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Answer. Of course; the moment they came where I was I took charge of
ihem ; but they would not have been allowed to take on board a pound of cotton
as long as they were with me. Any cotton that we seized ourselves was always
put on board one of our own vessels and taken down that way. We had three
or four vessels that carried provisions. At Grand Ecore we picked up, floating
in the river and lying on the banks of the river, belonging to rebels, about three
hundred and fifty bales of cotton, which I finally had to pitch overboard. It
floated down to Alexandria and was picked up there and hauled out on shore.
That was the only cotton that was taken by anybody up there. But I know
there was a great deal of cotton bought by these persons, thinking that the
country was under the control of the army ; for there was every reason that we
should have it. We had men enough there to whip twice the force the rebels
had there. Cotton killed that expedition, in my opinion.

Question. When you say that cotton killed the expedition, will you explain
more fully what you mean by that ?

Answer. There was too much attention paid to getting cotton. The army
should not have gone into that business at all; they should have pushed on at
once. The importance of getting ahead was impressed upon General Banks.
Instead of that, days and days were spent by teams hauling cotton into town.

Question. Where was that ?

Answer. At Alexandria ; they did not haul cotton anywhere else. That was
the only place, except at Grand Ecore, where they had an opportunity to touch it.

Question. Did the army wait at Alexandria on purpose for that ? Was that
what caused the detention of the army there 1

Answer. I think it was ; I think that stopped them there, that and going
into an election. General Banks ordered an election at Alexandria, and some
days were lost in that election. When you see every team in the army em-
ployed in hauling hundreds and hundreds of bales of cotton into town, and the
whole army stopped, you cannot imagine any other object in their remaining

Question. Did the army move forward from Alexandria as soon as it could
be organized for that purpose ?

Answer. The army could have moved the day after it arrived there. I do
not think the army remained very long in Alexandria. I do" not know but what
they did leave there within two days — certainly as soon as they could have done.

Question. Then you do not think the army was detained there 1

Answer. They were detained about two days there; but the most of this
thing happened when we came back ; but the army was not detained ; it only
prevented their retreating.

Question. Was cotton hauled into Alexandria in army wagons after you re-
turned to that place 1

Answer. Yes, sir ; before and after. The army arrived there some days be-


fore General Banks did. General Stone' commenced that operation, and told
me that he did so by General Banks's order.

Question. Are you positive any cotton was brought in by the army wagons
after the return to Alexandria 1

Answer. I will not be positive on that point, as from my own knowledge. I
was very much engaged myself .in getting my fleet down. I know I saw wagons
loaded going all over the town — whether they were hauling cotton into the
town or hauling it to the boats. They first loaded up all the boats with cotton,
all the transports, and then unloaded them. It was after we returned that the
second vessel was destroyed down the river. The rebels were allowed to pass
by us and go down the river and blockade it. The cotton was hauled to the
boats and piled on them; where it came from I do not know. I was not back
in the country, for there were pickets there who would not permit any one to
go outside of the town a mile.

Question. State the particulars of the diificulties which you encountered in
getting 'your boats down the river.

Answer. The best way I could describe' them would be to read my report to
the department.

Question. Can you not give us a condensed statement sufficient for our pur-

Answer. General Banks did not inform me that his army was about to move
from Grand Ecore to Alexandria, but impressed me with the idea that he still
intended to move upon Shreveport from Grand Ecore. After he had retreated
to that place, he threw up fortifications to secure himself, against what I do not
know, for there was nothing there to trouble him. He had 30,000 men, and
the most the rebels had left at that time was 16,000 men.

General Franklin came to me at one time, and asked me if I had been in-
formed that General Banks was going to retreat to Alexandria. I said, " No,
sir ; on the contrary, General Banks has just informed me that it was his inten-
tion to hold the country." General Franklin said, " I assure you there is no
such intention ; orders have already been issued for the army to retire, and I
have received an order to conduct the retreat." I thought that was very sin-
gular, and sent Captain Selfridge to see General Banks. He assured Captain
Selfridge that he had not the faintest idea of leaving.

However, having got this hint from General Franklin,' I moved my vessels
down below Grand Ecore about a mile. I had a great deal of difficulty in getting
them over a little sand-bar there ; but I got them over - just about in time, for
another day might have rendered it impossible for me to do so. As soon, as I
found the army was retreating, I immediately commenced moving the heaviest
boats down the river. On the first day down, the Eastport either struck a tor-
pedo or ran on a very sharp snag, and sunk in a very short time. I sent to
General Banks and told him that I wanted a chance to get the Eastport up,
and asked him if there was any probability of the army moving soon. I told
him that I had pump-boats at Alexandria by which I could raise the Eastport.
General Banks told me that I had plenty of time to do that, and I went down
to Alexandria and brought up the pump-boats, and succeeded in getting the
Eastport up and moving. I told General Banks that I wanted to keep in com-
munication with him, for the Eastport was an important iron-clad which I did
not wish the rebels to have. General Banks said he would keep communication
open every day by the river ; but he started off ahead of the army and went
to Alexandria, and I heard nothing more of him then.

General Franklin conducted the retreat, I got the Eastport down, after
grounding seven or eight times in the river, to a point where I found it impos-
sible to get her any further. The rebels there attacked us with musketry. I
knew that the army must be a long way ahead by the enemy appearing in such
force there. They opened fire on us as we were getting ready to blow up the


Eastport. We succeeded in blowing' her up and destroying her so effectually
that she could be of no service to the rebels.

We then proceeded down the river. The rebels finding that we had de-
stroyed the Eastport, and knowing that we had nothing but tin-clads along with
us, caught us in a bend of the river, about twenty-five miles below, and opened
fire on us with nineteen guns that they had taken from our army. In four
minutes' time, by the watch, I lost on my vessel twenty-five ofiicers and men,
killed and wounded, out of fifty officers and men, and had thirty -four shots put
through my vessel, and I had another vessel which was very badly riddled.
We fought our way past the battery, and I got in the rear of the rebels, and
opened upon them with one gun with shrapnell and canister, and drove them
from their guns. In that way I managed to get my vessels down. I knew
our army must be in full retreat, or the rebels would not have brought that
battery where our men could have got at it.

Question. H ow many of the enemy were there ?

Answer. About 3,000 men. When I got to Alexandria, I found the army
in a great state of stampede. I did not see anything to be frightened at myself;
but the. army was going to clear out at once and go down the river. I told
General Banks that that was out of the question ; that we must do something to
get the fleet down. Colonel Bailey had suggested the building of a dam ; but
they hpoted at it, and so did all the engineers. There was the most perfect
stampede I ever saw in an army that was in perfect preparation to go into
battle. The army had not lost anything coming down, for General, Franklin
had conducted the retreat in a masterly manner.

I wrote to General Banks pretty stiffly on the subject, and told him that if
he did go and desert the fleet, the people of the United States would never for-
give him as long as he lived ; that he could see from the tone of the northern
press what the feeling there was ; and that the only hope of redeeming the dis-
asters that had already befallen the army was to get the fleet out of the predica-
ment it was in by some masterly move.

Colonel Bailey took hold of his idea of building a dam, and General Banks
attended to it very faithfully after it was determined upon. But he would
notify me every now and then that he was going to leave. But I knew that
General A. J. Smith would not go and leave us there, and I was sure General
Banks would not leave as long as General A. J. Smith remained there.

Question. W ere these communications oral or written !

Answer. They were written. I knew the army had plenty of provisions,
and there was forage enough in the country. But General Banks 'was not alone
in the desire to get away. There were others there who ought to have known
better, military men, who thought they ought to retreat.

Colonel Bailey went to work, and in twelve days built that remarkable dam,
the most remarkable thing I ever saw in my life. And I think he deserves the
entire credit of that dam, for he went in for it in opposition to the views of
everybody else there, except General Franklin, Colonel Hoffman, and myself.
General Banks did* not pretend to know much about it ; but when the thing
was urged upon him, and he saw the necessity of doing something to relieve
the fleet, he went into the thing with as much vim as anybody there, and did a
great deal towards pushing it through.

Question. There was one dam built which went away before all the vessels
got through ?

Answer. Yes, sir. The dam was made continuous across the river, and raised
the water high enough to enable the vessels to cross the upper falls. While the
vessels were in the act of crossing, and when four or five tad got over, the dam
gave way. I was there and hailed the vessels and ordered them to push through.,
for I was afraid that if they did not get over then the soldiers would become so
much, discouraged at seeing the dam carried away that they would give the


thing up. But in a short time the water had got so low on the upper falls that
no more vessels could get over, and it was found necessary to do something to
raise the water again. However, the soldiers saw that so many vessels had got
over that they were encouraged and went to work again. And it turned out
not to have been a bad thing that the first dam was carried awajy, for the barges
that were in the dam were carried down and lodged against the rocks on the
side of the channel, and acted as cushions against which the vessels could strike
Without injury.

Question. About what time did the first dam go away 1

Answer. In the morning, about 9 or 10 o'clock.

Question. Was there any delay, after the erection of the first dam, in getting
the vessels over before it went away ?

Answer. The vessels were going over the upper falls before the dam was
actually finished. They were still strengthening the dam, putting more weight
in the boats to keep them in position. ' On the upper falls the channel was just
the width of a vessel. The vessels had to be hauled through, and it took some
hours to get them over. There was no delay ; it is not likely that men would
delay in a case of that kind. We had been working night and day, lightening
the vessels, taking the guns off of them, and taking off the cables and sending
them down in lighters. There were some condemned guns' on board, which
had not been replaced with others ; these I put on shore and destroyed. We
did not leave a pound of anything on board that was not needed. No men
worked harder in constructing that dam than did the men of the navy, for they
were up to their middle night and day in the water, pulling the boats in place,
and doing all they could. After the first dam was passed, the army did not
wait any longer for us. General Bailey with a few men were at work on the
dam. As soon as it was well in progress, I told General Banks that there was
do danger about the vessels, and his advance moved at once, and the gunboats
came up with them afterwards.

By Mr. Loan :

Question. You say that elections were held on your way up the river 1

Answer. There were elections at Alexandria and at Grand Ecore. There were
some 1,500 people there who were very much frightened at taking the oath of
allegiance and then being left to the rebels. But it was represented to them
that we had come to remain and take possession of the country, and I did my
best to- get the army to remain there and hold the country. And at Grand Ecore
they went through the same farce again. We lost, I think, two or three days
at Grand Ecore in that way.

Question. For what were those elections ]

Answer. For local officers, I suppose, though I did not know what they were.
We sailors are not politicians. We hardly know what a sheriff is, unless he
comes after us.

Question. Were those elections to choose delegates to the convention which
formed a State constitution ?

Answer. That is what I presumed.

By Mr. Gooch :
Question. When were those elections held ?
Answer. At Alexandria, some time between the 22d and 30th of March, 1864.

By Mr. Loan :

Question. Were any of the voters along with the expedition 1

Answer. I do not know ; there was a governor, or an ex-governor, along —

I forget his name — with a permit to take down his cotton. He came to me with

his papers indorsed by General Banks, and of course I indorsed them to all

naval officers to afford him facilities to take the cotton he claimed as his. He


was a Union man — no doubt about that ; and, under this permit of General
Banks, he had bought up a great deal of cotton, some of which had been taken
possession of by the navy. When he proved to me that he had bought the
cotton in good faith it was all turned over to him, and he took it. There were
some seven or eight lots, amounting to a thousand bales, which this ex-governor
claimed to have bought. I not only indorsed his papers, but sent gunboats to
protect him. He got his cotton all down, I believe, and made a very handsome
thing out of it.

Question. Were any of the candidates at these elections along with the ex-
pedition 1

Answer. I do not know ; I was not in the town at the time of the election,
but about ten miles above. I knew the election was going on, for they were
voting and flying flags and firing guns. I thought it all a great humbug. We
were waiting above for the army to move. However, they did move on the day
they said they would — after the election was over. It struck me that the elec-
tion at Grand Ecore was a perfect farce.

Question. Why was it more a farce there than anywhere else ?

Answer. In the first place, the people were very unwilling to vote ; they
were very much frightened and did not want to vote. But they were impressed
with the notion that if they would come forward and prove their loyalty by
voting they would be allowed to take their cotton out and do what they pleased
with it.

By Mr. Gooch :

Question. Do you know whether the army was actually detained at Grand
Ecore on account of the election ]

Answer. I would not pretend to say that the army was detained on purpose
for the election ; but the complaint was that they stopped at Grand Ecore in-
stead of pushing on immediately.

Testimony of Wellington W. Wiihenhury.

Washington, March 9, 1865.

Mr. Wellington W. Withbnbury sworn and examined.
By Mr. Gooch :

Question. What is your residence and occupation ?

Answer. My residence is Cincinnati, Ohio ; my occupation, for twenty-five
years, has been that of a steamboat-man, principally upon the Red river, during
the navigable season.

Question. Did you accompany the Red river expedition, under General Banks,
in the spring of 1864 ; if so, in what capacity?

Answer. On the 16th March, 1864, 1 reported for duty to Admiral Porter,
and he requested me to report to him from day to day. At that time the river
was so low that none of his gunboats could get over the falls at Alexandria.
That was the first obstruction the expedition met after the capture of a little
fort below. Some of the very lightest boats, denominated tin-clads, could have
gone over the falls, but none others.

I made trips from day to day, and sometimes oftener than once a day, with
the pilots belonging to the fleet, for the purpose of ascertaining the increase of
water ; the river was rising slowly. I cannot remember the exact day on which
the first gunboat attempted to cross the falls. It was near the end of March
before the first boat was taken over. The river was rising at the time I speak
of, the 16th of March, and had been rising for some two or three weeks, al-


though the rise was much later than usual. In the course of four or five days
I reported to Admiral Porter that hoats of a certain draught of water could as-
cend the falls. That was as far as I had anything to do with the matter.

Finally, probably about the 26th or 28th of March, Admiral Porter sent for
us to go on board his flag-ship. He invited us to go on board the Eastport, to
assist in taking her over the falls. She was the largest boat in the fleet which
attemptad the passage of the falls. I remarked to Admiral Porter then, that if
my judgment was asked for, I should say that it was bad policy to put the
largest boat into the chute first, as she might get aground, and if. she did it
would hinder the passage of the other vessels. But he said, " I want you to
go on board and take her over the falls." Consequently Captain Martin and
myself went on board the Eastport. It resulted as I had expected. She got
aground, and was aground some three days, until the river began to fall. It
required a great deal of extra work, with tugs and lighter gunboats, which ran
alongside of her, to get her over. At that time she was lying in the chute,
among the rocks upon the edge of the chute. The river had raised sufficiently
to allow the lighter boats to pass outside of her. The Pittsburg was one, and
others were the Chillicothe, the Neosho, and the Ozark. They were of the new
class of iron-clads and monitors, of sufficiently light draught to have gone over
the falls, through the chute where the Eastport was aground. They could have
gone over four or five days sooner than they did go. And they finally did go
over the falls, outside of the channel where the Eastport was aground. How-
ever, we succeeded in getting the Eastport over.

After the gunboats had been taken over the falls, I asked permission of Ad-
miral Porter to go to Grand Ecore on the transport on which General Banks
had his headquarters. He gave me permission to do so. As we went up the
river we overtook the Eastport, and one other of the large boats, aground, and
had to stop and pull them off. The other boats had gone on some days previ-
ously and were at Grand Ecore, awaiting the arrival of these large boats.

I did not myself go any higher than Grand Ecore, but came back from that
point. General Banks left his boat there, and went by land from that point.
In regard to the progress of the boats above Grand Ecore, I know nothing of
my own personal knowledge ; all I know of that matter I have from the pilots
who went with them. I know the points on the map which they reach.

The question has been asked me, what was the reason that the boats were
four days in going 100 miles? Prom my knowledge of that business, of steam-
boating on the Red river, I could give no reason, unless the lighter boats were
waiting for the large boats to keep up with them. The Eastpprt was an extra-
ordinarily large boat for the Eed river. And underwriters never would have
insured upon boats of her length to go up and down the Red river. To get
her around some few points it was necessary to have tugs at each end of her to
pull her around. The only way I can account for the boats being so long going
up there would be that the small boats waited for the large boats, as they did

Question. You say that the larger class of boats could not have been taken
over the falls at Alexandria sooner than they actually were taken over 1

Answer. No, sir ; not such boats of the class of the Eastport. She was the
largest and mcfst unwieldy boat on the river. Captain Martin and myself both
remarked to Admiral Porter, at the. time she started to go over, that we thought
it was a chance that she would get foul and hinder the others. He said, " Go
on board and take her over." After she was stuck we went to Captain Phelps
and asked him to take us ashore. He put us ashore, and we reported to Admi-
ral Porter below the falls. He asked, " How long is it going to take to get her
over?" I replied that I did not know; that if they used the appliances ordi-
narily used by steamboat-men there, she might get over in two or three days.
Captain Phelps did as he thought best.


Question. Before you attempted to take the Eaatport over, were you con-
sulted about taking the fleet up the river 1

Answer. Yes, sir. Captain Martin particularly went up in a tug sounding
the river.

Question. Did you or not start to take the boats over as soon as it was deemed
by you practicable to do so ?

Answer. In talking with Admiral Porter we both stated that boats of a cer-
tain depth could go over on such a day. We reported that several days before
the attempt was made.

Question. Was the river rising at that time ?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. How long did it continue to rise ?

Answer. Up to the day the Eastport was started up, and then it came to a
stand ; and after she got aground it commenced falling.

Question. Were you consulted about the possibility of taking the fleet up and

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. By whom?

Answer. By Admiral Porter.

Question, What opinion did you give?

Answer. That if once over the falls there would be no difficulty in getting
the boats along, if proper pilots were employed. The question was often asked,
When will the river rise ? -Of course we could not answer it. I said that in
the twenty years of my experience the river had failed to rise only once, in 1855,
when it did not rise at all.

Question. How long does the water continue high after the annual rise ?

Answer. From five to seven and sometimes eight months in the year, com-
mencing in Deoember or January, and continuing until the last of July.

Question. Did you assist in getting the boats over the falls when they came
down the river ?

Answer. I left on the 4th of May, and I think the fleet came over the falls
on the 12th of May.

Question. You had no knowledge in relation to taking the boats down?

Answer. No, sir ; only Admiral Porter asked, if they succeeded in building
the dam and getting the boats over the falls, could they get them out of the
river ? I told him they could.

Question. Is there anything else you desire to state ?

Answer. I do not know that there is especially, except that the Eastport was
sunk on her way down. I remember remarking to Admiral Porter, in a laugh-
ing manner, that if he got the Eastport up over the falls I would not bet on her
getting back. I felt she was a bad subject to take on that expedition. Admi-
ral Porter had never been higher up on that river than Alexandria. He had
been there in 1863, and had then consulted with several persons about taking his
boats over the falls. We advised him not to do it, and he did not do it. After
the Eastport had sunk they sent down to Alexandria for some pump-boats to
raise her. General Banks the other day asked me some questions in relation to
the movements of the army and of the navy, and concerning cotton at Alexan-

Question. Very well ; state anything you know in relation to operations in
cotton in connexion with that expedition.

Answer. At the time of the arrival at Alexandria of the navy and "the por-
tion of the army from General Sherman's command, there was considerable

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Joint Committee on the CoReport of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War → online text (page 46 of 124)