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for the spring rise in the river; that there would be no rise t\ at spring. It was
a very dry spring, peculiarly so, and particularly unfavorable to a campaign of
that character.

Question.. What were the other causes of the failure?

Answer. The immediate cause of the abandonment of the campaign was the
reverse at Mansfield, on the 8th of April; but it never seemed to me that that
reverse was of itself sufficient to have occasioned the abandonment of the cam-
paign, if it had been well conceived and well planned in the outset. That re-
verse consisted merely of a defeat of the cavalry, and a very small detachment
of infantry in advance of the main body of the army. I think that the army
was substantially as capable of prosecuting a campaign after that reverse as it
was before, or it might have been after a few days to rest and reorganize. The por-
tion of the infantry force defeated that day numbered less than 5,000 men. There
were left the detachment of the 19th corps, about 7,000 men, and the entire
force under General A. J. Smith, from 9,000 to 10,000 infantry. That force
never was defeated, nor had their effectiveness been impaired at all. I think
the occasion of the reverse of the 8th of April was the sending forward of this
small detachment of infantry to support the cavalry, as it was said; that, I
think, was altogether unwise and unmilitary.

Question. Who was responsible for that unmilitary order of proceeding ?

Answer. General Banks. He gave orders for that detachment to be sent
forward. It was sent forward in two portions. We arrived at Pleasant Hill
on the night of the 7th of April. A member of General Banks's staff was that
day with the cavalry advance. After we arrived at Pleasant Hill, and went
into camp— that is, General Franklin, his staff, and the infantry with him — this
officer returned from the front, and proposed to General Franklin to send for-
ward a brigade of infantry to support the cavalry. General Franklin declined
to do so. General Banks arrived at Pleasant Hill just about dark that evening,
and very soon after his arrival he gave the order for a brigade of infantry to be
sent forward to support the cavalry, ordering it to report to General Lee, who
commanded the cavalry, at daylight the next morning. I saw the letter written
by one of General Banks's staff to General Lee, informing him that this brigade
would report to him by daylight the next morning. In the course of the night,
as I understood, I do not know it personally, a despatch came from General Lee
to the effect that this brigade would be very much wearied by their night march,
and that probably they ought to be re-enforced by another brigade. Another
brigade was accordingly sent forward by order of General Banks to re-enforce
the one that had gone forward in the night. Those two brigades constituted a
small division, numbering about 2,000. men. And with the cavalry and that
force of infantry the engagement was brought on.

It always seemed to me that a different course should have been pursued.
Had the detachment of the 13th corps, which numbered nearly 5,000 men, and
the one division of the 19th corps, under General Emory, numbering from 6,000



400 RED RIVER EXPEDITION.

to 7,000 men, been kept together, and the cavalry only been allowed to conduct
the advance, I do not think we should have had the disaster which befell us
there. It was a large force of cavalry in proportion to the infantry, and it only
should have been kept in the advance, and permitted to do what cavalry is ex-
pected to do, follow up and harass the rear of the enemy while retreating, observe
their muvements and positions, and, if possible, make head against them ; if not
able to do that, then fall back upon the infantry support.

Question. You say that the order of advance was, in your judgment, unmil-
itary, and not according to rules of warfare in such cases ?

Answer. Clearly so, in my opinion.

Question. And that was the cause of the disaster at Sabine Crossroads ?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Did you ever learn what were the objects of that campaign, what
was expected to be accomplished by it 1

Answer. No, sir, I never did.

Question. Suppose you had reached and captured Shreveport, in your judg-
ment could you have held the place, and maintained your communications on
that long line ?

Answer. No, sir ; I think we would have been worse off at Shreveport than
we were where we were checked. I think the further we went the worse off
we would be. I heard General Franklin once say that the only announcement
of the plan of the campaign which he ever heard from the commanding general
was in these words, " One bound to Alexandria, one bound to Shreveport, one
bound to the Gulf."

Question. What was meant by that?

Answer. I suppose the " bound to the Gulf" from Shreveport was through
Texas to Galveston, or some other important point on the Texan coast.

Question. Do you know about any transactions in cotton by the army, or by
any persons who accompanied the army 1

Answer. I had no personal knowledge of that matter. We marched from
Franklin to Alexandria. When we arrived in Alexandria General Banks was
already there. The force under General A. J. Smith was there, having come
up the river in transports after taking Fort De Russy. When I git to Alex-
andria 1 saw a very large number of persons reported to be, some of them known
to me to be, cotton speculators. ' When we returned to Alexandria, on our
retreat, we found a very large amount of cotton there, lying on the levee and the
public square — some thousands of bales, a large amount of which was destroyed
by fire.

Question. Do you know whether the teams or transportation of tne army were
engaged in hauling in cotton at any time ?

Answer. I do not think I saw any of that cotton hauled into Alexandria.
And what was brought away from there was brought away upon transport
steamers.

Question. I would say to you that some of our witnesses seem to regard
General Franklin as responsible for the order of march. What have you to say
about that t

Auswer. I do not know who is responsible for General A. J. Smith being a
day behind our column of march. General Smith was never under the com-
mand of General Franklin. General Smith's force arrived at Grand Ecore in
transports from Alexandria, was disembarked at Grand Ecore, and encamped
thei e, except a portion that went on up ihe Red river.

Question. General Smith was under the command of General Banks 1

Answer. Yes, sir. General Banks had his headquarters at Giand Ecore.
The force there with him was the main body of General A. J. Smith's force and a
biigade of colored troops. General Franklin's column, which he had marched
all the'way from Franklin to that point, was at Nathitoches, three mi.es from



RED RIVER EXPEDITION. 401

Grand Ecore. I do not think General Smith was ever under the command of
General Franklin in any respect until after the disaster at Mansfield. General
Franklin's column, consisting of the detachment of the 13th corps and the de-
tachment of the 19th corps, marched from Natchitoches on the morning of the
6th of April, reaching Pleasant Hill on the evening of the 7th of April, taking
two days for the march. General Banks, with his staff, started from Grand
Ecore on the morning of the 7th, and rode to Pleasant Hill in one day, leaving
General Smith to follow, which he did, leaving Grand Ecore on the morning of
the 7th. General Smith did' not leave Grand Ecore until twenty-four hours
after General Franklin's column left Natchitoches, and for that, I take it, General
Franklin was not responsible.

Question. Your idea, as a military man, if I understand you, is that the whole
army, one portion with the other, should have been in supporting distance %

Answer. Yes, sir, unquestionably; and that all the infantry should have been
kept substantially together, the cavalry being sufficiently in advance to harass
the enemy and observe his motions, falling back if the enemy should make a
stand, and prove too strong for it.

Question. Did you observe anything about the wagon trains which was
wrong 1

Answer. There was nothing wrong about the train of the infantry column.
I think the wagon train of the cavalry was too large ; but I think it was where
it ought to have been. Had the cavalry been by themselves, and not encouraged
to give general battle by this small re- enforcement of infantry, they might have
fallen back with their train and saved it. But a portion of the cavalry dis-
mounted, and with the two small brigades of infantry were put into line of bat-
tle against the entire force of the enemy. The cavalry was entirely routed,
and that division of infantry nearly all captured, so that when we came up with
the remaining division of the 13th corps there was scarcely a show of resistance
to the enemy being made. This remaining division was put into line of battle,
■ I think, with the hope on the part of General Franklin that General Emory's
force would arrive in time to re-enforce them at that point. They made a stand
of probably not more than ten minutes. The enemy was advancing in full
force, flushed with the success they had already gained, and the division was
swept away in a few minutes. The retreat then became a rout, and, of course,
the cavalry train with its artillery was abandoned. The main body of the in-
fantry had halted that day. We had made a march nearly as long as had
usually been made by the column in advance; but we should have marched
further before halting, except for coming upon the rear of the cavalry. We
came upon the cavalry train and a brigade of cavalry forming the rear-guard
before we halted that day. We found the train attempting to cross a difficult
ravine ; they were perhaps an hour and a half, an hour at least, I should say,
in getting across. We were there in bivouac or halting when word came back
from General Banks, who had gone to the front, that an engagement was pend-
ing, and ordering General Franklin to hasten forward. The troops were some-
what separated on account of the difficulty in obtaining water.

General Emory's division was not defeated at all that day; it never yielded
an inch, and suffered very little loss, scarcely any. As soon as the advance
fell back to where General Emory was the enemy was checked. That night
a retreat was ordered to Pleasant Hill.

Question. Notwithstanding that defeat was not so disastrous as necessarily
to brick up the expedition, in your opinion the expedition itself was impracticable?

Answer. So it seems to me.

Part II 26



EORT FISHER EXPEDITION.



In the Senate of the United States, January 12, 1865.

On motion by Mr. Wilson,

Resolved, That the Committee on the Conduct of the War be directed to inquire into the
causes of the failure of the late expedition against Wilmington, North Carolina, and to
report the facts to the Senate.

Attest: J. W. FOENEY, Secretary

By W. HICKEY, Chief Clerk.



The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War submit the follow- •
ing report :

As early as 1862 the Navy Department appears to have been
aware of the importance of closing up. the Cape Pear river, in order
to prevent the introduction of supplies for the rebellion, by means
of blockade running. The military authorities of the government,
however, did not feel themselves in a condition to furnish the neces-
sary land force for that purpose until the close of the summer of
1864. At that time General Grant expressed his readiness to furnish
tbe requisite number of troops, and gave it as his opinion that he
could do so by the 1st of October.

Vice-Admiral Farragut was selected by the Navy Department to
take charge of the naval force, but was unable to assume that duty
on account of ill health. Rear-Admiral Porter was then transferred
from the command of the Mississippi squadron to the command of
the North Atlantic blockading squadron, and assigned to the duty of
preparing and taking charge of the naval force to operate against the
defences of the Cape Pear river and the town of Wilmington.

Major General Gillmore was designated by the War Department to
take command of the land forces to accompany the expedition. Gen-
eral Grant objected to this selection, and selected Major General
Weitzel for that purpose. Subsequently General Butler announced
his intention to accompany the expedition with General Weitzel, the
scene of operations being within his department and the troops being
from his command. Although until General Butler expressed his
intention it may not have been expected that he would accompany
the expedition,, no objection was made by General Grant to his doing
so, notwithstanding he had ample time and power to have ordered
otherwise.



II POET FISHEK EXPEDITION.

Preparations for the expedition w.ere carried on with the expecta-
tion at first that it would start by the middle of October. The original
intention appears to have been to collect the fleet at Port Royal, in
order to lead the rebels to regard the expedition as one against
Charleston. But for some reason, which does not fully appear, that
intention was changed, and the fleet was collected at Hampton Roads.
Owing to the information obtained by the rebels of the destination of
the expedition, General Grant determined to delay it until a more
favorable opportunity presented itself. Upon learning that a portion
of the rebel garrison at Wilmington had been sent to increase the
forces Opposed to General Sherman in his march across the State of
Georgia, General Grant gave orders for the prompt sailing of the
expedition.

A powerful fleet was assembled — the most powerful ever known, at
least, upon this continent — under command of Admiral Porter. The
land force consisted of 6, 500 infantry, two batteries of artillery, and
a few cavalry. On the 13th and 14th of December the expedition
started, General Butler, with the army transports, proceeding to a
place 25 miles off New inlet. Admiral Porter, with his fleet, pro-
ceeded to Beaufort to complete taking on his ammunition and supplies,
including some powder for a vessel proposed to be exploded before
Fort Fisher, and some ammunition for the monitors, which (for safety)
were towed light from Fortress Monroe to Beaufort.

While the fleet was at Beaufort taking on supplies, General Butler
with his transports was lying off Masonboro' inlet, during three days
of very fine weather, having reached there during the night of the
15th of December. By the time Admiral Porter and his fleet reached
the place of rendezvous, there were signs of approaching bad weather,
and on the 19th General Butler, with his transports, proceeded to
Beaufort for shelter and also to renew his supplies of coal, water, and
provisions, which hadbecome necessary. Beaufort was 70 miles dis-
tant from Fort Fisher.

On Friday, the 23d of December, Admiral Porter gave orders that
the powder vessel be sent in as near Fort Fisher as possible and ex-
ploded that night at 1 o'clock. Information of what he proposed
to do was sent to General Butler, but did not reach him until Satur-
day morning, when he immediately started for Fort Fisher, ordering
the transports to follow as rapidly as possible. The powder-boat was
exploded a little before 2 o'clock on Saturday morning, and the
navy commenced their bombardment about noon of that day. Ad-
miral Porter states that he deferred commencing the bombardment
until that time, in the hope that General Butler would arrive ; but
finding he had not come by twelve, he opened upon the fort, and con-
tinued firing until sunset.

After the arrival of General Butler, General Weitzel and Colonel
(now General) Coaastock, of General Grant's staff, were sent to confer
with the admiral in relation to operations the next day. • At half past
6 a. in., Saturday, General Weitzel and Colonel Comstock arranged
with Admiral Porter concerning the landing of the troops. Some
2,200 or 2,300 men were landed, and General Weitzel was ordered to



FORT FISHER EXPEDITION. Ill

reconnoitre the fort, ascertain as nearly as possible its condition, and
report as to the practicability of assaulting it. 'Having done so, he
reported that it was not advisable to attack. His testimony upon
that point is as follows :

" After that experience [in assaulting military works] with the information I
had obtained from reading and study — for before this war I was au instructor at
the ^Military Academy for three years under Professor Mahan, on these very
subjects — remembering well the remark of the lieutenant general commanding,
that it was his intention I should command that expedition, because another
officer selected by the War Department had once shown timidity, and in face of
the fact that I had been appointed a major general dnly twenty days before, and
needed confirmation ; notwithstanding all that, I went back to General Butler,
and told him I considered it would be murder to order an attack on that work
with that force. I understood Colonel Oomstock to agree with me perfectly,
although I did not ask him, and General Butler has since said that he did.
* * * *****

" Question. Upon deliberation, and after all you have since learned, are you
entirely satisfied with the opinion you then formed about attacking the fort?

" Answer. Yes, sir, I am fully satisfied from all I have heard since, from the
result of the second attack, and everything else — I am fully satisfied that I did
my duty there."

Colonel Comstock, of General Grant's staff, testifies as follows :

" General Weitzel made an examination of the work, and reported to General
Butler that in his opinion an assault upon Fort Fisher would be impracticable.

" Question. Did you accompany General Weitzel on that examination 1

" Answer. I was not with General Weitzel at that time. Later in the eve-
ning I was on shore and made an examination.

" Question. To what conclusion did you come in regard to the practicability
of an assault upon the work at that time ?

" Answer. 1 cannot say that I formed a definite opinion at the time, as the
question of assaulting had already been decided upon the report of General
Weitzel. I cannot; perhaps, give a definite answer to that question, because I
allow my subsequent knowledge of the work to affect my opinion somewhat.

" Question. Was it a strong work 1

"Answer. It was. I will endeavor to answer the question somewhat in detail.
I saw the work the first time about the same time that General Weitzel did,
and at about the same distance. At that time none of our men had been in the
work. I counted, I think, fifteen guns not injured, so far as we could see. I
thought the work at that time very difficult of assault; I thought then the
chances of success were not more than even. Later, however, perhaps a half or
three-quarters of an hour afterwards, I saw General Curtis, and he told me that
some of his men had been in the work ; that a horse had been taken out of
the fort, and that the flag had been taken off the parapet by one of his men ;
and that there were not more than twenty rebels inside of the work, and that
he believed he could take it with fifty men. I asked some questions about his
sources of information, and he then said he could take it with a brigade. If I
had been in command of the forces at that point, I should have made the trial
to take the fort, simply because his men felt or thought they could go into the
fort. My opinion as to the practicability of an assault when I first saw the
work was changed subsequently by the statement of General Curtis and the
men who had been in the work.

" Question. On the supposition that the work was really not properly manned
by the enemy 1



IV FOET FISHER EXPEDITION.

" Answer. That was General Curtis's idea. I did not think so. I suppose
the men were all in the bomb-proofs ; and I thought that if the enemy would
let the men get up as close as General Curtis's men did, I thought it possible
that confident men could rush in in time to shut the rebels up in their bomb-
proofs. If the men had not had a strong belief that they could get in, I should
have thought the chances of success were small. But with such a belief as that,
1,500 men could have done anything.

" Question. With the information that General Weitzel had, would you have
agreed with him, independent of what General Curtis said to you 1

" Answer. I should, from the information I had at that time."

In relation to the strength of the garrison of Fort Fisher and the
effect of the bombardment, the rebel General Whiting, (while
wounded and a prisoner,) just before his death, stated, in answer to
questions sent him by General Butler, that —

'' Five (5) companies of the 36th regiment North Carolina troops, and Adams's
light battery, amounting to six hundred and sixty-seven (667) aggregate, was
the number of the garrison at Fort Fisher on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of De-
cember last." *######

" On the 23d, 110 men, veteran artillery of the 10th regiment North Carolina
troops, 50 sailors and the 7th battalion junior reserves, about 250 strong, were
thrown into the fort." ##*#*#

" Question 13. Please state whether any part, and if so, how much of the
damage done to the fort by the fire of the navy was repaired during the night.

"Answer. Casualties first day: Killed, none; wounded, one (1) mortally,
three (3) severely, and nineteen (19) slightly; total 23. ' Five (5) gun-carriages
disabled.

" Second day: Killed, three (3 ;) wounded, nine (9) mortally,. six (6) severely,
and 'twenty-eight (28) slightly; total 46. Damage but very slight; one (1) 10-
inch, two (2) 32-pounder, and one (1) 8-inch carriages disabled, and one (1) 10-
inch gun disabled. Damage repaired at night. Enemy's fire formidable and
sustained, but diffuse, unconcentrated. Apparent design of the fleet to silence
the channel batteries, in order to force an entrance with his vessels, and"not to
attack by land. The garrison was in no instance driven from its guns, "and fired
in return, according to orders, slowly and deliberately, six hundred and sixty-
two (662) shot and shells.

" Question 14. By reason of the cessation of the bombardment at night, were
you not able to rest and recruit your garrison?

" Answer. We were able to do both.

" Question 15. At the time of the landing, where was the supporting force, if
any, to the fort 1

" Answer. Assembling at Sugar Loaf as fast as Hoke's people arrived."

" Question 17. At the time our skirmish line was deployed before the fort,
what was the condition of the guns and defences upon the land side, as to effi-
ciency for a defensive purpose 1

'" Answer. The guns and defences on the land front were in perfect order at
the time referred to, except two (2) disabled guns on the left; 19 guns in po-
sition ; palisade in perfect order, and the mines the same, the wires not having
been cut.

" Question 18. In view of the condition of the fort and its garrison, would it
have been possible, with either three (3) or six (6) thousand men, to have taken
the work by assault 1 (Note. — In answering this question, please give as many
of the details for the reason you may give as possible.)

"Answer. Possible, yes. Probable, no. The work was very strong, the



FOET FISHER EXPEDITION. V

garrison in good spirits and ready ; and the fire on the approaches (the assault-
ing column having no cover) would have been extraordinarily heavy. In addi-
tion to the heavy guns, I had a battery of Napoleons, on which I placed great
reliance. The palisade alone would have been a most formidable obstacle."

Upon the report of General Weitzel and Colonel Comstock, Gen-
eral Butler determined that it was not advisable to make an assault.
It will be remembered that General Weitzel was the officer whom
General Grant says he intended should command the land forces
accompanying the expedition, and Colonel Comstock was an officer
upon General Grant's staff. Both these officers were engineer officers
of skill and ability, competent to judge of defensive works.

It will be observed, upon an examination of the testimony, that
the naval officers who testified before your committee were of the
opinion that Fort Fisher was much more injured by the bombard-
ment, and therefore could be more easily carried by assault, than it
was in the opinion of the army officers.

General Butler also determined to withdraw the troops he had
landed, and to return to Fortress Monroe. In this he may have not
complied strictly with the letter of his instructions from General
Grant.

General Butler states, in his testimony : .

"I will state what determined my mind against remaining on the beach



Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Joint Committee on the CoReport of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War → online text (page 64 of 124)