Red River Campaign

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#1
I did this series of articles on the Red River campaign several years ago, which I posted at the time on the THC forum. I thought I would re-post them here. I apologize in advance for the number of articles and the length of some of them, I will try to post about one a day to keep it manageable. My primary source is Johnson, Ludwell H., Politics and Cotton in the Civil War., Kent State University Press (1993), but I will have other citations listed at the end of the articles.

************************************************************************************

Red River Campaign – Part 1 - Prequel

The genesis of the Red River Campaign began not so much in Washington D.C., or in Richmond, Virginia, but in the textile plants of Massachusetts, the political ambitions of at least one Union commander, the greed of a lot of cotton speculators, and the Imperial Court of Napoleon III of France.

Texas had been a political hot potato since annexation had upset the delicate balance of political interests in the U.S. between slave and free states. The border dispute which grew into the Mexican-American war multiplied the problem with the addition of vast territories ceded by Mexico.

Abolitionists pointed to the German and Polish settlers in west Texas who managed to grow cotton with hired labor, rather than slaves. Those abolitionists spent most of the 1950’s attempting to get New England settlers to relocate there so they could overwhelm Texas politics with their numbers, thereby ending slavery by popular referendum. After Texas seceded from the Union, west Texas “Union sympathizers” made regular appeals to Washington D.C. to “send an army” to protect them, after which they promised thousands of loyal recruits would, if properly armed and supplied, help recover Texas into the fold of the Union.

Others, including Union political generals Banks and Butler, saw Texas as a path to rise to the highest political office. The sparse population of the state made it look like it might be “easy pickings” compared with other Confederate strongholds, and a few strategists thought that by seizing a few vital strongholds, they could achieve glory as the “Liberator of Texas”, and ride that mantel all the way to the White House.

Cotton speculators and New England textile mills all called for a quick campaign to conquer Texas in order to seize Texas cotton there for their own use. By the third year of the war, only one-fourth of the New England textile looms were still working due to the cotton shortage, and northern cotton traders worried about Britain’s plans to use Egyptian and Indian cotton as a permanent replacement for the “less reliable” sources in North America.

But none of this matured into a significant priority in Washington, D.C. for the first half of the war. To all who begged him to send troops to Texas, Lincoln replied that he simply had none he could spare. Benjamin Butler had offered to raise troops in New England (where he was a Department Commander during the first year of the war), and promised Halleck and Lincoln he could use those troops to first free Texas, and then settle it with his troops as Union-loyal citizens. But Halleck had adopted Winfield Scotts’ Anaconda plan, and insisted that the first priority be the seizure of the Mississippi. So Butler’s troops were sent to seize New Orleans first. This was quite a surprise to many, including a contingent of cotton speculators and Union officials who were expecting set up a Union rump government in Texas. These passengers who accompanied Butler’s army were outraged to find themselves in New Orleans, instead of Texas. It’s a good thing for Butler that he didn’t have to fight his way into New Orleans, because the troops he had with him had received only minimal training, on the assumption that they would primarily become settlers after arriving in Texas.

In the meantime, Halleck insisted that control of the Mississippi was the first priority. All other major campaigns, except those in Northern Virginia, were put on the back-burner. Texas would have to wait.

Later, Banks was sent to be the department head over Butler, because Butler had insulted some European diplomats who thereafter made life miserable for Stanton and Lincoln in Washington with their protests. Upon his arrival, Banks and his staff were astonished at the pervasiveness of the corruption in New Orleans under Butler – even Butler’s brother was involved in schemes to buy cotton from Confederate government agents and re-sold the cotton to agents sending the product to northern mills. Of course, the money received was being used by the Confederates to pay for arms, supplies, and medicine.

Banks was supposed to cooperate with Grant in seizing control of the Mississippi. Grant’s role by late 1862 was to find a way to seize Vicksburg, and Banks was to seize Port Hudson, located on the west bank of the Mississippi between New Orleans and Vicksburg. While it made sense to consolidate forces to take each objective in turn, Grant didn’t want to go to join with Banks (Banks would have out-ranked him and been entitled to overall command), and Banks wasn’t about to send forces to aid Grant without accompanying them. In the end, the Port Hudson garrison surrendered to Banks in July of 1863, shortly after learning of the Vicksburg surrender. Banks was quite upset that Grant got all the good press for seizing Vicksburg, yet Banks got virtually no mention for seizing Port Hudson, which Banks considered to be an equivalent feat.

With the Mississippi running unimpeded in Union-held territory from it’s source to the Delta in July 1863, now Lincoln and Halleck had to decide on priorities in the far West. Competing for attention were the persistent calls for Texas cotton and protection of Unionists in Texas, versus Grant’s insistence that the next priority should be the capture of the port city of Mobile, Alabama. But other events outside of either of these interests had more to say on the matter.

(Next Up: Part 2 – Napoleon III, Texas, and Union Strategy)
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#2
Red River Campaign – Part 2 – Napoleon III, Texas, and Union Strategy

Events originating in France pushed Texas up on the Union’s priority list. Napoleon III of France (1808 – 1873) liked to dabble in foreign adventures in Europe, the Crimea, Asia, and Africa, but with very mixed results.

Taking advantage of the inability of the United States to enforce the Monroe Doctrine due to the American Civil War, in January 1862 Napoleon III sent French troops to support the Mexican monarchists in their attempts to overthrow the republican government of Benito Juarez. Ostensibly their goal was to protect the Catholic Church from the anti-papists, but Napoleon III’s real goal was to re-establish a French colony in North America to replace the one sold by his namesake, Napoleon Bonaparte, to finance his own wars a half-century earlier.

With the protection of French troops and support of the Mexican conservative monarchists, a new Emperor of Mexico was installed, Prince Maximilian of the Austrian Habsburgs. For a time the French and the Mexican monarchists enjoyed success, forcing the Juarez armies northward into the mountains of Mexico by the summer of 1863.

This caused some considerable consternation in the halls of Washington D.C., but with all its resources devoted to ending the Civil War, the federal government was powerless to intervene in Mexico. But Lincoln, Stanton, Stewart, and Halleck had concerns larger than the fate of Juarez and his republic. They were concerned that Mexico could become a base for French support for the Confederates. The only military way to protect against that, in the opinion of the armchair strategists in D.C., was to put a significant Union presence in Texas to block any such direct aid. The other apparent option, using naval ships to blockade Mexico from French supply and reinforcement, was untenable because of the shortage of available Union ships, and the possibility that strategy would push France directly into war with the United States.

With the fall of Vicksburg to Gen. Grant’s army, and Port Hudson to Gen. Banks, a grand army was finally available to either seize Mobile, Alabama or to move against Texas. Although Grant forcefully argued for the quick capture of Mobile, he didn’t win that argument. Communications between Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, and Banks between July 23 and August 12, 1863 indicate that Texas was considered to be a higher priority than operations against Mobile.

But no significant force was devoted to that purpose for the remainder of 1863. In the East, the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in a Union victory, but cancelled any Union plans for a significant campaign in Northern Virginia for the rest of the summer campaign season. In the West, Halleck virtually disbanded Grant’s army, sending forces in various directions to “clean up” potential Confederate points of resistance in Mississippi and south-east Louisiana. Grant himself was recovering from injuries received in New Orleans when he experienced a nasty fall from a horse. By the early fall, unexpected events further derailed Union plans. At Chickamauga, Georgia, Union Maj. Gen. Rosecrans was defeated in Sept. 1863 and besieged when he retreated into Chattanooga, precipitating a crisis which resulted in Grant being sent to take over command of the relief army. Sherman was sent with his divisions from Mississippi to Chattanooga just in time to join Thomas (already in Chattanooga) and Hooker (detached from the AoP to act in concert at Chattanooga). All participated in the Battle of Missionary Ridge in late November, 1863, which routed the Bragg’s Army of Tennessee.

In the meantime, Halleck insisted that Banks make a strong effort in Texas with resources already at his disposal. Banks had been able to establish small lodgments along the Texas coast, the most significant one being at Brownsville, thereby controlling the mouth of the Rio Grande and causing some difficulty to the Confederate logistics. But Union forces had been decisively defeated at elsewhere in Texas - Galveston (Jan. 1863) and Sabine Pass (Sept. 1863), in the later case by a handful of Confederate cannon and a few hundred rifleman who barred the Union Navy from advancing up that river to eastern Texas and Western Louisiana.

It was now clear that it would take a major effort, with additional troops, to place any serious Union presence in Texas.

(Next Up: Part 3 – Objective: Shreveport)
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#4
Red River Campaign – Part 3 – Objective: Shreveport

Halleck decided that initial phase of the next Union effort would be to seize Shreveport, Louisiana, which now served as the headquarters, communications hub, manufacturing center, and supply base for Confederate Major Gen. Kirby Smith’s entire Trans-Mississippi department (dubbed “KirbySmithdom” by many wags, reflecting his mostly independent authority there). The seizure of Shreveport would force Kirby Smith to evacuate the entire area, retreating hundreds of miles and surrendering all of Louisiana, Arkansas, and significant portions of north-east Texas in the process. In a later letter, Banks said that “The occupation of Shreveport will be to the country west of the Mississippi what that of Chattanooga is to the east. And as soon as this can be accomplished, the country west of Shreveport will be in condition for a movement into Texas.”

The choice of Shreveport as the initial goal of the campaign had the added benefit that it was on the Red River, which flows from Eastern Texas eastward, and then generally south-west towards the Mississippi just north of New Orleans. Banks had already demonstrated he could advance all the way to Alexandria on the Red River by way of the Teche Bayou. This mini-campaign had yielded a surprisingly fruitful bounty of cotton which was then sold, and the proceeds used by Banks to offset “departmental expenses”. This procedure was contrary to Treasury Dept. regulations, but Banks did not personally benefit from the procedure, and due to the notorious corruption in the Treasury Dept. in Louisiana, it probably worked out for the best, anyway.

The Red River could provide gunboat support and a supply and communications route all the way from New Orleans to Shreveport, provided that the campaign was made in the springtime when the river was high enough to be navigable by ironclad gunboats. This meant that despite Halleck’s impatience, the campaign would have to be delayed until at least mid-March of 1864.

The intervening time was not wasted by the participants - if correspondence can be counted as action. Leading the “correspondence charge” was Maj. Gen. Napoleon Banks, commander of the Dept. of Louisiana.

Banks had started out as a bobbin-boy in a Massachusetts textile factory, eventually arising to political office as a governor of that state and later becoming Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. He could rise no further, politically, except perhaps with a Senate seat, or more to his liking, the presidency.
With the upcoming election of 1864, Banks was considered a serious contender for the nomination. In early 1864, there was considerable doubt that Lincoln would be nominated by even his own party, or if nominated he would be elected for a second term. No U.S. President had served two terms since Andrew Jackson. All Banks really needed was some good press, battlefield laurels, and some careful politicking to avoid snares of his rivals.

But Banks found that battlefield laurels had been hard to come by. Banks had met his come-uppance at the hands of Stonewall Jackson in the Valley Campaign back east, being surprised and out-maneuvered at Winchester and forced to retreat all the way to the Potomac. He had earned the nickname “Commissary Banks” by the Confederates, who were more than happy with the supplies his retreating army left to them, which in many ways were superior to that supplied by their own commissary.

Sent to the West, Banks had first rankled in his largely administrative position in Louisiana, seeing the capture of Texas as a higher prize. But with the elections of 1864 in sight, he changed his focus to Mobile, believing that the road to the White House went through the capture of a major city such as Mobile. But with Halleck’s insistence on Shreveport and then East Texas, Banks saw himself being forced into a dead-end (politically) of managing a Texas outpost, holding a mere “blocking position” against French forces which might never arrive, and far from the newspaper headlines back East where real political fortunes were being made.

Moreover, there were many problems inherent in Halleck’s strategy, which Banks pointed out repeatedly. Halleck’s strategy envisioned cooperation between Banks, Admiral Porter (commander of the Mississippi River Fleet), and Maj. Gen. Steele, who was commander of Arkansas Department headquartered at Little Rock. Halleck envisioned an advance by Banks and Porter up the Red River, and an overland descent by Steele south-west from Little Rock which would catch Kirby Smith’s forces between them. Yet Halleck, as was his habit, refused to appoint a supreme commander over all of them, arguing that (a) Banks was too incompetent to serve as an overall commander, (b) he had no authority to appoint a commander over the Navy, and (c) Steele couldn’t be appointed for “political reasons”. All of which, of course, begs the question as to why in the world the major portion an important campaign would be entrusted to someone whom Halleck considered to be too incompetent to handle the duties.

Steele also protested his role in supporting the campaign. Steele argued that the country between Little Rock and Shreveport was largely unsettled and couldn’t support his forces. There was no safe supply route due to the lack of rivers running in that direction, several rivers to cross, the absence of any railroads, and even the poor dirt roads were unsecure due to Confederate guerilla activity, lacking water in the dry season, and becoming quagmires in the rain.

Halleck further compounded the problem by, as was his habit, making it clear that he wanted Banks to use the Red River route to Shreveport, but refusing to order him to do so. Halleck thereby left open a path to blame Banks, and absolve himself of blame, if the campaign should meet with disaster.

One more non-military factor eventually weighed in on the timing of the campaign. Lincoln had enacted a method whereby states could be re-admitted to the Union if 10% of their eligible voters signed a loyalty pledge and elected a state constitutional convention to bring the state back into the Union. The whole procedure was suspect, as it was done without congressional authority, and it was of dubious constitutionality – if the states didn’t have the right to secede, then weren’t they still in the Union anyway? But since only those signing loyalty oaths to the Union could vote, Lincoln and his political advisors were counting on those states being back in the fold in time for the 1864 elections, whereby those Union-loyal citizens could be expected to reliably vote Republican. Pressure was put on both Banks in Louisiana and Steele in Arkansas to immediately put the procedure into affect, and to make sure the new government was in place in their respective states before embarking upon this new campaign. This would have an impact on the timing of the campaign, as will be discussed later.

(Next Up: Part 4: Planning the Campaign)
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#6
Red River Campaign – Part 4 - Planning the Campaign

In order to deter any possibility of France’s Napoleon III from using Mexico to aid the Confederacy, the decision was made to put a significant Union presence in Texas. To do that, they would first seize Shreveport, Louisiana, which was the headquarters and supply base of Kirby Smith’s Trans-Mississippi department.

But even though the initial decision had been made by August of 1863, nothing could be done until the spring of 1864. The Red River was far too shallow to support Union gunboats and supply ships until the annul spring run-off caused it to rise several feet in depth. In the meantime, a number of important people tried to abort the campaign before it started.

First of them was the person primarily in charge of making it happen – Maj. Gen. Napoleon Banks. Banks had high ambitions, including the presidency, for which he thought he might be nominated in the summer of 1864. But his performance in this war as another “political general” had been less than stellar. Banks had been soundly defeated by Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. But all of that could be erased in the voter’s minds if Banks could emerge as the hero of a major campaign. After all, hadn’t Grant recovered from the embarrassment of being caught flat-footed at Shiloh? Nothing succeeds like success!

Banks had been transferred west – too important a politician to remove outright, no matter how incompetent. Banks’ forces had captured Port Hudson shortly after the fall of Vicksburg, but he found little fame there. The northern newspapers had concentrated on the fate of Vicksburg, and so Grant received all the laurels. The fact that Port Hudson had surrendered only after it learned the fate of Vicksburg didn’t help matters.

So in Bank’s mind, the path to the White House lay through Mobile. If he could only convince Halleck to give him a significant consignment of additional men and a priority in supplies, he could take the city, and emerge in that summer’s party convention as the “Hero of Mobile”. There really wasn’t any other target within his reach which was significant enough to achieve similar results.

So it was with a considerable degree of dissatisfaction that Banks realized that Lincoln, Halleck, and Stanton were all determined on the Shreveport objective, sacrificing a campaign against Mobile in the process.

But Banks began to come around. Shreveport was certainly an achievable objective, given the forces at his disposal. Also, a quick success at Shreveport didn’t necessarily completely discount a late-spring campaign against Mobile. And re-opening the textile plants in his home state with captured cotton would certainly help garner the loyalty and support of his home constituency, as well as the financial support and loyalty of significant financial interests.

The second person objecting to the plan was the second-most important person responsible for making it happen – Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele. Steele was a West Point graduate, classmate, and friend of Gen. U.S. Grant, graduating in 1843 (ranked 30 out of 39). He served in the Mexican War, and in California and other posts in the West before the Civil War. During the war he had rose in rank from Major of Iowa 11th Volunteer Infantry to commanding a division during the Vicksburg Campaign, and ultimately appointed to head the Dept. in Northern Arkansas, where he successfully seized Fort Smith and Little Rock in Sept. 1863.

Shreveport was almost equal-distant between Bank’s army in New Orleans and Steel’s army in Little Rock, Arkansas. To the amateurs Lincoln and Stanton, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put Kirby Smith in a vice between them. But Lincoln and Stanton, and even Halleck, didn’t appreciate the dictum enunciated by Napoleon Bonaparte, that there is no more difficult a military task than to coordinate the movements of widely divergent forces. That was a lesson they should have learned after their clumsy attempts to catch Jackson in a similar trap in the Shenandoah Valley in the early spring of 1862, but apparently they had failed to take that lesson to heart.

Steele had no stomach for the proposed campaign to take Shreveport. He saw it with foreboding. As he and banks advanced, lengthening their supply lines, the Confederates would be falling back onto their own supply lines. The territory between Little Rock and Shreveport was barren and lacked little in the way of forage or water for his men or animals, and wagon trains could be attacked by Confederate guerrillas who were active in the area. And Steele knew that if the Confederates put all their force against either him or Banks, they could each be destroyed in detail. He made excuses, and asked Halleck for permission not to participate in the campaign (or to make a “demonstration only”), but his pleas were denied.

The final opponent to the campaign was the one man who had the most chance of killing it before it started – Gen. U.S. Grant. Appointed to command of all Union armies in early March of 1863, his idea was to ignore the Trans-Mississippi altogether in order to concentrate as many men as possible against the main Confederate armies, now located on the Rapidan in Northern Virginia (Lee), and at Dalton, Georgia (Johnston). The Red River campaign seemed to be a wasteful dilution of resources. But since it was already well under way in planning and troops were already moving in compliance with orders, and since it had been ordered by the President himself, Grant decided not to cancel it.

He did, however, decide to incorporate it into his own plans. A Confederate force of approx. 20,000 troops under Gen. Polk was stationed at Demopolis, Alabama, in a position to reinforce either Mobile or Johnston’s army in Dalton, as circumstances required. If Banks could finish up the Red River campaign to capture Shreveport quickly, then he could leave Shreveport in Steele’s hands and bring his army back to New Orleans for a quick campaign against Mobile. This would force the 20,000 Confederates at Demopolis to march in support of Mobile, which would then leave them unavailable to support Johnston when Sherman started his campaign against Johnston in Georgia. To make sure Banks had enough resources to do the job properly and within the limited time period available, Grant gave Banks the 16th Corps (three divisions of approx. 10,000 men) from Sherman’s army under Gen. A. J. Smith, with the proviso that they had to be returned in time for them to participate in Sherman’s offensive against Johnston in Georgia.

Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Smith was the son of prominent Scots-Irish settlers in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His father had served as a captain in LaFayette’s Brigade during the American Revolution, and later as a Brig. General of Volunteers in the War of 1812. Smith had graduated West Point in 1838, number 36 in a class of forty-five cadets. Some of the most famous names in the Civil War were among his classmates while he attended there. As a new 2nd Lt. Smith had participated in the Cherokee removals now known as the “Trail of Tears”, and as a 1st Lt. he drove his “Mormon Battalion” mercilessly from Ft. Leavenworth to Santa Fe in time to participate in the California campaign of that war. As a Captain he had served in the Oregon territory in the 1st Dragoons, and later as the Colonel of the 7th Cavalry who once court-marshaled a young George A. Custer for being AWOL. In the Civil War, he was soon commissioned Brig. Gen. of Cavalry and earned the respect of Halleck, Grant, and Sherman in the Corinth campaign. After doing well in several other duties, he had been a dependable division commander under Sherman at Vicksburg, and his men had been enthusiastic “wreckers” in their campaign to tear up railroads and anything else of potential value to the Confederates in Mississippi.

Banks, however, didn’t immediately see the value of Smith or his veterans. Accustomed to the spit-and-polish of the Eastern Union armies, he didn’t think much of Smith’s ragged veterans. “What in the name of heaven did Sherman sent me these ragged guerrillas for(?)” was his complaint when he first saw them. The name stuck and the 16th corps was thereafter known as “Smith’s Guerrillas”.

Within Bank’s own forces, the bulk of the infantry was under the command of Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin. Franklin had impressive credentials but was politically stained. Graduating first in the West Point class of 1843, after which he served in the topographical engineers. He served under Col. Philip Kearny in the Mexican War and was brevetted 1st Lt. at Buena Vista. In 1959 he replaced Montgomery Meigs (who was later Quartermaster-General) as the engineer supervising construction of the U.S. Capital dome in Washington, D.C. At the start of the war he was commissioned as Brig. Gen. of volunteers, and rose to corps command in the Army of the Potomac, seeing action in the Peninsula campaign, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, where he led the assault on the Confederate right flank defended by Stonewall Jackson, and he was wounded in the battle. Burnside blamed Franklin for the loss, and Franklin was accused of leading the cabal to have Burnside removed from command. Eventually Franklin was removed to the Dept. of the Gulf, which was becoming home to quite a few generals who, like Banks and Butler before him, needed to be stored somewhere “out of sight” due to political considerations or military incompetence.

So this brought the total Union forces in this campaign to some 45,000 union troops. Banks was contributing 20,000 from his department under the command of Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin, 10,000 under Maj. Gen. A.J. Smith came from Sherman, and some 15,000 were available in Arkansas from Steel’s forces. In addition, Banks had at his disposal the fleet under Admiral Porter consisting of some 22 ships carrying 210 guns (including 13 ironclads), plus those sailors and marines. Steel could also assemble a few more thousand men by calling them in from outposts in the Indian Territory. The combined Union forces would substantially outnumber anything the Confederates could put on the field, provided that they were used properly and promptly.

(Next Up: Part 5 – Confederate Counter-Measures)
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#9
Red River Campaign Part 5 – Confederate Counter-Measures
The Confederate command was in the hands of General Edmund Kirby Smith, a Florida native (his father had moved from Connecticut to become a federal judge there). He graduated from West Point ranked 25 out of 41 in the class of 1845. He was brevetted twice during the Mexican War, served on frontier duty, and was an assistant professor of mathematics at West Point. In 1855 he transferred to the 2nd Cavalry where he was ultimately promoted to Major. When Texas succeeded, he refused to surrender to state authorities, but ultimately resigned his U.S. commission on April 6, 1861 to join the Confederacy.

Kirby Smith quickly rose through the ranks of the Confederacy. He served as a brigade commander in the Army of the Shenandoah at First Bull Run, where he was wounded. When he returned to duty in October, he was promoted to Maj. General and given a division command in the ANV, but by February 1862 he was transferred to East Tennessee where he participated in Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky. Promoted to Lt. Gen. and corps command in the Army of Tennessee (AoT), by Jan. 1863 Kirby Smith was given command of the Trans-Mississippi Department, consisting of Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and the Indian Territories (Oklahoma). By Feb. 1864, he had been promoted to the new rank of General of the Army.
Note: Map of Trans-Mississippi Dept.:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TRANS-MISSISSIPPI_CIVIL_WAR.svg

Confederate Lt. Gen. and Department Commander Kirby Smith saw the danger of a Union advance up the Red River even before it began, and took immediate steps to collect his forces. His problem was that Steele and Banks had between them more men than Kirby Smith had in his entire five-state department. Early on, Smith decided to meet the “immediate danger” first, which he perceived to be Banks, after which he would be free to deal with Steele.

There doesn’t seem to be any specific intelligence which accounts for Smith being convinced of the Union plans to attack Shreveport. There was considerable correspondence between Smith and his commander in S.E. Louisiana, Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, speculating on whether the Union objective for the spring would be Shreveport or Mobile – in part, paralleling the Union planners’ own vacillation over their strategy. Taylor couldn’t conceive that Banks would attack without support from Sherman, but he couldn’t fathom that Grant would permit a dispersion of Sherman’s forces so far from the main theatres of battle. But both Taylor and Smith eventually became convinced that Shreveport was the likely objective, and by February they began assembling their forces to counter the expected Union offensive.

Smith’s principle defense force consisted of some 20,000 men under Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor in south-east Louisiana. Taylor was a Louisiana native, a son of former General and President Zachary Taylor, the brother-in-law of Confederate President Jefferson Davis (through Davis’ first wife), a graduate of Yale and Princeton Universities. He had also studied at Cambridge, and had travelled extensively in Great Britain and Europe. Although he had no formal military education, he was an ardent student of military history, strategy, tactics, and logistics. Taylor had previously served ably under Jackson in the Valley when Banks had been soundly defeated there, and was an aggressive campaigner who had been schooled by one of the Confederacy’s most aggressive army commanders. Taylor had been sent west at the request of the governor of Louisiana who wanted an aggressive general to reverse the Union tide there. Taylor fit the bill, and the decision accommodated his poor health – he had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and it was felt that returning to his native Louisiana climate might alleviate his symptoms.

To consolidate his forces and reinforce Taylor, Kirby Smith called upon Gen. Magruder in Texas to send some 2,500 cavalry under Brig. Gen. Thomas Green to Louisiana. Green, a hero of Mexican independence, was well-liked and highly respected among the Confederate officers. This left only about 2,500 infantry with which to defend the entire state of Texas. Green’s horsemen left Texas in early March, even before the Union forces had been assembled, but they had a long, difficult ride across Texas ahead of them – the lack of available railroads and transport by sea was becoming very hard on the Confederate ability to assemble troops quickly without wearing them out in the process.

Looking toward Arkansas, Smith called upon Lt. Gen. Holmes to send all his available forces, except for cavalry, to support Taylor. Holmes requested to be relieved of command due to disability (deafness), which was granted, and command of the Arkansas Dept. devolved to Maj. Sterling Price, his second in command. Price sent two divisions of infantry under Brig. Gen. T. J. Churchill to Louisiana, consisting of some 4,500 men. The retained cavalry was given the assignment of harrying Steele’s column, with the hope of delaying them long enough so that Banks could be disposed of before Steele arrived.

So in summary, this gave Kirby Smith some 27,000 men to contest the anticipated Union campaign: Taylor’s 20,000, Churchill’s 4,500, and Magruder’s 2,500 cavalry. Against this he faced a combined total of some 45,000 Union soldiers, plus their gunboats, sailors, and marines.

But having made the decision, and having initially acted upon it, Smith began to have doubts. What if Steele arrived before Banks, and Shreveport was left essentially undefended while all the available Confederate forces were occupied in front of Banks? Smith decided to hedge his bet, and decided to hold Churchill’s 4,500 men at Shreveport, so that they could be thrown in front of Steele if he should arrive earlier than expected.

(Next Up: Part 6 – The Campaign Begins)
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#11
Red River Campaign Part 6 – The Campaign Begins (March 2 – 25, 1864).

Halleck had intended for the campaign to begin on March 2, 1864. But Lincoln’s pesky 10% Plan, along with some reluctance and intransigence among the commanders involved, delayed the start. Sherman arrived on March 2nd to confer with Banks about his troops’ part in the plan. Sherman wanted to go on the campaign too, but when Banks announced that he was going to command the expedition from the field, Sherman decided not to go. At the time both Banks and Butler outranked both Grant and Sherman. This was soon to change, as Grant was being summoned to Washington D.C. to meet with Lincoln and receive his new appointment as commander of all Union armies.

Banks informed Sherman that the campaign would be delayed until he could supervise the inauguration of the new Louisiana governor, and he asked Sherman to delay his departure until March 4th so Sherman could attend, also. Sherman declined, citing other pressing business, which soon was to be the case, as he was summoned shortly thereafter to meet the newly-installed commander of the Union armies, Gen. U.S. Grant, in Nashville. There Grant would lay it his plans for Sherman’s role in the 1864 spring and summer offensives.

But Sherman’s forces didn’t delay their departure for Louisiana. His three divisions under A. J. Smith departed from Vicksburg on March 10th and took the river route down the Mississippi, and then up the Teche River.

The first Union problem was to take Fort DeRussy. Although it had been captured the previous year by Bank’s offensive up the Teche, it had been subsequently abandoned and re-occupied by the Confederates. Smith’s divisions were sent up the Atchafalaya Bayou to the south of the fort and disembarked at Simmesport. The then marched north toward the rear of the fort, while Porter’s fleet continued up the Red River to attack the fort from the river.

Unfortunately for Taylor, A.J. Smith’s landing as Simmesport and subsequent march north cut off three companies of Confederate cavalry, caught on the wrong side of the Bayou. They were unavailable to Taylor for much of the remaining campaign, and the small force under Gen. Walker assigned to protect the rear of the fort was essentially blind. As such, it was unable to do much to impede the progress of the Union troops toward Ft. DeRussy.

As Porter’s gunboats shelled the fort from the front, Sherman’s veterans charged the fort from the rear, capturing it quickly along with some 300 Confederates and ten guns. Smith’s casualties were nominal, some perhaps being attributable to “over-shots” from the Union gunboats which fell upon Smith’s men in the course of the attack. After corralling the surrendered Confederates, A.J. Smith’s “wreakers” promptly began to destroy the earthen fort so it couldn’t be easily re-occupied by the Confederates.

To make matters worse for the Confederates, on the evening of March 21, while waiting for Bank’s forces to join him at Alexandria, A.J. Smith’s forces managed to capture an entire regiment of Confederate cavalry in a foggy nighttime engagement at Henderson Hill, coming away with 250 men & horses, and four guns. This, combined with the previous loss of use of a company of cavalry under Walker, effectively left Taylor with almost no cavalry until he was reinforced by Green’s Texans, much later.

Thus the way was open to Alexandria, and A.J. Smith marched straight for it over pleasant roads winding through beautiful plantations, many populated by French and Arcadians. Banks himself arrived on March 22nd aboard his headquarters boat, but Bank’s infantry under Franklin didn’t arrive at Alexandria until March 25th.

Steele was also delayed in Arkansas, although part of it was entirely intentional. On March 12th, Steele sent a telegram to Grant protesting his part in the plan, and pleading to be excused from participation, or at last to turn his advance into a mere demonstration. On March 15th Grant replies rather curtly: “Move your force in full cooperation with N.P. Banks’ attack on Shreveport. A mere demonstration will not suffice…” Steele, knowing Grant, thought better than to object again. But Steele also had to wait for the conclusion of elections for delegates to a new Constitutional Convention in Arkansas. He instructed Thayer, who managed a garrison at Ft. Smith in Indian Territory, to meet him at Arkadelphia by April 1st. But Steel himself didn’t leave Little Rock with his army until March 25th., the same date Banks’ army was consolidated with Smith’s divisions at Alexandria.

Steele marched with approx. 5,000 infantry and artillerymen, and 3,000 cavalry, from Little Rock. He called upon 2,000 cavalry to join him from Pine Bluff, and with some 4,000 men under Gen. Thayer from Ft. Smith, he expected to field about 14,000 men total. This would have been more than adequate to deal with Price’s forces alone, but inadequate to deal with a combination of both Price and Taylor’s forces.

The day after leaving Little Rock, Steele’s army awoke to news that for the remainder of the campaign, they would be on half rations. This was an early and grim indication of the hardships to come.

(Up Next – Part 7 – Cotton, Natchidoches, and “Damp Sand”)
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#12
Red River Campaign Part 7 – Cotton, Natchidoches, and “Damp Sand”

In Louisiana, the first problem was water – or lack of it. Although Admiral Porter had bragged that his river fleet could travel anywhere the “sand was damp”, the Red River wasn’t cooperating. The expected spring rise wasn’t occurring, and much of Porter’s fleet, especially its ironclad gunboats, didn’t look like they could make the run through the falls (rapids) at Alexandria and proceed upriver.

What they didn’t know, and which was unknown to many authors of histories of this campaign until relatively recently, was that the Confederates had dammed the Red River close to Shreveport, by turning a ship sideways at a convenient point, sinking it, and having labor details fill in the gaps with rocks, timber, and mud. The dam was just effective enough to cause the river to find a new path to low ground behind it, inundating a wide area and turning it into shallow swampland. In a normal year this might not have worked, but this was a very dry year anyway, and the volume of water wasn’t sufficient enough to cut through the dam or force a new path back into the riverbanks. It was, however, just enough to reduce the volume of the water to the point where it was barely navigable by barges drawing only very shallow drafts.

Not knowing the cause of the problem, but chaffing at the delay, Banks prodded Porter to the point that Porter ordered his pilot to take the heaviest gunboat up first. The pilot protested, arguing that perhaps they should get the lighter boats upriver first, in case the heavy boat should get stuck and bar the way for the remainder? Porter insisted the heaviest boats must go first, and the pilot was proven right – it promptly grounded, and it took more than two days, and considerable effort, before it was freed and the rest of the fleet could proceed upriver. Although this might have seemed to be the worst of the problems, Porter was considerably worried now. What if the river fell even further? Would his boats be stranded upriver, unable to return to the Mississippi and further duty for a year or more?

Banks and A.J. Smith’s combined forces commenced their march from Alexandria toward Natchidoches and Grand Ecore on the river road. The army trailed in its wake a considerable number of civilian cotton speculators, many of them bearing documents allowing them to purchase cotton from southern civilians once the cotton (and the civilians) were within Union lines and control.

Banks himself had anticipated seizing tens of thousands of bales of Confederate government-owned cotton, which he estimated might have a value which would, by itself, pay for several months of the nation’s war expenses, or more than a year of his department’s own expenses. But several problems quickly arose.

First of all, much of the “available” cotton in the storage bins and along the docks and wharfs of the river were burned in accordance with Confederate law requiring it’s owners to do so, lest it fall into the hands of the enemy. Secondly, there was a conflict between the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the Treasury Dept. regulations. The Army was required to turn over any seized cotton to the quartermaster, who would deal with it on behalf of the government and using it in any way which benefited the army. The Navy, however, considered any seized cotton to be a “war prize”, the proceeds of which could be split between the officers and men of the ship which seized the prize. The Treasury Dept, in turn,. wanted all cotton turned over to it, to be re-sold under government contract.

As the army moved upstream along the river road, the army found that the Navy had always been there before them, claiming all the un-burnt cotton within reach for their own use. Banks had expected the Navy to seize cotton found on boats or wharves, but navy shore parties were going miles inland to confiscate as much cotton as they could find. Moreover, the Navy was supposed to seize only government-owned cotton, but such fine distinctions were usually ignored. After all, cotton is a commodity which is usually indistinguishable, and a warehouse full of cotton usually doesn’t have any evidence of its ownership displayed on any particular bale cotton. Like grain, ownership was proven by receipts held by the owner, authorizing him to remove so many bales of cotton of a certain variety and quality which was stored at that location on his account, or on the ledgers of the warehouse managers. Of course, such paperwork was usually missing (or claimed to be missing) by the time the Union forces arrived, and the Navy seized every bale of cotton it could get its hands upon.

To establish it as “enemy property”, sailors quickly stenciled the letters “C.S.A”, on every bale of cotton they found. Then they crossed out the “C.S.A.”, and below that the letters “U.S.N.” were stenciled – supposedly documenting a transfer of ownership from Confederate government supplies into the hands of the U.S. Navy. An army colonel remarked to Porter that the results seemed to indicate that the cotton belonged to the “Cotton Stealing Association of the U.S. Navy”, a comment which even Admiral Porter found humorous.

The civilian cotton speculators found the entire affair considerably less amusing, and harangued Banks with complaints and pleadings that he take steps to protect their interests – against the U.S. Navy! Banks himself protested, arguing that while the Navy could certainly seize any cotton it found on boats or piers in the river, cotton found on dry ground was presumably the responsibility of the Army. But Porter ignored such complaints, and Banks eventually grew tired of the speculators who, in the absence of available cotton, had nothing to do but idly complain about this subject, and any other subject which crossed their minds. Once Banks reached Natchitoches he rather unceremoniously ordered the speculators to return to New Orleans, where they formed what might be called the “General Banks Complaint Society”. There they drank and eagerly entertained anyone within earshot with tales of how Banks had dealt them wrong, how he was incompetent to lead an army, and they unanimously predicted impending disaster under his continued leadership.

If Banks had had any idea of what was coming, he might have done better to keep them with his army – perhaps somewhere near the front when the time came for fighting. As it was, their dire predictions and complaints found their way to Washington and in newspapers throughout the North, increasing the damage to Banks’ reputation. He was to discover this only when he later tried to resurrect his political career by justifying his actions in this campaign.

As for the army, A.J. Smith’s “guerrillas” taught the other Union soldiers how to burn anything of potential value to the Confederates. A column of smoke marked their advance on the march, and ashes with a lonely chimney marked burned homesteads - a taste of what Georgia was to receive before the year ended.

Banks’ army encountered almost no opposition while on the march. Confederate riders would observe the pace of the Union march from a distance, but disappear when approached.

(Next Up: Part 8 – Arkansas Mishaps & over-confidence in Louisiana)
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#13
Red River Campaign – Part 8 - Arkansas Mishaps & Louisiana Overconfidence

To the north in Arkansas, Steele was having more problems. His march was delayed by rain and bad roads, making the 70 mile march to Arkadelphia in a week. There they waited for three days for Thayer’s force to arrive from Ft. Smith. When they didn’t arrive by April 1st, Steele ordered the march resumed. He despaired of his supply situation, worrying while rations were being consumed waiting for a force which didn’t arrive. Thayer would just have to catch up, if he could.

At this point Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele had one infantry division (3rd Div., VII Corps) and two cavalry brigades available. Opposing Steele were only two cavalry brigades under Confederate Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke.

The Union forces found the bridges over the Little Missouri River impassable due to flooding, and sought other places to ford the river. They managed to reach Elkin’s Ferry shortly before the Confederates did on April 3rd, but the Confederates mounted an attack on April 4th while the Union troops were crossing. Superior manpower and artillery allowed Steel’s men to hold off the Confederate cavalry, which retired after the crossing was completed. Losses were light on both sides: 38 Union, and 68 Confederates – but the Confederates had lost their best opportunity to halt the Union advance before it reached central Arkansas. That evening Marmaduke’s cavalry was joined with Shelby’s brigade, and they withdrew together some sixteen miles southwards toward Prarie D’Ann the next morning.

It wasn’t until April 9th that Thayer’s division caught up with Steele. Steele’s men weren’t exactly impressed. Thayer’s forces had adopted the undisciplined air of frontier troops. They arrived in every sort of mode of transport available, including civilian carriages. Their uniforms had been supplemented by all manner of other dress. And most importantly, their wagons were filled not with rations and water, but with plunder they had acquired over the months of fighting on the frontier. Instead of being able to supply themselves, Steele was going to have to share his meager rations with them. The combined army now headed toward Prairie d’Ann, where Confederate Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke planned to utilize a weak line of earthworks to delay the Union advance.

Back in Lousiana, Banks arrived at Natchitoches on April 2, where he received 1,500 additions from the “Corps d’ Africa”, but at the same time lost some 3,000 Marines who were withdrawn due to a smallpox outbreak. But more importantly, Banks received a message from Grant, dated a week before, which would have a crucial importance to this campaign.

In the message, Grant told Banks that if he could not be assured of capturing Shreveport by the end of April, he was to immediately release the 20,000 of Sherman’s men under A.J. Smith so they could join in the upcoming Atlanta campaign. Suddenly, the campaign had a time limit which Banks couldn’t ignore. Moreover, Banks had assumed that once he had A.J. Smith’s divisions he would be allowed to keep them through the subsequent campaign against Mobile. This was often been the case, as troops once assigned to another army for temporary duty infrequently found their way back to their original source. But Grant’s orders made it highly unlikely Banks would have the use of A.J. Smith’s divisions beyond the end of April, one way or another.

Banks appeared unperturbed. He took the time to organize and conduct an election of delegates to the new Constitutional Convention at Louisiana, in support of getting the state re-admitted to the Union. He held a grand review of the troops. He sent a message to Halleck, which stated: “Our troops now occupy Natchitoches…. And we hope to be in Shreveport by the 10th of April. I do not fear concentration of the enemy at that point. My fear is that they may not be willing to meet us…” Lincoln, upon reading these words, said sadly: “I am sorry to see this tone of confidence… The next news we shall hear from there will be one of defeat.” Lincoln had considerable experience upon which to draw such a conclusion, from many different commanders from many theatres.
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#14
Red River Campaign Part 9 – Natchitoches/Grand Ecore – the Road Not Taken (April 2 – 6, 1864)

At Natchitoches, Banks had to choose a route for the remainder of his march towards Shreveport. Wellington W. Withenbury, who was serving as the river pilot for the expedition, advised Banks that there were only two routes available. The first led on the road to the west away from the Red River, overland through the Pine Barrens, and then at Pleasant Hill turning north, to Mansfield. At Mansfield he could choose between heading back east towards the Red River in the vicinity of Springfield Landing, or continuing north directly the Shreveport. The only other route, according to the river pilot, was to cross the Red River and proceed along the opposite bank, which would result in a long march around lakes and creeks and would in the end put him on the opposite side of the river from his ultimate objective, Shreveport. Banks chose to take the more direct western overland route through the Pine Barrens.

The chosen route deprived him of any support or supply from Porter’s gunboats. But although A.J. Smith urged him to conduct a reconnaissance to see if there weren’t other routes along the west bank of the Red River, Banks refused, saying there wasn’t enough time. But this didn’t stop him from staying in Natchitoches several more days, organizing and conducting elections among those willing to sign the Union loyalty oath, and reviewing the troops on April 4th. He finally leaves Natchitoches on April 6.

What a brief reconnaissance would have shown was that there was, indeed, a perfectly good road northward along the west bank of the Red River from nearby Grand Ecore, which scouts would have discovered with little difficulty. Admiral Porter said in his reports and letters afterwards that he could see the road clearly from the Red River once he proceeded northward (expecting to join Banks further upriver), and it was a fine road through pleasant and prosperous country with wide fields on both sides, perfectly adequate for the army to use.

Some have speculated that the river pilot, a cotton trader in his own right, owned cotton stored in warehouses along the river north of Natchitoches/Grand Ecore, and he didn’t want to see it destroyed by the Confederates or captured by the Union forces, and therefore gave Banks false information upon which he relied in choosing the course of his march. Although he claimed to be a Louisiana native with Union sympathies, later Congressional investigations showed that in July 1863 he had sold over $4,000 dollars in cotton to the Confederate government.

The path through the Pine Barrens was a narrow dirt track through mostly pine woods, with few settlements and no forage available. The road itself quickly turned to mud in the spring rains and the churning of thousands of men, horses, mules, artillery caissons, and wagons. Worse yet, they found that drinkable water sources were few and far between. The road was so narrow, and the rate of march so slow, the leading units which left Natchitoches in the morning were camped for the night before the last units left town.

Complicating matters were the considerable train of supply wagons. Banks had relied so far upon the fleet to keep his army supplied. In departing from the Red River, he was forced to load his supplies on wagons to accompany the army. With only a narrow road to use, Banks ordered that the leading cavalry units be accompanied by their own supply wagons, with the remainder following towards the rear. This meant that the cavalry which was leading the march was immediately followed by some 300 supply wagons which separating the cavalry from any infantry support. The order of march consisted of one cavalry division under Brig. Gen. Albert Lee, followed by it’s wagons, then three infantry divisions, followed by another 700 wagons with the Corps d’ Afrique as an escort, followed in the rear by A.J. Smith’s two divisions. The total length of the column was 20 miles.

In the meantime, the Confederates had troubles of their own. Kirby Smith was still concerned about Steele’s advance in Arkansas, and he ordered Churchill’s men held at Shreveport as insurance against Steele arriving sooner than expected. Taylor is beside himself, being ordered to not risk an engagement until reinforcements arrive, yet having those reinforcements held by his commander while Union forces march nearly across the entire state unmolested. “It would be better to lose the state after a defeat than to surrender it without a fight”, he protested to Smith. Such comments alarmed Kirby Smith, who again warned Taylor not to risk an engagement against superior forces.

But just south-east of Mansfield, Taylor found just the ground he wanted for a battle. The road which wound through the Pine forests opened up into a clearing on a knoll. Taylor could assemble his men on the far side of the crown of the knoll, out of site of the approaching Union cavalry until they crested the knoll. He could conceal as much of his forces in the woods beyond the clearing as he wished, and had room to spread out his forces in the clearing where he desired to do so. Union forces would be hampered in arriving on the scene by the narrow road they would have to travel to reach the battlefield.

The place was called Sabine Crossroads. If the Union forces passed this location and took Mansfield, they would have three roads upon which to travel, and they would be back in contact with their fleet on the Red River. Banks command was somewhat divided – a portion had been left with the fleet to provide for it’s security, so this was the only chance to catch Banks with his forces divided. This was the last, best place for the Confederates to stop Bank’s army short of Shreveport. Taylor resolved to do so, regardless of whether Kirby Smith, his superior, approved.

(Next: Part 10: Wilson’s Farm)
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#15
Red River Campaign, Part 10 – Wilson’s Farm (April 7, 1864)

Union Brig. Gen. Albert E. Lee’s ten regiments of Union cavalry were leading the march of Banks’ army through he Pine Barrens. But Lee himself wasn’t impressed by his numbers. Half of them were “mounted infantry”, not trained cavalrymen, and much of the remainder were untested in battle. On April 7th they reached the village of Pleasant Hill and continued forward with three brigades.

On the afternoon of April 7th, at Wilson’s Farm, Albert Lee’s cavalry received a rude surprise. Upon coming upon a large body of Confederate horsemen, the Confederate riders didn’t immediately retire as they had in the past. Instead, they turned and charged the surprised Union horsemen, causing considerable confusion before they withdrew. Green’s Texas Cavalry, consisting of four regiments, had finally arrived, and was on the field at Wilson’s Farm.

Lee was getting very nervous now. He was painfully aware that the single narrow path forced him through the pine forests almost single-file, or at best two-abreast. Behind him, the cavalry’s supply train stretched for two or three miles. Those wagons effectively blocked any infantry support if Lee were to encounter real problems. And Lee had no real idea of what lay in front of him.

Lee had asked several times to have those trains sent back down the line, to join the rest of the army’s wagon train. But as Lee pleaded his case on the night of April 7th, the leadership of the army, both commanders and staff, laughed off his concerns. They were convinced that the Confederates were fleeing, and they believed they wouldn’t encounter any significant opposition short of Shreveport. There was some whispering that Lee’s nerves weren’t quite “up to snuff”, and added their opinion that his frequent protests evidenced a lack of courage on his part.

Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin, in charge of the bulk of Bank’s infantry, refused to reinforce Lee with infantry. But upon an appeal to Banks, Banks ordered Franklin to send him a brigade. Franklin sent Lee the 1st Brigade of the 4th Division (14th Corp), - which was the smallest brigade he had available – about 1,200 men. Franklin also ordered Lee to move forward four or more miles in order to make room at Pleasant Hill for the remainder of the infantry. Lee’s forces managed to get to Connell’s Mill before darkness stopped their progress.

If the Union forces were overconfident, the opposite problem existed in Confederate Gen. E. Kirby Smith’s mind. Kirby Smith still couldn’t decide whether to attack Banks first, or Steele, or whether simply to retire into the Shreveport defenses. He wanted to keep all his options open. The one thing he COULD decide is that he didn’t want Taylor to make the decision for him by committing his army to a battle in which it might be defeated.

Taylor himself had no such internal confusion. Before him was the enemy, within striking distance. Bank’s army was badly strung out along a narrow road, negating Bank’s substantial superiority in numbers. Taylor, on the other hand, had almost all the forces he could ever expect to have, with the exception of Churchill’s forces which Kirby Smith was still holding back at Shreveport. With his base at Mansfield, Taylor has plenty of water and supplies, whereas water is short on the Union side of Sabine Crossroads. If Taylor withdraws but a handful of miles further, all those advantages were lost once the Union army takes Mansfield. As far as Taylor was concerned, if he couldn’t beat Banks here, he certainly couldn’t beat him anywhere else. For Taylor, it was a no-brainer. The only significant problem Taylor anticipated was interference from Kirby Smith.

Taylor made preparations for battle at the clearing now known as Sabine Crossroads, to commence the next day. He waited until late to send a message to Kirby Smith informing him of the upcoming battle, hoping that it would arrive too late to be countermanded.

Franklin, for his part, ordered Albert Lee to move his cavalry forward another ten miles the next day so that A.J. Smith’s infantry, forming the Union army’s rear guard, could camp at Pleasant Hill the next evening. The records reflect no mention of potential contact with the enemy, only a concern for the order of march and that by nightfall all the units in the Union column would be in a wide enough spot on the ground to camp for the night

Next Up: Red River Campaign, Part 11 – Sabine Crossroads (Part A)
 
Joined
Apr 29, 2010
Messages
967
Location
East T E X A S
#16
My GGG Grandfather J.W. Conner - 14th TEXAS Cav. was KIA at Wilson's Farm. I have been to Mansfield many times researching the possible burial place of my GGG GF. But to no avail; he was left on the field.
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#17
My GGG Grandfather J.W. Conner - 14th TEXAS Cav. was KIA at Wilson's Farm. I have been to Mansfield many times researching the possible burial place of my GGG GF. But to no avail; he was left on the field.
I'm sorry I don't have that much detail on the engagement at Wilson's Farm. One of these days I would like to view the scenes of this campaign, but it's pretty far down the list of my "must travel" agendas. When you only take one vacation every four years or so, just being able to see both sides of the family takes up a lot of the available time.
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Messages
7,807
#19
Below is part of a compilation of civilian reactions to Mansfield/Pleasant Hill. It was really the best they could do, under the circumstances.

The Confederates who died on the battlefields were the first to be
buried. The army sextons took some of the Mansfield casualties in
that city's cemetery. On the crest of the hill were buried Genl.
Alfred Mouton, Col. Leopold L. Armant, Maj. Mercer Canfield, Capt.
Arthur H. Martin, and Adam Beatty, volunteer aide to Col. Henry
Gray. By April 14 the "gentle ladies of the village" had covered
these graves with flowers and bouquets. Other Confederate casualties
of the fight at Mansfield were buried near where they fell. A member
of Terrell's Brigade saw them "in trenches with their hats and clothes
on" although H. C. Medford had also seen "hundreds of negroes and
straggling soldiers ... plundering the battle field--robbing the
pockets of the dead and stripping them of their best clothing."
Lafayette Price said "they just dig a big hole and put 'em in and
threw dirt on 'em. I went back after two or three days, and the
bodies done swell and crack the ground." Richard and Bob Wilson,
the boys who had helped take water to the wounded after the battle
of Pleasant Hill, watched the next day as the ground was opened up
with turning plows, and the dead of both armies were laid head to
foot all the way around the south side of the Wilson place, and the
whole hillside was "wrapped up with soldiers and the unburied dead."
When the earth began to warm later in the season, huge cracks appeared
in the ground. It swelled up in ridges, like a big mole run, and the
entire hillside turned green with flies.

By Sunday, April 10, H. C. Medford reported that all of the
Confederate dead from Mansfield had been buried, but on Tuesday
near Pleasant Hill he still saw bodies including "a great quanty
[sic] of dead men piled up in the head of a deep hollow and brush
only thrown over them. Whatever officer is in charge of this ought
to be cashiered." Many of the Pleasant Hill Confederate dead found
unmarked places on the edge of that town's cemetery as well as at
the Old Campground cemetery nearby. Some bodies were sent home,
wherever that was.40

Of the four hundred wounded federals left in Pleasant Hill,
over half died, and they were buried in a makeshift graveyard
behind Pearce-Payne College, either individually or in pits.
The plots were "rudely marked, with name and regiment of the
deceased." Five years later, after the war had ended, the War
Department visited Pleasant Hill to disinter the bodies and take
them to the national cemetery at Pineville, Louisiana, opposite
Alexandria. By then, only seventy could be recovered, and none
could be identified. Preliminary research indicates that those
who survived the makeshift hospitals of Mansfield and Pleasant
Hill were exchanged directly during the summer, without joining
their captured comrades at Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas.41

Solon Benson, who lost his arm at Pleasant Hill, returned to
Louisiana sometime before his 1906 article in the Annals of
Iowa appeared. He reported the relocation of the town of
Pleasant Hill and the shifting of fields, forests, streets,
and buildings. Despite these changes the community remained
"rich in treasured memories of 1864." He also visited Mansfield,
where he noted Memorial Day was still celebrated every year on
the anniversary of the battle of Mansfield, April 8th, and where
"the event is emphasized by the long rows of buried dead from
the battle-field, which their local cemetery contains."42
 

rhp6033

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
1,867
Location
Everett, Washington
#20
Below is part of a compilation of civilian reactions to Mansfield/Pleasant Hill. It was really the best they could do, under the circumstances.
Great information - but we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. For those that aren't aware, the Battle of Sabine Crossroads (as it is known in the North) was generally called the Battle of Mansfield by the southern forces, since that town was just to their rear and most of the Confederate forces passed through it before deploying for battle. It wass also the only thing approximating a town between Pleasant Hill and Shreveport. If you don't mind, I will continue to call it "Sabine Crossroads", because that more accurately reflects the actual location of the battle.
 

Similar threads




(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top