In a flash, the retreat became a confused stampede of soldiers and horses running for the rear. Half a mile behind their first line, the fleeing Union soldiers ran into a defensive cordon of 1, men from the 3rd Division under Brig. Robert Cameron. They filtered through, and Cameron managed to stand for about an hour before his stopgap line ruptured.
Two miles beyond the unfolding debacle, the 1st Division of XIX Corps was rapidly marching toward the sound of the guns. Its commander, Brig. William Emory, a combat veteran and West Point graduate, was unfazed by the mob running past him. After less than 30 minutes the Rebel onslaught was stopped. Darkness fell and Banks, who had shown considerable valor as he tried to gain control of his retreating troops, counted the cost. The Union force had lost 2, soldiers killed or wounded, more than wagons, and 20 artillery pieces.
His lieutenants, however, advised an organized withdrawal to Pleasant Hill, where Banks could find Smith with relative ease. The distance was about 14 miles, and by the following morning the Union position around the town was consolidated. While Banks withdrew, the Confederates happily pillaged the abandoned Union wagons, and by dawn Taylor realized that the enemy had pulled back. The Confederate infantry began filtering into the area, tired and parched with thirst. The Missouri and Arkansas soldiers had tramped nearly 50 miles in two days.
While Taylor surveyed the situation, he allowed the winded infantrymen to rest for a couple of hours. The Rebel fusillade eventually drove the New York battery from its position, and the Confederate commander ordered another attack. Momentarily the Union line held, but Churchill managed to slip to the right and outflank Benedict, who was shot dead in the melee.
The defense fell apart, and the retreating Union soldiers ran for the dozen or so buildings in the town of Pleasant Hill. Union forces attack in improbable good order during the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9. The Federals won a tactical victory, but panicky commanders fumbled away their advantage. Shortly after Churchill attacked, Green ordered elements of his cavalry to charge across the muddy slough and slash into the center of the Union line.
The charge soon came to grief as the Rebel riders were caught by flanking fire from an adjacent wooded area. Meanwhile, the rapidly deteriorating situation on his left brought Banks to the brink of disaster. The resulting combat was brutal, hand-to-hand at times, but as daylight began to fade Rebel resolve ebbed as well.
Some of the weary Confederates fled in disarray. Taylor took tactical control and ordered the bulk of his command to retire to the vicinity of a small stream six miles to the rear. Other soldiers stayed on the battlefield throughout the night, collapsing where they stood and finding fitful sleep. Taylor had lost more than 1, killed, wounded, or captured during the momentous day, and another 1, had been lost at Sabine Crossroads the previous day.
Although Banks had suffered nearly 1, casualties on April 8 and lost nearly 4, men in the two battles, the Union had greater numbers available to renew the fight. As the clock reached midnight, Kirby Smith arrived from Shreveport. Banks held another council of war, and Andrew Jackson Smith was virtually alone among the Union officers favoring a stand and renewal of battle the next day. Smith considered Banks incompetent and even suggested to General Franklin that Banks be arrested. Snipers took a heavy toll on the Union gunboats. Three days later, the last Union soldier had trudged back to Grand Ecore.
Shamefully, Banks failed to gather his dead and left his wounded on the field at Pleasant Hill. He threw up earthworks, sent a message to Porter asking for the fleet to join him with much-needed supplies, and waited. Taylor and Kirby Smith had been at odds since the beginning of the prolonged defense of northern Louisiana.
Kirby Smith, however, would have none of it. Taylor was furious. Meanwhile, Porter reached Loggy Bayou unmolested but facing the hulk of the scuttled steamer that Smith had set across the Red River above the landing. Without Banks and his infantry, the Union flotilla was in danger of being cut off and captured in the confines of the river. Porter ordered his fleet to retire from Loggy Bayou. Navigation was nearly impossible in the shallow waters, and the need for speed caused several unfortunate incidents. Confederate snipers took potshots at anyone who moved on the deck of a Federal gunboat, and Porter fretted while his flagship pulled the ironclad Chillicothe free after it had run up on a submerged log.
The big gunboat Lexington and the smaller warship Rob Roy collided, and the transport Emerald ran aground on the sandy riverbank. The captain of Hastings cast off to escape the heavy enemy fire, and Osage , dispatched to assist the transport, ran aground. Once again, Porter was in the thick of the action as his flagship Blackhawk jerked the monitor free.
Confederate shells pounded the transports Alice Vivian, Emerald , and Clara Bell , while Lexington , Rob Roy , and Osage fired their heavy guns in a heated exchange with the Rebel cannons. The fight lasted two harrowing hours before the Confederates were compelled to retire.
The Red River Campaign of and the Loss by the Confederacy of the Civil War – McFarland
The Confederates too were not unscathed, losing seven men, including one towering presence, the gallant Green, who had been decapitated by a Union shell. Harried by Confederate cavalry, Steele constantly worried about supplies as he crossed country that was devoid of potential food and water. A rendezvous with a force of 5, troops from the Army of the Frontier under Brig. John M. Thayer marching from Fort Smith, Arkansas, did not materialize until several days after the appointed time. When the two forces finally did unite, supplies were scarce, and Steele was forced to detour through heavy rain and over roads that turned to rivers to the town of Camden, Arkansas, on the Ouachita River.
Steele and Thayer slogged into Camden on April 16 and promptly sent out foraging parties to fill nearly wagons with much-needed provisions. As they returned to Camden two days later, the Federals were overwhelmed by marauding Rebel cavalry under Brig. John Marmaduke and Samuel Maxey. When the one-sided fight was over, every single wagon was put to the torch. Dead and wounded Union soldiers lay scattered about. Later, the Confederates were accused of murdering the black troops while the Choctaws were denounced for allegedly scalping some of their victims. On April 25, Steele suffered another stunning blow when 1, troops escorting a train of supply wagons to Pine Bluff were set upon by 2, Rebel cavalrymen.
Steele concluded that his position at Camden was hopeless and that continuing south toward Banks was probably a journey toward further disaster. He ordered a general retirement to Little Rock. The ill-advised attack cost Smith about 1, killed or wounded, while Steele suffered another casualties. After their rendezvous at Grand Ecore, Porter and Banks remained at odds. Banks considered a renewal of the drive on Shreveport, but he finally realized that the prospects for success were virtually nil.
The Red River was becoming shallower by the hour, and Sherman was impatiently demanding the return of his troops. Porter wanted to extricate his flotilla from the confines of the Red River, and Banks knew that he could not proceed northward again without the support of the gunboats. On April 19, the retreat to Alexandria began. John A. The Confederate commander, Brig. Hamilton Bee, was duped into believing that he was on the verge of being flanked and ordered his 2, troops to withdraw.
Furious at the failure, Taylor continued his relentless pursuit and drew his troops close to the city. The troubles for the naval flotilla were far from over. Just below Grand Ecore, the gunboat Eastport hit a Confederate mine and sank in shallow water. Sailors worked for hours manning steam pumps and patching the hull with timbers, eventually refloating the vessel.
Eastport was taken under tow by the transport Champion No. Another day was lost as sailors worked to free the warship. Their satisfaction was short-lived. Just two miles farther downstream, Eastport stuck fast on a snare of logs and rocks. Union workers wade into the water to complete an improvised dam across the Red River. While the tinclad Fort Hindman labored in vain to free Eastport , Rebel sharpshooters peppered the decks of both ships.
Finally, Porter faced the inevitable. Eastport would never complete the journey down the unforgiving Red River. While the rest of the flotilla pressed on to Alexandria, the admiral ordered eight barrels of gunpowder set beneath each casemate to blow the ship to pieces rather than allow her to fall into enemy hands. The shattering explosion nearly swamped the launch Porter was aboard as he observed the disheartening proceedings. With his flag now aboard Cricket , Porter sailed on with only Fort Hindman and another tinclad, Juliet , and the transports Champion No.
They traveled 15 miles and ran a gauntlet of enemy cannons and rifle fire from Rebel infantrymen and four guns downstream. Artillery shells raked the vessels, and 48 sailors aboard Cricket , over half its crew, were killed or wounded. Each of the ships took shell hits and casualties. One shell ruptured the boiler aboard Champion No. A soldier from the th Ohio Regiment in happier days. Some soldiers from the regiment were captured on board the City Belle. On the morning of April 27, as the riddled warships tried to get underway again, the Rebel guns opened up once more, pounding Juliet and Fort Hindman.
Champion No. Osage came up to render assistance, and Fort Hindman and Juliet managed to survive. When Porter finally reached Alexandria, he was further dismayed to learn that the Red River had fallen to a depth of just over three feet and that the water level was continuing to drop. After sending the shallow draft gunboats below the town, Porter faced the real prospect that his deep-draft ironclads, requiring seven feet of water for passage, would have to be destroyed.
Porter was willing to try anything. Bailey set 3, men, many of them loggers from New York and Maine, to the task of dam building, and the water level quickly rose, allowing the Union ships to traverse the shallow rapids and shoals. Destruction of the U. The Union boats were sitting ducks in the shallow water. By mid-May, Porter was on the move toward Alexandria, and Banks had already pulled out of the city. Taylor grew more frustrated with each passing day. His army was too small to halt the Union retreat. Nevertheless, he was determined to harass Banks to the bitter end.
At the town of Mansura on May 16, two lines of battle faced one another, and another artillery duel ensued. Two days later at Yellow Bayou, Mower proved his worth as a field commander once again as his rear guard turned on the pursuing Rebels and fought them to a standstill. Taylor had shot his bolt. Yellow Bayou was the last Confederate attempt to interfere with the Union retirement. Men and wagons were soon safely on the other side. Adding to his misery, Banks was met at Simsport by Maj. Edward R. Canby, his new boss, whom Lincoln had recently installed as the commander of the new Military Division of West Mississippi.
The abortive Red River campaign had cost the Union Army 8, casualties, 3, horses, nine vessels, and 57 artillery pieces. Shreveport remained in Confederate hands, and an upcoming offensive against the port of Mobile was delayed for 10 months. I have had a hard and anxious time of it. Your email is never published nor shared.
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