Pictures and Illustrations.
Military Adventures Beyond the Mississippi.
General Banks Supercedes General Butler — Farewell — Effects of Conciliation — The Opelousas Expedition — Marchings and Battles — Corps d'Afrique — The Texas Expedition — Brief History of the Lone Star — Sam Houston's Career — Texan Secession — Treason of David E. Twigga — War Incidents — Heroic Death — Sabine Pass Expedition — The Red River Expedition — Triumphs and Disasters — War's Romance and Ravage.
IN the fall of 1862 General Banks was ordered to New York City to take charge of an expedition being fitted out at that port. This consisted of, a fleet of nearly fifty vessels, one half of them steamers, and a force of about ten thousand men. The destination of this fleet was kept a profound secret from the country. Even the officers who accompanied it were ignorant of its purpose.
"General," said one of them to the commander, "we want to know what kind of climate we are going to, in order to know whether to provide ourselves with thick or thin clothing,"
"Provide yourselves with both," was the reply, "and then you will be sure."
On the 15th of December this fleet arrived at New Orleans. Its object was to strengthen the
576military power in Louisiana, redeem the entire State from rebel control, co-operate with General Grant above, in re-opening the Mississippi River, and operate in various expeditions in the trans-Mississippi district. General Banks superseded General Butler. The latter was ordered to report at Washington. He issued on the same day a farewell address to his soldiers. His language resembled, in its terse, laconic character, the eloquence of Napoleon, whom he may almost be said to have rivaled in the vigor of his administration:
"I greet you, my brave comrades, and say farewell!" This word — endeared as you are by a community of privations, hardships, dangers, victories, successes military and civil — is the only sorrowful thought I have.
"You have deserved well of your country. Without a murmur you sustained an encampment on a sand-bar so desolate that banishment to it, with every care and comfort possible, has been the most dreaded punishment inflicted upon your bitterest and most insulting enemies.
"You had so little transportation that but a handful could advance to compel submission by the Queen City of the rebellion.
"Landing with a military chest containing but seventy-five dollars, from the hoards of a rebel government you have given to your country's treasury nearly half a million of dollars, and so supplied yourselves with the needs of your service that your expedition has cost your Government less by four-fifths than any other.
"By your practical philanthropy you have won the confidence of the oppressed race, and the slave. Hailing you as deliverers they are ready to aid you as willing servants, faithful laborers, or, using the tactics taught them by your enemies, to fight with you in the field.
"You have met double numbers of the enemy and defeated them in the open field. But I need not farther enlarge upon the topic. You were sent here to do that.
"I commend you to your commander. You are worthy of his love.
"Farewell, my comrades! Again farewell!
He addressed himself also to the citizens of New Orleans; defended himself, for the first and last time, in a few brief words, from the calumnies that had been heaped upon him; and appealed to their own consciousness to testify that no one had suffered under his command who had conducted himself with propriety. In a few scorching words he unveiled the hypocrisy of England's assumed horror at his supposed severities:
"I do not feel that I have erred in too much harshness; for that harshness has ever been exhibited to disloyal enemies of my country, and not to loyal friends. To be sure I might have regaled you with the amenities of British civilization, and yet been within the supposed rules of civilized warfare. You might have been smoked to death in caverns, as were the Covenanters of Scotland by the command of a general of the royal household of England; or roasted, like the inhabitants of Algiers during the French campaign; your wives and daughters might have been given over to the ravisher, as were the unfortunate dames in the Peninsular war; or you might have been scalped and tomahawked, as our mothers were at Wyoming by the savage allies of Great Britain in our own Revolution; your property could have been turned over to indiscriminate loot, like the palace of the Emperor of China; works of art, which adorned your buildings, might have been sent away, like the paintings of the Vatican; your sons might have been blown from the mouth of cannon, like the sepoys of Delhi; and yet all this would have been within the rules of civilized warfare, as practiced by the most polished and the most hypocritical nations of Europe. For such acts the records of the doings of some of the inhabitants of your city toward the friends of the Union, before my coming, were a sufficient provocation and justification.
"But I have not so conducted. On the contrary, the worst punishment inflicted, except for criminal acts punishable by every law, has been banishment, with labor, to a barren island, where I encamped my own soldiers before marching here."
He recounted in the same terse and powerful language the principal acts of his administration, and conjured them to return to their allegiance; then declared plainly the only obstacle which prevented such return, and the way to deal with it:
"There is but one thing that at this hour stands between you and the Government, and that is slavery.
"This institution, cursed of God, which has taken its last refuge here, will be rooted out, as the tares from wheat, although the wheat be torn up with it.
"I have given much thought to this subject.
"I came among you by teachings, by habit of mind, by political position, by social affinity, inclined to sustain your domestic laws, if by possibility they might be with safety to the Union.
"Months of experience and of observation have forced the conviction that the existence of slavery is incompatible with the safety either of yourselves or of the Union. As the system has gradually grown to its present huge dimensions, it were best if it could be gradually removed; but it is better, far better, that it should be taken out at once than that it should longer vitiate the social, political, and family relations of your country.
"I am speaking with no philanthropic views as regards the slave, but simply of the effect of slavery on the master. See for yourselves. Look around you and say whether this saddening, deadening influence has not all but destroyed the very frame-work of your society."
On the following day General Banks by public proclamation assumed command of the Department of the Gulf, to which was now added the State of Texas. The change in commanders was very generally believed to be in consequence of a desire on the part of the Government to pursue conciliatory measures. The policy pursued by General Banks confirmed this hypothesis. He suspended all public sales of property on account of the United States until further orders. He released a number of political prisoners. His inaugural proclamation was of a conciliatory and persuasive character. It was followed in ten days by another accompanying the President's emancipation proclamation, the object of which seemed to be to demonstrate to the rebels satisfaction that "the war is not waged by the Government for the overthrow of slavery," and that the only way to secure its preservation was by a return to the Union.
These measures, however, accomplished no good results. They encouraged but did not conciliate the rebels. The order which had been preserved under the more stringent rule of his predecessor was followed by growing disorders. The soldiers were insulted in the streets. Indecent and threatening letters were sent anonymously to various officers. Jefferson Davis was publicly cheered by crowds of men and boys. Thus experience demonstrated the necessity of rigor.
General Banks found himself compelled to change somewhat his tone. He gave public notice that offensive demonstrations of any kind
577would be instantly and severely punished. He confirmed the order of General Butler assessing, for the support of the poor, those rich secessionists who had subscribed to the secession fund. And he thus demonstrated both his ability and his purpose to preserve order by measures of severity should those of conciliation fail.
Thus passed the winter of 1862-63 in arranging the civil government, and in preparing for military movements in the spring. The military operations of General Banks in the Department of the Gulf naturally range themselves under four great expeditions. The Port Hudson, the Opelousas, the Texas, and the Red River expeditions. The first we have described in our last Number. It is to the other three we now direct our readers attention.
West of the Mississippi River lies an exceedingly rich and fertile section of country. It is intersected by numerous bayous and large lakes, and embraces much of the richest lands in the State. It is called by the Southerners "The Paradise of the South." The rebels, not anticipating any attack from the Union soldiers in this quarter, had put in their crops as usual. A small force was stationed in the heart of this section for its protection; and its efficiency was greatly increased by the presence of a small gunboat, the Cotton, which, threading with ease the innumerable bayous and lagoons, afforded very efficient protection against any mere land-forces.
In the midst of this region, some seventy-five miles west of New Orleans, in a straight line, is Luke Chetimacha. It is connected with the Gulf of Mexico by the Atchafalaya River. Near the head of this river, and not far from the shore of the lake is Brashear City, connected with New Orleans by the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad, of which it is the present western terminus. Flowing into this lake is the Bayou Teche, which rises in St. Landre parish, and flows thence in a south easterly direction through the towns of Opelousas, Martinsville, and Franklin. After the capture of the capital of the State the remains of the rebel State government had retreated to Opelousas, where the rebel Legislature was in fact assembling in accordance with a proclamation of the Governor on the very day on which General Banks assumed command of the Department of the Gulf.
In October previous General Butler had fitted out a double expedition for the purpose of destroying the rebel gun-boat, capturing rebel crops, especially cotton, and obtaining possession, or at least control, of this part of Louisiana. A fleet of five vessels left New Orleans, sailed up the Atchafalaya River, passed Brashear City, and entered the Teche River. Here, however, they found formidable obstructions and land batteries, and were compelled to withdraw from the pursuit of the rebel gun-boat until the land-forces should arrive.
Meanwhile General Weitzel, with a brigade of five regiments, left on transports, landed at Donaldsonville on the Mississippi River, and commenced a march across the country to join the fleet at Brashear City. About nine miles beyond Donaldsonville they met the enemy, who were drawn up in line of battle to receive them. But after a short though brilliant engagement, the rebels ignominiously fled, leaving two hundred and sixty-eight prisoners in General Weitzel's hands, with one piece of artillery. During the remainder of his march he met with little or no resistance.
The negroes flocked in great numbers to his camps, each bringing some palatable addition to the soldiers otherwise hard fare. The people, surprised to be kindly treated, learned to regard as friends those whom they had been taught to look upon as enemies. The retreating rebels burned their warehouses, destroyed their crops, took whatever they wanted, and made no other recompense than Confederate scrip. The patriot army provided the rural, population with a valuable market in New Orleans for such articles as their professed friends had not stolen or destroyed, and paid fair prices for what they took. Meanwhile the Opelousas Railroad, destroyed by the rebels, was repaired by a force moving directly west from New Orleans, and thus communication was opened between General Weitzel and the former place.
Joining the fleet at Brashear City early in January, the combined expedition proceeded up the Teche River. Here they found formidable preparations made to resist the further advance of the expedition. Rifle-pits and concealed batteries were planted on the shore. Torpedoes
578and obstructions were placed in the river. The position of the land defenses, flanked by an impenetrable swamp, was such as to prevent a successful attack by the national infantry. And after a brief but gallant engagement the fleet were compelled to fall back. One principal object of their expedition, however, was accomplished. For the rebels, fearing that another attack might prove more successful, and determined not to allow their gun-boat to fall into the hands of their antagonists, applied the torch to the steamer, and floated her down toward the national fleet, one sheet of flame.
Satisfied for the present with this measure of success, General Weitzel retired to Thibodeaux, near the Opelousas River, which he made his head-quarters.
Such was the condition of affairs when General Banks undertook a second expedition up the Bayou Teche. Early in April he rendezvoused his forces at Brashear City. They were organized in two divisions, one under the command of General Emory, the other commandedby General Grover. General Banks accompanied the expedition in person. The rebels had already provided a strong line of intrenchments near Franklin. A palisade of piles and earth, three feet high, protected by a natural ditch or bayou, extended for several miles from the lake on the east, across the Teche River, to impassable swampy woods on the west. The passage of the river itself was most effectually obstructed by the rebels; while the lake and swamp prevented any flank movement.
The position was a strong one, and easily defended by a small number against a vastly superior force. General Banks sent General Grover with his division to effect a landing on the shore of the lake in the rear of these works, while he advanced upon them in front with General Emory's division. The movement proved successful. General Grover's landing was in vain resisted. After a brief engagement the enemy were routed and compelled to take refuge in the woods and canes. Advancing upon them, General Grover drove them before him until he had nearly reached the bank of the river. Meanwhile Generals Banks and Emory advanced directly upon the rebels by land from Brashear City. Their advance was hotly but vainly contested by the rebels, who gradually fell back to their breast-works. The successes of General Grover had rendered these untenable, and at length, on the 14th of April, after three days of fighting, the enemy abandoned their position altogether, and beat a hasty retreat. Two of their gun-boats and three transports they destroyed to prevent their falling into the Federal hands. One other was destroyed by the Union gun-boats after a hot engagement on the lake.
In this battle General Banks shared all the dangers of the front in common with his soldiers. At one time he and his staff became a mark for the guns of a rebel gun-boat. One or two shells having struck near them. General Banks ordered them to disperse, and rode slowly away himself toward another part of the field. A correspondent present felt inclined to condemn his bravado.
"I expected to see them gallop off at double-quick," said he; "but what was my surprise when I saw them walking their horses as if they were going to a funeral!"
The result proved the superior judgment of the General. In a few minutes a shell from the boat, well-aimed, struck the ground half a mile distant, just about where he would have been had he galloped instead of walking away from the scene of danger.
Curiosity is sometimes stronger than fear. At one period in the engagement a part of the infantry lay concealed upon the ground while a skirmish line was thrown out in advance. The shot and shell were whistling over their heads. Any head exposed became straightway a target for the enemy's batteries. But it was impossible to lie still, ignorant of the events which were transpiring. All along the line heads were raised, one after another, to reconnoitre the field. Some even, in their eagerness, stood upright. The most positive command from the superior officer passed unnoticed. Nor was he able to secure their concealment, till he had threatened to arrest the first man who showed himself to the enemy. The fear of arrest was greater than the fear of shot and shell. The true soldier dreads dishonor more than death.
General Banks left the rebels no time to recover from the effects of their disastrous defeat. Reveille at four, breakfast at five, march at six, was the order given the morning after the battle. First Franklin, then Iberia were taken possession of by the Federal forces. In both places were large foundries. So precipitate was the rebel retreat that they had no time to destroy
580them. Pushing rapidly forward, meeting the enemy again at Bayou Vermilion, and compelling them to fly, passing the vicinity of Grand Coteau, on the 20th of April, eight days after leaving Brashear City, General Banks entered in triumph the city of Opelousas.
During this time he had defeated the enemy in a hotly contested battle, taken two thousand prisoners, two transports, and twenty guns, and either destroyed or compelled the destruction of eight transports and three gun-boats. He had effectually protected New Orleans from an attack which the rebels had boastfully threatened, and had obtained possession of one of the richest regions of the entire South. Quantities of stores and provisions had also been captured by him. From Opelousas, too, he sent out expeditions into the surrounding country, and on the 7th of May a part of his forces entered Alexandria, which had already the day before surrendered to Admiral Porter, who, operating from above in connection with General Grant, had advanced upon it with his fleet by way of Red River. Hundreds of negroes had flocked to the Union standard during this expedition. The plantations were large, and their owners held many slaves. Soon after his occupation of Opelousas, General Banks issued a proclamation providing for the organization of African troops in regiments of five hundred men. He designed eventually an organization of eighteen regiments. It was to be termed the "Corps d'Afrique."
General Banks, after a fortnight's rest, marched east, recrossed the Mississippi River, and commenced operations against Port Hudson. The rebels reoccupied Opelousas. The west bank of the Mississippi swarmed with guerrilla parties, who fired on the passing boats. On the 23d of May Brashear City was recaptured, with 1200 prisoners, sick and well, and a large quantity of stores, by a party of Texans. But the surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson left them without the hope of retaining what they had obtained, and by the middle of July the rebels commenced to withdraw again from the Southern Paradise, once more pursued by General Banks's victorious forces. Such, in brief, is the history and result of the Opelousas expedition.
Its condition was such as to invite thither such a population and exclude all others. When the United States bought Louisiana, in 1803, we bought into a quarrel. The boundary line between the French and the Spanish possessions was unsettled. The United States claimed under her purchase to have acquired all the country to the Rio Grande. Spain claimed right-even east of the Sabine River. Where thus each nation claimed the right to govern neither exercised it efficiently. Filibustering expeditions, organized often in the United States though never by its sanction, entered from time to time this territory, and endeavored to expel the Mexicans and secure an independent government, Of these the most notorious in history is that of the celebrated Aaron Burr. At length, in 1819, by treaty between Spain and the United States, the much vexed question of
581boundary was apparently settled. Florida was ceded to the United States, and all territory west of the Sabine was guaranteed by the United States to Spain. We say apparently. The Southwest did not acquiesce in this treaty; nor did it prevent the continuation of individual revolutionary enterprises. Meanwhile the great fertility of the soil, salubriousness of the climate, and mineral wealth attracted thither a large emigration, in spite of the disadvantages to which we have referred. A French and German population sought and settled in Western Texas. Colonies, chiefly from the Southwestern States, settled in its eastern portion. Land speculations increased this emigration.
Under Colonel Austin a colony of eight hundred families settled in and about the county which now bears his name. Thus the residents of Texas had very little in common with the government under which they were placed. It treated them often with gross injustice. It proved itself quite incompetent for their adequate protection. At length, in 1833, after some unsuccessful attempts to secure a better government in the Mexican Republic, they proclaimed their independence, and in a brief but decisive campaign of a few short months secured it. In this campaign the Texan troops were commanded by General Sam Houston, then in the forty-third year of his age, and in the zenith of his fame and power.
The life of General Houston is full of romance and adventure. He was born in Virginia, March 2, 1793; taken by his widowed mother to Tennessee while yet a boy; abandoned school because he could not agree with his teacher about his studies; ran away from a store, employment in which was too confining for his tastes; lived among the Indians as an adopted son of one of their chiefs for three years; returned home, entered the army as a private at the age of twenty; earned by his bravery promotions and the lasting friendship of General Jackson, under whom he served; obtained the appointment of Indian agent, in which office he distinguished himself by his zeal in preventing the importation of negroes through Florida, then a Spanish province, into the States; resigned his commission in the army; studied law six months; was forthwith elected prosecuting attorney, and honorably acquitted himself in this position; gained such popularity as to obtain almost without opposition any office the State of Tennessee could give him; was elected, first, Major-General of Militia, then Representative to Congress, then twice Governor of the State; in 1829 separated from his wife, resigned his gubernatorial office, left Tennessee forever to make his home thenceforth with the Indians; proved a faithful and valuable friend to them; accomplished the removal of several Indian agents for fraud; wearied in turn of this half savage life, emigrated to Texas; assumed at once a prominent position in this then nebulous republic as General-in-Chief of all her forces; defeated and captured Santa Anna, and secured the independence of the State in a brief but brilliant campaign; left the military command of the Lone Star Republic to accept its presidency; proved himself as able and efficient in managing its civil affairs as he had in wielding the sword; represented her subsequently for two successive terms in the Senate of the United States; left the Senate only to be made Governor; and continued, until a short period previous to his death, the most popular, as he certainly was the most able, man which the State contained.
The little republic of Texas thus launched, unfurled for its banner the Lone Star. Alone, indeed, it was, and for nine years maintained against the most serious difficulties a struggling and precarious existence until 1845, when it was annexed to the United States, under the administration of President Polk.
Neither the population nor the institutions of Texas are homogeneous. The western counties are settled chiefly by French and German emigrants. They are divided into small farms and plantations, and are tilled by free labor. These people are, upon principle, warm opponents of the slave system, with which they possess no sympathy, in which they have no interest. The eastern counties, on the other hand, are settled largely by political and commercial adventurers from the States, chiefly the Southwest. There are but few of them wealthy enough to be large slaveholders, but they are among the most virulent supporters of the system. Except in the wildest counties of Arkansas and Missouri, it would not be easy to find any where a more desperate class than are assembled in some parts of Eastern Texas.
Still the number of slaveholders is not large. In 1850, out of a population of 212,592, but 7747 were slaveholders. Most of their slaver, were apparently household servants. Only a little over 450 of these slaveholders possessed more than 20 slaves. The general sentiment of the State is sufficiently indicated by the fact that in August, 1859, General Sam Houston, then sixty-six years of age, was triumphantly elected Governor of the State. Southern in birth, education, sympathy, and sentiment, he had nevertheless strongly opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and eloquently defended the petition of the 3000 clergymen of New England against it; and he was the distinctive and outspoken candidate of the Union party. It was upon this record he was chosen Governor.
Immediately after the election of President Lincoln in the fall of 1860, both parties in the State of Texas began to take sides. At first it was evident that the Union party were largely in the majority. The Governor was himself entirely opposed to secession. In the western counties of the State the feeling was almost unanimous. Even in the capital strong Union demonstrations were made. An enormous popular meeting was held as late as December. A Union pole was raised, the Stars and Stripes
582were unfurled, and the national airs were played in the midst of an assemblage the largest which had ever been gathered in the city of Austin. But that same timid inaction which proved so fatal to the Union cause in other States proved equally so here. The Governor, advanced in years, and worn-out by the adventurous life which he had led, longed for repose. Instead of boldly treating treason to the punishment it deserved, he temporized and tampered with it. He would not follow in the lead of fiery South Carolina; but he condemned the imagined invasion of Southern rights by Northern politicians, and demanded a union of the Southern States for their mutual protection. He did not think secession was necessary; but he was clear abolitionism was a crime. He would not call the Legislature together; but he summoned the people to elect delegates to confer in a general Convention with delegates from the other slaveholding States. He would not plunge at once into the vortex of the whirlpool; but he would sail gradually around at the circumference for the purpose of examination.
Dreams of past adventure were sometimes enkindled in the bosom that dared not bare itself bravely to the present and inevitable conflict. He hinted at a possible separation of the State, alike from North and South; the conquest by military arms of its ancient enemy Mexico, and the establishment of a new Southwestern Confederacy. Let us not deal uncharitably with the memory of General Houston. His weakness was his greatest fault. The old man of nearly three-score years and ten was unable to sustain the reputation of the hero of forty-two. If General Houston had been ten years younger the rebel leaders in the State would never have dared what they did.
He refused to call a Convention. An irresponsible call, signed by sixty-one individuals was issued. He refused to summon the Legislature. It was summoned to meet by one of its own members. A brave man would have called
583the authors of such revolutionary proceedings to instant account. The punishment of a single ringleader would have saved the State from civil war. But Governor Houston dreaded the conflict which he saw was impending. He took, unwittingly, the very measures to hasten it. He had resisted importunity. He had not the courage to face revolution. He convened the Legislature, but urged them to delay calling a State Convention, and endeavor still to preserve, if possible, the Union. His recommendations were contemptuously disregarded. He should have expected nothing else. They legalized the illegal call for a Convention already issued. They laid on the table resolutions for delay in the secession movements. They condemned coercion. They provided that if an ordinance of secession were passed by the Convention it should be submitted to the people.
The Convention assembled one week after the act of the Legislature legalizing it. The Union party in the State had paid no attention to the first call, signed by irresponsible secessionists. Living in a State but little blessed with railroads and telegraphs, they possessed no intimation of the action of the Legislature until long after the day of election had gone by. In nearly half the counties no election was held at all; in others it was but the merest pretense; in many instances not more than a quarter of the legal voters went at all to the polls. A Convention thus elected was almost unanimously for secession. An ordinance was passed in less than a week after it assembled. Delegates were elected to the Southern Congress. A Committee of Safety was appointed, who effectually took the Government out of the hands of General Houston. In eighteen days after the passage of this ordinance it was submitted to the people. It, was carried by a large majority. But many voters either refused to vote or were prevented doing so. The vote was 17,000 less than at the Presidential election. The Governor refusing to acquiesce in the action of the Convention,
584the gubernatorial chair was declared vacant in March, 1861, and Lieutenant-Governor Clark was directed to assume the place of Governor Houston. Thus cavalierly treated by the secessionists, and despised by the Union party, whose cause his weakness had betrayed, he lived a few months in disgrace at the capital of the State, vainly endeavored to retrieve his fallen fortunes by yielding a tardy acquiescence to the secession cause, and died six months after his expulsion from the chief office of the State, neither honored by his friends nor respected by his foes.
The military operations in the State of Texas were of some importance in their results, but of little in their intrinsic character. At the time of Mr. Lincoln's election General David E. Twiggs was in command of the United States forces in the State of Texas. Before as yet the secession of the State had been accomplished he surrendered the entire army and property of the United States to the traitors in the State, and received as the reward of his treason a commission as Major-General in the Confederate Army. Other detachments of United States troops were easily made prisoners, but were released on parole. The revenue cutter upon the coast was seized, and a vessel which had come to Texas from the North to supply the light-houses was also taken possession of. All citizens of the North were warned to leave the State. The payment of all debts due the North was suspended.
The most cruel and relentless persecution of all loyal men was commenced. The German residents of the western counties were driven from their homes, and in many instances cruelly massacred for no other crime than their loyalty and their Free State principles. The General Government, surprised by the treachery of General Twiggs, and compelled to concentrate all their troops for the defense of the national capital, was obliged to leave the citizens of Texas to protect themselves. The Federal fleet, however, blockaded the coast soon after the consummation of the State's secession. The surrender of Galveston was demanded in May, but no attempt was made to enforce compliance with the demand until October, when Commander Renshaw, with a fleet of four steamers, took possession of the place. No attempt at its recapture was anticipated. No sufficient
585precautions were taken to guard against such a possible catastrophe.
The city of Galveston is situated on a long, low, narrow island of sand. It is connected with the main land by a bridge, some two miles in length. Upon the shore commanding this bridge the rebels had planted batteries. No attempt had been made to dislodge them from this position. The bridge even had not been destroyed. For a considerable time no infantry even occupied the town. It was considered to be sufficiently guarded by the presence of the Federal fleet. The Harriet Lane, a revenue cutter converted into a gun-boat, stood sentinel at the island end of the bridge. It probably afforded a sufficient protection against any land attack. No attack by water seems to have been anticipated or even thought of. The latter part of December, 1862, some regiments of infantry were ordered from New Orleans to Galveston. Not quite three hundred had already arrived. More were on their way. The previous fleet of four vessels was increased by two more. In a few days the Federal force would have been strong enough to have assumed themselves the offensive. But those few days were not allowed them.
For in the mean time the Confederate General Magruder had been preparing to attack the place. Two steam-packets, running between Galveston and Houston, were fitted up as gunboats. They were protected by bulwarks of cotton hales. One of them was manned by a squad of sharp-shooters. Early in the morning of the 1st of January the rebel batteries opened on the Harriet Lane and the infantry in the city. The latter could only reply with their musketry, having no guns. The former replied with a vigorous fire. Almost at the same time she discovered the rebel gun-boats coming from the bay. She signaled for assistance. The Westfield, flag-ship, started to her aid, ran aground, and was thus left hors du combat in the very beginning of the engagement. The Clifton exhausted her energies in vain efforts to pull the Westfield off the bar. The Owasro dared not venture up the uncertain channel, which had already proved so perilous to her companion, and contented herself with engaging the enemy's batteries on shore. The rebel steamers built for these shallow waters had the Harriet Lane at their mercy.
Struck amidships with a tremendous blow, boarded by an overwhelming force, she was not surrendered until her commander had fallen dead, bravely defending his vessel to the last. The defense of the town thus destroyed, it fell necessarily into the rebel hands without further struggle. The gallant commander of the fleet, Commodore Renshaw, finding all efforts to rescue his flag-ship vain, determined it should not fall into the rebel hands. He allowed his men fifteen minutes to transfer themselves and their baggage to a neighboring transport. He himself prepared the vessel for destruction. For fifteen minutes the most intense activity prevailed. Then all were ordered out of the ship. The last boat awaited the Commodore's presence. Another, filled with men and baggage, waited close at hand. The Commodore was the last to leave the vessel. He stepped down the stairway into the waiting gig. A few minutes more and all would have been well. But he had hardly taken his seat when a thick cloud of smoke rolled up from the hatches of the vessel. A bright flame leaping up followed close upon it. Then in an instant there followed an explosion which shook the bay, as though an earthquake trembled underneath it. The air was filled with the fragments of the ill-fated vessel, and dark with the smoke of its explosion. For some unexplained cause the explosion had taken place prematurely, and when the smoke had lifted neither boat was to be seen. The Commodore had perished with his ship. The rest of the fleet immediately abandoned a harbor which was no longer tenable.
None of the military movements which have taken place in Texas can be considered of great importance. It was too far removed from the seat of war to afford a field for very active operations by either side. Texas has indeed furnished to the Confederate army as many soldiers in proportion to her population as any other rebel State. But they have fought chiefly upon other fields. Texas has furnished large quantities of supplies to the rebel armies. The chief object of the national Government seemed to be to cut off these supplies, while the rebels endeavored to open some one of the harbors which lie along her coast to the commerce of other nations.
Immediately after the recapture of Galveston General Magruder issued a proclamation declaring the blockade raised, and inviting commerce to the port. But it is hardly necessary to say that the national fleet was too vigilant to allow the invitation to be accepted. On the 21st of January the blockading vessels off Sabine Pass, two in number, were captured, during a dead calm, by two rebel steamers with cotton bulwarks. They were instantly pursued by the Union gun-boats. One of the captured prizes was burned to prevent its recapture. Again General Magruder, by public proclamation, declared the blockade raised; and Commodore Bell, by counter proclamation, warned all concerned that it was as effectual as ever, and that merchant vessels attempting to carry on illicit traffic would do so at their peril.
In September, 1863, General Banks fitted out an expedition under General Franklin, to occupy the mouth of the Sabine River. It consisted of four thousand men, and four steamers. The expedition proved an entire failure. Two of the gun-boats, disabled by a shot through the boilers, at almost the first fire, fell into the rebel hands. Another ran aground and escaped with difficulty. The expedition returned without effecting any injury whatever upon the enemy.
A month later General Banks took command in person of an expedition the object of which was the occupation of the Texan coast. He landed at the mouth of the Rio Grande River,
586and successfully occupied, without serious opposition, most of the coast of Texas, from its western boundary nearly to the city of Galveston. This campaign, however, produced no important influence upon the general results of the war, and was marked by no striking incidents or important battles.
The rebel leaders in Texas complain bitterly of the manner in which their State has been treated by the Confederate authorities at Richmond. They say her troops have been summoned to other fields, and she herself has been left defenseless. They even threaten to secede from Seeessia, and set up an independent Southern empire. It is certain that the national control of the Mississippi River forever separates them from the heart of the Southern Confederacy. In truth the battles of Texas and Arkansas were fought on that river. Their fate was determined at Vicksburg and Port Hudson.
587western boundary of the State east to Vicksburg. The Red River, an important tributary of the Mississippi, flows southeasterly across the State through this region, at once watering the country through which it flows and furnishing an otherwise inaccessible region with easy access to the markets.
Upon the west bank of this river, about one hundred and fifty miles from its mouth, is situated the town of Alexandria, a place of some two or three thousand inhabitants. It had been temporarily occupied by General Banks in his Opelousas expedition, but necessarily abandoned again when he withdrew his forces to lay siege to Port Hudson. Early in the spring of 1864 General Banks fitted out an expedition for the purpose of entering and occupying this territory. He withdrew for this purpose a part of his forces from Texas, concentrating them in and about New Orleans. He divided the army into three corps. He commanded the expedition in person. General Franklin was second in command. Admiral Porter, with a fleet of gunboats and transports, co-operated in the movement.
The rebels, however, were better prepared for resistance than they had been at the time of the previous Opelousas expedition. They constructed a strong fort on the Red River below Alexandria. They entitled it Fort De Russy. A formidable work, quadrangular in shape, with bastions and bomb-proofs covered
588with railroad iron, strengthened by a powerful water-battery, the whole located in a commanding position, it must be captured or destroyed before the fleet could ascend the river. General Dick Taylor occupied it with a large force.
General Franklin landed from transports early in March, a few miles below this fort, to cooperate with the gun-boats in an attack upon it. General Taylor determined to attack him before the rest of the Union force should come up, and marched out of his works for that purpose. But he committed the fatal mistake of attacking his foe in the rear. General Franklin was quick to avail himself of his enemy's blunder, abandoned his communications, refused battle, marched straight for the now vacant fort. General Taylor saw his error too late to retrieve it, and hastened after his antagonist in vain. The Union army entered the fort, three hours in advance of the rebels, unopposed, capturing, without a battle, 325 prisoners, 10 guns, a lot of small-arms, and large stores of aminunition Thus, by a military blunder, the rebels lost the entire advantage of their year's engineering labor, the fleet passed up the river without opposition, and occupied Alexandria on the 15th of March, the army entering it the day following. The rebel army fell back further up the
589river. It was soon increased by timely reinforcements. General Magruder joined it with 2500 Texans, and General Price with 7000 infantry from Missouri and Arkansas. The entire force was commanded by General Kirby Smith.
Meanwhile the residents of Alexandria suffered alike from friend and foe. Such cotton as was found in store was seized by the fleet as its lawful prize, while orders were given by the rebel commander to burn that which was stored along the river to prevent it from falling into the Federal hands. Rebel cavalry overran the country executing the order. Thousands of bales were thus destroyed. The people, as usual, suffered no less from the protection afforded by their friends than from the captures and confiscations by their supposed enemies.
Near the northwestern boundary of Louisiana is the town of Shreveport. This was supposed to be the ultimate destination of General Banks's expedition. Here, therefore, strong fortifications had been erected; obstructions had been placed in the river; provisions were here accumulated sufficient to last for a siege of six months. The events which followed rendered it unnecessary for the rebels to make use of these their last resort. After about ten days delay at Alexandria, where General Banks concentrated his forces and prepared for their future movements,
590he commenced his march. The gun-boats succeeded in passing the falls in the river, which are situated at this point. The army took up its line of march by land. About thirty miles above Alexandria the Federal advance met the rebels strongly posted at Cane River, Their force was considerable, and their position advantageous; but after a short engagement with artillery and skirmishers a general charge was ordered, and the rebels beat a hasty, though well-ordered retreat. This was on the 28th of March.
The army were in high spirits. They thought they were sweeping easily all before them. The rebels were said to be disorganized and dissatisfied. A correspondent had already written:
"It is useless for them (the rebels) to attempt to keep back the irresistible column which General Franklin will hurl against them."
This confidence, apparently shared alike by officer and private, increased by the victory so easily gained at Cane River, brought to a disastrous issue what, more prudently conducted, might have proved a successful expedition. The Union army pressed rapidly forward. The rebels as rapidly retreated. Grand Ecore was passed. Natchitoches (pronounced Nakitosh), capital of the parish of that name, was occupied without opposition; and on the 6th of April the army continued its advance toward Shreveport. At Grand Ecore the road leaves the river bank. It passes through Natchitoches four miles from Grand Ecore, the nearest river town. Then it enters heavy pine-woods. A single road conducts through this uncleared forest. It affords excellent opportunities for ambuscade.
The Union army no longer enjoyed the formidable protection of the gun-boats. The rebels had purposely avoided battle until they could fight without being compelled to encounter these greatly dreaded foes. The elated army, however, neither anticipated nor prepared for serious resistance. The cavalry, five thousand men, constituted the advance. It was commanded by General Lee. They were followed by their wagon-train. Several miles in the rear was the nearest infantry force. This was the Thirteenth Army Corps. The Nineteenth Corps was still further in the rear. On the 7th the cavalry found its progress somewhat resisted. There was slight skirmishing, but nothing worthy of the name of a battle. But on the following day General Lee sent back for reinforcements. He had driven the rebels some eight miles. They had at length made a stand from which he was unable to dislodge them. General Ransom with two divisions was ordered forward to his assistance. Nothing like a general engagement was expected or prepared for. General Ransom indeed urged awaiting the arrival of the rest of the army; but he was overruled.
An order to charge upon the rebels was given. It was obeyed. The issue proved the greatness of the mistake. The rebels, under cover of the trees, had formed an ambuscade in the shape of an enormous V. The devoted soldiers, entering the opened wedge at its base, charged upon the apex. The wings then closed upon them. They were mowed down by a terrific fire both from front and either flank. The cavalry was thrown into disorder, and began to retreat down the road filled with the infantry. The wounded and dying were trodden under the horses feet. The infantry, surprised by the murderous fire from a concealed foe, were thrown into utter confusion by the retreating cavalry, who, completely routed, cantered in wild disorder through their lines. An attempt was made to withdraw and meet reinforcements from the Nineteenth Corps further back, but the single narrow road was effectually blockaded by the cavalry wagon-train.
An orderly retreat was impossible. Soon all was in the utmost confusion. "Let every man take care of himself!" became the universal cry. General Ransom made the most heroic efforts to rally his men — but in vain. Generals Banks and Franklin, hearing of disaster, hastened to the front, and mingled in the thickest of the fight. The first-named officer was severely wounded in the knee. General Banks received a shot through the hat, and narrowly escaped capture. The wagon-train could not be carried
591off, and was abandoned to the enemy. Twenty guns fell into the rebels hands. Among these captures was the Chicago Mercantile Battery. The Federal loss was very heavy. General Franklin is reported to have said that the scene was far more terrible, and the rout more complete, than any thing at Bull Run. One regiment came out of the encounter with but fifty-eight men. Nearly half of the Thirteenth Corps were placed hors du combat. The entire army was only saved from utter demolition by the timely arrival of reinforcements from the Nineteenth Corps and the darkness of approaching night. This engagement is known by the name of the Battle of Mansfield. There seems little reason to doubt that the disaster was the result of mismanagement. General Banks, supposing that he was pursuing a retreating and disorganized foe, was led into a trap, from which he barely succeeded in extricating himself and his command. He engaged the enemy with but two divisions of infantry, expecting only a skirmish, and totally unprepared for a general engagement.
The night of the 8th was full of anxiety. The national army continued its retreat during the darkness, and arrived at Pleasant Hill by early dawn of the 9th — a distance of from twelve to eighteen miles. Here the army, which had been so disastrously defeated only because it fought in fractions, was concentrated. General A. J. Smith, with the Sixteenth Army Corps, held the right; General Franklin, with the Nineteenth Corps, held the left. The Thirteenth Corps, exhausted and almost destroyed by the previous day's fighting, was unable to participate in the anticipated battle.
The army being thus posted to receive an attack, if one should be made, General Banks ordered the retreat to continue to Grand Ecore. The wagon train was immense. It took nearly all day to get it started. The rebels made no attack until toward evening. Then they assailed at once the entire line. It was about
592five o'clock when the attack was made. At first it proved successful. The Federal soldiers were forced back for nearly or quite half a mile. Several guns were captured. The moment was critical. The reserve line was reached. Here, however, the patriot host made a new stand. The rebels charged upon it with fiery purpose, in two lines — one close behind the other. They were greeted with a terrific fire from concentrated batteries of artillery and thousands of rifles. They trembled and recoiled before the shock. No time was given them to recover from its effect. General Smith ordered a charge. With a wild shout the undaunted soldiery obeyed, the command; and the rebels broke and fled, leaving the Union army in possession of the field.
The victory of Pleasant Hill neutralized the disastrous defeat of Mansfield, and saved General Banks's army from threatened annihilation. But that was all. The bleeding and broken fragments of an army left after these terrible encounters was in no condition to continue an expedition which was, indeed, hazardous at the best. The impatient wishes of the soldiery, who were anxious to pursue the fleeing foe, were restrained, and the federal retreat was continued to Grand Ecore. The fleet, under Admiral Porter, which had already ascended the river to within eighty miles of Shreveport, was ordered