The Red River Campaign: Union and Confederate Leadership and the War in Louisiana

bdtex

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Searched the forum before posting to make sure there wasn't another review thread posted.

Finished this one last night. A few comments:
1. It is 144 pages,with quite a few pictures,drawings and maps so it is a pretty quick read. Reading some every night,it took me five days.

2. The book is basically 5 chapters. 2 are about the land forces action during the campaign,1 on naval forces action,1 dealing with Union occupation/garrison troop duties/life and 1 about doing a driving tour of the various historical sites of the campaign.

3. The land forces action section was mostly about Gen. Taylor(CSA),Gen. Banks(USA),Gen. Mouton(CSA),Gen. Gray's(CSA) Louisiana Brigade and Col. Beard's(CSA) Louisiana Consolidated Crescent Regiment. That part of the book was disappointing to me because the bulk of the Confederate forces were not Louisiana regiments,but they suffered the most casualties at Mansfield and the book was only 144 pages. Not much about Union forces at all. The other notable thing is that it was Lincoln who really wanted the campaign to happen. Grant opposed it,but Sherman was in favor of it. Troops from Sherman were detached to Banks but he was given a strict timetable to return them to Sherman. Just from memory,those sections of the book also described Fort DeRussy and the Battle Of Blair's Landing which were a coupla other significant engagements in the campaign. Also,the content about the areas being pretty well foraged out by the armies and the treatment of the wounded was interesting.

4. I learned the most from the naval forces action section because that aspect of the campaign is the one I least knew about. Rear Admiral David Porter was in command of the Union naval forces. It was a risky venture. I believe his fleet was about 30+ ships which included ironclads,tinclads,gunboats and transports. The river was lower than they anticipated. I think the fleet made it a little past Alexandria before it turned back due to the retreat of Banks' forces from Mansfield/Pleasant Hill. I think about 9 ships were lost in the campaign including one ironclad,mostly in the trip back downriver. Knowing the Red River,I get the impression that "ironclads" operating there must have been shallow draft,armored gunboats in actuality. Maybe someone with a little more knowledge of CW naval vessels will comment on that. The other thing that struck me about that section of the book was how undermanned and outgunned the Trans-Mississippi Confederate forces were. With 1000-1500 more men and maybe a dozen heavy shore batteries,the Confederates could've battered the Union fleet going and coming especially after Banks marched his forces away from the river towards Pleasant Hill/Mansfield.

5. The section about Union occupation/garrison forces was mostly letters to home written by a Lieutenant from NY who served as a Brigade Staff Officer and in the Quartermaster section of the occupation forces in Alexandria,LA. His only rough duty was in the retreat. The Union forces were harassed all the way out by Confederate forces not really strong enough to stop them.
 
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bdtex

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Got to hear/see Gary D. Joiner give a presentation about Union Naval Forces in the Red River Campaign at the Houston Civil War Roundtable meeting tonight. Very accomplished author and historian and a great speaker. Other CWRTs should book him to speak if they get a chance.
 
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I just read about this campaign at the beginning of Shelby Foote's third Civil War volume. As you say, with a bit more manpower the Confederates could have really done some damage to the two Union armies in the area. As it was they did manage to frustrate the Union objectives and accomplish something of tactical value. It's an interesting campaign to learn about.
 

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... I think the fleet made it a little past Alexandria before it turned back due to the retreat of Banks' forces from Mansfield/Pleasant Hill. I think about 9 ships were lost in the campaign including one ironclad,mostly in the trip back downriver. Knowing the Red River,I get the impression that "ironclads" operating there must have been shallow draft,armored gunboats in actuality. Maybe someone with a little more knowledge of CW naval vessels will comment on that...
Actually the fleet made it all the way to Grand Ecore Landing above Nachitoches which is where part of Bank's force was put ashore. Porter's fleet was essentially the same one he'd had at Vicksburg, armor and all. However, during the retreat (and maybe even before that?) the water level in the Red was so low the iron plating had to be removed from the vessels that had them. Even that almost wasn't enough when they got back to Alexandria and had to be "saved" by the construction of Bailey's Dam! This sounds like a disappointing book, which is too bad since there's little information on it.
 

bdtex

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This sounds like a disappointing book, which is too bad since there's little information on it.
There are some other books out there about the Red River Campaign which I'll hopefully get to one of these days. The one I reviewed is a short book. It's basically a starter book on that campaign. It was worth a read to me because it didn't take long and I knew very little about the details of the campaign other than what I learned from the Civil War Trust site and my trip to Mansfield/Pleasant Hill.
 
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There are some other books out there about the Red River Campaign which I'll hopefully get to one of these days.
Look for a copy of Ludwell Johnson's Red River Campaign. It's really very good.

BTW, Porter made it about 30 miles north of Grand Ecore, where Confederates had blown up and sunk an old steamboat in the river channel, forcing Porter to turn around. They left a sign hanging on it, inviting the Yankees to a ball in Shreveport. Admiral Porter wrote it was about the funniest thing he saw during the entire war, IIRC.
 



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