet

At 4 p. M., the Eebel skirmish-fire
had seemed suddenly to increase and
become general; but it soon died
away almost wholly, as if the courage
to attack had failed. But a few mi-
nutes elapsed, however, till our skir-
mishers were driven in by two charg-
ing columns, advancing obliquely^
against our left center, and strUdng
heavily Emory's 3d brigade, CoL
Lewis Benedict, which, after fighting
desperately, gave way, and was slow-
ly pushed back on our reserves : but
not till Col. Benedict had been
wounded. Emory's Ist and SJd bri-
gades were soon enveloped on tfiree
sides in overwhelming force and
crowded back ; the enemy now pass-
ing our right and center in eager
pursuit, and pressing on nearly to
Gen. Smith's position in reserve;
when, after an exchange of several
volleys, he was charged in turn by
Smith's Western veterans, led by
Gen. Mower, and by Emory's divi-
sion, now formed o& their right, and
fairly routed ; part of the foe being
driven two miles : the 49th Illinois,
Maj. Morgan, rushing upon one of
their batteries, taking two of its guns,
and 100 prisoners. The 58th Illinois,
brigaded with the 89th Indiana and
119th niinois, striking the enemy in
flank, retook one of our lost batteries,
and captured 400 prisoners, with 6

^ A newspaper correspondent on the field

«* Col. W. T. Shaw, commanding the 2d bri-
gade, 3d division, 16th corps, deserves g^at
credit for the able manner in wbich he suppresses

Bebel cavalry charges. Col Sweitzer of the

Texas cavalry, undertook to break CoL Shaw's
lines by a charge. Orders were given to * Re-
serve your fire, boys, untfl he gets within
thirty yards, and then give it to himT As
the cavalry dashed on at a gallop, each inCui-

tryman had selected his victim, and, waiting
tiU the three or four hundred were within
about forty yards, the Uth Iowa emptied
nearly every saddle as quickly as though the
order had been ^ven to dismount

"Out of this Kebel cavalry regiment, not
more than ten men escaped; and the whole
movement was done with that terrible death-
alacrity which the science of war teaches, and
the awful reality of whidi the eye alone can d&-
soribe to the soiiL"

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caisBonB and tlieir horses." Oen. M.
M. Parsons, of Mo., was among the
Eebel killed. The fall of the brave
Col. Benedict — ^wounded a second
time, and now mortally, as he charg-
ed at the head of his brigade, with a
shout of triumph on his lips — was
part of the cost of this undeniable

That the battle of Pleasant Hill
was bravely fought against odds in
numbers and dearly won by our
soldiers, is not fairly disputable;
though the fact that Gen. Banks de-
cided to follow, before morning, that
considerable portion of his army
which, before it commenced, he had
started, guarding his trains, on the
road to Grand Ecore, has thrown
some haze over the result. But Pol-
lard — who always claims a Rebel
victory where it is possible to do so
— makes no victory out of this ; while
Dick Taylor — who addresses the Re-
bel army as " Major-General com-

manding," though Kirby Smith was
commander of the department, and
probably not so far off as Shreveport
— after claiming 21 guns, 2,500 pris-
oners, 250 wagons, and many stands
of colors, as trophies of the preced-
ing day's triumph, is only able to
say this of the battle of Pleasant

*^ The gallant divisions from Missonri and
Arkansas, nnfortnnatelj absent on the 8th
instant, marched 45 miles in two days, to
share the glories of Pleasant Hill. This was
emphatically the soldiers' victory. In spite
of the strength of the enemy's position, held
by fresh troops of the 16th corps, yonr valor
and devotion triumphed over all. Darkness
closed one of the hottest fights of the
war. The' morning of the 10th instant
dawned upon a flym^ foe, with our cav-
alry ill pursuit, captormg prisoners at every

No prisoners [we took at least
500] ; no guns [we took several] ; no
colors; no trophies of any kind —
nothing but the fact that Banks re-
treated after the battle, is cited to
give color to a Rebel claim of tri-

" The New York Herald's oorrespoDdent says :

" At twenty minutes past 6, the enemy ap-
peared on the plain at the edge of the woods,
and the battle commenced: our batteries open-
ing upon him with case-shell as he marched at
double-quick across the field to the attack.

" Our left, Col. Benedict's brigade, came into
action first ; and our right and center were en-
gaged soon after. The battle now raged fiercely :
the air was full of lead and iron, and the roar
of musketry and artillery incessant The car-
nage on both sides was fearful : the men fighting
almost hand to hand, and with great despera-

" Nothing could exceed the determined brave-
ry of our troops; but it was evident Emory's
division was fighting the whole Rebel army.
Pressed at all points by overwhelming numbers,
our line fell back up the hill to the 16th corps,
which was concealed Just behind the crest.
Taylor's battery for a time fell into the hands
of the enemy.

** General Smith made all preparations to re-
oeive the advancing foe; and, as the human tide
came rolling up the hill, he looked quietly on
until the enemy were almost up to the muzzles
of his guns ; when a sheet of flame flashed along
his lines, and, with the cra^h of ten thousand
thunders, muhket-balls, mingled with grape and
caniater, bwcpt the plain like a bes^ of de-

struction. Hundreds fell dead and dying before
that awAil fire.

" Scarcely bad the seething lead left the guns
when the word * Charge 1 ' was £^ven, and 7, 000
brave men precipitated themselves upon the
shattered ranks of the enemy. Emory's divi-
sion, which had only yielded to superior num-
bers, and remained unbroken, now rushed for-
ward and joined the 16th corps, driving the Re-
bels rapfdly down the hill to the woods, where
they broke and fled in the greatest confusion
and dismay.

"CoL Benedict, while gallantly leading his
brigade in the charge, fell dead, pierced by fire

"The battle was fought, and the victory won.
Our troops followed the Bebels until night pat
an end to the pursuit

" In the last charge, we recaptured Taytor's
battery, which had been lost in the earlier part
of the action, and retook two guns of Nim'e
battenr, which had been lost in ue battle of the
preceaing day. The 10-pounder Parrott gun,
which the Rebels .captured last ilUl at Carrion
Crow, was also retaken.

"Five hundred prisoners, all the dead and
wounded, three battle-standards, and a large
number of small arms, fell into our hands.

** Our victorious army slept upon the battle-
field, which waa one of the Uoodiest of the

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Tiniph here. The defeat is thns vir-
tuallj confessed.

But why did Banks retreat, when
his soldiers were eager to advance,
and efface the stinging recollection
of the blundering disaster of the
8th t He says in his official report : '

''At the close of the engagement, the yio-
torions party found itself without rations
and water. To clear the field for the fight,
the trfun 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 afK>rded during
the daj for miles around. Previous to the
moyement of the armj from Natchitoches,
orders had been given to the transport fieet,
with a portion of the 16th corps, under the
command of Gkn. Kilbv 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 am-
munition 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 difficulties 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 ao-
auainted with the country^ reported, on the
aay of the battle, that no tidings of the fleet
could be obtained on the river; and we
were compelled to assume that the increas-
ing 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 de-
privation of water for man or beast, the ex-
haustion 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 commu-
nicating with the fleet, and where it would
have an opportunity of reorganization. The
shattered condition of the 18th army corps
and the cavalry made this indispensable.
The wounded were gathered from the bat-
tle-field, placed in comfortable hospitals,
and left under the care of competent sur-
geons and assistants. The dead remmning
on the field were, as far as possible, buried
during the night. The next day, medioal
VOL, n. — 35

supnlies and providons, with competent at-
tenaants, 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 eager for another

It certamly would seem that the
impulse *of the soldiers was, in this
case, more trustworthy than the dis^
cretion 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 Bed
river as near on the other. It is
sqrely to be r^retted that our army, if
unable to advance, had not moved by
the right flank to Eed river, or simply
held its ground for two or three days,
while its wounded were sent away to
Grand Score, instead of being aban-
doned to the enemy.

Banks admits a loss of 18 guns
only on the 8th, 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 for-
ward at the critical moment, and miun-
tained our position, irom which the enemy
was driven precipitately and with terrible
destruction of life. He 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 distin-
guish 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 8,969
men in the collisions of the 7th, 8th,
and 9th of April— 289 kiUed, 1,641
wounded, and 2,150 missing, mostly
prisoners — and says that we fought
and won at Pleasant Hill with 15,000

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against 22,000. The simple fact that
Taylor, and Pollard after him, with
Kirby Smith's report of the cam-
paign, are silent with regard to the
Bebel losses, is eloquent on this
point. ABsmning Banks's entire loss
during this campaign at 5,000 men,
it is morally certain that he inflicted
at least equal loss on the Bebels.
Eyen in guns — counting those cap-
tured with Fort de Russy — ^they had
nothing to boast of.

Still, the prestige of victory was
with them, the mortification of high-
raised, blasted hopes, with us. We
had xmdertaken to crush the Bebel
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 Bebels encour-
aged by this, but the timid and the
wavering Louisianians and Texans
were attached to the Bebel (^use;
while the cowering, silent, long-ex-
pectant, heart-sick Unionists of the
South-west were plunged into a new
abyss of bitter anguish and despair.

Q^n. Banks 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 Bebels had sunk a large steam-
boat across the channel to arrest its
progress. Just as Porter was com-
mencing 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 r^narkably low, and still fall-

ing; the difficulty of navigating it
with our lighter gunboats and trans-
ports 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 per-
fect 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 caUed
Coushatta; aft;er that, Harrison, with
1,900 cavalry, and 4 guns, persistently
annoyed us: our vessels making at
best but 30 miles per day ; and com-
pelled to tie up at night, which ena-
bled 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 offhj a shell
and one of his guns disabled, before
his men could be quieted. Never
was attack more reckless than that
made by his inftiriated, rum-crazed
followers, who fancied that they could
carry gunboats in that narrow, crook-
ed 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

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 78 of 113)