Volume 3, Number 11 - Spring 1970
Excerpted from his Diary of those years and annotated by
Hardy A. Kemp
Colonel, Army of the United States, Retired
THE RED RIVER CAMPAIGN and the CAVALRY EXPEDITION
FROM BATON ROUGE TO PASCAGOULA BAY
So Cox "got off at Morganza" on 17 September 1863. The next day he rejoined his old outfit, "Seven Companies of the 6th Missouri, Major Bacon Montgomery, Commanding". They were based just then at Champelier some ten miles up-river. On the following day, 20 September 63, Cox says, "We went out and skirmished at the rebels", - and well they might. "The woods were full of rebels", mounted infantry, and, for the most part, guerilla types responsible to no one particularly.
It was just that sort of warfare which led Cox soon to discover that he was in a military situation vastly different in mission and in scope from the one in which he had begun his war back in the rocky hills of Missouri some twenty months before. There in Louisiana and later over in Mississippi he would find that he had not come to a rest camp, nor yet to an inactive theater where "holding" was the only job of the Union forces even though today's reader would expect such to have been the case if he dependens upon the cursory treatment of the Gulf Department as ladled out by "historians" of the past hundred years or so.
Instead of "Rest and Recreation" and an escape from the onslaughts of winter-in-the-field, it was the other way around. There was a tough sort of war going on down there in Louisiana, and Cox and his comrades, "in-the-field" were to engage in the fifteen months agead in three major battles and in several major-sized "expeditions", as the larger cavalry raids were then known, plus almost innumerable skirmishes and shootings-from-ambush, all of which would sorely tax the endurance and courage of every horseman, foot-soldier, cannoneer, engineer, and pioneer in the fighting lot of them.
As for the Department Commander Cox had come to serve, Nathaniel Prentiss ("Nothing Positive") Banks, (1), so far nothing very positive other than First Kernstown (2), (3) had been placed on that side of his military ledger. As for that side of his record (military), there would be few if any strongly positive enteries to his credit. Again, it was to be the other way around with only scant difference of opinion in his favor. Consequently, Banks has been labelled by most writers all the way down to the present day as one of the most inept of Lincoln's generals, "political" or professional. In a large measure this is unfair to General Banks and to the enduring and unfailingly resourceful men who served under him since such uncritical assertions bear a clear imputation of utter stupidity on Banks' part, and dumb helplessness on the part of his officers and men who therefore could only, or did only, simply stand and take it.
But that sort of writing cannot bear close and unbiased scrutiny and remain totally un-refuted. Banks was no boob. A politician, yes; but one who deserves the accolade of statesman. He was a respected Congressman for years, and was Governor of Massachusetts in 1861 when he proffered his services to Lincoln's Administration. At the outset he was assigned to command the Department of
Annapolis where, although it is not generally mentioned, he has been given some amount of credit for keeping Maryland in the Union, (4), (5), (6), chiefly bacause of his unswerving support of Unionist policies there.
Combat general? Hardly. He had had no previous combat experience, and, to be fair about it, he seems not to have learned very much from his later experiences in action. Yet, he would take orders from Washington, and if his interpretation of Washington orders and his implementation of them left much to be desired, let it be charged proportionately to the military ineptitude of the "professionals", both those on his staff and those in the field as well.
Even so, we shall see Banks and his men pull themselves out of the costly pile-up at Sabine Cross Roads. Falling back that night to Pleasant Hill, and with ground support by then in position, they stood and let "Dick" Taylor smash his reckless "Southrons" to pieces against a solid wall of defense. The next day, with his right dug in at Grand Ecore and with some protection from Porter's gun-boats, Banks' men waited for Taylor to finish himself off. But Taylor had "had it", (7), whereupon Kirby Smith, his superior, wisely turned against Fred Steele sending Steele back to Arkansas with what little he had left after getting no farther south than Camden, Arkansas.
Aggressive? Banks, the consummate compromiser in politics? To a fault, no better supported by Staff and "Line" than he ever was. "Stonewall" Jackson, who bested Banks on two memorable occasions, said of him, "He is always ready to fight," then added, "but he generally gets whipped", (8).
Yet, Banks', "Earned Loss Average", as we might call it today, would not compare unfavorably with those of others who faced Jackson. Don't forget, there were other Union commanders who were soundly "clobbered" by other fiery Confererate generals and, many times, with worse end-results. For example, Pope, a "professional", who, incidentally, had had Banks fired for rashness in bringing on the battle of Cedar Mountain (9) found himself banished to the boondocks soon after Second Manassas. Out there Pope spent the rest of the "fighting" War in innocuous desuetude except on occasion to send his handful of cavalry-men after a few Sioux Indians who thought they know a good thing when they saw it.
But enough of Banks here in Cox's story except to say at least that Banks, as Commander of the Gulf Department, was eminently successful in achieving a passable degree of interpersonal relationship with all but the most intransigent of the Orleannais, (10). That sort of business was his forte, and, but for the Lincoln Administration's compelling need, as they saw it, - Grant (11) excepted - "to re-establish the flag in Texas" (12), (13), (14), Bank's story might well have had a happier ending. As it was and, at first, having been given his choice of an invasion route into Texas, Banks decided upon an amphibious effort via Sabine Pass. His staff had advised him that that would be readily feasible, but a sand bar in the Pass previously unaccounted for by them, and a handfull of wild Irishmen from Houston under Lt. "Dick" Dowling holding a scrubby little costal fortification made a king-sized boo-boo of that undertaking and thus gave the Texans a victory they are loudly crowing about to this very day. Two months later, however, Banks' forces occupied the areas around Brownsville, Indianola-Port Aransas and held them without difficulty until Grant ordered Banks to give up those beach-heads and get on with the Red River Plan.
Cox's outfit took no part in either of these two affairs. They were busy in the Champelier area at the time of Sabine Pass where we pick him up, Sept. 30, 1863, "Fight at Champelier. Gen. Greene with 5,000 men attacked our force of 100 of the 6th Mo. and 80 of the 2nd. Ill. Cay, and 6000 Infantry. After a severe fight we lost about all of the Infantry-taken prisoners. The Cavalry got away with but little loss or damage."
[This encounter is known officially as an, "Affair at Stirling's Plantation on the Fordoche." Two brigades of Confederates under Gen. Tom Greene did successfully surprise a Union force composed of the 19th Iowa and the 26th Indiana Infantry. The Infantry contingents were captured almost in toto. The Cavalry engaged (6th Missouri and detachments of the 2nd and 36th Illinois) managed to escape with a small loss.]
For the next several days the "6th Missouri" and other cavalry organizations were being prepared for another forary into the Evangeline Country of Louisiana, known then and now also as the Teche Country, ["Bayou Teche"].
Earlier in the year 1863 (April and up into May) a relatively small body of Banks' men had pushed smaller rebel commands as
far up-country as Alexandria, one raid carrying as far as Grande Ecore. With no intention of occupying and holding any of the area at the time, Banks, then turned down Red River toward Baton Rouge and Port Hudson area where as a part of the campaign to open the Mississippi he laid seige to the latter place about the 25th of May.
It needs to be emphasized that Banks' first expedition northward in the summer of 1863 was by no means a pleasant jaunt. Skirmishes and ambushes marked every step of the way, while for the most part, his opposing forces simply swung aside and without much difficulty re-occupied the same territory once Banks had marched through, notably Brashear City (now called Morgan City) and its port facilities. At the time that area had not been too tightly blockaded. Consequently it was still of considerable military and economic importance.
As for Port Hudson, Banks contained that fortification until Vicksburg fell and still managed to hold Southern Louisiana and to re-occupy Brashear City and its strong-hold even before the end of the Vicksburg campaign.
In late September, 1863 it was decided as a preliminary effort toward Shreveport and Northeast Texas to pull in all the troops Banks could spare from the shores of the Mississippi and from Eastern Louisiana, and to raid as far north as possible before winter came on. The main effort would have to wait until spring when Banks could be reasonably certain of having enough water in Red River to get Porter's gun-boats over the falls above Alexandria, keep them in support there as long as possible, and get them back again.
Here, then, we pick up Cox on October 10, 1863, with his note, "The whole command-which loaded five boats-started down the river at 9 A.M. and passed Port Hudson at 11 A.M." On October 11 they landed at "Carlton" [Carrollton] "near the City of New Orleans."
12- I went to the Government shop in the city and got my horse shod.
13- Raining - I went to the city and spent the day.
14- The command moved at 6, marched through the city and crossed the river, to Algiers.
15- We loaded on the cars and started at 8 and run to Brashear City, 80 mi. at 5 P.M. [on the, "New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western", today the, "Texas and New Orleans" of the Southern Pacific.
16- The command crossed the Bayou Teche and started for the remainder of the Command. I remained at Brashear for the lack of a horse.
17- I started on the little boat "John Brown" and landed at New Iberia at dark." [October 18, 19, 20, nothing significant.]
"October 21- I remained in town. The Command had a fight with the Rebels. Wm. Gibson was killed." [This was a rather sharp skirmish at Barre's landing near Opelousas which resulted in the Union advance taking both places.]
22- I started for the Command with a train of 400 wagons, two of ours. We stopped with the 22nd to stay overnight. Rowe and I went to get some potatoes and the wagons left us. We stayed at the Inn.
23- We started afoot and it rained but we soon caught us a pony apiece and rode them bare-back. We stayed in Negro quarters.
24- We made 25 mi. to camp by 3 P.M. [Nothing notworthy until-] "October 31- We were mustered for pay by Maj. [Bacon] Montgomery- weather clear and warm. Sun. Nov. 1st. 1863. The first Brigade moved at 6 A.M. and camped at Carrion Crow Bayou.
The Official Records of Principal Events during the Operation
in the Teche Country - 3 Oct. 63 to 30 Nov. 63, "The Union forces retire
from Opelousas to New Iberia," (Series 1, Part 1, Vol. 26, p. 332) may be summarized
as follows. Having advanced well beyond Opelousas, skirmishing heavily all the
way, it was deemed necessary to drop back for re-grouping, remount, and re-organization.
Franklin, the Corps Commander, was finding the going very difficult indeed.
The country was entirely destitute of local supply and forage, all of which
had to be brought up from New Orleans to Brashear City and thence to the "front".
Enemy resistence was limited to sudden raids and minor harassments, and, as
well as Franklin could determine, most of his opposition had fallen back all
the way to Alexandria with no disposition, apparently, to come out and fight,
- doubtless for their own lack of "wherewithal" for the purpose. (See Major
GenI. Wm. B. Franklin 's reports to Hdq. in New Orleans during this period
OR Sec. 1, Part 1, Vol, 339: 340: 341: 343: 344-5:347-48.) Cox again, "Nov.
2- We moved at 6 and marched 12 mi.
to Vermillionville [now, Lafayette, La.] Nov. 3- Our forage train was attacked. The
6th and 2nd. III. chased them 10 mi. and took 5 prisoners. Fight at Carrion Crow Bayou. [Winters (p. 298) puts it this way: "Burbridge was caught napping at Carencro Bayou by Tom Greene - loss to Federals 716 casualties out of 1625 men from the XIII and XIX Corps."]
4- 6 A.M. found us on the march to Carrion Crow, but we found nothing to fight. [Winters spells it, "Carencro"; Federal O.R.'s, "Carrion Crow."]
5- At 6 the whole Division was on the march. The 6th. formed the rear guard and returned to our old camp.
6- I ramained in camp - a forage detail went out.
7- I shod horses and wrote two letters home.
8- I went to Division drill under Command of Col. [Chas. J.] Payne, [2nd La. Cay., Union]
9- The 1st Brigade went back 10 mi. and returned to camp.
10- At work. The 6th all went on picket.
11- I went foraging. A considerable fight took place west to town. We lost 4 men [This appears in the OR as skirmishes at Vermillionville and Carrion Crow Bayou]
12- The 6th was relieved of picket. I remained in camp-wrote to Granville Gibson.
13- The 4th Div. went down 13 mi. to St. Martinsville - remained over night.
14- We went back to camp - weather clear and warm.
15- I remained in camp. The 6th went out and drove in the Rebel pickets.
16- 6 A.M. found the whole Army on the march. The 6th formed the rear guard. We marched 15 mi. and camped.
17- 8 A.M. found the whole command on the march. We marched five mi. and camped two miles below New Iberia.
18- The 6th went back [to Carrion Crow] and had a skirmish.
19- Our Brigade moved across the Bayou and camped opposite the town.
20- All quiet in camp - Scout went out at
12 in the night, in the rain.
21- We surrounded a squad of rebels just at day-light and captured 112 prisoners." [Franklin reported, "The affair this morning at Camp Pratt was very handsome and complete - 12 enemy officers and 100 Enlisted Men taken."]
Except for the following enteries, Cox's diary has nothing of significance for the rest of November, 1863 and all of the month of December, 1863. He missed a fight at Portage, Nov. 23, in which Major Montgomery led the advance of some 250 Union horse-men under Col. Chas. J. Payne and captured 25 men being recruited by a "Colonel" (local) Dupeire for a new rebel Cavalry battalion. Again on
30 November, "the 6th" went back to Vermillionville "and skirmished", one man (unnamed) wounded. Cox's correspondence continued with L. A. Shannon, and on 2 December 63 he, "wrote Aunt Nancy Kimberling." On 8 December he, "was paid off for 4 months - got $108.00."
On Friday, Jan. 1, 1864 Cox begins his third year in the Army with, "At day-light the ground was frozed sufficient to bear a 6 mule team and wagon. The ice on the pond was one inch thick and still freezing. The ground was covered with ice and sleet. It sleeted all day.
2- The morning cloudy and cold. I remained in camp. The heavy turret guns left for Brashier City. We got a large mail. I got two letters.
3- Weather moderated a little with an East wind. I wrote 4 letters. Had a chill at night. A very heavy rain fell at night. I am in a shanty covered with plank. It did not leak but run in. I thought I would drown.
January 4- A cold, wet day. I was not well and kept my bed nearly all day and had a chill at night. The boys all on picket.
5- Commenced sleeting before day. At day-light the sleet and ice was i inch thick. Sleeted and froze all day and I lay up like a hog.
6- I remained in camp - all quiet - weather moderated a little.
7- The ground froze - troops marching east - clears up in the afternoon - we got orders to move at 6 A.M. tomorrow.
8- We were ready to march at 6. The train left at 7. We started at 8. The ground froze, but thawing. We moved on slowly till night. We marched 10 mi. I and James gave them the dodge and layed in negro quarters.
9- We started early. The ground froze. We caught up with the Command at 10 A.M. where they had stopped to feed. I and James left the Command, on picket, at dark and went on 4 mi. and stayed in negro quarters.
10- Raining and cold. We went on and found the train 2 mi. below Franklin. The train then moved on 1 mi. and camped on the bank of the Bayou. Rained all night.
January 11- We erected camp and built us a shanty in the rain. I had a chill at night.
January 12- We built a chimney to our
shanty. I worked in the mud and was very sick at night.
13- I reported to Dr. Shertlef and was very sick all day. Weather cloudy and damp.
14- I reported to the Dr. again and had a very high fever all day. A scout went out, up the Bayou, [Teche].
15th I reported to the Dr. and kept my bed all day. The weather cleared up with the prospects of a clear spell, which was very agreeable with us as we had been in mud, half-leg deep, for the last 4 weeks.
January 16- I reported to the Dr. and was very sick. The fever had not cooled yet. Dress parade at 5 P.M. Orders were read sentencing William Hickman to Ship Island for 5 years.
17- I reported to the Dr. but was some better. The Command went on in sections. Orders came for a three day scout.
18- The Command started at day-light. I kept my bed all day, but was better.
19- I was still better; the fever was broke and I began to want something to eat, but could get nothing fit to eat. I thought to my soul I would starve. The Scout returned and Jim brought me a chicken.
20- Boden and Dowland were detailed to work in the shop in my place. All quiet.
January 21- I kept my bed nearly all day. We were ordered to march at 8 next morning.
January 22- 6 A.M. found the regiment on the march. We marched 25 mi. by P.M. and camped 1 mi. above Brashier City. It was a fine day; the roads were good and we marched with ease.
23- The Command was called out and searched for stolen money by no discovery was made. I remained in camp. The Command left at dark, crossed the Lake ["Grand Lake," now] and got on the cars at Brashier ["Morgan"] City.
January 24- The Train moved down to the landing and crossed over at dark and loaded on the cars (finished loading at mid-night). I lay on top of a car the rest of the night. [Certain cavalry units were being sent back to New Orleans for recruitment, replacements, training and re-equipment.]
25- I got up at day-light and went to a saloon and got my breakfast. The cars started at 7:30 and ran to Algiers, distance of 50 mi., by 2 P.M. We unloaded and camped over night with-out anything to eat or feed on.
January 26- We crossed the Miss. River into New Orleans, about the center of the town and went through the city and about 5 mi. on to camp, where I found the Command camped in a Brick-yard.
January 27- All quiet in camp. I put up my smith ing tools, etc.
28- My Birthday, I am 27 years old today, but it was quite a dull and lonesome one to me. I went on dress parade under command of Capt. Degras of Co. H.
29- Raining at day-light but cleared up. I went on drill and dress parade.
30- The morning clear and spring-like. We got coal and went to work.
January 31- I went on regimental Inspection at 9 A.M. and came off at i P.M. I and James then got a pass and went to a store and bought us a pair of boots a piece - $5.50.
Mon. Feb. 1st 1864 I worked all day shoeing horses. Company Drill. All quiet.
2- At work. Weather cool. Company Drill.
3- At work. All quiet in camp.
4- I went on Brigade review under Col. Lukes of the 16th Indiana, but was reviewed by Gen. Lea and staff. [Brig. Gen'l. Albert L. Lee] We were then marched through the city, to camp.
5- I was not very well, with a bad cold, thought I done a days work. Weather cool.
6- I worked all day shoeing horses. Weather clear with north wind.
February 7- By order of Gen. Lee, our private horsed were taken, valued and branded.
8- At work. All quiet in camp.
9- We went on Division review, by order of Gen. A. L. Lea.
10- At work. The camp was cleaned up. Three ships loading with veteran soldiers for New York, [whose enlistments had expired.]
11- Me and James got a pass and went and spent the day in the city. We got half dozen Portograms taken to send to our friends. Feb. 1864
February 12- At work. The regiment went on in sections. I slipped the guard and took a ride on the Onibus to town and back. We got orders to move.
13- I shod horses all day. All preparing to march. I wrote a letter to Brother Alen and sent him my portogram.
14- We went on inspection at night. I wrote a letter to Wesley McCullah, one to Aunt Nancy Kimberling, in Illinois, and to Aunt Phoebe Berry of Kansas.
February 15- We loaded and were ready to move at 9, when nearly all of our officers were ordered to report to the Provost Marshal in the City, so we did not move.
16- We were kept in readiness to move,
all day. Weather clear and warm.
17- Ordered to move at 7 A.M. but did not move. James, Dowland and Me got a pass and went to a show in the City.
18- James went ot the office and got the money for horses, by shaving the vouchers 10 per-cent. Weather cloudy and snowing, kept up a mist of snow all day.
19- The 16th Indiana left for Brashier City. Cold north wind, ice one inch thick. I worked all day but was very unwell with cold. Several of the boys attended court. Weather moderated but still cold.
21- I remained in camp and wrote a letter to Aunt Nancy Kimberling. The Regiment went on inspection.
February 22- The day of the Election for State Officers in Louisiana. 100 guns were fired at sunrise in honor of the election and Gen. Washington's Birthday.
23- At work. We were ordered to move next morning at 8 A.M. We left camp at 8 and moved across the river to Algiers. We loaded on over half of the Battallion and left at 2 and got to Brashier City at 8, the distance of 80 miles. We crossed the Bayou and went into camp at 12 noon.
February 25- We remained in camp all day. The remainder of the Command came up at night. The weather warm and springlike. The people are plowing.
26- The Command Moved at 7 and marched 25 mi. to Franklin and encamped 2 mi. below the town. The roads were good and firm so we had a good march.
February 27- I worked half the day and wrote letters to Aunt Avaline Cox and Mildred Nelson. A detail went foraging and got some pork and sweet potatoes and an old duck. "Law", what a mess we had the next day.
28- I wrote to brother Alan. I got orders to fit an extra pair of shoes for every horse. [The Red River Campaign was "for sure" this time.]
29- I turned shoes all day. The Battallion was mustered for pay by Capt. Briece. [Capt. Sidney A. Breese, Co. H, 6th Mo.]
Tues. March 1st, 1864. The Battalion went out foraging and got in at 10 P.M. Worked half a day.
2- I shod horses all day. Weather clears up.
3-The Command all went on Regimental drill. Wrote a letter to L. A. Shannon.
4- We went on Brigade drill. Co. I came up from New Orleans and brought us a large mail. I got 3 letters; from L. A. Shannon, Granville Gibson, and Cousin Delila Berry. I wrote to G. Gibson.
March 5- I worked half the day and wrote to brother Alan and to Major James A. Melton 2nd Ark. Cay. Vol. [who started with Cox as 1st. Lt. Co. B, 6th Mo. (one of my great-uncles, H.A.K.)
March 6- The Regiment went on inspection. I remained in camp all day. Weather warm.
7- We got orders to move next Thursday.["D Day" for the Louisiana arm of the Red River Campaign.] I shod horses all day.
8-The Second Brigade came up from Brashier City composed of 8 regiments of infantry, the 2nd U. S. Battery, and the 2nd New York Veteran Cavalry Volunteers, 900 strong. The sun shone unseemly warm. I done but little work.
9- The Battallion [6th Mo. Cavalry] went on picket. Rained all day. The wind blew and made it a very disagreeable day. I remained in camp, half starved for the want of a fire to cook by, but the rain ceased at night and I got a pleasant sleep.
March 10- The Command all went on picket [Troops "loaned" by Sherman embarked from Vicksburg under Brig. Gen'l Andrew J. ("A. J.") Smith,
11- All quiet. No important news.
12- I worked all day fitting up shoes to carry on a march which was impending.
13- I went on Inspection and wrote 2 letters; one to L. A. Shannon and one to brother Alan. The whole Army broke camp at night. The 1st. Brigade marched thru and went 8 mi., halted, and lay till day with our bridles in our hands.
March 14- At day, we made a little coffee and ate a few bites, then marched on; passed thru New Iberia about 3 P.M. with a light skirmish, moved up the Bayou 2 miles and camped. [Smith's troops took Ft. De Russy capturing 24 Officers and 300 enlisted men]
15- The 6th having the advance; we charged thru St. Martinsville with a sharp skirmish. We then chased the enemy, 10 miles, scattering them in different directions and went into camp at dark. [Porter's Naval Contingent arrived at Alexandria, La.]
March 16- The 1st Brigade [Cavalry Division, XIX Army Corps] which was composed of the 14th New York, 16th Indiana, 2nd Louisiana, and the 6th Missouri,
lay in camp until the 4th, 5th, and 6th Brigades
passed. We then moved on and went into camp at 11 o'clock on a little frog pond
of a Bayou.
17- We left camp at 6 A.M. and moved thru Opelousas and passed the 4th Brigade at 12 M. We passed thru Washington, crossed the Bayou Carta Bleau, passed Montville City and came to the mouth of the Bayou Boeuf and went into camp at dark. [Most of these place-names have been corrected in spelling.]
18- We broke camp at day-light, passed the 5th Brigade, and marched up the Bayou Boeuf.
19- The 1st Brigade left camp at 5 passed the 3rd Brigade at 7. Gen. L. A. Lea [A. L. Lee, Cmdr. Cay. Division I took the 14th New York and went to Alexandria. Gen. A. J. Smith had arrived 4 days previous with his fleet and was in possession of the place. We marched 35 mi. and camped 4 miles of the town. [Skirmishes ahead: Black Bayou and Bayou Rapides.]
20- We lay in camp. Rained all day. Some of the boys went on picket; some went to town, as for my part I went out with the forage train. We got a fine load of bacon, sweet potatoes, Molasses, etc.
March 21- The Command moved out at day. We went thru town [Alexandria] and came in contact with the enemy 4 mi. above. We chased them 10 mi. to Henderson's Hill, when we were fired on with Artillery. A. Rose, Co. B was killed; brother James was wounded in the foot. Camped. [OR: 'Affair at Henderson's Hill". ]
March 22- During the night, a portion of the 1st Brigade and a few Infantry had surrounded and taken the whole guard of 400 men and 4 pieces of artillery with-out the loss of a man. The expedition returned and camped a few miles above Alexandria.
23- Capt. P. B. Jenkins and Lieut. R. D. Dillard rejoined the Command from New Orleans.
24- Brother James was sent to the Hospital at Alexandria with his wound. We went to the Colonel's head-quarters and fired our arms, etc.
March 25- We drew 4 months pay. I drew $99.20. Battery I came up from town and camped by us. I wrote 2 letters and got 3. We got orders to march Monday next. The 6th all went on picket. Weather windy and cool.
26- The 4th Brigade passed us in the fore-noon. Gen. A. S. Smith's division of Infantry passed. Weather pleasant. [OR: Cavalry skirmish at Campti, 6th not involved.]
27- The 1st. Brigade broke camp at 7 and marched 12 mil. and camped at 2 P.M. on Henderson's Hill, on the camp-site of the rebels. We turned the fat hogs out of the pen, run them off and killed them and got a few chickens, etc., and had a pleasant time.
28- A part of the Command went to Cane River. [On the older maps this is "Old River" (Red).] The train loaded up to move but remained over-night. A thunder storm came up, but no rain. Remained in camp. [Main body of Union troops moves ahead from Alexandria.]
March 29- We left camp and marched across a pine ridge of 15 mi. to Came River. The Pioneer company came up and went to building a bridge of logs. Several regiments came up. all was quiet over night.
30- A pontoon came up at 8 and was ready for crossing by noon. The 1st Brigade crossed over and marched the east side of the river, 15 mi., and went into camp at 11 o'clock, in negro quarters, where we found plenty of chickens, potatoes and had a fine time.
March 31- We left camp, at 5, forded the river and marched up the bank of the river. The 2nd Brigade had the advance and had some sharp skirmishing, [near Natchitoches.] The Rebels burned all the cotton as they went. The Road was very dusty. We suffered much with the dust but marched 20 mi. and camped near Natchitoches. [OR: Skirmishes about Monett's Ferry and Clouterville.]
Fri. April, 1st, 1864- We left camp at 10 A.M. and passed the 2nd Brigade. The 6th lead the advance. We marched 12 mi. through fine country. Found no enemy and camped.
2- We left camp at 7, marched 10 mi., and encountered the enemy. A sharp Cavalry fight ensued, which lasted 3 hours. We drove the enemy 4 mi., killed 2 and captured several. We had 3 wounded. We went into camp at dark [OR: Crump's Hill.]
3- We left camp before day and fell back
4 mi. to the 4th Brigade and stopped and got breakfast, then marched 20 mi. back and camped. Weather warm.
April 4- The Battalion went on picket. [April 5-Nothing significant].
6- Our Brigade broke camp at 7 and marched quietly 15 mi. and camped a half a mile from water. Some went out and got
water and strained the wiggle-tails out of it.
7- We left camp at 6 and marched over Pleasant Hill where we found the 3rd Brigade engaged and had been for 2 hours and was falling back. We were brought up dismounted; it falling to me to hold the horses. I let them go and got into the fight. We soon drove them off of the field with considerable loss. [The first serious contact before "Sabine Cross Roads", and in which Lee found his mounted cavalry of little use in the thick pine woods. Whereupon he dismounted them to push ahead, remounted them as soon as any progress was made, dismounted them again and so on thus gaining but little in the advance for the time spent. I
8-At daybreak a skirmish commenced. We drove the enemy 5 miles. Skirmishing kept up until about 4 P.M. By this time we had 5000 men [chiefly infantry] ready for battle. A hard fight commenced but we were soon over-powered, 4 to 1, and fell back with heavy loss of 15 cannons, 1000 wagons and 2000 men. [Battle of Sabine Cross Roads]." There has always been some disagreement as to the number of men involved on either or both sides. In this engagement, "Dick" Taylor undoubtedly out-numbered the Union forces directly in front of him, and they, cut off from their own support by a pile-up of men and wagon trains behind them, had to stand and take a hard beating indeed. Cavalry units not caught helplessly in the pile-up were almost as ineffective in the field. (In this action my grandfather, Joel D. Melton, from Galena, Mo., a Sgt. in Company B, 6th Mo., was seriously injured when his horse fell with him. H.A.K.).
April 9- Back at Pleasant Hill we rested till 4 P.M. when we were brought out and found the troops were all formed for battle. The whole numbering about 18,000 men. The Rebels charged our lines at 3. The fight lasted 2 hours. When the Rebels left the fields, they left their dead and wounded. [Battle of Pleasant Hill
April 10- At day the Infantry was gone [having failed back to Natchitoches- Grand Ecore]. Our Brigade formed the rear. We marched 10 mi. and camped without rations, horse feed or anything else of the kind."
Thus the beginning of the Union withdrawal, - under Grant's orders.
Banks', "Pet Project?" No. Grant in his Memoirs makes this statement, "It is but just to Banks, however, to say that this expedition was ordered from Washington and he was in no way responsible except for the conduct of it. He opposed the expedition", (3), (11), (Winters, p. 325).
The "conduct" for which Banks was responsible? "Not so hot", - as usual. First and last, as Winters (p. 329) points out (in effect) the Federal Staff and Command were so sure that Taylor would not make a stand short of Shreveport that it was decided - and without reasonable reconnaisance - to take a short cut over a narrow but well-travelled road to Mansfield and the Sabine Cross Roads. Whereupon, and with the entire force - trains interspersed - strung out for twenty miles behind Lee's advancing cavalry, "Banks" marched "by detachments", so to say, straight into the trap well set for them. The next following "detachments", trains add all, piled into the battle ahead of them, and then fell all over one another trying to get out until somehow this rear-end collision was at last halted, - as much by darkness, perhaps, as anything else.
Well, "What might have been?"
Winters answers that a successful push by this large Federal force on through Mansfield would have opened three possible routes to Shreveport thus freeing this self-captured army from the confines of one narrow road through a heavy pine forest. Well aware all along of that possibility, Taylor = even though his timing was risky-for various reasons - blasted into the Federal advance unmercifully, stopping them cold in a wallow of their own men and equippage.
"Who won?" Both. Both of them had won a victory, a Pyrrhic victory and a costly one at that, to be sure, in that Washington never offered to mount another major offensive west of the Mississippi, and the Confederate forces were left without men and munitions sufficient even to plunge after Banks and "finish him off" before he could get unsnarled and get his naval support over the falls above Alexandria in a fast-falling river. As it was, Banks took what appeared to be his own sweet time about it thus nearly driving two commanders out of their skulls; Taylor in a frothy-mouthed rage at Kirby Smith for refusing to left him try to destroy the "defeated" Banks; and Grant with the fan-todds over getting Sherman's loan of A. J. Smith's men back into usefullness.
Whatever the case, the Red River Expedition was not over by any means. There was still more than a little of fighting to be
done: Banks had to get back down the River, and the Confederates still had enough left to give Banks a hard time of it while he was at it.
Taking up Cox's narrative then at "April 11" we find that they left their camp in the field and marched 10 miles to Grand Ecore where they, "found the other 3 Brigades of Cavalry and the remainder of the Army and went into camp nearly exhausted and starved." Continuing again, "
April 12- Heavy firing up the River. The Rebel Gen. Green [and a handful of other Texans as reckless as he] charged a gun-boat [at Blair's Landing] and was killed. We spent the day digging entrenchments. A line of rifle pits was dug around the whole place and were soon inside of good breast-works.
April 13- The 6th Mo. finished their job of digging. A pontoon bridge was soon laid across the river [for bringing in supplies from river transports and a foraging party was sent out for the purpose of getting in forage etc. The transport Fleet still remains up the river under the protection of the gun-boats.
14- The 6th was ordered out at day-light to re-inforce the pickets. We went out past the picket-post, 5 mi., and back. Co. H under Capt. Rile went out and was surrounded and had to save them-selves by flight-lost 1 wounded, 3 captured.
15- We went into camp and immediately was ordered down 3 mi. to Natchitoches. We charged the town and run out 50 rebels, killed 2 and captured 5 and got i horse wounded, returned to camp.
16- The 1st Brigade went on picket. I remained in camp; sick and unfit for duty. I wrote a letter to L. A. Shannon.
April 17- The boys came in off picket. We then went out on review and to hear a short speech from Gov. Hall [Willard P.] who was paying us a visit. Returned to camp.
Hamilton Gamble was "elected" Governor of Missouri and Hall Lieutenant Governor by the self-appointed and self-annointed "Constitutional Convention" which assumed control when Claiborne Jackson's duly elected government fled the state late in 1861 after one last session which, incidentally,took place in Cassville, (15), (16), not Neosho, as uncritical writers have recited for years. Gamble, worn out by nearly three years of vicious political in-fighting, died on 31 January 1864, whereupon he was succeeded by Hall. Things being what they were politically back in Missouri at the time of this visit, it seems safe to offer the conjecture that Governor Hall came down to the war-front for a little peace and quiet.
April 18- "Maj. Montgomery and Adjutant Sanders returned from Mo. after a recruiting expedition but brought no recruits with them. Chambier, our sutler opened a new supply of goods, wines, etc. The boys on quite a spree.
19- The Bugle sounded before day. We were all aroused and called to arms expecting an attack but nothing of the kind occured. The 1st Brigade went on picket at 10 A.M. I remained in camp.
20- The Brigade returned at 10 A.M. and moved out at 2 P.M. The 6th had the advance. We marched through Natchitoches. Encountered the enemy and drove them back 2 mi. with sharp skirmishing and remained over night on picket.
21- Skirmishing commenced at day-light and was kept up all day between the pickets. We were relieved 4 hours by the 10th Ind. to feed and get dinner, and returned to our posts and kept up the skirmish till dark, when all was quiet. We then fell back to the town and lay on the sidewalk with the bridles in our hands.
22- At day, we returned to our posts and commenced skirmishing, but the whole Army being gone on ahead we kept up the rear and at noon, just as we finished eating the first we had eaten since the morning before, the rebels came up and gave battle but we soon drove them back and marched all night.
23- Gen. Smith halted at Pretcherville. The enemy came up about 9 A.M. We had a sharp Cavalry and Artillery fight which lasted 3 hours, when the rebels fell back in the afternoon. We moved down 3 mi. The 6th being in the rear we skirmished all the way and lay in line all night with bridle in our hands.
24- The Rebels opened on us with Artillery at 3 A.M. We kept up a skirmish till 8 when the rebels charged us; we fell back and let them come on to Smith's Infantry and Artillery, which soon drove them back with heavy loss. The 6th then charged onto the battle-field where we found several dead men and horses. The Rebels drawing off their cannon by hand. ["Engagement at Cane River Crossing".]
April 25- After a day and nights march, without eating or sleeping, and crossing Cane River found us at Red river. [Cane River is an older and paralleling channel of Red River.] We were then relieved
from the rear guard, which we had been for 7 days and night. The 1st Brigade moved down and camped 2 mi. above the Alexandria on the river bank.
26- We all remained in camp. Some shelling 10 mi. above, by the gun boats.
27- Sharp skirmish with the pickets, Dipper of Co. F badly wounded. Shelling still going on by the gun boats. Remained in camp all day. [Another engagement at Cane River Crossing.]
28- The gun boats passed down. The 4th Brigade and the Rebels [Parson's Brigadel fighting all the fore-noon. The 1st Brigade was ordered out at 12 noon and taken their places. Kept up a sharp skirmish till dark. Fell back to camp with the loss of several horses and 5 men wounded.
29- The 1st Brigade moved camp down the river, i mi., and camped by the side of 10 gun boats which lay above the falls. The 12th
Ill. Veterans, just from home, joined our Brigade. [A lively skirmish back to Grand Ecore.]
30- Lieut. Dillard returned to the Co. from New Orleans. We were mustered for pay by Maj. Montgomery.
Sun. May 1st, 1864- The Battallion ["7 Com panies of the 6th Mo."] went on picket. We moved camp in the afternoon two miles below town.
2- The boys came off picket. We got a large mail. I got 2 letters.
3- I wrote a letter home. The steamer "City Belle" was captured and burned by the Rebels, on her way up from New Orleans.
4- Gen. A. J. Smith went out 6 mi. south and came in contact with the Rebels, drove them back and held his ground. Several hun dred hands were at work damning the river, in order to get the gun-boats over the falls. [The work was begun on 30 April.]
5- The 1st. Brigade [of the Cavalry Division I was ordered out 6 mi. to join Gen. Smith. The 6th was then ordered 3 mi. to the river through swamps, where we fed and rested, and returned to Smith's headquarters and remained over night in a beautiful grass door-yard on the Widow Flour's plantation.
6- The Brigade moved out at noon, the 6th having the advance. We soon encountered the enemy. We skirmished and fought till 4 P.M. standing the enemy's shot and shell for hours at a time. We drove them from different positions and captured and burned 4 barns and a quantity of sugar and camped.
May 7- About 8 we were attacked. The 6th, dismounted, drove the enemey back to thick timber. A skirmish was kept up all day. We were fired on several times by Artillery. They made 3 charges on 2 regiments of our Infantry, but were repulsed. Our loss was light. [Bayou Lamourie.]
8- During the past night the army fell back 4 mi. and remained in camp all day.
9- Our Brigade was relieved by the 4th Brigade and went back to camp. A part of the gunboats had got over the falls by taking off their guns and sheeting."
[Three light-draught gunboats, "Osage", "Hindman", and "Neosho" followed by the "Lexington" passed over. By 15 March 64 the entire fleet had been brought across safely. I
May 10- "The pickets were driven in at dark. The 1st Brigade went out and returned at mid-ngiht.
11- The 1st Division of Infantry moved down the river, 2 mi., and camped. We were expecting order to move. No rain for 6 weeks.
12- I spent most of the day caring for my horse as he had had nothing to eat for 3 days and we were living on half rations our-selves, as our transportation had been cut off for the last 6 days.
13- The 1st Brigade left camp at day-light and marched down the river 8 mi., in the advance of the Army and halted in the evening. The 6th Mo. was sent out thru the swamps and drove in the rebel pickets at 2 different points and returned to camp.
May 14- We moved out at day-light. The 1st Brigade having the advance we soon came in contact with the enemy. After skirmishing with the enemy all day we drove them from their works and blockade where they had captured and burned 5 boats, [un-armed, shallow-draught transports. Skirmishing kept up all day. We went into camp alright.
15- The 1st and 2nd Brigades moved out at 10 A.M. Soon came in contact with the enemy and were driven back by their artillery, but reformed and drove themwith slight loss, out of the timber onto a large prairie where both parties camped over night, quietly within 2 mi. of each other.
16- We moved out at daylight. The 6th having the advance, marched in line of battle across across the prairie, skirmishing all the way. They opened 13 pieces of Artillery on us at the distance of 400 yards, but done little damage. Sharp fighting ensued. The enemy gave away and our march was continued. [Marksville Prairie, ]
17- A pontoon bridge was thrown across
a small river. We crossed over and marched 3 mi. to Calcasieu river and camped. Greatly fatigued from our march in the heat and dust and were short of rations. We rested over night, quietly. The train was closing up all day.
May 18- The boys all went on picket. Gen. Smith had a hard fight in the rear but succeeded in dribing the enemy back with heavy loss - 30 killed and 75 wounded. A bridge was built across the Calcasieu river on the bow of 20 transports."
His "Calcasieu River" is a puzzle. It seems likely that a "river" broad enough to stage 20 transports side by side must have been either the Bayou de Glaze, several miles south-east of Marksville, which would have had to have been connected with some sort of outlet to the Atchafalya, or, the place in reference was at or near the confluence of the Red and the Atchafalya. Perhaps it was a bayou of the latter, and Cox not being very thoroughly acquaintd with the local geography understood the local pronunciation of Atchafaly. That, however, seems most unlikely for a number of reasons. For one, the navigable, 'Calcasieu", is miles to the southwest of where he was at the time.
May 19- "I went out on picket and remained out all day and night.
20- The picket were called in at 12 noon. The army had about all crossed over the bridge. We crossed and marched all night in the rear of a large train and only got about 5 miles.
21- We stopped and got a little breakfast and then moved on all day and reached the Miss. river about 3 P.M. near Morganzy [sic] bend. Camped. On the 21st and 22nd of May,
A. J. Smith's troops re-embarked for Vicksburg.
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