E-text prepared by Ed Ferris
Footnotes in the main text are at the end of each chapter.
19th-century spellings, in particular the use of double-l, have been retained.
Chapter XI: "flag-ships" plural in original. Chapter XII et seq.: "St. Martinsville" corrected to "St. Martinville" Chapter XXI: "Brownville", Texas, corrected to "Brownsville". Chapter XXXIV: the Grant in temporary command of Getty's division is Brigadier-General Lewis Grant, not U. S. Grant as in the rest of the book.
The following changes have been made in the Appendix:
Military ranks have been abbreviated.
Footnotes have been re-numbered and headings repeated by section instead of page. The footnotes were all italics.
The box rules and period leaders have been removed from the Losses in Battle tables and the headings "Officers" and "Enlisted men", set vertically in the original, have been abbreviated "O" and "E". Text has been extended across columns for legibility.
HISTORY OF THE NINETEENTH ARMY CORPS
RICHARD B. IRWIN
Formerly Lieutenant-Colonel U. S. Volunteers, Assistant Adjutant-General of the Corps and of the Department of the Gulf
G. P. Putnam's Sons New York 27 West Twenty-Third Street London 24 Bedford Street, Strand The Knickerbocker Press 1892
Copyright, 1892 by G. P. Putnam's Sons
Electrotyped, Printed, and Bound by The Knickerbocker Press, New York G. P. Putnam's Sons
IN LOVING REMEMBRANCE OF THEIR LATE COMMANDER MAJOR-GENERAL WILLIAM HEMSLEY EMORY AND OF THE MANY COMRADES WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY THIS HISTORY IS INSCRIBED BY THE SURVIVING MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE NINETEENTH ARMY CORPS
Chapter. Introductory I. New Orleans II. The First Attempt on Vicksburg III. Baton Rouge IV. La Fourche V. Banks in Command VI. Organizing the Corps VII. More Ways than One VIII. Farragut Passes Port Hudson IX. The Teche X. Bisland XI. Irish Bend XII. Opelousas XIII. Banks and Grant XIV. Alexandria XV. Back to Port Hudson XVI. The Twenty-Seventh of May XVII. The Fourteenth of June XVIII. Unvexed to the Sea XIX. Harrowing La Fourche XX. In Summer Quarters XXI. A Foothold in Texas XXII. Winter Quarters XXIII. The Red River XXIV. Sabine Cross-Roads XXV. Pleasant Hill XXVI. Grand Ecore XXVII. The Crossing of Cane River XXVIII. The Dam XXIX. Last Days in Louisiana XXX. On the Potomac XXXI. In the Shenandoah XXXII. The Opequon XXXIII. Fisher's Hill XXXIV. Cedar Creek XXXV. Victory and Home
Appendix: Rosters Losses in Battle Officers Killed or Mortally Wounded Port Hudson Forlorn Hope Articles of Capitulation Note on Early's Strength Index
MAPS AND PLANS.
Map of Louisiana. Sheet I. " " " " II. " " " " III. Battle Plan of Bisland, April 12-13, 1863 Battle Plan of Irish Bend, April 14, 1863 Battle Plan of Port Hudson Map of Louisiana. Sheet IV. Battle Plan of Sabine Cross-Roads, April 8, 1864. From General Emory's Map Battle Plan of Pleasant Hill, April 9, 1864. From General Emory's Map Battle Plan of Cane River Crossing or Monett's Bluff, April 23, 1864. From General Emory's Map The Red River Dam Map of Shenandoah Valley Campaign. From Major W. F. Tiemann's "History of the 159th New York" Battle Plan of Opequon, September 19, 1864. From the Official Map, 1873 Battle Plan of Fisher's Hill, September 22, 1864. From the Official Map Battle Plan of Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864. From the Official Map of 1873
The history of the Nineteenth Army Corps, like that of by far the greater number of the organizations of like character, in which were arrayed the great armies of volunteers that took up arms to maintain the Union, is properly the history of all the troops that at any time belonged to the corps or served within its geographical limits.
To be complete, then, the narrative my comrades have asked me to write must go back to the earliest service of these troops, at a period before the corps itself was formally established, and must continue on past the time when the earlier territorial organization became merged or lost and the main body of the corps was sent into the Shenandoah, down to the peace, and the final muster of the last regiment.
If hitherto less known and thus less considered than the proud record of those great corps of the Armies of the Potomac, of the Tennessee, and of the Cumberland, on whom in the fortune of war fell the heat and burthen of so many pitched battles, whose colors bear the names of so many decisive victories, yet the story of the Nineteenth Army Corps is one whose simple facts suffice for all that need to told or claimed of valor, of achievement, of sacrifice, or of patient endurance. I shall, therefore, attempt neither eulogy nor apology, nor shall I feel called upon to undertake to criticise the actions or the failures of the living or the dead, save where such criticism may prove to be an essential part of the narrative. From the brows of other soldiers, no one of us could ever wish to pluck the wreaths so dearly won, so honorably worn; yet, since the laurel grows wild on every hill-side in this favored land, we may without trespass be permitted to gather a single spray or two to decorate the sacred places where beneath the cypresses and the magnolias of the lowlands of Louisiana, or under the green turf among the mountains of Virginia, reposes all that was mortal of so many thousands of our brave and beloved comrades.
THE NINETEENTH ARMY CORPS.
CHAPTER I. NEW ORLEANS.
The opening of the Mississippi and the capture of New Orleans formed important parts of the first comprehensive plan of campaign, conceived and proposed by Lieutenant-General Scott soon after the outbreak of the war. When McClellan was called to Washington to command the Army of the Potomac, one of his earliest communications to the President set forth in general terms his plans for the suppression of the Rebellion. Of these plans, also, the capture of New Orleans formed an integral and important part. Both Scott and McClellan contemplated a movement down the river by a strong column. However nothing had been done by either toward carrying out this project, when, in September, 1861, the Navy Department took up the idea of an attack on New Orleans from the sea.
At the time of the secession of Louisiana, New Orleans was not only the first city in wealth, population, and importance in the seceded States, but the sixth in all the Union. With a population of nearly 170,000 souls, she carried on an export trade larger than that of any other port in the country, and enjoyed a commerce in magnitude and profit second only to that of New York. The year just ended had witnessed the production of the largest crop of cotton ever grown in America, fully two fifths of which passed through the presses and paid toll to the factors of New Orleans. The receipts of cotton at this port for the year 1860-1861 were but little less than 2,000,000 bales, valued at nearly $100,000,000. Of sugar, mainly the production of the State of Louisiana, the receipts considerably exceeded 250,000 tons, valued at more than $25,000,000; the total receipts of products of all kinds amounted to nearly $200,000,000. The exports were valued at nearly $110,000,000; the imports at nearly $23,000,000. It is doubtful if any other crop in any part of the world then paid profits at once so large and so uniform to all persons interested as the cotton and sugar of Louisiana. If cotton were not exactly king, as it was in those days the fashion to assert, there could be no doubt that cotton was a banker, and a generous banker for New Orleans. The factors of Carondelet Street grew rich upon the great profits that the planters of the "coast," as the shores of the river are called, paid them, almost without feeling it, while the planters came, nearly every winter, to New Orleans to pass the season and to spend, in a round of pleasure, at least a portion of the net proceeds of the account sales. In the transport of these products nearly two thousand sailing ships and steamers were engaged, and in the town itself or its suburb of Algiers, on the opposite bank, were to be found all the appliances and facilities necessary for the conduct of so extensive a commerce. These, especially the work-shops and factories, and the innumerable river and bayou steamers that thronged the levee, were destined to prove of the greatest military value, at first to the Confederacy, and later to the forces of the Union. For food and fuel, however, New Orleans was largely dependent upon the North and West. Finally, beside her importance as the guardian of the gates of the Mississippi, New Orleans had a direct military value as the basis of any operations destined for the control or defence of the Mississippi River.
About the middle of November the plan took definite shape, and on the 23d of December Farragut received preparatory orders to take command of the West Gulf Squadron and the naval portion of the expedition destined for the reduction of New Orleans. Farragut received his final orders on the 20th of January, 1862, and immediately afterward hoisted his flag on the sloop-of-war Hartford.
The land portion of the expedition was placed under the command of Major-General Benjamin F. Butler. On the 10th and 12th of September, 1861, Butler had been authorized by the War Department to raise, organize, arm, uniform, and equip, in the New England States, such troops as he might judge fit for the purpose, to make an expedition along the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia to Cape Charles; but early in November, before Butler's forces were quite ready, these objects were accomplished by a brigade under Lockwood, sent from Baltimore by Dix. On the 23d of November the advance of Butler's expedition sailed from Portland, Maine, for Ship Island, in the steamer Constitution, and on the 2d of December, in reporting the sailing, Butler submitted to the War Department his plan for invading the coast of Texas and the ultimate capture of New Orleans.
On the 24th of January, 1862, McClellan, then commanding all the armies of the United States, was called on by the Secretary of War to report whether the expedition proposed by General Butler should be prosecuted, abandoned, or modified, and in what manner. McClellan at once urged that the expedition be suspended. In his opinion, "not less than 30,000 men, and it is believed 50,000, would be required to insure success against New Orleans in a blow to be struck from the Gulf." This suggestion did not meet the approval of the government, now fully determined on the enterprise.
Brigadier-General J. G. Barnard, the chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac, an engineer also of more than common ability, energy, and experience, was now called into consultation. On the 28th of January, 1862, he submitted to the Navy Department a memorandum describing fully the defences of Forts Jackson and St. Philip and outlining a plan for a combined attempt on these works by the army and navy. The military force required for the purpose he estimated at 20,000 men.
Meanwhile the work of transferring Butler's forces by sea to Ship Island had been going on with vigor. He had raised thirteen regiments of infantry, ten batteries of light artillery, and three troops of cavalry, numbering in all about 13,600 men. To these were now added from the garrison of Baltimore three regiments, the 21st Indiana, 4th Wisconsin, and 6th Michigan, and the 2d Massachusetts battery, thus increasing his force to 14,400 infantry, 275 cavalry, and 580 artillerists; in all, 15,255 officers and men.
On the 23d of February, 1862, Butler received his final orders: "The object of your expedition," said McClellan, "is one of vital importance—the capture of New Orleans. The route selected is up the Mississippi River, and the first obstacle to be encountered (perhaps the only one) is in the resistance offered by Forts St. Philip and Jackson. It is expected that the navy can reduce these works. Should the navy fail to reduce the works, you will land your forces and siege-train, and endeavor to breach the works, silence their guns, and carry them by assault.
"The next resistance will be near the English bend, where there are some earthen batteries. Here it may be necessary for you to land your troops to co-operate with the naval attack, although it is more than probable that the navy, unassisted, can accomplish the result. If these works are taken, the city of New Orleans necessarily falls."
After obtaining possession of New Orleans, the instructions went on to say, Butler was to reduce all the works guarding the approaches, to join with the navy in occupying Baton Rouge, and then to endeavor to open communication with the northern column by the Mississippi, always bearing in mind the necessity of occupying Jackson, as soon as this could safely be done. Mobile was to follow, then Pensacola and Galveston. By the time New Orleans should have fallen the government would probably reinforce his army sufficiently to accomplish all these objects.
On the same day a new military department was created called the Department of the Gulf, and Butler was assigned to the command. Its limits were to comprise all the coast of the Gulf of Mexico west of Pensacola harbor, and so much of the Gulf States as might be occupied by Butler's forces. Since the middle of October he had commanded the expeditionary forces, under the name of the Department of New England.
Arriving at Ship Island on the 20th of March, he formally assumed the command of the Department of the Gulf, announcing Major George C. Strong as Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Godfrey Weitzel as Chief Engineer, and Surgeon Thomas Hewson Bache as Medical Director. To these were afterward added Colonel John Wilson Shaffer as Chief Quartermaster, Colonel John W. Turner as Chief Commissary, and Captain George A. Kensel as Acting Assistant Inspector-General and Chief of Artillery.
By the end of March all the troops destined for the expedition had landed at Ship Island, with the exception of the 13th Connecticut, 15th Maine, 7th and 8th Vermont regiments, 1st Vermont and 2d Massachusetts batteries. Within the next fortnight all these troops joined the force except the 2d Massachusetts battery, which being detained more than seven weeks at Fortress Monroe, and being nearly five weeks at sea, did not reach New Orleans until the 21st of May. Meanwhile, of the six Maine batteries, all except the 1st had been diverted to other fields of service.
While awaiting at Ship Island the completion of the preparations of the navy for the final attempt on the river forts, Butler proceeded to organize his command and to discipline and drill the troops composing it. Many of these were entirely without instruction in any of the details of service. On the 22d of March, he divided his forces into three brigades of five or six regiments each, attaching to each brigade one or more batteries of artillery and a troop of cavalry. These brigades were commanded by Brigadier-Generals John W. Phelps and Thomas Williams, and Colonel George F. Shepley of the 12th Maine. When finally assembled the whole force reported about 13,500 officers and men for duty, and from that moment its strength was destined to undergo a steady diminution by the natural attrition of service, augmented, in this case, by climatic influences.
The fleet under Farragut consisted of seventeen vessels, mounting 154 guns. Four were screw-sloops, one a side-wheel steamer, three screw corvettes, and nine screw gunboats. Each of the gunboats carried one 11-inch smooth-bore gun, and one 30-pounder rifle; but neither of these could be used to fire at an enemy directly ahead, and, in the operations awaiting the fleet, it is within bounds to say that not more than one gun in four could be brought to bear at any given moment. With this fleet were twenty mortar-boats, under Porter, each carrying one 13-inch mortar, and six gunboats, assigned for the service of the mortar-boats and armed like the gunboats of the river fleet. Farragut, with the Hartford, had reached Ship Island on the 20th of February; the rest of the vessels assigned to his fleet soon followed. Then entering the delta, from that time he conducted the blockade of the river from the head of the passes.
The Confederacy was now being so closely pressed in every quarter as to make it impossible, with the forces at its command, to defend effectively and at the same moment every point menaced by the troops and fleets of the Union. Thus the force that might otherwise have been employed in defending New Orleans was, under the pressure of the emergency, so heavily drawn from to strengthen the army at Corinth, then engaged in resisting the southward advance of the combined armies of the Union under Halleck, as to leave New Orleans, and indeed all Louisiana, at the mercy of any enemy that should succeed in passing the river forts. At this time the entire land-force, under Major-General Mansfield Lovell, hardly exceeded 5,000 men. Of these, 1,100 occupied Forts Jackson and St. Philip, under the command of General Duncan; 1,200 held the Chalmette line, under General Martin L. Smith, and about 3,000, chiefly new levies, badly armed, were in New Orleans. Besides this small land-force, the floating defences consisted of four improvised vessels of the Confederate navy, two belonging to the State of Louisiana, and six others of what was called the Montgomery fleet. These were boats specially constructed for the defence of the river, but most of them had been sent up the river to Memphis to hold off Foote and Davis. The twelve vessels carried in all thirty-eight guns. Each of the boats of the river-fleet defence had its bows shod with iron and its engines protected with cotton. This was also the case with the two sea-going steamers belonging to the State. Of this flotilla the most powerful was the iron-clad Louisiana, whose armor was found strong enough to turn an 11-inch shell at short range, and, as her armament consisted of two 7-inch rifles, three 9-inch shell guns, four 18-inch shell guns, and seven 6-inch rifles, she might have proved a formidable foe had her engines been equal to their work.
At the Plaquemine Bend, twenty miles above the head of the passes and ninety below New Orleans, the engineers of the United States had constructed two permanent fortifications, designed to defend the entrance of the river against the foreign enemies of the Union. These formidable works had now to be passed or taken before New Orleans could be occupied. Fort St. Philip, on the left or north bank, was a work of brick and earth, flanked on either hand by a water battery. In the main work were mounted, in barbette, four 8-inch columbiads and one 24-pounder gun; the upper water battery carried sixteen 24-pounders, the lower one one 8-inch columbiad, one 7-inch rifle, six 42-pounders, nine 32-pounders, and four 24-pounders. Besides these, there were seven mortars, one of 13-inch calibre, five of 10-inch, and one of 8-inch. Forty-two of the guns could be brought to bear upon the fleet ascending the river.
Fort Jackson, on the south or left bank of the river, was a casemated pentagon of brick, mounting in the casemates fourteen 24-pounder guns, and ten 24-pounder howitzers, and in barbette in the upper tier two 10-inch columbiads, three 8-inch columbiads, one 7-inch rifle, six 42-pounders, fifteen 32-pounders, and eleven 24-pounders, in all sixty-two guns. The water battery below the main work was armed with one 10-inch columbiad, two 8-inch columbiads, and two rifled 32-pounders. Fifty of these pieces were available against the fleet, but of the whole armament of one hundred and nine guns, fifty-six were old 24-pounder smooth-bores.
The passage of the forts had been obstructed by a raft or chain anchored between them. The forts once overcome, no other defence remained to be encountered until English Turn was reached, where earthworks had been thrown up on both banks. Here at Chalmette, on the left bank, it was that, in 1815, Jackson, with his handful of raw levies, so signally defeated Wellington's veterans of the Peninsula, under the leadership of the fearless Pakenham.
Fort St. Philip stands about 700 yards higher up the river than Fort Jackson; the river at this point is about 800 yards wide, and the distance between the nearest salients of the main works is about 1,000 yards. A vessel attempting to run the gauntlet of the batteries would be under fire while passing over a distance of three and a half miles. The river was now high, and the banks, everywhere below the river level, and only protected from inundation by the levees, were overflowed. There was no standing room for an investing army; the lower guns were under water, and in the very forts the platforms were awash.
When the fleet was ready, Butler embarked eight regiments and three batteries under Phelps and Williams on transports, and, going to the head of the passes, held his troops in readiness to co-operate with the navy. On the 16th of April the fleet took up its position. The mortar-boats, or "bombers," as they began to be called, were anchored between 3,000 and 4,000 yards below Fort Jackson, upon which the attack was mainly to be directed. From the view of those in the fort, the boats that lay under the right bank were covered by trees. Those on the opposite side of the river were screened, after a fashion, by covering their hulls with reeds and willows, cut for the purpose.
On the 18th of April the bombardment began. It soon became evident that success was not to be attained in this way, and Farragut determined upon passing the forts with his fleet. Should he fail in reducing them by this movement, Butler was to land in the rear of Fort St. Philip, near Quarantine, and carry the works by storm. Accordingly, he remained with his transports below the forts, and waited for the hour. Shepley occupied Ship Island with the rest of the force.
Early in March the raft, formed of great cypress trees, forty feet long and fifty inches through, laid lengthwise in the river about three feet apart, anchored by heavy chains and strengthened by massive cross-timbers, had been partly carried away by the flood. To make good the damage, a number of large schooners had then been anchored in the gap. On the morning of the 21st of April this formidable obstruction was cleverly and in a most gallant manner broken through by the fleet.
On the night of the 23d of April, Farragut moved to the attack. His fleet, organized in three divisions of eight, three, and six vessels respectively, was formed in line ahead. The first division was led by Captain Bailey, in the Cayuga, followed by the Pensacola, Mississippi, Oneida, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo, and Wissahickon; the second division followed, composed of Farragut's flag-ship, the Hartford, Commander Richard Wainwright, the Brooklyn, and the Richmond; while the third division, forming the rear of the column, was led by Captain Bell, in the Sciota, followed by the Iroquois, Kennebec, Pinola, Itasca, and Winona.
At half-past two o'clock on the morning of the 24th of April the whole fleet was under way; a quarter of an hour later the batteries of Forts Jackson and St. Philip opened simultaneously upon the Cayuga. It was some time before the navy could reply, but soon every gun was in action. Beset by perils on every hand, the fleet pressed steadily up the river. The Confederate boats were destroyed, the fire-rafts were overcome, the gunners of the forts were driven from their guns, and when the sun rose Farragut was above the forts with the whole of his fleet, except the Itasca, Winona, and Kennebec, which put back disabled, and the Varuna, sunk by the Confederate gunboats. The next afternoon, having made short work of Chalmette, Farragut anchored off New Orleans, and held the town at his mercy.
The casualties were 37 killed and 147 wounded, in all 184. The Confederate loss was 50, 11 killed and 39 wounded. The Louisiana, McCrea, and Defiance, sole survivors of the Confederate fleet, escaping comparatively unhurt, took refuge under the walls of Fort St. Philip.
Leaving Phelps, with the 30th Massachusetts and 12th Connecticut and Manning's 4th Massachusetts battery, at the head of the passes, in order to be prepared to occupy the works immediately on their surrender, Butler hastened with the rest of his force to Sable Island in the rear of Fort St. Philip. When the transports came to anchor on the morning of the 26th, the Confederate flags on Forts St. Philip and Jackson were plainly visible to the men on board, while these, in their turn, were seen from the forts. Here the troops received the news of Farragut's arrival at New Orleans. On the morning of the 28th they saw the Confederate ram Louisiana blown up while floating past the forts, and on the same day Jones landed with the 26th Massachusetts and Paine with two companies of the 4th Wisconsin and a detachment of the 21st Indiana, to work their way through a small canal to Quarantine, six miles above Fort St. Philip, for the purpose of seizing the narrow strip by which the garrison must escape, if at all. This was only accomplished by a long and tiresome transport in boats, and finally by wading. However, at half-past two on the afternoon of the 28th April, the Confederate flags over Forts Jackson and St. Philip were observed to disappear; the national ensign floated in their stead; and soon it became known that Duncan had surrendered to Porter.
Porter immediately took possession and held it until Phelps came up the river to relieve him. Then Major Whittemore, of the 30th Massachusetts, with about two hundred men of his regiment, landed and took command at Fort St. Philip, while Manning occupied Fort Jackson. Almost simultaneously the frigate Mississippi came down the river, bringing Jones with the news that his regiment was at Quarantine, holding both banks of the river, and thus effectually sealing the last avenue of escape; for at this time the levee formed the only pathway. On the 29th Phelps put Deming in command of Fort Jackson, intending to leave his regiment, the 12th Connecticut, in garrison there, and to place Dudley, with the 30th Massachusetts, at Fort St. Philip; but before this arrangement could be carried out, orders came from Butler, designating the 26th Massachusetts as the garrison of the two forts, with Jones in command. Phelps, with his force, was directed to New Orleans.
On the 1st of May Butler landed at New Orleans and took military possession of the city. Simultaneously, at five o'clock in the afternoon, the 31st Massachusetts with a section of Everett's 6th Massachusetts battery, and six companies of the 4th Wisconsin, under Paine, disembarked and marched up the broad levee to the familiar airs that announced the joint coming of "Yankee Doodle" and of "Picayune Butler."
The outlying defences on both banks of the river and on the lakes were abandoned by the Confederates without a struggle. Forts Pike and Wood, on Lake Pontchartrain, were garrisoned by detachments from the 7th Vermont and 8th New Hampshire regiments. The 21st Indiana landed at Algiers, and marching to Brashear, eighty miles distant on Berwick Bay, took possession of the New Orleans and Opelousas railway. New Orleans itself was occupied by the 30th and 31st Massachusetts, the 4th Wisconsin and 6th Michigan, 9th and 12th Connecticut, 4th and 6th Massachusetts batteries, 2d Vermont battery, and Troops A and B of the Massachusetts cavalry. At Farragut's approach Lovell, seeing that further resistance was useless, abandoned New Orleans to its fate and withdrew to Camp Moore, distant seventy-eight miles, on the line of the Jackson railway.
CHAPTER II. THE FIRST ATTEMPT ON VICKSBURG.
With the capture of New Orleans the first and vital object of the expedition had been accomplished. The occupation of Baton Rouge by a combined land and naval force was the next point indicated in McClellan's orders to Butler. Then he was to endeavor to open communication with the northern column coming down the Mississippi. McClellan was no longer General-in-chief; but this part of his plan represented the settled views of the government.
On the 2d of May, therefore, Farragut sent Craven with the Brooklyn and six other vessels of the fleet up the river. On the 8th, as early as the river transports could be secured, Butler sent Williams with the 4th Wisconsin and the 6th Michigan regiments, and two sections of Everett's 6th Massachusetts battery, to follow and accompany the fleet. The next day Williams landed his force at Bonnet Carre, on the east bank of the river, about thirty-five miles above the town. After wading about five miles through a swamp, where the water and mud were about three feet deep, the troops halted at night at Frenier, a station of the Jackson railway, situated on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, about ten miles above Kenner. A detachment of the 4th Wisconsin, under Major Boardman, was sent to Pass Manchac. The Confederates made a slight but ineffective resistance with artillery, resulting in trivial losses on either side. The bridges at Pass Manchac and Frenier being then destroyed, on the following morning, the 10th, the troops marched back the weary ten miles along the uneven trestle-work of the railway from Frenier to Kenner and there took transport. After their long confinement on shipboard, with scant rations, without exercise or even freedom of movement, the excessive heat of the day caused the troops to suffer severely. The embarkation completed, the transports, under convoy of the navy, set out for Baton Rouge. There on the morning of the 12th of May the troops landed, the capitol was occupied by the 4th Wisconsin, and the national colors were hoisted over the building. The troops then re-embarked for Vicksburg.
Natchez surrendered on the 12th of May to Commander S. Phillips Lee, of the Oneida, the advance of Farragut's fleet. On the 18th of May the Oneida and her consorts arrived off Vicksburg, and the same day Williams and Lee summoned "the authorities" to surrender the town and "its defences to the lawful authority of the United States." To this Brigadier-General Martin L. Smith, commander of the defences, promptly replied: "Having been ordered here to hold these defences, my intention is to do so as long as it is in my power."
On the 19th the transports stopped for wood at Warrenton, about ten miles below Vicksburg, and here a detachment of the 4th Wisconsin, sent to guard the working party, became involved in a skirmish with the Confederates, in which Sergeant-Major N. H. Chittenden and Private C. E. Perry, of A Company, suffered the first wounds received in battle by the troops of the United States in the Department of the Gulf. The Confederates were easily repulsed, with small loss.
Almost at the instant when Farragut was decided to run the gauntlet of the forts, Beauregard had begun to fortify Vicksburg. Up to this time he had trusted the defence of the river above New Orleans to Fort Pillow, Helena, and Memphis.
When Smith took command at Vicksburg on the 12th of May, in accordance with the orders of Lovell, the department commander, three of the ten batteries laid out for the defence of the position had been nearly completed and a fourth had been begun. These batteries were intended for forty-eight guns from field rifles to 10-inch columbiads. The garrison was to be 3,000 strong, but at this time the only troops present were parts of two Louisiana regiments. When the fleet arrived, on the 18th, six of the ten batteries had been completed, and two days later twenty-three heavy guns were in place and the defenders numbered more than 2,600.
The guns of the navy could not be elevated sufficiently for their projectiles to reach the Confederate batteries on the bluff, and the entire land-force, under Williams, was less than 1,100 effectives. Even had it been possible by a sudden attack to surprise and overcome the garrison and seize the bluffs, the whole available force of the Department of the Gulf would have been insufficient to hold the position for a week, as things then stood.
The truth is that the northern column with which, following their orders, Butler and Farragut were now trying to co-operate had ceased to exist; Jackson meant Beauregard's rear; and, as for any co-operation between Halleck and Williams, Beauregard stood solidly between them. On the 17th of April, the day before Porter's mortars first opened upon Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the whole land force of this northern column, under Pope, at that moment preparing for the attack on Fort Pillow, had been withdrawn by imperative orders from Halleck, and, on the very evening before the attack on Fort Pillow was to have been made, had gone to swell the great army assembled under Halleck at Corinth; but as yet neither Butler nor Farragut knew anything of all this. Save by the tedious roundabout of Washington, New York, the Atlantic, and the Gulf, there was at this time no regular or trustworthy means of communication between the forces descending the Mississippi and those that had just achieved the conquest of New Orleans and were now ascending the river to co-operate with the northern column. Thus it was that a single word, daubed in a rude scrawl upon the walls of the custom-house, meeting the eyes of Paine's men after they had made a way into the building with their axes, gave to Butler the first intelligence of the desperate battle of the 6th and 7th of April, on which the fate of the whole Union campaign in the West had been staked, if not imperilled, and which in its result was destined to change materially the whole course of operations in the Gulf Department. That word was Shiloh.
By the 26th of May the Oneida had been joined by the rest of the fleet, under the personal command of the restless and energetic flag-officer. On the afternoon of this day the fleet opened fire. The Confederates replied sparingly, as much to economize their ammunition and to keep the men fresh, as to avoid giving the Union commanders information regarding the range and effect of their fire.
The river was now falling. The Hartford in coming up had already grounded hard, and so remained helpless for fifty hours, and had only been got off by incredible exertions. Provisions of all kinds were running very low. On the 25th of May, after a thorough reconnoissance, Farragut and Williams decided to give up the attempt on Vicksburg as evidently impracticable. Farragut left Palmer with the Iroquois and six gunboats to blockade the river and to amuse the garrison at Vicksburg by an occasional bombardment in order to prevent Smith from sending reinforcements to Corinth.
While Williams was descending the river on the 26th, the transports were fired into by the Confederate battery on the bluff at Grand Gulf, sixty miles below Vicksburg. About sixty rounds were fired in all, many of which passed completely through the transport Laurel Hill, bearing the 4th Wisconsin, part of the 6th Michigan, and the 6th Massachusetts battery. One private of the 6th Michigan was killed and Captain Chauncey J. Bassett, of the same regiment, wounded. The Ceres, bearing the remainder of the 6th Michigan and the 6th Massachusetts battery, was following the Laurel Hill and was similarly treated. After a stern chase of about twenty miles, the convoy was overhauled, and the gunboat Kineo, returning, shelled the town and caused the withdrawal of the battery. During the evening Williams sent four companies of the 4th Wisconsin, under Major Boardman, to overtake the enemy's battery and break up the camp, about one mile and a half in the rear of the town. Boardman came upon the Confederates as they were retiring, and shots were exchanged. The casualties were few, but Lieutenant George DeKay, a gallant and attractive young officer, serving as aide-de-camp to General Williams, received a mortal wound.
On the 29th the troops under Williams once more landed and took post at Baton Rouge. During their absence of seventeen days, the Confederates had improved the opportunity to remove much valuable property that had been found stored in the arsenal on the occasion of the first landing of the Union forces.
On his return to New Orleans Farragut received pressing orders from the Navy Department to take Vicksburg. He therefore returned with his fleet, reinforced by a detachment of the mortar flotilla, and Butler once more despatched Williams, this time with an increased force, to co-operate. Williams left Baton Rouge on the morning of the 20th of June with a force composed of the 30th Massachusetts, 9th Connecticut, 7th Vermont, and 4th Wisconsin regiments, Nims's 2d Massachusetts battery and two sections of Everett's 6th Massachusetts battery. This time a garrison was left to hold Baton Rouge, consisting of the 21st Indiana and 6th Michigan regiments, the remaining section of Everett's battery and Magee's Troop C of the Massachusetts cavalry battalion. On the 22d of June the transports arrived off Ellis's Cliffs, twelve miles below Natchez, where Williams found three gunboats waiting to convoy him past the high ground. Here he landed a detachment consisting of the 30th Massachusetts regiment and two guns of Nims's battery to turn the supposed position of two field-pieces said to have been planted by the Confederates on the bluffs, while a second force, composed of the 4th Wisconsin, 9th Connecticut, the other two sections of Nims's battery, and the four guns of Everett's, marched directly forward up the cliff road. An abandoned caisson or limber was all that the troops found.
On the 24th, anticipating more serious resistance from the guns said to be in position on the bluffs at Grand Gulf, Williams entered Bayou Pierre with his whole force in the early morning, intending to strike the crossing, about seventeen miles up the stream, of the railway from Port Gibson to Grand Gulf, and thence to move directly on the rear of the town. Half-way up the bayou the boats were stopped by obstructions and had to back down again. Toward noon the troops landed and marched on Grand Gulf in two detachments, one under Paine, consisting of the 4th Wisconsin and 9th Connecticut regiments and a section of Nims's battery; the other, under Dudley, embracing the remainder of the force. Paine had a short skirmish with the enemy near Grand Gulf, and captured eight prisoners, but their camp, a small one, was found abandoned. The same evening the troops re-embarked, and on the 25th arrived before Vicksburg.
The orders from Butler, under which Williams was now acting, required him to take or burn Vicksburg at all hazards. Here, too, we catch the first glimpse of the famous canal upon which so much labor was to be expended during the next year with so little result. "You will send up a regiment or two at once," Butler said, "and cut off the neck of land beyond Vicksburg by means of a trench, making a gap about four feet deep and five feet wide."
To accomplish this purpose Williams had with him four regiments and ten guns, making an effective force in all less than three thousand, rapidly diminished by hard work, close quarters, meagre rations, and a bad climate nearly at its worst.
On the 24th of June the Monarch, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred W. Ellet, arrived in the reach above Vicksburg. This was one of the nondescript fleet of rams, planned, built, equipped, and manned, under the orders of the War Department, by Ellet's elder brother, Colonel Charles Ellet, Jr., but now acting under the orders of the Commander of the Mississippi fleet. Ellet promptly sent a party of four volunteers, led by his young nephew, Medical Cadet Charles R. Ellet, to communicate with Farragut across the narrow neck of land opposite Vicksburg. This was the first direct communication between the northern and southern columns. By it Farragut learned of the abandonment of Fort Pillow by the Confederates on the 4th of June, and the capture of Memphis on the 6th, after a hard naval fight, in which nearly the whole Confederate fleet was taken or destroyed. There Charles Ellet was mortally wounded. When the Monarch party went back to their vessel, they bore with them a letter from Farragut, the contents of which being promptly made known by Ellet to Davis, brought that officer, with his fleet, at once to Vicksburg. On the following day, June 25th, a detachment of the 4th Wisconsin, sent up the river overland by Colonel Paine, succeeded in establishing a second communication with the Monarch, believing it to be the first.
Farragut's fleet, now anchored below Vicksburg, comprised the flagship Hartford, the sloops-of-war Brooklyn and Richmond, the corvettes Iroquois and Oneida, and six gunboats. Porter had joined with the Octorara, Miami, six other steamers, and seventeen of the mortar schooners. The orders of the government were peremptory that the Mississippi should be cleared. The Confederates held the river by a single thread. The fall of Memphis and the ruin of the famous river-defence fleet left between St. Louis and the Gulf but a solitary obstruction. This was Vicksburg.
Vicksburg stand at an abrupt turn, where within ten miles the winding river doubles upon itself, forming on the low ground opposite a long finger of land, barely three quarters of a mile wide. Opposite the extreme end of this peninsula, known as De Soto, the bluff reaches the highest point attained along the whole course of the river, the crest standing about 250 feet above the mean stage of water. Sloping slowly toward the river, the bluff follows it with a diminished altitude for two miles. Here stands the town of Vicksburg, then a place of about ten thousand inhabitants. Below the town the bluffs draw away from the river until, about four miles beyond the bend, their height diminishes to about 150 feet. For the defence of this line, as has been already seen, a formidable series of batteries had been constructed, extending from the bluff at the mouth of Chickasaw Bayou on the north to Warrenton on the south. These batteries now mounted twenty-six heavy guns, served by gunners comparatively well trained and instructed, and supported against an attack by land by about 6,000 infantry under Lovell. Almost simultaneously with the arrival of Farragut and Williams, came Breckinridge with his division, augmenting the effective force of the defenders to not less than 10,000. On the 30th of May Beauregard evacuated Corinth and drew back to Tupelo; Halleck did not follow; and so 35,000 Confederates were now set free to strengthen Vicksburg. Thus defended and supported Vicksburg was obviously impregnable to any attack by the combined forces of Farragut and Williams. On the 28th of June, Van Dorn arrived and took command of the Confederate forces.
After some preliminary bombarding and reconnoitring Farragut, who was well informed as to the condition of the defences, determined upon repeating before Vicksburg his exploit below New Orleans. Accordingly, on the 28th of July, in the darkness of the early morning, under cover of the fire of Porter's mortar flotilla, Farragut got under way with his fleet to pass the batteries of Vicksburg. The fleet was formed in two columns, with wide intervals, the starboard column led by the Hartford, the port column by the Iroquois. The battle was opened by the mortars at four o'clock, the enemy replying instantly. By six o'clock the Hartford and six of her consorts had successfully run the gauntlet, and lay safely anchored above the bend, while the rest of the fleet, through some confusion of events or misapprehension of orders, had resumed its former position below the bend. The losses of the navy in this engagement were fifteen killed and thirty wounded, including many scalded by the effect of a single shot that pierced the boiler of the Clifton. The eight rifled guns of Nims's and Everett's batteries having been landed, were placed in position behind the levee at Barney's Point, and replied effectively to the fire of the heavy guns on the high bluff, at a range of about fourteen hundred yards. This slight service was the only form of active co-operation by the army that the circumstances admitted; yet all the troops stood to arms, ready to do any thing that might be required.
On the 1st of July Davis joined Farragut with four gunboats and six mortar-boats of the Mississippi fleet. On the 9th Farragut received orders from the Navy Department, dated on the 5th, and forwarded by way of Cairo, to send Porter with the Octorara and twelve mortar-boats at once to Hampton Roads. Porter steamed down the river on the 10th. This was obviously one of the first-fruits of the campaign of the Peninsula just ended by the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac to the James. Indeed, at this crisis, all occasions seemed to be informing against the Union plan of campaign, and the same events that drew the Confederate armies together served to draw the Union armies apart. Just as we have seen Pope called away from Fort Pillow on the eve of an attack that must have resulted in its capture, and taken in haste to swell the slow march of Halleck's army before Corinth, so now, when for a full month Corinth had been abandoned by the Confederates, Halleck's forces were being broken up and dispersed to all four of the winds, save that which might have blown them to the south. Halleck declared himself unable to respond to Farragut's urgent appeal for help. "I cannot," he said, when urged by Stanton; "I am sending reinforcements to General Curtis, in Arkansas, and to General Buell, in Tennessee and Kentucky." Not only this, but he was being called upon by Lincoln himself for 25,000 troops to reinforce the Army of the Potomac before Richmond. "Probably I shall be able to do so," Halleck told Farragut, "as soon as I can get my troops more concentrated. This may delay the clearing of the river, but its accomplishment will be certain in a few weeks."
Meanwhile Williams was hard at work on the canal. In addition to such details as could be furnished by the troops without wholly neglecting the absolutely necessary portions of their military duties, Williams had employed a force of about 1,200 negroes, rather poorly provided with tools. The work was not confined to excavation, but involved the cutting down of the large cottonwoods and the clearing away of the dense masses of willows that covered the low ground and matted the heavy soil with their tangled roots. By the 4th of July the excavation had reached a depth in the hard clay of nearly seven feet. The length of the canal was about one and a half miles. By the 11th of July the cut, originally intended to be four feet deep and five feet wide, with a profile of twenty square feet, had been excavated through this stiff clay to a depth of thirteen feet and a width of eighteen feet, presenting a profile of 234 feet. The river, which, up to this time, had been falling more rapidly than the utmost exertions had been able to sink the bottom of the canal, had now begun to fall more slowly, so that at last the grade was about eighteen inches below the river level. In a few hours the water was to have been let in. Suddenly the banks began to cave, and before any thing could be done to remedy this, the river, still falling, was once more below the bottom of the cut. Although with this scanty and overworked force he had already performed nearly twelve times the amount of labor originally contemplated, Williams does not seem to have been discouraged at this; his orders were to make the cut, and his purpose clearly was to make it, even if it should take, as he thought it would, the whole of the next three months. He set to work with vigor to collect laborers, wheelbarrows, shovels, axes, carts, and scrapers, and "to make a real canal," to use his own words, "to the depth of the greatest fall of the river at this point, say some thirty-five to forty feet." But this was not to be.
Until toward the end of June, the Polk and Livingston, the last vestiges of the Confederate navy on the Mississippi spared from the general wreck at Memphis, lay far up the Yazoo River, with a barrier above them, designed to cover the building of the ram Arkansas. This formidable craft was approaching completion at Yazoo City. The Ellets, uncle and nephew, with the Monarch and Lancaster, steamed up the Yazoo River to reconnoitre. The rams carried no armament whatever, but this the Confederate naval commander in the Yazoo did not know; so, unable to pass the barrier, he set fire to his three gunboats immediately on perceiving Ellet's approach. On the 14th of July, Flag-Officers Farragut and Davis sent the gunboats Carondelet and Tyler, and the ram Queen of the West, on a second expedition up the Yazoo to gain information of the Arkansas. This object was greatly facilitated by the fact that the Arkansas had at this very moment just got under way for the first time, and was coming down the Yazoo to gather information of the Federal fleet. The Arkansas, which had been constructed and was now commanded by Captain Isaac N. Brown, formerly of the United States Navy, was, for defensive purposes, probably the most effective of all the gunboats ever set afloat by the Confederacy upon the western waters. Her deck was covered by a single casemate protected by three inches of railroad iron, set aslant like a gable roof, and heavily backed up with timber and cotton bales. Her whole bow formed a powerful ram; the shield, flat on the top, was pierced for ten guns of heavy calibre, three in each broadside, two forward, and two aft. Had her means of propulsion proved equal to her power of attack and defence, it is doubtful if the whole Union navy on the Mississippi could have stood against her single-handed. The situation thus strangely recalls that presented by the Merrimac, or Virginia, in Hampton Roads before the opportune arrival of the Monitor. On board the Tyler was a detachment of twenty sharpshooters of the 4th Wisconsin regiment, under Captain J. W. Lynn, and on the Carondelet were twenty men of the 30th Massachusetts regiment, under Lieutenant E. A. Fiske. About six miles above the Yazoo the Union gunboats encountered the Arkansas. The unarmed ram Queen of the West promptly fled. After a hard fight the Carondelet was disabled and run ashore, and the Tyler was forced to retire, with the Arkansas in pursuit. The sharpshooters of the 4th Wisconsin suffered more severely than if they had been engaged in an ordinary pitched battle, Captain Lynn and six of his men being killed and six others wounded.
The Queen of the West, flying out of the mouth of the Yazoo under a full head of steam, gave to the fleet at anchor the first intimation, though perhaps a feeble one, of what was to follow. Not one vessel of either squadron had steam. The ram Bragg, which might have been expected to do something, did nothing. The Arkansas, so seriously injured by the guns of the Carondelet and Tyler that the steam pressure had gone from 120 pounds to the square inch down to 20 pounds, kept on her course, and proceeded to run the gauntlet of the Union fleet, giving and taking blows as she went. Battered, but safe, she soon lay under the guns of Vicksburg.
This decided the fate of the campaign, and extinguished in the breast of Farragut the last vestige of the ardent hope he had expressed to the government a few days earlier that he might soon have the pleasure of recording the combined attack of the army and navy, for which all so ardently longed. The river was falling; the canal was a failure. Of the officers and men of the army, two fifths, and of the effective force of the army nearly three fourths, were on the sick-list. There was no longer any thing to hope for or to wait on. The night that followed the exploit of the Arkansas saw Farragut's fleet descending the river and once more running the gauntlet of the batteries of Vicksburg. A flying attempt was made by each vessel in succession, but by all unsuccessfully, to destroy the offending Arkansas.
On the 24th of July, Williams, with his small force, under convoy of Farragut's fleet, sailed down the river. So ended the second attempt on Vicksburg, usually called the first, when remembered. Its sudden collapse gave the Confederates the river for another year.
CHAPTER III. BATON ROUGE.
On the 26th of July, the troops landed at Baton Rouge. In the five weeks that had elapsed since their departure their effective strength had been diminished, by privations, by severe labor, and by the effects of a deadly climate, from 3,200 to about 800. For more than three months, ever since their re-embarkation at Ship Island on the 10th of April, they had undergone hardships such as have seldom fallen to the lot of soldiers, in a campaign whose existence is scarcely known and whose name has been wellnigh forgotten; but their time for rest and recreation had not yet come.
No sooner did Van Dorn see the allied fleets of Davis and Farragut turning their backs on one another and steaming one to the north and the other to the south, than he determined to take the initiative. His preparations had been already made in anticipation of this event. He now ordered Breckinridge to hasten with his division to the attack of Baton Rouge, and even as the fleet got under way, the train bearing Breckinridge's troops was also in motion.
Breckinridge received his orders on the 26th, and arrived at Camp Moore by the railway on the 28th. At Jackson he had been told that he would receive rations sufficient for ten days, but he could get no more than half the quantity. Van Dorn had estimated the Union force to be met at Baton Rouge as about 5,000, and had calculated that Breckinridge would find himself strong enough to dislodge the Union army and drive it away. In fact, Van Dorn estimated Breckinridge's division, including 1,000 men under Brigadier-General Ruggles that were to meet him at Camp Moore, at 6,000 men. The Arkansas was to join in the attack, and she was justly considered a full offset to any naval force the Union commander would be likely to have stationed at Baton Rouge. Breckinridge left Vicksburg with less than 4,000. On the 30th of July he reports his total effective force, including Ruggles, at 3,600. The same day he marched on Baton Rouge, and on the 4th of August encamped at the crossing of the Comite, distant about ten miles from his objective. His morning report of that day shows but 3,000 effectives, according to the methods by which effective strength was commonly counted by the Confederates.
The distance from Camp Moore to Baton Rouge is about sixty miles, and the march had been thus retarded to await the co-operation of the Arkansas. This Breckinridge was finally assured he might expect at daylight on the morning of the 5th of August. The Arkansas had in fact left Vicksburg on the 3d.
Van Dorn's object obviously was by crushing Williams to regain control of the Mississippi from Vicksburg to Baton Rouge, to break the blockade of Red River and to open the way for the recapture of New Orleans. Williams was expecting the attack and awaited the result with calmness.
At Baton Rouge the Mississippi washes for the last time the base of the high and steep bluffs that for so many hundreds of miles have followed the coasts of the great river and formed the contour of its left bank, overlooking its swift yellow waters and the vast lowlands of the western shore. The bluff is lower at Baton Rouge than it is above and slopes more gently to the water's edge; and here the highland draws back from the river and gradually fades away in a southeasterly direction toward the Gulf, while the surface of the country becomes more open and less broken. The stiff post-tertiary clays that compose the soil of these bluffs were in many places covered with a rich growth of timber, great magnolias and beautiful live oaks replacing the rank cottonwood and tangled willows of the lowlands, as well as the giant cypresses of the impenetrable swamps, with their mournful hangings of Spanish moss, and the wild grape binding them fast in a deadly embrace.
Six roads led out of the town in various directions. Of these the most northerly was the road from Bayou Sara. Passing behind the town its course continued toward the south along the river. Between these outstretched arms ran the road to Clinton, the Greenwell Springs road, by which the Confederates had come, the Perkins road, and the Clay Cut road.
In numbers the opposing forces were nearly equal. The Confederates went into action with about 2,600, without counting the partisan rangers and militia, numbering 400 or 500 more. Williams had about 2,500 fighting men. He had eighteen guns, the Confederates eleven. On both sides the men were enfeebled by malaria and exposure; yet the Confederates had left their sick behind, while the Union force included convalescents that came out of the hospital to take part in the battle. "There were not 1,200," said Weitzel after the battle, "who could have marched five miles. None of our men had been in battle; very few had been under fire." Among the Confederates were many of the veterans of Shiloh and more of the triumphant defenders of Vicksburg. The advantages of position was slight on either side. On the one hand Williams was forced to post his left with regard to the expected attack of the Arkansas, so that in the centre his line fell behind the camps. To offset this his right rested securely on the gunboats. As it turned out the Arkansas was not encountered, and the gunboats told off to meet her were therefore able to render material assistance on the left by their oblique fire across Williams' front.
Breckinridge commanded four picked brigades, three selected from his own division and one of Martin L. Smith's Vicksburg brigades, the whole organized in two divisions, under Brigadier-Generals Charles Clark and Daniel Ruggles. Clark had the brigades of Brigadier-General Bernard H. Helm and Colonel Thomas B. Smith, of the 20th Tennessee, with the Hudson battery and Cobb's battery. Ruggles had the brigades of Colonel A. P. Thompson, of the 3d Kentucky, and Colonel Henry W. Allen, of the 4th Louisiana, with Semmes's battery. From right to left the order of attack ran, Helm, Smith, Thompson, Allen. Clark moved on the right of the Greenwell Springs road, and Ruggles on the left. Scott's cavalry was posted on the extreme left, four guns of Semmes's battery occupied the centre of Ruggles's division, while in Clark's centre were the four guns of the Hudson battery and one of Cobb's; the other two having been disabled in a panic during the night march before the battle. On the extreme right the Clinton road was picketed and held by a detachment of infantry and rangers and the remaining section of Semmes's battery.
To meet the expected attack, Williams had posted his troops in rear of the arsenal and of the town, occupying an irregular line, generally parallel to the Bayou Sara road, and extending from the Bayou Grosse, on the left, to and beyond the intersection of the Perkins and Clay Cut roads, on the right. On the extreme left, behind the Bayou Grosse, was the 4th Wisconsin, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Bean. Next, but on the left bank of the bayou, stood the 9th Connecticut. Next, and on the left of the Greenwell Springs road, the 14th Maine. On the right of that road was posted the 21st Indiana, under Lieutenant-Colonel Keith, with three guns attached to the regiment, under Lieutenant J. H. Brown. Across the Perkins and Clay Cut roads the 6th Michigan was formed, under command of Captain Charles E. Clarke, while in the rear of the interval between the 6th Michigan and the 21st Indiana stood the 7th Vermont. The extreme right and rear were covered by the 30th Massachusetts in column, supporting Nims's battery, under Lieutenant Trull. On the centre and left were planted the guns of Everett's battery, under Carruth, and of Manning's 4th Massachusetts battery.
The left flank was supported by the Essex, Commander William D. Porter; the Cayuga, Lieutenant Harrison; and the Sumter, Lieutenant Erben; the right flank by the Kineo, Lieutenant-Commander Ransom, and Katahdin, Lieutenant Roe.
These dispositions were planned expressly to meet the expected attack by the ram Arkansas, and in that view the arrangement was probably the best that the formation of the ground permitted. But the fighting line was very far advanced; the camps still farther; the reserve on the right was posted quite a mile and a half behind the capitol, and, as at Shiloh, no portion of the line was fortified or protected in any way, though the field was an open plain and the converging roads gave to the attacking party a wide choice of position.
About daylight Breckinridge moved to the attack in a summer fog so dense that those engaged could at first distinguish neither friend nor enemy. The blow fell first, and heavily, upon the centre and right, held by the 14th Maine, 21st Indiana, and 6th Michigan. As our troops were pressed back by the vigor of the first onset, the exposed camps of the 14th Maine, 7th Vermont, and 21st Indiana fell into the hands of the Confederates. The 9th Connecticut, with Manning's battery, moved to the support of the 14th Maine and 21st Indiana, on the right of the former, and the 4th Wisconsin formed on the left of the 14th. Further to the right, the 30th Massachusetts advanced to the support of the 21st Indiana and 6th Michigan, covering the interval between the two battalions to replace the 7th Vermont. In the first fighting in the darkness and the fog this regiment had been roughly handled; its colonel fell, a momentary confusion followed, and the regiment drifted back into a convenient position, where it was soon reformed, under Captain Porter. Nims brought his guns into battery on the right of the 6th Michigan.
The battle was short, but the fighting was severe; both sides suffered heavily, and each fell into some disorder. At different moments both wings of the Confederate force were broken, and fell back in something not very unlike panic. The colors of the 4th Louisiana were captured by the 6th Michigan. As the fog lifted, under the influence of the increasing heat, it became clear to both sides that the attack had failed. The force of the fierce Confederate outset was quite spent. The Union lines, however thinned and shattered, remained in possession of the prize. "It was now ten o'clock," says Breckinridge. "We had listened in vain for the guns of the Arkansas: I saw around me not more than 1,000 exhausted men." The battle was over. Indeed it had been over for some hours; these words probably indicate the period when the Confederate commander gave up his last hope.
The Arkansas, disabled within sight of the goal by an accident to her machinery, was run ashore and destroyed by her commander to save her from capture. The Confederate losses were about 84 killed, 313 wounded, and 56 missing; total, 453. Clark was severely wounded and made prisoner. Allen was killed, and two other brigade commanders wounded. Helm, Hunt, and Thompson had been previously disabled by an accident during the night panic.
The Union losses were 84 killed, 266 wounded, and 33 missing; total, 383. The heaviest loss fell upon the 21st Indiana, which suffered 126 casualties, and upon the 14th Maine, which reported 118. Of the killed, 36, or nearly one half, belonged to the 14th Maine, while more than two thirds of the killed and nearly two thirds of the total belonged to that regiment and the 21st Indiana. The 4th Wisconsin, being posted quite to the left of the point of attack, was not engaged.
Colonel G. T. Roberts, of the 7th Vermont, fell early in the action, and near its close Williams was instantly killed while urging his men to the attack. In him his little brigade lost the only commander present of experience in war; the country, a brave and accomplished soldier. If he was, as must be confessed, arbitrary, at times unreasonable, and often harsh, in his treatment of his untrained volunteers, yet many who then thought his discipline too severe to be endured, lived to know, and by their conduct vindicate, the value of his training.
The Confederates appear to have suffered to some extent during the last attack, until the lines drew too near together, from the fire of the Essex and her consorts. Ransom also speaks of having shelled the enemy with great effect during the afternoon from the Kineo and Katahdin, accurately directed by signals from the capitol; but no other account even mentions any firing at that period of the day; the effect cannot, therefore, have been severe, and it seems probable that the troops against whom it was directed may have been some outlying party.
Cahill's seniority entitled him to the command after Williams fell, yet during the remainder of the battle Dudley seems to have commanded the troops actually engaged. Shortly after the close of the action Cahill assumed the command and sent word to Butler of the state of affairs.
The Confederates were still to be seen upon the field of battle. Their force was naturally enough over-estimated. Another attack was expected during the afternoon, and reinforcements were urgently called for. Butler had none to give without putting New Orleans itself in peril. However, during the evening he determined to release from arrest a number of officers who had been deprived of their swords by Williams at various times, and for various causes, mainly growing out of the confused and as yet rather unsettled policy of the government in reference to the treatment of the negroes, and to send all these officers to Baton Rouge. Among them were Colonel Paine of the 4th Wisconsin and Colonel Clark of the 6th Michigan. Since the 11th of June Paine had been in arrest; an arrest of a character peculiar and perhaps unprecedented in the history of armies. Whenever danger was to be faced, or unusual duty to be performed, he might wear his sword and command his men, but the moment the duty or the danger was at an end he must go back into arrest. Paine, who was an extremely conscientious officer, as well as a man of high character and firmness of purpose, had from the first taken strong ground against the use of any portion of his force in aid of the claims of the master to the service of the slave. Williams, strict in his idea of obedience due his superiors, not less than in his notions of obedience due to him by his own inferiors in rank, stood upon his construction of the law and the orders of the War Department, as they then existed; hence in the natural course of events inevitably arose more than one irreconcilable difference of opinion. Paine was now ordered to go at once to Baton Rouge and take command. He was told by Butler to burn the town and the capitol. The library, the paintings, the statuary, and the relics were to be spared, as well as the charitable institutions of the town. The books, the paintings, and the statue of Washington, he was to send to New Orleans; he was then to evacuate Baton Rouge and retire with his whole force to New Orleans.
At midnight on the 6th of August Paine arrived at Baton Rouge. There he found every thing quiet, with the troops in camp on an interior and shorter line, but expecting another attack. There was in fact an alarm before morning came, but nothing happened. On the 7th Paine took command and set about putting the town in complete condition for an effective defence. With his accustomed care and energy he soon rectified the lines and entrenched them with twenty-four guns in position, and, in co-operation with the navy, concerted every measure for an effective defence, even against large numbers.
Breckinridge, however, after continuing to menace Baton Rouge for some days, had, by Van Dorn's orders, retired to Port Hudson, and was now engaged in fortifying that position. Ruggles was sent there on the 12th of August. The next day Breckinridge received orders from Van Dorn, then at Jackson, to follow with his whole force. "Port Hudson," Van Dorn said, "must be held if possible." "Port Hudson," remarks Breckinridge, in his report of the battle of Baton Rouge, "is one of the strongest points on the Mississippi, which Baton Rouge is not, and batteries there will command the river more completely than at Vicksburg."
Meanwhile Butler had changed his mind with regard to the evacuation of Baton Rouge, and had directed Paine to hold the place for the present. With an accuracy unusual at this period, Butler estimated Breckinridge's entire force at 5,000 men and fourteen guns. On the 13th the defences were complete, the entrenchments forming two sides of a triangle of which the river was the base and the cemetery mound the apex. The troops stood to arms at three o'clock every morning; one fourth of the force was constantly under arms, day and night, at its station. At two points on each face of the entrenchment flags were planted by day and lights by night, to indicate to the gunboats their line of fire.
On the 16th of August Butler renewed his orders to burn and evacuate Baton Rouge. Its retention up to this time he had avowedly regarded as having political rather than military importance. Now he wrote to Paine: "I am constrained to come to the conclusion that it is necessary to evacuate Baton Rouge. . . . Begin the movement quietly and rapidly; get every thing off except your men, and then see to it that the town is destroyed. After mature deliberation I deem this a military necessity of the highest order."
Against these orders Paine made an earnest appeal, based upon considerations partly humane, partly military. He was so far successful that Butler was induced to countermand the order to burn. The movement was not to be delayed on account of the statue of Washington. However, the statue had been already packed. It is now in the Patent Office at the national capital. All the books and paintings were brought off, "except," to quote from Paine's diary, "the portrait of James Buchanan, which we left hanging in the State House for his friends." Finally, on the 20th, Paine evacuated Baton Rouge, and on the following day reached the lines of Carrollton, known as Camp Parapet, and turned over his command to Phelps.
CHAPTER IV. LA FOURCHE.
On the 22d of August Paine was assigned to the command of what was called the "reserve brigade" of a division under Phelps. The brigade was composed of the 4th Wisconsin, 21st Indiana, and 14th Maine, with Brown's battery attached to the Indiana regiment. But this was not to last, for the tension that had long existed between Phelps and the department commander, on the subject of the treatment of the negroes, as well as on the question of arming and employing them, finally resulted in Phelps's resignation on the 21st of August. On the 13th of September he was succeeded by Brigadier-General Thomas W. Sherman, himself recently relieved from command of the Department of the South, partly, perhaps, in consequence of differences of opinion of a like character.
On the 29th of September the division, then known as Sherman's, was reorganized, and Paine took command of the 1st brigade, composed of the 4th Wisconsin, 21st Indiana, and 8th New Hampshire regiments with the 1st and 2d Vermont batteries and Brown's guns of the 21st Indiana. Paine's command also included Camp Parapet. These lines had been originally laid out by the Confederates for the defence of New Orleans against an attack by land from the north; as, for example, by a force approaching through Lake Pontchartrain and Pass Manchac. They were now put in thorough order, and the Indianians, who had received some artillery instruction during their term of service at Fort McHenry, completed the foundation for the future service as heavy artillerists by going back to the big guns. In October and November the 8th New Hampshire and 21st Indiana were transferred to Weitzel's brigade and were replaced in Paine's by the 2d Louisiana and temporarily by the 12th Maine.
The official reports covering this period afford several strong hints of a Confederate plan for the recapture of New Orleans. With this object, apparently, Richard Taylor, a prominent and wealthy Louisianian, closely allied to Jefferson Davis by his first marriage with the daughter of Zachary Taylor, was made a major-general in the Confederate army, and on the 1st of August was assigned to command the Confederate forces in Western Louisiana. It seems likely that the troops of Van Dorn's department, as well as those at Mobile, were expected to take part.
On the 8th of August orders were issued by the War Department transferring the district of West Florida to the Department of the Gulf. West Florida meant Pensacola. Fort Pickens, on the sands of Santa Rosa, commanding the entrance to the splendid harbor, owed to the loyalty of a few staunch officers of the army and the navy the proud distinction of being the one spot between the Chesapeake and the Rio Grande over which, in spite of all hostile attempts, the ensign of the nation had never ceased to float; for the works at Key West and the Dry Tortugas, though likewise held, were never menaced. Though Bragg early gathered a large force for the capture of the fort, the only serious attempt, made in the dawn of the 9th of October, 1861, was repulsed with a loss to the Confederates of 87, to the Union troops of 61. Of these, the 6th New York had 9 killed, 7 wounded, 11 missing—in all, 27. In December the 75th New York came down from the North to reinforce the defenders. Finally, after learning the fate of New Orleans, Bragg evacuated Pensacola, and burned his surplus stores, and on the 10th of May, 1862, Porter, seeing from the passes the glare of the flames, ran over and anchored in the bay. The advantage thus gained was held to the end.
This transfer gave Butler two strong infantry regiments, as well as several fine batteries and companies of the regular artillery, but at the same time correspondingly increased the territory he had to guard, already far too extensive and too widely scattered for the small force at his disposal.
Toward the end of September Lieutenant Godfrey Weitzel, of the engineers, having been made a brigadier-general on Butler's recommendation, a promotion more than usually justified by service and talent, a brigade was formed for him called the Reserve Brigade, and consisting of the 12th and 13th Connecticut, 75th New York, and 8th New Hampshire, Carruth's 6th Massachusetts battery, Thompson's 1st Maine battery, Perkins's Troop C of the Massachusetts cavalry, and three troops of Louisiana cavalry under Williamson. From that time, through all the changes, which were many and frequent, Weitzel's brigade changed less than any thing else, and its history may almost be said to be the military history of the Department.
Taylor, with his accustomed energy and enthusiasm, had collected and organized a force, primarily for the defence of the La Fourche country and the Teche, ultimately for the offensive operations already planned. Butler at once committed to Weitzel the preparations for dislodging Taylor and occupying La Fourche. This object was important, not only to secure the defence of New Orleans, but because the territory to be occupied comprised or controlled the fertile region between the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya. The country lies low and flat, and is intersected by numerous navigable bayous, with but narrow roadways along their banks and elsewhere none. Without naval assistance, the operation would have been difficult, if not impossible; and the navy had in Louisiana no gunboats of a draught light enough for the service. With the funds of the army Butler caused four light gunboats, the Estrella, Calhoun, Kinsman, and Diana, to be quietly built and equipped, the navy furnishing the officers and the crews. Under Commander McKean Buchanan they were then sent by the gulf to Berwick Bay.
When he was ready, Weitzel took transports, under convoy of the Kineo, Sciota, Katahdin, and Itasca, landed below Donaldsonville, entered the town, and on the 27th of October moved on Thibodeaux, the heart of the district. At Georgia Landing, about two miles above Labadieville, he encountered the Confederates under Mouton, consisting of the 18th and 33d Louisiana, the Crescent and Terre Bonne regiments, with Ralston's and Semmes's batteries and the 2d Louisiana cavalry, in all reported by Mouton as 1,392 strong. They had taken up a defensive position on both sides of the bayou. Along these bayous the standing room is for the most part narrow; and as the land, although low, is in general heavily wooded and crossed by many ditches of considerable depth, the country affords defensive positions at once stronger and more numerous than are to be found in most flat regions. Small bodies of troops, familiar with the topography, have also this further advantage, that there are few points from which their position and numbers can be easily made out.
After a short but spirited engagement Mouton's force was compelled to retreat. Weitzel pursued for about four miles.
Mouton then called in his outlying detachments, including the La Fourche regiment, 500 strong, 300 men of the 33d Louisiana, and the regiments of Saint Charles and St. John Baptist, burned the railway station of Terre Bonne and the bridges at Thibodeaux, La Fourche Crossing, Terre Bonne, Des Allemands, and Bayou Boeuf, and evacuated the district. By the 30th, every thing was safely across Berwick Bay. For this escape, he was indebted to an opportune gale that compelled Buchanan's gunboats to lie to in Caillou Bay on their way to Berwick Bay, to cut off the retreat. Mouton's report accounts for 5 killed, 8 wounded, and 186 missing; in all 199. Among the killed was Colonel G. P. McPheeters of the Crescent regiment.
Weitzel followed to Thibodeaux, and went into camp beyond the town. He claims to have taken 208 prisoners and one gun, and states his own losses as 18 killed, and 74 wounded, agreeing with the nominal lists, which also contain the names of 5 missing, thus bringing the total casualties to 97.
Arriving off Brashear a day too late, Buchanan was partly consoled by capturing the Confederate gunboat Seger. On the 4th and 5th of November he made a reconnoissance fourteen miles up the Teche with his own boat, the Calhoun, and the Estrella, Kinsman, Saint Mary's, and Diana, and meeting a portion of Mouton's forces and the Confederate gunboat J. A. Cotton, received and inflicted some damage and slight losses, yet with no material result.
Simultaneously with Weitzel's movement on La Fourche, Butler pushed the 8th Vermont and the newly organized 1st Louisiana Native Guards forward from Algiers along the Opelousas Railway, to act in conjunction with Weitzel and to open the railway as they advanced. Weitzel had already turned the enemy out of his position, but the task committed to Thomas was slow and hard, for all the bridges and many culverts had to be rebuilt, and from long disuse of the line the rank grass, that in Louisiana springs up so freely in every untrodden spot above water, had grown so tall and thick and strongly matted that the troops had to pull it up by the roots before the locomotive could pass.
So ended operations in Louisiana for the year. Until the following spring, Taylor continued to occupy the Teche region, while Weitzel rested quietly in La Fourche, with his headquarters at Thibodeaux and his troops so disposed as to cover and hold the country without losing touch. On the 9th of November, the whole of Louisiana lying west of the Mississippi, except the delta parishes of Plaquemine and Terre Bonne, was constituted a military district to be known as the District of La Fourche, and Weitzel was assigned to the command.
Meanwhile General Butler, with the consent of the War Department, had raised, organized, and equipped, in the neighborhood of New Orleans, two good regiments of Louisianans, the 1st Louisiana, Colonel Richard E. Holcomb, and the 2d Louisiana, Colonel Charles J. Paine, both regiments admirably commanded and well officered; three excellent troops of Louisiana cavalry, under fine leaders, Captains Henry F. Williamson, Richard Barrett, and J. F. Godfrey; and beside these white troops, three regiments of negroes, designated as the 1st, 2d, and 3d Louisiana Native Guards. This was the name originally employed by Governor Moore early in 1861, to describe an organization of the free men of color of New Orleans enrolled for the defence of the city against the expected attack by the forces of the Union.
This action was taken by Butler of his own motion. It was never formally approved by the government, but it was not interfered with. These three regiments were the first negro troops mustered into the service of the United States. At least one of them, the 1st, was largely made up of men of that peculiar and exclusive caste known to the laws of slavery as the free men of color of Louisiana. All the field and staff officers were white men, mainly taken from the rolls of the troops already in service; but at first all the company officers were negroes. As this was the first experiment, it was perhaps, in the state of feeling then prevailing, inevitable, yet not the less to be regretted, that the white officers were, with some notable exceptions, inferior men. Fortunately, however, courts-martial and examining boards made their career for the most part a short one. As for the colored officers of the line, early in 1863 they were nearly all disqualified on the most rudimentary examination, and then the rest resigned. After that, the government having determined to raise a large force of negro troops, it became the settled policy to grant commissions as officers to none but white men.
The 1st and 2d regiments were sent into the district of La Fourche to guard the railway.
Then, between Butler and Weitzel, in spite of confidence on the one hand and respect and affection on the other, began the usual controversy about arming the negro. To one unacquainted with the history of this question and of those times it must seem strange indeed to read the emphatic words in which a soldier so loyal and, in the best sense, so subordinate as Weitzel, declared his unwillingness to command these troops, and to reflect that in a little more than two years he was destined to accept with alacrity the command of a whole army corps of black men, and at last to ride in triumph at their head into the very capital of the Confederacy.
With the exception of the levies raised by its commander, the Department of the Gulf had so far received no access of strength from any quarter. From the North had come hardly a recruit. In the intense heat and among the poisonous swamps the effective strength melted away day by day. Thus the numbers present fell 3,795 during the month of July; in October, when the sickly season had done its worst, the wastage reached a total of 5,390. At the time of the battle of Baton Rouge, Butler's effective force can hardly have exceeded 7,000. When his strength was the greatest it probably did not exceed, if indeed it reached, the number of 13,000 effective. The condition of affairs was therefore such that Butler found himself with an army barely sufficient for the secure defence of the vast territory committed to his care, and for any offensive operation absolutely powerless. To hold what had been gained it was practically necessary to sit still; and to sit still then, as always in all wars, was to invite attack.
These things Butler did not fail to represent to the government, and to repeat. At last, about the middle of November, he received a few encouraging words from Halleck, dated the 3d of that month, in which he was assured that the "delay in sending reinforcements has not been the fault of the War Department. It is hoped that some will be ready to start as soon as the November elections are over. Brigadier-generals will be sent with these reinforcements." With them was to be a major-general, the new commander of the department; but this Halleck did not say.
CHAPTER V. BANKS IN COMMAND.
When the campaigns of 1862 were drawing to an end, the government changed all the commanders and turned to the consideration of new plans. With President Lincoln, as we have seen, the opening of the Mississippi had long been a favored scheme. His early experience had rendered him familiar with the waters, the shores, and the vast traffic of the great river, and had brought home to him the common interests and the mutual dependence of the farmers, the traders, the miners, and the manufacturers of the States bordering upon the upper Mississippi and the Ohio on the one hand, and of the merchants and planters of the Gulf on the other. Thus he was fully prepared to enter warmly into the idea that had taken possession of the minds and hearts of the people of the Northwest. From a vague longing this idea had now grown into a deep and settled sentiment. Indeed in all the West the opening of the Mississippi played a part that can only be realized by comparing it with the prevailing sentiment of the East, so early, so long, so loudly expressed in the cry, "On to Richmond!"
That the President should have been in complete accord with the popular impulse is hardly to be wondered at by any one that has followed, with the least attention, the details of his remarkable career. Moreover, the popular impulse was right. Wars take their character from the causes that produce them and the people or the nations by whom they are waged. This was not a contest upon some petty question involving the fate of a ministry, a dynasty, or even a monarchy, to be fought out between regular armies upon well-known plans at the convergence of the roads between two opposing capitals. The struggle was virtually one between two peoples hitherto united as one,—between the people of the North, who had taken up arms for the maintenance and the restoration of the Union, and the people of the South, who had taken up arms to destroy the Union. Of such an issue there could be no compromise; to such a contest there could be no end short of exhaustion. For four long years it was destined to go on, and at times to rage with a fury almost unexampled along lines whose length was measured by the thousand miles and over a battle-ground nearly as large as the continent of Europe. Looked at merely from the standpoint of strategy, and discarding all considerations not directly concerning the movements of armies, true policy might, perhaps, have dictated the concentration of all available resources in men and material upon the great central lines of operations, roughly indicated by the mention of Chattanooga and Atlanta,—the road eventually followed by Sherman in his triumphant march to the sea. Apart, however, from considerations strictly tactical, the importance of cutting off the trans-Mississippi region as a source of supply for the main Confederate armies was obvious; while from the governments of Europe, of England and France above all, the pressure was great for cotton, partly, indeed, as a pretext for interfering in our domestic struggle to their own advantage, but largely, also, to enable those governments to quiet the cry of the starving millions of their people.