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Hill and Mansfield April 6. General Lee, with the cavalry division, led the
advance, followed by a detachment of two divisions of the 13th corps under
General Ransom; 1st division, 19th corps, under General Emory, and a brigade
of colored troops under command of Colonel Dickie — the whole under the im r
mediate command of Major General Franklin. The detachment of the J.6th
army corps, under command of Brigadier General A. J. Smith, followed on the
7th, and a division of the 17th army corps, under Brigadier General T. Kilby
Smith accompanying Admiral Porter on the river as a guard for the transports.

The fleet was'directed to advance to Loggy bayou, opposite Springfield, where
it was expected communications would be established with the land forces at
Sabine Crossroads, a distance of 54 miles by land from Grand Ecore, and 10.0
miles by water. .

I remained with a portion of my staff to superintend the departure of the
river and land forces from Grand Ecore until the morning of the 7th, when the
fleet sailed, and then rode rapidly forward, reaching the head of the column at
Pleasant Hill the same evening, where the main body encamped. General
Smith's command was at the rear of the column on the march, but passed the
colored brigade on the route to Pleasant Hill. A very heavy rain fell all day , on
the 7th, which greatly impeded the movement of the rear of the column, making
the road almost impassable for troops, trains or artillery. The storm did not
reach the head of the column. In passing the troops from Natchitoches to


Pleasant Hill I endeavored, as much as possible, to accelerate the movements
of the rear of the column.

The enemy offered no opposition to their march on the 6th. On the 7th the
advance drove a small force to Pleasant Hill, and from thence to Wilson's
farm, about three miles beyond, where a sharp fight occurred with the enemy
posted in a very strong position, from which they were driven with serious loss
and pursued to' St. Patrick's bayou, near Carroll's mill, about nine miles from
Pleasant Hill, where our forces bivouacked for the night. We sustained in this
action a loss of fourteen men killed, thirty -nine wounded, and nine missing. We
captured many prisoners, and the enemy sustained severe losses in killed and
wounded. During the action, General Lee sent to General Franklin for re-en-
forcements, and a brigade of infantry was sent forward ; but the firing having
ceased, it was withdrawn. The officers and men fought with great spirit in this
affair. ' ' s

At daybreak on the 8th General Lee, to whose support a brigade of the 13th
corps, under Colonel Landrum, had been sent by my order, advanced upon the-
enemy, drove him from his position on the opposite side of St. Patrick's bayou
and pursued him to Sabine Crossroads, about three miles from Mansfield.
The advance was steady but slow, and the resistance of the enemy stubborn.
He was only driven from his defensive positions on the road by artillery. At
noon on the 8th, another brigade of the 13th corps arrived at the Crossroads un-
der Brigadier General Ransom, to relieve the 1st brigade.

The infantry moved from Pleasant Hill at daybreak on the 8th, the head of
of the column halted at St. Patrick's bayou, in order that the rear might come
up. I passed General Franklin's headquarters at 10 a. m., giving directions to
close up the column as speedily as possible, and rode forward to ascertain the
condition of affairs at the front, where I arrived between one and two o'clock.
General Ransom arrived nearly at the same time with the 2d brigade 13th corps,
which was under his command in the action at the Crossroads.

I found the troops in line of battle, the skirmishers Bharply engaged, the main
body of the enemy posted on the crest of a hill in thick woods on both sides of
a road, leading over the hill to Mansfield on our sole line of march.

It was apparent that the enemy was in much stronger force than at any pre-
vious point, and being confirmed in this opinion by General Lee, I sent to Gen-
eral Franklin, immediately upon my arrival, a statement of the facts and orders
to hurry forward the infantry with all possible despatch, directing General Lee
at the same time to hold his ground steadily, but not advance until re-enforce-
ments should arrive. Our forces were for a long time stationary, with some skir-
mishing on the flanks. It soon became apparent that the entire force of the
enemy was in our front. Several officers were sent to General Franklin to hurry
forward the column. Skirmishing was incessant during the afternoon. At 4J
p. m. the enemy made a general attack all along the lines, but with great vigor
■upon our right flank. It was resisted with resolute determination by our troops,
but overpowering numbers compelled them, after resisting the successive charges
of the enemy in front and on the flank, to fall back from their position to the
woods in rear of the open field, which they occupied, retreating in good order.
The enemy pressed with great vigor, upon the flanks as well as in front, for the
purpose of getting to the rear, but were repulsed in this attempt by our cavalry.
At the line of woods a new position was assumed, supported by the 3d divis-
ion of the 13th army corps under General Cameron, which reached this point
about 5 p. m., and formed in line of battle under the direction of Major General
Franklin, who accompanied its advance. The enemy attacked this second line
with great impetuosity and overpowering numbers, turning both flanks and
advancing heavily upon the centre. The assauhj was resisted with gallantry,
but the troops, finding the enemy in the rear, were compelled to yield the ground
and fall steadily back. The road was badly obstructed by the supply train of


the cavalry division, which obstructed the retreat of both men and artillery. We
lost ten of the guns of Ransom's division in consequence of the position of the
train, which prevented their withdrawal. Repeated efforts were made to reform
the troops and resist the advance of the enemy ; but though their progress was
checked, it was without permanent success.

Brigadier General W. H. Emory, commanding 1st division 19th corps, had
been early notified of the condition of affairs and directed to advance as rapidly
as possible, and form a line of battle in the strongest position he could select, to
support the troops in retreat and check the advance of the enemy. The order
to advance found him seven miles to the rear of the first battle-ground. He
assumed a position at Pleasant Grove, about three miles from the Crossroads, on
the edge of the woods, commanding an open field sloping to the front. The
161st New York volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Kinsey commanding, were de-
ployed as skirmishers and ordered to the foot of the hill, upon the crest of which
the line was formed to cover the rear of the retreating forces, to check the" pur-
suit of the enemy, and give time for the formation of the troops.

General Dwight, commanding 1st brigade, formed his troops across the road,
upon which the enemy was moving, commanding the open field in front ; the
3d brigade, Colonel Benedict commanding on the left, and the 2d brigade, Gen-
eral McMillen, in reserve. The line was scarcely formed, when the 161st New
York volunteers were attacked and driven in. The right being threatened,
a portion- of McMillan's brigade formed on the right of General Dwight. The
fire of our troops was reserved until the enemy was at close quarters, when the
whole line opened upon them with most destructive volleys of musketry. The
action lasted an hour and a half. The enemy was repulsed with very great
slaughter. During the fight a determined effort was made to turn our left flank,
which was defeated. Prisoners reported the loss of the enemy in officers and
men to be very great. General Mouton was killed in the first onset. Their
attack was made with great desperation, apparently with the idea that the dis-
persion of our forces at this point would end the campaign, and, with the aid of
the steadily falling river, leave the fleet of transports and gunboats in their hands
or compel their destruction. Nothing could surpass in impetuosity the assault
of the enemy but the inflexible steadiness and valor of our troops. The 1st
division of the 19th corps, by its great bravery in this action, saved the army
and navy. But for this successful resistance to the attack at Pleasant Grove,
the renewed attack of the enemy with increased force could not have been suc-
cessfully resisted at Pleasant Hill on the 9th of April. We occupied both bat-
tle-grounds at night.

From Pleasant Grove, where this action occurred, to Pleasant Hill was fifteen
miles. It was certain that the enemy, who was within the reach of re-enforce-
ments, would renew the attack in the morning, and it was wholly uncertain
whether the command of General Smith could reach the position we held in
season for a second engagement. For this reason the army towards morning
fell back to Pleasant Hill, General Emory covering the rear, burying the dead,
bringing off the wounded and all the material of the army.

It arrived there at 8.30 on the morning of the 9th, effecting a junction with
the forces of General Smith and the colored brigade under Colonel Dickey,
which had reached that point the evening previous.

Early on the 9th the troops were prepared for action, the movements of the
enemy indicating that he was on our rear. A line of battle was formed in the
following order : 1st brigade 19th corps from the right resting on a ravine ; 2d
brigade in the centre, and 3d brigade on the left. The centre was strengthened
by a brigade of General Smith's forces, whose main force was held in reserve.
The enemy moved towards our right fiank. The 2d brigade withdrew from the
centre to the support of the 1st brigade. The brigade in support of the centre
moved up into position, and another of General Smith's brigades was posted to


tie extreme left position on the hill in echelon to the rear of the left main line.
Light skirmishing occurred during the afternoon. Between 4 and 5 o'clock it
increased in vigor, and about 5 p. m., when it appeared to have nearly ceased,
the enemy drove in our skirmishers and attacked in force — his first onset being
against the left. He advanced in two oblique lines, extending well over towards
the right of the 3d brigade 19th corps. After a determined resistance, this part
of the line gave way and went slowly back to the reserves. The 1st and 2d
brigades were soon enveloped in front, right and rear. By skilful movements of
General Emory, the flanks of the two brigades now bearing the brunt of the battle
were covered. The enemy pursued the brigades, passing the left and centre,
until he approached the reserves under General Smith, when he was met by a
charge led by General Mower, and checked. The whole of the reserves were
now ordered up, and in turn we drove the enemy, continuing the pursuit until
night compelled us to halt.

The battle of the 9th was desperate and sanguinary. The defeat of the ene-
my was complete, and his loss in officers and men more than double that sus-
tained by our forces. There was nothing in the immediate position or condition
of the two armies to prevent a forward movement the nest morning, and orders
were given to prepare for an advance. The train, which had been turned to
the rear on the day of the battle, was ordered to re-form and advance at day-
break. I communicated this purpose at the close of the day to General A. J.
Smith, who expressed his concurrence therein. But representations subsequently
received from General Franklin and all the general officers of the 19th corps, as
to the condition of their respective commands for immediate active operations
against the enemy, caused a suspension of thiB order, and a conference of the
general officers was held in the evening, in which it was determined, upon the
urgent recommendation of the general officers above named, and with the acqui-
escence of General Smith, to retire upon Grand Ecore the following day. The
reasons urged for this course by the officers commanding the 19th and 13th
corps were : —

First. That the absence of water made it absolutely necessary to advance or
retire without delay. General Emory's command had been without rations for
two days, and the train, which had been turned to the rear during the battle,
could not be put in condition to move forward upon the single road through
dense woods, in which it stood, without great difficulty and much" loss of time.
It was for the purpose of communicating with the fleet at Springfield landing
from the Sabine Crossroads to the river, as well as to prevent the concentration
of the Texan troops with the enemy at Mansfield, that we had pushed for the
early occupation of that point. Considering the difficulty with which the gun-
boats parsed Alexandria and Grand Ecore, there was every reason to believe
that the navigation of the river would be found impracticable.

A squadron of cavalry, under direction of Mr. Young, who had formerly been
employed in the surveys of this country, and was now connected with the en-
gineer department, which had been sent upon a reconnoissance to the river,
returned to Pleasant Hill on the evening of the battle with the report that they
had not been able to discover the fleet nor learn from the people its passage
up the river.* This led to the belief that the low water had prevented the ad-
vance of the fleet. The condition of the river,, which had been steadily falling
since our march from Alexandria, rendered it very doubtful, if the fleet ascended
the river, whether it could return from any intermediate point, and probably, if
not certain, that if it reached Shreveport it would never escape without a rise of
the river, of which all hopes now began to fail.

*The report of General T. Kilby Smith, commanding the river forces, states that the fleet
did not arrive at Loggy bayou until 2 o'clock p. m. on the 10th of April, two days after the
battle at Sabine Crossroads.


The forces designated for this campaign numhered 42,000 men. Less than
half that number was actually available for service against the enemy during its
progress. The distance which separated General* Steele's command from the
line of our operations (nearly two hundred miles) rendered his movements of
little moment to us or to the enemy, and reduced the strength of the fighting
column to the extent of his force, which was expected to be from 10,000 to
15,000 men. The depot at Alexandria, made necessary by the impracticable
navigation, withdrew from our forces 3,000 men, under General Grover. The
return of -the marine brigade to the defence of the Mississippi, upon the demand
of Major General McPherson, and which could not pass Alexandria with its
steamers, nor move by land for want of land transportation, made a further
reduction of 3,000 men. The protection of the fleet of transports against the
forces of the enemy on both sides of the river made it necessary for General A.
J. Smith to detach General T. Kilby Smith's division of 2,500 men from the
main body for that duty. The army train required a guard of 500 men. These
several detachments, which it was impossible to avoid, and the distance of
General Steele's command, which it was not in my power to correct, reduced
the number of troops that we were able at any point to bring into action
from 42,000 men to about 20,000. The losses sustained in the very severe
battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April amounted to about %969 men, and
necessarily reduced our active forces to that extent. The enemy, superior to'
us in numbers in the outset, by falling back was able to recover from his great
losses by means of re-enforcements, which were within his reach as he ap-
proached his base of operations, while we were growing weaker as we departed
from ours. We had fought the battle at Pleasant Hill with about 15,000 against
22,000 men, and won a victory which for these reasons we were unable to fol-
low up. Other considerations connected with the actual military condition of
affairs afforded additional reasons for the course recommended.

Between the commencement of the expedition and the battle of Pleasant Hill
a change had occurred in the general command of the army, which caused a
modification of my instructions in regard to this expedition.

Lieutenant General Grant, in a despatch dated the 15th March, which I re-
ceived on the 27th March at Alexandria, eight days before we reached Grand
Ecore, by special messenger, gave me the following instructions : " Should you
find that the taking of Shreveport will occupy ten or fifteen days more time than
General Sherman gave his troops to be absent from their command, you will send
them back at the time specified in his note of (blank date) March, evert, if it should
lead to the abandonment of the main object of the expedition. Should it prove
successful, hold Shreveport and Red river with such force as you deem neces-
sary, and return the balance of your troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans."
These instructions, I was informed, were given for the purpose of having " all
parts of the army, or rather all armies, act as much in concert as possible," and
with a view to a movement in the spring campaign against Mobile, which was
certainly to be made " if troops enough could be obtained without embarrassing
other movements, in which event New Orleans would be the point of departure
for such an expedition."

A subsequent despatch — though it did not control, fully justified my action —
repeated these general views, and stated that the^ commanding general "would
much rather the Red river expedition had never bee"n begun than that you
should be detained one day beyond the 1st of May in commencing the movement
east of the Mississippi."

The limitation of time referred to in these despatches was based upon an
opinion, which I had verbally expressed to General Sherman at New Orleans,
that General Smith could be spared in thirty days after we reached Alexandria ;
but it was predicated upon the expectation that the navigation of the river would
be unobstructed ; that we should advance without delay at Alexandria, Grand


Ecore or elsewhere,. on account of low water, and that the forces of General
Steele were to co-operate with us effectively at some point on Red river near
Natchitoches or Monroe. It was never understood that an expedition that in-
volved, on the part of my command, a land march of nearly four hundred miles
into the enemy's country, and which terminated at a point which we might not
be able to hold, either on account of the strength of the enemy, or the difficulties
of obtaining supplies, was to be limited to thirty days. The condition of our
forces, and the distance and difficulties attending the further advance into the
enemy's country, after the battles of the 8th and 9th, against an enemy superior
in numbers to our own, rendered it probable that we could not occupy Shreve-
port within the time specified ; and certain that, without a rise in the river, the
troops necessary to hold it against the enemy would be compelled to evacuate
it for want of supplies, and impossible that the expedition should return in any
event to New Orleans in time to co-operate in the general movements of the
army, contemplated for the spring campaign. It was known at this time that
the fleet could not repass the rapids at Alexandria, and it was doubtful, if the
fleet reached any point above Grand Ecore, whether it would be able to return.
By falling back to Grand Ecore we should be able to ascertain the condition of
the fleet ; the practicability of continuing ihe movement by the river ; reorganize
a part of the forces that had been shattered in the battles of the 7th, 8th, and
9th ; possibly ascertain the position of General Steele, and obtain from him the
assistance expected for a new advance north of the river, or upon its southern
bank, and perhaps obtain definite instructions from the government as to the
course to be pursued. Upon these general considerations, and without reference
to the actual condition of the respective armies, at 12 o'clock midnight, on the
9th, I countermanded the order for the return of the train, and directed pre-
parations to be made for the return of the army to Grand Ecore. The dead were
buried, and the wounded brought in from the field of battle and placed in the
most comfortable hospitals that could be provided, and surgeons and supplies
furnished for them. A second squadron of cavalry was sent, under direction of
Mr. Young, of the engineer department, to inform the fleet of our proposed re-
trograde movement, and to direct its return if it had ascended the river ; and, on
the morning of the 10th, the army leisurely returned to Grand Ecore. The
wounded were immediately visited by Dr. Sanger, who took with him clothing,
rations, medicines, and other supplies, and who reported them in' comfortable

The fleet sailed from Grand Ecore on the 7th, and reached its destination at
Loggy bayou on the evening of the 10th, one day after the battle at Pleasant
Hill, and two days after the engagement of Sabine Crossroads. General T.
Kilby Smith received a verbal message the evening of the 10th, and, on the
morning of the 11th, written orders to return. The transports were in a crippled
condition, rudders unshipped, and wheels broken. The enemy attacked the fleet
on its return, near Pleasant Hill landing, on the 12th, with a force of 2,500 cav-
alry, a strong reserve infantry, and a battery of six guns, under General Greene ;
but the troops, protected by bales of cotton and hay, with the gunboats, kept
up a deadly fire, and drove the enemy from the river. For two miles the bank
was strewn with the wounded and dead. Among other rebel officers killed was
General Greene, who was left dead upon the field. The troops of the transports
saw him fall, and claim that his death was the work of their artillery — the gun-
boats and transports all firing at the same time. The enemy under Liddell, who
had occupied the north bank of the river with 2,500 men, attacked the fleet on
the 13th, but was driven back with loss. The navigation up and down the river
was intricate and difficult, and the steamers were frequently aground. Several
of the boats were laden with ammunition and ordnance stores, but the energy of
the officers and men brought off every boat. The only loss in stores was a hun-
dred sacks of oats thrown overboard for the relief of a steamer aground. They


reached Oompte on the 14th, with a loss of one man killed and eighteen wownded,
where they met a force from the army, sent to their assistance, and reached
Grand Ecore on the 15th without further obstruction. General T. Kilby Smith,
to whose courtesy I am indebted for all the official information I have received
of this part of the expedition, mentions with commendation Major D. C. Houston,
of the engineer corps, who had in charge the ordnance stores, and Lieutenant
Colonel W. S. Abert, officers of my staff, who accompanied him ; and also officers
and men of his own command, and the masters of transport steamers. General
T. Kilby Smith, who commanded the land forces and transports, is entitled to
the highest commendation for the energy, skill, and success with which he
managed this most difficult affair.

Lines of defence were established at Grand Ecore the 12th of April, and orders
given to attack the enemy if he approached. A pontoon bridge was thrown
across the river during the night. Our pickets were driven in on the 13th ; but
the enemy appeared, upon a reconnoissance made in force, to have gone below for
the purpose either of attacking our troops at Alexandria, or occupying Monet's
bluff" on Cane river. On the same day, the 12th April, General Smith crossed
the river with two brigades, two batteries, and a strong cavalry force to aid the
fleet still above Grand Ecore. Despatches were sent to General Steele, inform-
ing him of the condition of affairs, and requesting him to join us at some point
on the river. Orders were sent to New Orleans for re-enforcements ; and the
lieutenant general commanding the army was informed of the condition of affairs
by telegraph, and of my intention to advance upon Shreveport if General Steele
could come to our assistance, and my determination not to withdraw without

The fleet returned on the 15th in safety, without 1o_sb of vessels or material of

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Joint Committee on the CoReport of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War → online text (page 53 of 124)