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Battle of Pleasant Hill, 9 April 1864
The second of two battles in two days that ended any chance of success for the Red River campaign. The real damage had been done on the previous day at Sabine Crossroads, or Mansfield, where a Confederate force 11,000 strong under General Richard Taylor had defeated 4,500 men from the Federal advance guard and forced them to retreat in some disorder.
The bulk of the Federal army came back together at Pleasant Hill. Banks then decided to withdraw to Grand Ecore, while leaving a strong rearguard at Pleasant Hill. This force, under Generals Emory and A. J. Smith, probably numbered around 11,000 men. To oppose it Taylor now had close to 13,000 men, having been reinforced by two divisions late on 8 April.
The Confederate pursuit reached Pleasant Hill on the afternoon on 9 April. Taylor launched a vigorous attack, which met with some initial success. However, a Federal counterattack got around the Confederate right wing and the attacking line collapsed. By the end of the day only one Confederate division remaining intact. If Banks had known that, he could have easily brushed aside the remaining Confederate defences and captured Shreveport virtually unopposed. This was certainly Edmund Kirby Smith’s fear after the defeat at Pleasant Hill, but when he arrived on the battlefield late on the evening of 9 April he discovered that Banks had continued his retreat to Grand Ecore.
Recollection of Richard Taylor, Battle of Pleasant Hill, April 9, 1864
The village of Pleasant Hill occupies part of a plateau, a mile wide from east to west, along the Mansfield and Fort Jesup road. The highest ground, called College Hill, is on the west, and here enters a road from the Sabine, which, sixteen miles to the east, strikes the Red River at Blair's Landing while, from the necessity of turning Spanish Lake, the distance to Natchitoches and Grand Ecore is thirty-six miles. The Federal fleet, with accompanying troops, was now many miles above Blair's, which by river is forty-five miles above Grand Ecore. Driven from Pleasant Hill to the latter place, the Federal forces would be widely separated, and might be destroyed in detail. Though it appeared to be the enemy's intention to continue his retreat, as he was known to be moving back his trains, yet if undisturbed he might find courage to attempt a junction with his fleet at Blair's Landing and I did not wish to lose the advantage of the morale gained by success on the previous day.
Our reconnaissance showed that the Federal lines extended across the open plateau, from College Hill on their left to a wooded height on the right of the road to Mansfield. Winding along in front of this position was a gully cut by winter rains, but now dry, and bordered by a thick growth of young pines, with fallen timber interspersed. This was held by the enemy's advanced infantry, with his main line and guns on the plateau. Separating the gully and thicket from the forest toward Mansfield was an open field, several hundred yards wide near the road, but diminishing in width toward the west. Here the Federal commander had concentrated some eighteen thousand, including A. J. Smith's force, not engaged on the previous day.
My plan of attack was speedily determined. Orders were sent to the infantry to fill canteens at the mill stream, and to the trains to park there. Shortly after midday the infantry appeared, Churchill in advance but a glance showed that his men were too much exhausted to attack. They had marched forty-five miles, and were thoroughly jaded. Walker's and Polignac's divisions had been heavily engaged on the previous day, and all were suffering from heat and thirst. Accordingly, two hours were given to the troops to lie down and rest……
In the two actions of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill my loss in killed and wounded was twenty-two hundred. At Pleasant Hill we lost three guns and four hundred and twenty-six prisoners, one hundred and seventy-nine from Churchill's, and two hundred and forty-seven from Scurry's brigade at the time it was so nearly overwhelmed. The Federal loss in killed and wounded exceeded mine, and we captured twenty guns and twenty-eight hundred prisoners, not including stragglers picked up after the battle. The enemy's campaign for conquest was defeated by an inferior force, and it was doubtful if his army and fleet could escape destruction.
These were creditable results, yet of much less importance than those that would have been accomplished but for my blunder at Pleasant Hill. Instead of intrusting the important attack by my right to a subordinate, I should have conducted it myself and taken Polignac's division to sustain it. True, this would have removed my reserve from the center and line of retreat, and placed it on a flank but I was confident that the enemy had no intention of resuming the offensive, and should have acted on that conviction. All this flashed upon me the instant I learned of the disorder of my right. Herein lies the vast difference between genius and commonplace: one anticipates errors, the other discovers them too late.
Battle of Pleasant Hill, 9 April 1864 - History
This list was taken from Orders of Battle for the Red River Campaign, March - May 1864. I tried to whittle out the units which actually participated at Pleasant Hill on April 9, but most likely there are a few errors. Depending on which reference you use, there are a some differences in units that participated at Pleasant Hill, artillery units in particular. Using this as a start point, maybe some of the experts can tweak it to make it more accurate.
Orders of Battle for the Red River Campaign
Battle at Pleasant Hill, April 9, 1864
Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor commanding the District of Western Louisiana
Headquarters Escort Company (Louisiana Cavalry)—Capt. Joseph Benjamin
Unattached—2nd Battalion Louisiana Reserves
First Infantry Division
Maj. Gen. John G. Walker
First Brigade—Brig. Gen. Thomas N. Waul
12th Texas Infantry—Col. Overton C. Young
18th Texas Infantry—Col. Wilburn H. King
22nd Texas Infantry—Col. Richard B. Hubbard
13th Texas Cavalry, Dismounted—Col. Anderson F. Crawford
Second Brigade—Col. Horace Randal
11th Texas Infantry—Col. Oran M. Roberts
14th Texas Infantry—Col. Edward Clark
28th Texas Cavalry, Dismounted—Lt. Col. Eli H. Baxter Jr.
6th (Gould’s) Texas Cavalry Battalion—Lt. Col. Robert S. Gould
Third Brigade—Brig. Gen. William R. Scurry
16th Texas Infantry—Col. George Flournoy
17th Texas Infantry—Col. Robert T. P. Allen
19th Texas Infantry—Col. Richard Waterhouse Jr.
16th Texas Cavalry, Dismounted—Col. William Fitzhugh
First Division Artillery
Haldeman’s Texas Battery—Capt. Horace Haldeman
Daniel’s Texas Battery—Capt. James M. Daniel
Edgar’s Texas Battery—Capt. William Edgar
Second Infantry Division
Brig. Gen. Jean Jacque Alexandre Alfred Mouton (killed April , Brig. Gen. Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac
First Brigade—Col. Henry Gray
18th Louisiana Consolidated Infantry—Col. Leopold L. Armant (killed April , Lt. Col. Joseph Collins
28th Louisiana Infantry—Lt. Col. William Walker (killed April , Maj. Thomas W. Pool
Consolidated Crescent Regiment—(Louisiana) Regiment—Col. James Beard (killed April , Lt. Col. Abel W. Bosworth, Capt. William C. C. Claiborne, Jr.
Second Brigade—Brig. Gen. Camille J. Polignac, Col. James R. Taylor (killed April , Lt. Col. Robert D. Stone (killed April , Lt. Col. James E. Harrison
15th Texas Infantry—Lt. Col. James E. Harrison Maj. John W. Daniel
17th Texas Consolidated Cavalry, Dismounted—Col. James R. Taylor, Maj. Thomas F. Tucker
22nd Texas Cavalry, Dismounted—Lt. Col. Robert D. Stone, Maj. George W. Merrick
31st Texas Cavalry, Dismounted—Maj. Frederick J. Malone
34th Texas Cavalry, Dismounted—Lt. Col. John H. Caudle
Artillery—Maj. Thomas A. Faeries
Confederate Regular Battery, Capt. John T. M. Barnes
Bell (La.) Battery—Capt. Thomas O. Benton
St. Mary (La.) Cannoneers—Capt. Florian O. Cornay, Lt. John B. Tarleton.
Second Division Artillery—Maj. Joseph L. Brent
Reserve Battalion—Maj. Charles W. Squires
West’s Arkansas Battery—Capt. Henry C. West
Pelican (La.) Battery—Capt. B. Felix Winchester
Detachment, District of Arkansas
Brig. Gen. Thomas James Churchill
Brig. Gen. James C. Tappan
Tappan’s Brigade—Col. H. L. Grinstead
19th (Dawson’s) and 24th Arkansas Infantry—Lt. Col. William R. Hardy
27th and 38th Arkansas Infantry—Col. R G. Shaver
33rd Arkansas Infantry—Col. Hiram L. Grinstead
Etter’s Arkansas Battery—Capt. Chambers B. Etter
Gause’s Brigade—Col. Lucien C. Gause
26th Arkansas Infantry—Lt. Col. Iverson L. Brooks
32nd Arkansas Infantry—Lt. Col. William Hicks
36th Arkansas Infantry—Col. James M. Davie
[? 39th Arkansas Infantry—Col. James W. Rogan?]
Marshall’s Arkansas Battery—Capt. John G. Marshall
Brig. Gen. Mosby M. Parsons
First Brigade—Brig. Gen. John B. Clark Jr.
8th Missouri Infantry—Col. Charles S. Mitchell
9th Missouri Infantry—Col. Richard H. Musser
Ruffner’s Missouri Battery—Capt. Samuel T. Ruffner
2nd Brigade—Col. Simon P. Burns
10th Missouri Infantry—Col. William M. Moore
11th Missouri Infantry—Lt. Col. Thomas H. Murray
12th Missouri Infantry—Col. Willis M. Ponder
16th Missouri Infantry—Lt. Col. Pleasant W. H. Cumming
9th Missouri Battalion Sharpshooters—Maj. Lebbeus A. Pindall
Lesueur’s Missouri Battery—Capt. Alex A. Lesueur
Brig. Gen. Thomas Jefferson Green (killed April 12)
Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee
Debray’s Brigade—Col. Xavier B. Debray
23rd Texas Cavalry—Col. Nicholas C. Gould (arrived April 9–10)
26th Texas Cavalry—Lt. Col. John J. Meyers
36th Texas Cavalry—Col. Peter C. Woods (arrived April 9–10)
Buchel’s Brigade—Col. Augustus C. Buchel (mortally wounded April 9)
1st Texas Cavalry—Lt. Col. William O. Yager
35th (Likens’) Texas Cavalry—Col. James B. Likens (arrived April 9–10)
Terrell’s Texas Cavalry—Col. Alexander W. Terrell
Brig. Gen. James P. Major
Lane’s Brigade—Col. Walter P. Lane (wounded April , Col. George W. Baylor
1st Texas Partisan Rangers—Lt. Col. R. P. Crump
2nd Texas Partisan Rangers—Col. Isham Chisum
2nd Regt., Arizona Brigade—Lt. Col. John W. Mullen
3rd Regt., Arizona Brigade—Lt. Col. George T. Madison
Bagby’s Brigade—Col. Arthur P. Bagby
4th Texas Cavalry—Col. William P. Hardeman
5th Texas Cavalry—Maj. Hugh A. McPhaill
7th Texas Cavalry—Lt. Col. Philemon T. Herbert Jr. (mortally wounded April , Lt. Col. Gustave Hoffman
13th Texas Cavalry Battalion—Lt. Col. Edward Waller Jr.
Vincent’s Brigade—Col. William G. Vincent (operated independently)
2nd Louisiana Cavalry—Col. William G. Vincent
4th (7th) Louisiana Cavalry—Col. Louis Bush
Horse Artillery—Maj. Oliver J. Semmes
Grosse Tete (La.) Flying Artillery Battery—Capt. John A. A. West
Gibson’s Texas Battery—Capt. William E. Gibson (arrived about May 10)
McMahan’s Texas Artillery Battery—Capt. Martin Van Buren McMahan
Moseley’s Texas Artillery Battery—Capt. William G. Moseley
Valverde (Tex.) Artillery Battery—Capt. Thomas D. Nettles
Louisiana State Guard
1st Louisiana Battalion Cavalry—Lt. Col. Benjamin W. Clark
2nd Louisiana Battalion Cavalry—Lt. Col. Henry M. Favrot
Harrison’s Louisiana Cavalry Battalion—Lt. Col. William Harrison
Red River Scouts (La.) Cavalry Battalion (two companies)—Capt. Willis A. Stewart
1st Trans-Mississippi Cavalry Battalion—Maj. Thomason J. Bird
Crescent Artillery (Company A)—Capt. T. H. Hutton
Major General Nathaniel Prentiss Banks, Commander Department of the Gulf
13th Army Corps (Detachment)
Brig. Gen. Thomas E. G. Ransom
Brig. Gen. Robert A. Cameron
First Brigade—Lt. Col. Aaron M. Flory
46th Indiana Infantry—Capt. William M. DeHart
29th Wisconsin Infantry—Maj. Bradford Hancock
Second Brigade—Col. William H. Raynor
24th Iowa Infantry—Maj. Edward Wright
28th Iowa Infantry—Col. John Connell
56th Ohio Infantry—Capt. Maschil Manring Artillery
1st Missouri Light Artillery, Battery A—Lt. Col. Elisha Cole
Ohio Light Artillery, 2nd Battery—Lt. William H. Harper
Col. William J. Landram
First Brigade—Col. Frank Emerson
77th Illinois Infantry—Lt. Col. Lysander R. Webb
67th Indiana Infantry—Maj. Francis A. Sears
19th Kentucky Infantry—Lt. Col. John Cowan
23rd Wisconsin Infantry—Maj. Joseph E. Greene
Second Brigade—Col. Joseph W. Vance.
130th Illinois Infantry—Maj. John B. Reid
48th Ohio Infantry—Lt. Col. Joseph W. Lindsey
83rd Ohio Infantry—Lt. Col. William H. Baldwin
96th Ohio Infantry—Lt. Col. Albert H. Brown Artillery
Indiana Light Artillery, 1st Battery—Capt. Martin Klauss
Chicago Mercantile Battery—Lt. Pinkney S. Cone
19th Army Corps
Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin
Brig. Gen. William H. Emory
First Brigade—Brig. Gen. William Dwight
29th Maine Infantry—Col. George L. Beal
114th New York Infantry—Lt. Col. Henry B. Morse
116th New York Infantry—Col. George M. Love
153rd New York Infantry—Col. Edwin P. Davis
161st New York Infantry—Lt. Col. William B. Kinsey
Second Brigade—Brig. Gen. James W. McMillan
15th Maine Infantry—Col. Isaac Dyer
160th New York Infantry—Lt. Col. John B. Van Petten
47th Pennsylvania Infantry—Col. Tilghman H. Good
13th Maine Infantry—Col. Henry Rust Jr.
Third Brigade—Col. Lewis Benedict (killed April 9)
30th Maine Infantry—Col. Francis Fessenden
162nd New York Infantry—Lt. Col. Justus W. Blanchard
173rd New York Infantry—Col. Lewis M. Peck
165th New York Infantry—Lt. Col. Gouverneur Carr Artillery
1st Delaware Battery—Capt. Benjamin Nields
Battery L, 1st U.S. Artillery—Lt. Franck E. Taylor
1st Vermont Battery—Capt. George T. Hebard
Brig. Gen. Albert L. Lee
First Brigade—Col. Thomas J. Lucas
14th New York Cavalry—Maj. Abraham Bassford
16th Indiana Mounted Infantry—Lt. Col. James H. Redfield
2nd Louisiana Mounted Infantry—Maj. Alfred Hodsdon
Third Brigade—Col. Harai Robinson
1st Louisiana Cavalry (U.S.)—Maj. Algernon S. Badger
87th Illinois Mounted Infantry—Lt. Col. John M. Crebs
Fourth Brigade—Col. Nathan A. M. “Goldlace” Dudley
2nd Illinois Cavalry—Maj. Benjamin F. Marsh Jr.
3rd Massachusetts Cavalry (31st Massachusetts Mounted Infantry)—Lt. Col. Lorenzo D. Sargent
2nd New Hampshire Cavalry (8th New Hampshire Mounted Infantry)—Lt. Col. George A. Flanders
Fifth Brigade—Col. Oliver R Gooding
18th New York Cavalry, Companies K and D—Capt. William Davis
3rd Rhode Island Cavalry (detachment)—Maj. George R Davis
2nd New York Veteran Cavalry (?)—Col. Morgan H. Chrysler
Rawles’s Battery (Battery G, 5th U.S. Light Artillery)—Lt. Jacob B. Rawles
6th Missouri Cavalry, Howitzer Battery—Capt. H. H. Rottakan
2nd Battery (B) Massachusetts Light Artillery—Capt. Ormand F. Nims
16th Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee
Brig. Gen. Andrew J. Smith
Second Brigade—Col. Lucius F. Hubbard
47th Illinois Infantry—Col. John D. McClure
5th Minnesota Infantry—Maj. John C. Becht
8th Wisconsin Infantry—Lt. Col. John W. Jefferson
Third Brigade—Col. Sylvester G. Hill
35th Iowa (nonveterans 8th and 12th Iowa attached)—Lt. Col. William B.Keeler
33rd Missouri (nonveterans, 11th Missouri attached)—Col. William H. Heath
Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Mower
First Brigade—Col. William F. Lynch
58th Illinois Infantry—Maj. Thomas Newlan
119th Illinois Infantry—Col. Thomas J. Kinney
89th Indiana (nonveterans, 52nd Indiana attached)—Col. C. D. Murray
Second Brigade—Col. William T. Shaw
14th Iowa Infantry—Lt. Col. Newbold
27th Iowa Infantry—Col. James J. Gilbert
32nd Iowa Infantry—Col. John Scott
24th Missouri (nonveterans, 21st Missouri attached)—Maj. Robert W. Fyan
Third Brigade—Col. Risdon M. Moore
49th Illinois Infantry—Thomas W. Morgan
117th Illinois Infantry—Lt. Col. Jonathan Merriam
178th New York—Col. Edward Wehler
3rd Indiana Battery—Capt. James M. Cockefair
9th Indiana Battery—Capt. George R. Brown
Detached to Brig. Gen. A. J. Smith (16th Corps)
Second (Provisional) Division
Brig. Gen. Thomas Kilby Smith
First Brigade—Col. Jonathan B. Moore
41st Illinois Infantry—Col. John M. Nale
3rd Iowa Infantry—Lt. Col. James Tullis
33rd Wisconsin Infantry—Maj. Horatio H. Virgin
Second Brigade—Col. Lyman M. Ward
81st Illinois Infantry—Lt. Col. Andrew W. Rogers
95th Illinois Infantry—Col. Thomas W. Humphrey
14th Wisconsin Infantry—Capt. Carlos M. G. Mansfield
1st Missouri Light Artillery, Battery M—Lt. John M. Tiemeyer
“Louisiana Has Drawn First Blood Today” – The Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, 1864
In 1864, factions on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line grew tired of the destruction and carnage that had been waged for the last three years. President Abraham Lincoln worried that the stagnant predicament of the war would ruin his chances for re-election. His opponent, former Union General George B. McClellan, and Lincoln’s former commander of the Union Army, managed to garner the undying support of the nation’s Democrats with his promises of a negotiated peace with the Confederacy. McClellan assured his supporters that his election would be the solution to the country’s woes and an end to the bloodiest conflict in American history.
President Lincoln realized that in order to win re-election during a war and quell his detractors, he must demonstrate that to continue fighting the war would re-unite the Union. The president theorized that if he could secure the readmission of a southern state to convince the Confederacy the futility of any further resistance. The president targeted Louisiana to be that southern state and he saw an opportunity for the state to re-join the Union through “benevolent repatriation,” where, “re-entry of Louisiana…might inspire other Southern states to cease resistances.”
Although New Orleans fell under the Union standard two years before in May 1862, the Confederates in Louisiana moved their capitol to Opelousas and then Shreveport, directing operations from there as military actions and the danger of capture warranted. Union execution of this plan and Lincoln’s hopes for a simple and short victory would be hard-fought as Confederate soldiers displayed a chivalric devotion to their cause.
In one of the last clashes of the war, the Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill cured all doubts regarding soldiers still committed to the Rebel cause. After three years of Union domination and a notable lack of Confederate victories in Louisiana, these battles demonstrated the South’s commitment to ridding Louisiana of every vestige of Union influence, preserving some semblance of southern pride, and providing slim hope of an overall victory in the war. This would give the southern people a much-needed morale boost. Once thought to be the back roads of the Confederacy, the forces engaged at the Battles of Mansfield/Pleasant Hill formed the backbone of the Confederate corps. Her commanders proved more capable than most and realized that victory could be attained with a little patience and the exploitation of enemy weaknesses.
The Union plan for subduing the remainder of Louisiana’s forces and accomplishing Lincoln’s objectives had been sitting on the desk of General Henry W. Halleck, Lincoln’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armies, for almost a year before its significance would be recognized. Military leaders who actually reviewed the plan thought it “unnecessary.” General Ulysses S. Grant believed Mobile Bay should have priority over Shreveport due to its harboring of blockade runners. Admiral David Porter felt apprehensive moving his small force, “so far up an unfamiliar, twisting, small river dominated by high banks on both sides” when he spoke of the Red River in Louisiana.
Subsequently, General Nathaniel P. Banks, commander of the Department of the Gulf, who, at first opposed such an operation, took into consideration that northern textile mills stood dormant because of a lack of cotton. Banks believed that in capturing shipments of cotton along the Red River he could make those mills operational again and redeem himself after losing a substantial amount of his forces during the disastrous Valley Campaign against Confederate demigod, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. By achieving some semblance of victory in Louisiana with the new plan, Gen. Banks might just earn favor with his superiors and assign him to more martial duties.
The Red River Campaign called for Gen. Banks to march along the river itself, capture Shreveport with the assistance of Admiral Porter watching his flanks with supporting gunboats, and use the area around the city as a marshaling point for operations in East Texas. Gen. Halleck, on the other hand, planned to strangle the Confederate supply lines emanating from French intermediaries in Mexico.
The French did not hide their support for the Confederacy and pressed with the possibility of troops being supplied to the Confederacy by the French from the South, Gen. Banks waited for assurances from Gen. Halleck that French aid to the Rebels could be strangled from the South before Gen. Banks attempted his advance in the campaign. Consequently, an incident occurred regarding a breakdown in communications between Mexico and France. Banks informed Halleck that, “there is little probability of reinforcements being sent to Mexico from France.” With this perceived difficulty resolved, Halleck ordered Banks to begin provisioning for the operation in January 1864, and proceed with the campaign in all haste.
Major General Richard Taylor, son of former president Zachary Taylor and head the Confederate District of Western Louisiana, commanded Louisiana troops in the field and anticipated the enemy’s movements when, “Sherman (William Tecumseh) had visited New Orleans, I feared his cooperation with Banks from Vicksburg, but I had no means of estimating either the extent or time of such cooperation.”
Reacting to this news, Gen. Taylor ordered a brigade under the command of Brigadier General Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac, to proceed immediately to Alexandria. Gen. Taylor then received news that Fort DeRussy had surrendered, releasing Union troops for an attack on Shreveport. On March 15 th , Gen. Taylor was notified that the Union gunboats made it to Alexandria on the Red River. Ever since the Union victories at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson, Louisiana, he expected a large Union army to meet him at some location along the Red River.
Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor
In an effort to harass Union troops on the march and leave nothing viable in the means of materiél for the enemy, under Gen. Taylor’s orders, Confederate troops confiscated everything from horses, to corn, to hay. Additionally, Taylor adopted a “scorched-earth” policy with his men burning tons of cotton despite the protests of merchants and planters from Opelousas to Shreveport. Taylor believed that Union forces were capable of laying waste to the entire eastern part of the state and any actions he could perform to serve the Confederate interests would certainly stall the Union army for enough time to gather the necessary forces to achieve victory over Banks and his men.
Having yet to encounter what Gen. Taylor and his troops had planned for them, Gen. Banks experienced difficulty with the U.S. Navy’s movements on the Red River. The crest was still not high enough to sustain the draft of most their gunboats or their transports. Admiral David Porter’s flotilla slowly crept up the Red River and still managed to fire their guns in their vulnerable ascent. Gen. Taylor learned that a Confederate transport, the Falls City, was standing by to be sunk near Grand Ecore, a small hamlet located just eight miles north of Natchitoches on the Red River. Because of the inland nature of the battles to come, Adm. Porter’s gunboats and transports would play a lesser role in the campaign than anticipated, but Taylor still took the threat seriously.
With the Confederates continuing their preparations for the Union armies’ arrival, on April 1 st , writing from his headquarters near Shreveport, Gen. Taylor related, “As the enemy was moving up on the Natchitoches Road to Pleasant Hill in force I ordered Colonel Xavier Debray to push forward his batteries and trains with dispatch, which was done.” Gen. Taylor claimed to have “offered” battle to the Union army, but they refused so he left a cavalry division at Pleasant Hill and his infantry to Mansfield. In the early morning hours of April 2 nd , General Thomas Green skirmished with some Union troops just outside Pleasant Hill. The bulk of the Union forces struggled to make their way up the Red River and by the time the Union army assembled for any major offensive, they numbered more than 35,000 men. Leading the way, General Albert Lee of the 1 st Division cavalry unit, followed by three hundred wagons, three divisions of infantry from the 13 th and 19 th Corps, along with members of the Corps d’Afrique, black troops organized by the former military governor of the state, Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler (the “Beast” of historical infamy), slogged their way through to Pleasant Hill and waited for the Confederates. With all his troops and supplies, Smith’s wagon train stretched some twenty miles long.
On April 3 rd , Gen. Taylor supplemented his orders to Col. DeBray to move his army before daybreak, but DeBray did not make it from the town of Many to the Natchitoches Road until near sunset of that day. While en route, DeBray’s troops encountered a large enemy force, but protected his batteries and supply until an infantry unit covered his withdrawal so that the colonel could join Gen. Taylor at Mansfield. By April 5 th , Gen. Taylor noted that he had not observed the Union army advancing on either Natchitoches or Mansfield roads, and reported through current dispatches from Col. DeBray that the Union army had, “fallen back on the road to DuPont’s Bridge, 18 miles below Pleasant Hill.”
With a major battle eminent, Gen. Taylor devised a plan to stall the Union forces even further. Although outnumbered and out-supplied, Taylor proved throughout his military career to be a commander who acted with decisiveness and sound military precedent he also took risks and succeeded where other generals failed. However, Taylor suffered constant and persistent indecision on the part of General Kirby Smith, commanding the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, and made Gen. Taylor’s efforts to build a formidable force even that much more difficult. His available manpower stood at only 6,100 men and needed Smith’s complements to give the Confederates the slightest chance for victory.
Gen. Smith planned to bring two cavalry divisions from Texas and two infantry divisions from Arkansas to bear. But until Smith’s forces arrived, Gen, Taylor waited impatiently for the action to commence. Finally, Taylor strongly urged Smith to expedite his actions so the Confederates could go on the offensive. Gen. Smith consistently delayed any action to the last possible moment and had a bad habit of inflating Union numbers. Gen. Taylor began to lose all patience with Kirby’s procrastination and strongly urged his subordinate to concentrate his efforts on defeating Banks, no matter the cost.
Calling on his previous military successes against long odds, Gen. Taylor devised a strategy where he would attack one of the Union’s larger columns. However, with Gen. Smith’s constant and persistent indecision, Taylor struggled to build a formidable force. His available manpower stood at only 6,100 men and needed Smith’s complements of Confederate troops. Gen. Smith planned to bring two cavalry divisions from Texas and two infantry divisions from Arkansas to bear. But until Smith’s forces arrived, Gen. Taylor found himself unable to act upon any strategy.
Smith’s lack of urgency caused Taylor turn to an alternative plan of action in preparation of battle. On April 6 th , Taylor ordered Brigadier General James P. Major, Colonel William P. Hardeman, and Lt. Colonel Edward Waller, Jr.’s cavalry Brigades toward Mansfield. On the morning of April 7 th , Gen. Taylor received word from Brig. Gen. Major from outside of Pleasant Hill that, “the enemy was advancing with a large force of all arms and was driving in our pickets.” Taylor then rode to Pleasant Hill on a reconnaissance mission to determine the enemy’s true strength there.
Red Bluff, California, United States-April 24, 2016: Union troops return fire at the Dog Island Civil War Reenactment.
On that evening, Taylor joined Major General Thomas Green where the cavalry commander informed his superior that Col. Dabray had marched from Many, Louisiana, to Pleasant Hill with the 36 th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Taylor urged that Debray utilize his batteries expeditiously to keep Gen. Banks’ army from using the Shreveport-Natchitoches Stage road. Debray followed Taylor’s order implicitly. Taylor then implored Maj. Gen. Green to instruct cavalry units to harass the Yankee columns until he could gain sight of the main body of the Union army and fall back after a guerrilla strike against the Union main force.
With his army prepared for a land battle, Gen. Taylor then turned his attention toward the Union gunboats that were moving slowly up the Red River, still firing their guns during their hampered ascent. . Gen. Taylor’s concerns over his land forces took precedent over a potential naval threat. Taylor knew that Grand Ecore stood on a bluff overlooking the river therefore, any Union breakthrough would be well-observed, swift and hold a well-organized tactical response.
If Taylor viewed the lack of naval participation as a Union advantage, Gen. Banks worried about the support the gunboats could provide the campaign. Banks reported to Edwin M. Stanton, the Union secretary of War, when he observed, “the river was perceptibly falling and the larger gunboats were unable to pass Grand Ecore…the condition of the river would have justified the suspension of the movement altogether at either point, except for the anticipation of such a change as to render it navigable.”
The change of which Banks hoped occurred on April 7, 1864, when Admiral Porter left his deep draft gunboats and proceeded to the Springfield Landing, some 100 miles above Grande Ecore. The shallow draft vessels included ironclads for fire support and approximately twenty troop transports carrying men, food, ammunition, and other provisions. Once they arrived at Springfield Landing, Gen. Banks ordered General T. Kilby Smith to reconnoiter the area toward Mansfield and secure the road leading to the town, if feasible. With this order, Banks lead his army into a well-organized and brilliantly executed Confederate trap.
On the evening of April 7 th , Gen. Taylor issued orders to his commanders General Sterling Price and the 4,400 men under his command from Keachi, Louisiana, to Mansfield on a forced march of twenty miles beginning in the morning of the 8 th . Taylor also ordered his provost marshals to prevent road jams and Confederate forces already commandeered houses and converted them into makeshift hospitals. The Rebels also utilized a wagon park as a dispersal area for provisions the army needed during the course of the battle.
The Confederate units situated themselves near the town of Mansfield along the Shreveport-Natchitoches road. General Alexandre Mouton, of the 2 nd Infantry Division and Major General John J. Walker of the 1 st Infantry Division formed lines to the north-northwest of town blocking the main road. Gen. Thomas Green’s situated his army to the east of Generals Mouton and Walker, almost parallel to the Shreveport-Natchitoches Road.
Gen. Banks appeared relentless in his strategy and refused to sacrifice his desire to incorporate the naval element into his campaign. The Union Army landed near Natchitoches and began their march toward Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. Elements of the Thirteenth Corps, under the command of Brigadier General Thomas E. G. Ranson, along with the Fourth Division, First Brigade, under the command of Colonel Frank Emerson, which included four infantry regiments the Second Brigade, under the command of Colonel Joseph E. Vance four infantry and two light artillery batteries the First Cavalry Division under the command of Brigadier General Albert L. Lee the Second Brigade of the Third Division under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Aaron M. Flory and Colonel William A Raynor, respectively and the Fourth Brigade, First Cavalry Division, under the command of Colonel Nathan A. M. “Goldlace” Dudley.
As the armies faced each other, their battle flags barely waving in the dull, infrequent, April breeze, General Mouton broke the silence when he rode up and down the line, waving his hat and stopped in front of his old unit, the 18 th Louisiana, shouting, “Louisiana drew first blood today!”
At dawn of April 8 th , the Union units poised themselves where they could go no further without engaging the enemy. When Gen. Banks finally reached the battlefield, he noticed, “the skirmishers sharply engaged, the main body of the enemy posted on the crest of a hill in thick woods on both sides of a road leading over the hill on the road to Mansfield on our line of march.” Gen. Banks noted that the Confederate forces had grown substantially than previously reported. General Taylor realized that Gen. Banks’ positioned troops for an all-out assault to turn his right flank. The general, “brought Terrell’s regiment of cavalry to the right to reinforce Major, and Randall’s brigade, of Walker’s division, from the right to the left of the road to strengthen Mouton’s, causing the whole line to gain ground to the left to meet the attack.” Taylor continued to ride up and down the line to determine any weaknesses in the Confederate defenses looking for any breaches Gen. Banks could exploit.
The battle began at approximately 10:00 am, and the Union line appeared to waver soon thereafter, but then the Third Division of the Thirteenth Corps arrived and formed a line straddling the Mansfield Road to the south. This line held the Confederates for shortly over an hour when the U.S. First Division commander, General William Franklin, sent a message to Brig. Gen. William H. Emory to immediately bring up the First Division of the Nineteenth Corps to the front and establish a reinforcement line to keep the Confederates at bay. The Confederates countered Gen. Franklin’s maneuvers and used their cavalry to full potential on April 8 th . Gen. Mouton led a charge against the Union line on the right flank with full vigor and abandon where he, “crossed under a murderous fire of artillery and musketry.” During the charge, unfortunately, Gen. Mouton suffered several mortal wounds during the charge and later succumbed. Despite Mouton falling, several of his subordinates continued to press the attack. The timely assistance of Major’s Brigade, Bagby’s Brigade, and Vincent’s Brigade of the Louisiana Cavalry reinforced on their left by an infantry regiment managed to turn the Union’s right flank.
Gen. Taylor realized danger loomed for his right flank and as soon as the attack on the Union’s right flank commenced, Taylor ordered Maj. Gen. John G. Walker of the First Infantry Division to immediately move Brig. Gen. Thomas N. Waul’s First Brigade and Brig. Gen. William R. Scurry’s Third Brigade to his right flank. Because of this tactical maneuver, Union troops “formed new lines of battle on the wooded ridge, which are a feature of the country.” Gen. Waul and Gen. Scurry’s efforts turned the Yankee left flank and drove the Union forces back as far as four hundred yards and beyond a creek which served as the only water source for miles around.
Now in Confederate hands, guards posted near the creek received orders to shoot any enemy soldiers who approached. After several hours of exploiting breaks in the Union lines, the Yankees fully retreated, but only as far as Pleasant Hill. Mansfield proved a decisive Confederate victory and on the next day, the Rebels effort to hold the Union forces at bay demonstrated stern resilience, but Union forces pushed hard to avenge their defeat.
On April 9 th , Union forces regrouped and withdrawn from the defeat at Mansfield, took up positions outside of Pleasant Hill, “joining the forces of General (A.J.) Smith, who had halted at Pleasant Hill.” At approximately 11:00 am, Confederate infantry sent scouts around the area they now occupied. After the reconnaissance, the Confederates formed on the left flank of the Union forces at Pleasant Hill, their movements slightly covered by the dense woods around the town. To cover a possible attack from his left flank, Gen. Banks situated an infantry regiment and portions of the Third Division under the command of Brigadier General Robert A. Cameron at that potential weak point. Small skirmishes and occasional artillery could be heard in the area throughout the day, but later in the afternoon, sometime around 5:00 pm, “the enemy abandoned all pretension of maneuvering and made a desperate attack on the brigades on the left of center.” Similar probes and eventual assaults occurred until approximately 9:00 pm on the 9 th of April, where Gen. Banks noted, “The Rebels had concentrated their whole strength in futile efforts to break the line at different points.” Seeing no breaks in the Union line as the day before, Confederate troops ran into the woods chased by Union troops until darkness hampered their pursuit.
Gen Banks declared Pleasant Hill a Union victory, but did not produce the campaign success that Halleck, Banks, and President Lincoln had hoped. The Red River Campaign proved to be an unwise undertaking and ended not too long after the battle of Pleasant Hill. Banks squandered the lives of hundreds of men and depleted supplies that could have been spent in more meaningful campaigns. At first opposed to the operation, Banks saw an opportunity not for a whole Union victory, but actions that would benefit his political career. After the war, however, Banks’ presidential aspirations fizzled as a result of his own failures, but he did manage to get himself elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the state house of Ohio. He died in September 1894.
General Richard Taylor brought victory in 1864, to a people who experienced nothing but defeat for a long time. Although the war continued for another year and the South lay in ruins after the surrender, the victory at Mansfield resonated in the minds of southerners as the complete southern victory with honor. Richard Taylor completed his memoirs after the war, Destruction and Reconstruction, and became active in Democratic politics. Taylor died in April 1879.
Mr. Gauthreaux is an author, historian, and educator from Louisiana. He is the author of 4 books, with his most recent being Echoes of Valor: Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Lives. The most recent work is the culmination of interviews with combat veterans from World War II through the Second Iraq War.
Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]
According to Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee, writing from his headquarters at Pleasant Hill on April 10, 1864, he was in possession of the battlefield of Pleasant Hill at daylight on the morning of April 10 and he wrote that,
A number of Union soldiers were captured during the battle (and many more at the Battle of Mansfield), and were taken to Camp Ford, a Confederate prisoner-of-war Camp, near Tyler, Texas. ⎢] Most were kept prisoner here for the next year or so, and were not released until a general exchange of prisoners occurred near the end of the war — a small number, however, were released at an earlier date.
After the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Banks and his Union forces retreated to Grand Ecore and abandoned plans to capture Shreveport, by then the Louisiana state capital.
The decisive failure of the Red River Campaign was a rare bit of uplifting news for the Confederacy in a bleak year. Despite the loss of resources (including the mercurial and beloved Brig. Gen. Tom Green, who was killed April 12), the failure of this offensive helped to prolong the war by tying down Union resources from other fronts.
Battle of Pleasant Hill, 9 April 1864 - History
McKenzie Crooks. &ldquoUncharted Territory: A History of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana.&rdquo
In 1803 the President of the United States made the bold and generational decision to contribute to western expansion and purchase the Louisiana territory from the French government. On December 20 of that year the French flag was lowered to officially mark the transfer. This became a chief expansion of American territory in history, nearly doubling the land mass of the maturing nation, and highlighted the country as an emerging worldwide power. The evident emergence of political parties contributed to the political uproar of the transfer and people argued over the president&rsquos rash decision making, exploration and survey of the land, and western expansion itself. Although heated debates arose to inquire on the presidential limits of the constitution, westward development commenced immediately but change came gradually.
In the early 1800&rsquos, this transformation of the region took time. Wesern Louisiana became known by many nicknames, including &ldquoNo Man&rsquos Land&rdquo and the &ldquoDevil&rsquos Playground&rdquo because it was ruled by outlaws, thieves, and bandits. Criminals flocked to the area to evade repercussions for their actions. Gang life was notorious hazardous species of snakes and bulky animals occupied the zone, and Indian groups also resided in several locations of Louisiana. Some were considered violent and malicious, like the Attakapa, identified by the belief that they were cannibals, while some were deemed farmers and resided along the Red River, like the Caddos Indians. The innumerable exposures in the area did not tempt migration, so the area remained mysterious and uncivilized for years. Despite the horrors of the unknown, some did make the dauntless and valiant decision to relocate to Louisiana and made it possible for Louisiana to advance into its existing state.
In 1844, the uninhabited hills of lower Louisiana were still free of many settlers. John Jordan, who was looking for a new home, voyaged to the southern area of Desoto Parish. He discovered an exceptionally fertile section of land that reminded him of his hometown of Pleasant Valley, Alabama. Because of this similarity to his original home site, he named the land Pleasant Hill and became the first to settle in the area. Several farming families began migrating toward the area, including the Childers and the Chapmans from Macon, Georgia who traveled by wagon train to the area and aided John Jordan in the origination of the town. These people included: Stephen Decator Chapman, Benjamin Franklin Chapman, Ambrose Chapman, William Washington Chapman, John Childers, and his wife Maria Chapman. They started constructing the area, and the fertile land contributed to the uptick in fortune of the families, because they managed to grow sought-after crops like cotton. They built enormous, detailed homes frequently described as mansions. Ambrose Chapman claimed 2,000 acres upon his arrival and farmed 500 acres of that land. He constructed a large plantation according to the government census, with 52 slaves providing the labor. Several larger home sites were constructed, and farming became chief economic engine of their society. Among these fine sites was the unique home of John and Maria Childers, known as the Childers Mansion, costing an upwards of $10,000, pictured below (Petty and Brown 410).
&ldquoIt was two-storied, with eight large rooms there was a spacious hall in front and a very large dining room and kitchen in the back. A balcony graced the front of the frame house, with a wide gallery, supported by four round pillars with fluted ornamental work at the top and bottom&rdquo (Petty and Brown 413).
The population grew exponentially, and the Chapmans and Childers had many children who contributed to the history and expansion of Pleasant Hill, including Henry Jay Chapman, the son of Ambrose Chapman, and Sallie Chapman, the daughter of Stephan Decator Chapman. Soon a post office was constructed, which was operated by Stephan Decator Chapman, grade schools and colleges, business centers, and a plethora of other operations, escalating Pleasant Hill into a village of refinement and cultural pluralism. Everything in the village was continuously expanding economically and socially, and the politically fueled events that would soon occur in the location were hardly foreshadowed.
Hotly debated topics like the Missouri Compromise, the Dred Scott Decision, secession, slavery, and the presidential election of 1860 were some contributing dynamics of the terror known as the American Civil War. The Civil War officially began on April 12, 1861, when confederate forces attacked Union troops at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The North and South were politically and economically pitted against each other and Louisiana became part of the Confederacy. Most of the men who were of age in the area joined the Confederate Army, parting with the women and children to care for the homes unaccompanied. Pleasant Hill was no exception. John Jordan raised troops as the first in command. He named Henry Jay Chapman second in command. The men departed Pleasant Hill to fight in the Civil War, leaving mostly women, children, and few elderly in the village. Sallie Chapman stayed at the Childers home with her aunt Maria, and the women cared for each other and the young children.
The disheartening atmosphere dramatically transformed into one of absolute fear and distress on April 7, 1964, when the Union forces entered Pleasant Hill on their way to Mansfield, Louisiana. The troops ravaged store locations, confiscated anything they found advantageous, and burned the rest. Schools, homes, and churches were used for fuel. Crops and cattle were burned or killed and taken for food. Everyone scrambled to find a safe location as the union troops took everything of value. Pleasant Hill was torn apart, and the terrified women could do nothing but stand by. Women did not change into night clothes during this time and were in constant fear of the Union forces.
Union troops easily gained control of the large homes to provide aid and quarter their troops. Major General Nathaniel Banks, the leader of the Union troops, took control of the Childers Mansion from Maria Childers and Sallie Chapman. He used it as his designated headquarters and commanding post. The troops eventually left to fight in the Battle of Mansfield, only to return shortly after to Pleasant Hill, where they took once again occupied the Childers Mansion. The general public of Pleasant Hill was not anticipating that the Confederate troops would follow behind to essentially continue the Battle of Mansfield, and once again the community was traumatized.
The Battle of Pleasant Hill commenced on April 9, 1864, around three o&rsquoclock in the front yard of Major General Nathaniel Bank&rsquos headquarters and command post, the Childers Mansion. The Confederate troops were led by Major General Richard Taylor, who was another notable military figure during the American Civil War. This Battle left more than 1,200 men suffering or deceased on the property. This battle became the largest battle that occurred west of the Mississippi River, and had an ultimately shocking outcome. A Confederate soldier noted,
&ldquoMy prayer is that I may never witness such another sight. Dead men and horses literally covered the ground for rod after rod, while the groans and cries of the wounded were too awful to listen to. We could hear them all night begging and praying for water&rdquo (Petty and Brown 411).
The battle only lasted a few hours and shortly after the women scrambled as volunteer nurses to be caregivers for the troops, one of whom was Sallie Chapman. Both forces left the battlefield and it is continuously disputed on who won the battle because both sides claimed victory. The Childers Mansion was used as a hospital and &ldquosoon after the battle wounded began to fill the house, using every hall and room except the dining room, kitchen, and two bedrooms&rdquo (Petty and Brown 413).
Eventually, the war ended and then: political and economic disputes were resolved, buildings were rebuilt, stores reopened and were restocked, schools were rebuilt, farmland was recovered, and lives were restarted, and every tangible item was replaced. What is unrecoverable is the lives lost over the length of the war, livelihoods taken away, and people were robbed of a historically alternate peaceful state of mind but just like the rest of Louisiana history, change came sluggishly.
&ldquoAfter an absence of many years Henry Childers, [John and Maria&rsquos son], returned to the battlefield in May 1895, just in time to see the dismantled remains of the old mansion&rdquo (Petty and Brown 420).
This second image of the home looks considerably different from the original first image, not only because of the inevitable dilapidation, but it also underwent renovations in the 1920&rsquos. William Gooch was the man who performed these renovations for his wife, one of the Childer&rsquos daughters. This process also further hindered the process to have the home saved and placed on the national historical registry in later years.
In 1989, the Chapman&rsquos Mansion was ultimately demolished months&rsquo shy of its possible placement on the national historic registry. The demolition was overseen by Dr. Andrew Murphy, who was the president of the historical society of Desoto Parish at the time. His family ascertained few relics from the home while this was underway. One of which was a window frame that was built into the home itself. This can be seen in the image below.
The window, which is on display, can be seen in the first image of the mansion. The documentation inside of the frame includes the original deed from the purchase of the land that the home site was built upon. This documentation was secured during the relocation of the Desoto Parish courthouse in 2001. During this move, all documents that were over 100 years old were set to be incinerated. These documents can be seen closer in the below image.
John and Mariah Chapman are now buried at the original Pleasant Hill cemetery which sits just south of the first location of the Pleasant Hill community. Also buried there are William Washington Chapman, Benjamin Franklin Chapman, and Stephan Decatur Chapman. This would have been on the edge of town at the time the graveyard was built. This land is now privately owned by the Poimbeau family and the gravestones are often overgrown with trees falling onto the tombstones. They also own the land where the annual Battle of Pleasant Hill reenactment is done. Ambrose Monroe Chapman and Sallie Freeman Chapman are buried together elsewhere at the Old Robeline Cemetery, which is pictured below, along with an image of their gravestones.
Today&rsquos Pleasant Hill is different from the Pleasant Hill described above. Today&rsquos Pleasant Hill is a proud historical site for visitors from around the world. The town is home to not only the battle site, but The Battle of Pleasant Hill Museum and the annual battle re-enactments. It is important and necessary to recollect these events to keep a firm footing in history and understand how America got to the point it is at today. The annual battle re-enactments and museum unveil the pride buried within the community, its townspeople, and Louisiana.
Barron, Amos J., and Annie Sandifer Trickett. A History of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, DeSoto Parish, 1840-1881, Sabine Parish, 1881: Featuring the Battle of Pleasant Hill, April 9, 1864 as Told by a Seventeen Year Old Girl, She Was There. 2003. Print.
Petty, Elijah P., and Norman D. Brown. Journey to Pleasant Hill: The Civil War Letters of Captain Elijah P. Petty, Walker's Texas Division, CSA. San Antonio: U of Texas, Institute of Texan Cultures, 1982. Print.
Text prepared by:
Spring 2018 Group:
Crooks, McKenzie. &ldquoUncharted Territory: A History of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana.&rdquo 2017.
Description of the battlefield [ edit | edit source ]
Battlefield of Pleasant Hill. Surveyed and Drawn by Lt. S. E. McGregory By Order of Maj. D. C. Houston, Chief Engineers, D.O.G. [Department of the Gulf].
In 1864, Pleasant Hill was a small village, situated about 2 miles (3.2 km) north the current village of Pleasant Hill — a new village that later grew up nearby (in order to be closer to the railroad) and that took the same name, after the old village was abandoned. The site of old village is today referred to as the "Old town" or "Old Pleasant Hill". Dr. Harris H. Beecher, Assistant-Surgeon, 114th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, present at the battle, described the village of Pleasant Hill as
"a town of about twelve or fifteen houses, situated on a clearing in the woods, of a mile or so in extent, and elevated a trifle above the general level of the surrounding country." ⎚]
In 1864, the countryside in this part of Louisiana mostly consisted of pine forests and scrub oaks. According to Banks,
"The shortest and only practicable road from Natchitoches to Shreveport was the stage road through Pleasant Hill and Mansfield (distance 100 miles), through a barren, sandy country, with less water and less forage, the greater portion an unbroken pine forest." ⎛]
A newspaper described Pleasant Hill as "a little village situated on a low ridge, containing in peace-times probably 300 inhabitants." ⎜] It further stated that,
"The battle-field of Pleasant Hill. is a large, open field, which had once been cultivated, but is now overgrown with weeds and bushes. The slightly-elevated centre of the field, from which the name Pleasant Hill is taken is nothing more than a long mound, hardly worthy of the name of hill. A semi-circular belt of timber runs around the field on the Shreveport side." ⎜]
Historian John Winters describes Pleasant Hill as a "piney-woods summer resort consisting of a dozen or more houses clustered along a cleared knoll, offered Banks many advantages as a battlefield, but because of the great distance from the main supply base at Alexandria and the serious lack of sufficient drinking water for an entire army, Banks could not hold this position for any length of time. During the one day, April 9, most of the rain water stored in the cisterns was depleted. Without making a final decision concerning the future of his campaign, Banks sent his wagon trains . . . on the way toward Grand Ecore. . . . ". Β]
RED RIVER CAMPAIGN (Louisiana, March to June 1864)
First State Color, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers carried during the Red River Campaign across Louisiana, March-May 1864.
On 25 February 1864, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry sets off for a phase of service in which the regiment will truly make history. Steaming for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, the men of the 47th arrive at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February and are then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joins the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th becomes the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks. The 1st Division of the U.S. Army’s 19th Corps is commanded by Brigadier General William Hemsley Emory. The 2nd Brigade is led by Brigadier General James W. McMillan.
From 14-26 March, the 47th marches through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, a number of men from the regiment become ill during the grueling marches in the harsh Louisiana climate while others are felled by dysentery and/or tropical diseases.
6 April 1864:
Nathaniel P. Banks, Major General, U.S. Volunteers (1863, U.S. National Archives, public domain).
Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks sends his Union troops west via a single road. The column of men stretches for 20+ miles.
Heading the column are roughly 4,000 cavalrymen led by Brigadier General Albert Lindley Lee. Most are newbies who have little experience on horseback. They are followed by 300 supply wagons, artillery units, one infantry division, 700 additional support wagons, and most of the 13th and 19th Corps.
As they move, they move west, marching toward Los Adaes, Louisiana, and then north on the Shreveport-Natchitoches stagecoach road. The column is SO long and SO slow moving that the troops at its head reach Pleasant Hill before the last men have even left Natchitoches, Louisiana.
7 April 1864:
Union cavalry troops of Major General Nathaniel Banks begin their march. Led by Brigadier General Albert Lee, their progress is slowed by Union wagons. Lee’s requests for infantry support plus redirection of the wagons is denied by Banks and leaders of the U.S. Army’s 19th Corps.
8 April 1864 (morning):
Union Major General Nathaniel Banks’ Cavalry, led by Brigadier General Albert Lee, crosses a stream, and moves through trees and fields. In the distance, atop a ridge, Lee spots Confederate cavalry and infantry which stretch along both sides of the road for 3/4 mile. After he spots more Confederate cavalry troops to his right, he asks for help from Banks. After taking his time, Banks finally orders the 13th U.S. Army to move up to assist Lee’s cavalry. Banks also moves up to see what’s happening.
Major General Richard Taylor, CSA (c. 1860s, public domain).
Arrayed before him in the distance are roughly 10,000 troops led by Confederate Major General Richard Taylor, a plantation owner and son of former U.S. President Zachary Taylor. (Ironically, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had just spent a significant period of time – off and on between 1862 to early 1864 – garrisoning Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Florida.)
It’s the morning of April 8, 1864, the day of the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads near Mansfield, Louisiana.
Confederate Taylor and his 10,000 troops expect Banks’ Union forces to charge – but they don’t. A six-hour waiting game ensues.
8 April 1864 (afternoon and evening):
At 4 p.m. Louisiana time, Confederate Major General Richard Taylor’s left flank slowly begins an echelon formation attack on troops commanded by Union Major General Nathaniel Banks, and the Union’s cavalry line buckles. BUT, in the process, 11 out of 14 Confederate officers are killed in action within 14 minutes of the opening charge.
Replacing one of those fallen Confederate leaders is Brigadier General Camille Armand Jules Marie, the Prince de Polignac. A Prince of France, he fought with the Confederate Army during America’s Civil War, and is an important name for descendants of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and others studying the 47th’s history because, later that same day, forces led by Polignac and Confederate Brigadier General Thomas Green (Texas Cavalry Corps) directly engage in battle with the 47th Pennsylvania.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers are led by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the regiment’s founder, and his second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George Warren Alexander.
Following the charge by Taylor’s Confederate troops and the resulting buckling of the Union’s right flank, Banks’ left Union flank also collapses. Taylor’s troops continue on, puncturing a secondary Union position 3/4 mile behind the Union’s front line.
Banks then orders Brigadier General William Emory to move his 1st Division, 19th U.S. Army Corps men to the front. Among Emory’s 5,859 men were nine New York regiments, three from Maine – and the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Ninety minutes and seven miles of marching later, Emory’s men are waiting for the Confederates on the ridge above Chapman’s Bayou.
* Note : The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were positioned behind the 161st New York, 29th Maine, and other Union regiments at/near the farm of Joshua Chapman, about five miles southeast of Mansfield, Louisiana. The battles here were termed the “Peach Orchard” fight by Confederates and “Pleasant Grove” by 47th Pennsylvanians, a name attributed by some historians to the live oak trees in front of Chapman’s house. The fighting at the peach orchard was particularly brutal.
19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield, Louisiana (8 April 1864, public domain).
As Confederates, led by Polignac, et. al. attack the center of the Union line, the 161st buckles, but the 29th Maine is able to repulse the Confederates. Green’s Confederate cavalrymen then attempt an end run on the Union’s right flank. His troops include: Brigadier General Xavier DeBray’s Cavalry Brigade (composed of the 26th and 36th Texas Cavalry) and Colonel Augustus Buchel’s Cavalry Brigade (composed of the 1st Texas Cavalry and Terrell’s Texas Cavalry).
Initially positioned to the right of the 13th Maine Infantry, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and 13th Maine both pinwheel to head off Green’s attack, and end Green’s flanking effort.
As darkness falls on 8 April 1864, fighting wanes and then ceases as exhausted troops on both sides collapse between the bodies of their dead comrades. Seventy-four men were killed in action, at least 161 are wounded, and hundreds more are declared missing in action, including 188 from the 19th U.S. Army (to which the 47th Pennsylvania was attached). Some of these missing men (including men from the 47th Pennsylvania) are eventually found wounded or dead others (including 47th Pennsylvanians) end up as prisoners of war (POWs), at Camp Ford, a Confederate prison near Tyler, Texas, but some remain missing to this day.
* Note : Some historians believe that these missing men may have been hastily interred somewhere on or near the battlefield by fellow soldiers or local residents, but no remains were found during archaeological excavations of the area during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In 1996, L.P. Hecht, in his Echoes from the Letters of a Civil War Surgeon, reported that wild hogs had eaten the remains of at least some of the federal soldiers who had been left unburied.
8 April 1864 (late evening):
Receiving word of another likely attack, Banks orders his Union troops to withdraw to Pleasant Hill (not to be confused with the aforementioned Pleasant Grove). This withdrawal commences after midnight and through the early hours of 9 April 1864. According to Banks:
From Pleasant Grove, where this action occurred, to Pleasant Hill was 15 miles. It was certain that the enemy, who was within the reach of re-enforcements, would renew the attack in the morning, and it was wholly uncertain whether the command of General Smith could reach the position we held in season for a second engagement. For this reason the army toward morning fell back to Pleasant Hill, General Emory covering the rear, burying the dead, bringing off the wounded, and all the material of the army. It arrived there at 8.30 on the morning of the 9th, effecting a junction with the forces of General Smith and the colored brigade under Colonel Dickey, which had reached that point the evening previous.
9 April 1864 (morning):
Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, 9 April 1864 (Harper’s Weekly, 7 May 1864, public domain).
Arriving at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana around 8:30 a.m., and with the enemy believed to be in pursuit, Union Major General Nathaniel Banks orders his troops to regroup and ready themselves for a new round of fighting.
The Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana is just hours from its start. In his official Red River Campaign Report penned a year later, Banks described how the day unfolded:
A line of battle was formed in the following order: First Brigade, Nineteenth Corps, on the right, resting on a ravine Second Brigade in the center, and Third Brigade on the left. The center was strengthened by a brigade of General Smith’s forces, whose main force was held in reserve. The enemy moved toward our right flank. The Second Brigade [including the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers] withdrew from the center to the support of the First Brigade. The brigade in support of the center moved up into position, and another of General Smith’s brigades was posted to the extreme left position on the hill, in echelon to the rear of the left main line.
Light skirmishing occurred during the afternoon. Between 4 and 5 o’clock it increased in vigor, and about 5 p.m., when it appeared to have nearly ceased, the enemy drove in our skirmishers and attacked in force, his first onset being against the left. He advanced in two oblique lines, extending well over toward the right of the Third Brigade, Nineteenth Corps. After a determined resistance this part of the line gave way and went slowly back to the reserves. The First and Second Brigades were soon enveloped in front, right, and rear. By skillful movements of General Emory the flanks of the two brigades, now bearing the brunt of the battle, were covered. The enemy pursued the brigades, passing the left and center, until he approached the reserves under General Smith, when he was met by a charge led by General Mower and checked. The whole of the reserves were now ordered up, and in turn we drove the enemy, continuing the pursuit until night compelled us to halt.
The battle of the 9th was desperate and sanguinary. The defeat of the enemy was complete, and his loss in officers and men more than double that sustained by our forces. There was nothing in the immediate position or condition of the two armies to prevent a forward movement the next morning, and orders were given to prepare for an advance. The train, which had been turned to the rear on the day of the battle, was ordered to reform and advance at daybreak. I communicated this purpose at the close of the day to General A. J. Smith, who expressed his concurrence therein. But representations subsequently received from General Franklin and all the general officers of the Nineteenth Corps, as to the condition of their respective commands for immediate active operations against the enemy, caused a suspension of this order, and a conference of the general officers was held in the evening, in which it was determined, upon the urgent recommendation of all the general officers above named, and with the acquiescence of General Smith, to retire upon Grand Ecore the following day. The reasons urged for this course by the officers commanding the Nineteenth and Thirteenth Corps were, first, that the absence of water made it absolutely necessary to advance or retire without delay. General Emory’s command [including the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers] had been without rations for two days, and the train, which had been turned to the rear during the battle, could not be put in condition to move forward upon the single road through dense woods, in which it stood, without difficulty and loss of time. It was for the purpose of communicating with the fleet at Springfield Landing from the Sabine Cross-Roads to the river, as well as to prevent the concentration of the Texan troops with the enemy at Mansfield, that we had pushed for the early occupation of that point. Considering the difficulty with which the gun-boats passed Alexandria and Grand Ecore, there was every reason to believe that the navigation of the river would be found impracticable. A squadron of cavalry, under direction of Mr. Young, who had formerly been employed in the surveys of this country and was now connected with the engineer department, which had been sent upon a reconnaissance to the river, returned to Pleasant Hill on the day of the battle with the report that they had not been able to discover the fleet nor learn from the people its passage up the river. (The report of General T. Kilby Smith, commanding the river forces, states that the fleet did not arrive at Loggy Bayou until 2 p.m. on the 10th of April, two days after the battle at Sabine Cross-Roads.) This led to the belief that the low water had prevented the advance of the fleet. The condition of the river, which had been steadily falling since our march from Alexandria, rendered it very doubtful, if the fleet ascended the river, whether it could return from any intermediate point, and probable, if not certain, that if it reached Shreveport it would never escape without a rise of the river, of which all hopes began to fail. The forces designated for this campaign numbered 42,000 men. Less than half that number was actually available for service against the enemy during its progress.
The distance which separated General Steele’s command from the line of our operations (nearly 200 miles) rendered his movements of little moment to us or to the enemy, and reduced the strength of the fighting column to the extent of his force, which was expected to be from 10,000 to 15,000 men. The depot at Alexandria, made necessary by the impracticable navigation, withdrew from our forces 3,000 men under General Grover. The return of the Marine Brigade to the defense of the Mississippi, upon the demand of Major-General McPherson, and which could not pass Alexandria without its steamers nor move by land for want of land transportation, made a further reduction of 3,000 men. The protection of the fleet of transports against the enemy on both sides of the river made it necessary for General A. J. Smith to detach General T. Kilby Smith’s division of 2,500 men from the main body for that duty. The army train required a guard of 500 men. These several detachments, which it was impossible to avoid, and the distance of General Steele’s command, which it was not in my power to correct, reduced the number of troops that we were able at any point to bring into action from 42,000 men to about 20,000. The losses sustained in the very severe battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April amounted to about 3,969 men, and necessarily reduced our active forces to that extent.
The enemy, superior to us in numbers in the outset, by falling back was able to recover from his great losses by means of re-enforcements, which were within his reach as he approached his base of operations, while we were growing weaker as we departed from ours. We had fought the battle at Pleasant Hill with about 15,000 against 22,000 men and won a victory, which for these reasons we were unable to follow up. Other considerations connected with the actual military condition of affairs afforded additional reasons for the course recommended. Between the commencement of the expedition and the battle of Pleasant Hill a change had occurred in the general command of the army, which caused a modification of my instructions in regard to this expedition.
Lieutenant-General Grant, in a dispatch dated the 15th March, which I received on the 27th March, at Alexandria, eight days before we reached Grand Ecore, by special messenger, gave me the following instructions:
‘Should you find that the taking of Shreveport will occupy ten or fifteen days more time than General Sherman gave his troops to be absent from their command you will send them back at the time specified in his note of (blank date) March, even if it should lead to the abandonment of the main object of the expedition. Should it prove successful, hold Shreveport and Red River with such force as you deem necessary and return the balance of your troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans.’
These instructions, I was informed, were given for the purpose of having ‘all parts of the army, or rather all armies, act as much in concert as possible,’ and with a view to a movement in the spring campaign against Mobile, which was certainly to be made ‘if troops enough could be obtained without embarrassing other movements in which event New Orleans would be the point of departure for such an expedition.’ A subsequent dispatch, though it did not control, fully justified my action, repeated these general views and stated that the commanding general ‘would much rather the Red River expedition had never been begun that that you should be detained one day beyond the 1st of May in commencing the movement east of the Mississippi.’
The limitation of time referred to in these dispatches was based upon an opinion which I had verbally expressed to General Sherman at New Orleans, that General Smith could be spared in thirty days after we reached Alexandria, but it was predicted upon the expectation that the navigation of the river would be unobstructed that we should advance without delay at Alexandria, Grand Ecore, or elsewhere on account of low water, and that the forces of General Steele were to co-operate with us effectively at some point on Red River, near Natchitoches or Monroe. It was never understood that an expedition that involved on the part of my command a land march of nearly 400 miles into the enemy’s country, and which terminated at a point which we might not be able to hold, either on account of the strength of the enemy or the difficulties of obtaining supplies, was to be limited to thirty days. The condition of our forces, and the distance and difficulties attending the further advance into the enemy’s country after the battles of the 8th and 9th against an enemy superior in numbers to our own, rendered it probable that we could not occupy Shreveport within the time specified, and certain that without a rise in the river the troops necessary to hold it against the enemy would be compelled to evacuate it for want of supplies, and impossible that the expedition should return in any event to New Orleans in time to co-operate in the general movements of the army contemplated for the spring campaign. It was known at this time that the fleet could not repass the rapids at Alexandria, and it was doubtful, if the fleet reached any point above Grand Ecore, whether it would be able to return. By falling back to Grand Ecore we should be able to ascertain the condition of the fleet, the practicability of continuing the movement by the river, reorganize a part of the forces that had been shattered in the battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th, possibly ascertain the position of General Steele and obtain from him the assistance expected for a new advance north of the river or upon its southern bank, and perhaps obtain definite instructions from the Government as to the course to be pursued.
Upon these general considerations, and without reference to the actual condition of the respective armies, at 12 o’clock midnight on the 9th I countermanded the order for the return of the train, and directed preparations to be made for the return of the army to Grand Ecore. The dead were buried and the wounded brought in from the field of battle and placed in the most comfortable hospitals that could be provided, and surgeons and supplies furnished for them. A second squadron of cavalry was sent, under direction of Mr. Young, of the engineer department, to inform the fleet of our retrograde movement and to direct its return, if it had ascended the river, and on the morning of the 10th the army leisurely returned to Grand Ecore.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had been ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines that day (9 April 1864), their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. According to Bates, after fighting off a charge by the troops of Confederate Major General Richard Taylor, the 47th was forced to bolster the buckling lines of the 165th New York Infantry – just as the 47th was shifting to the left of the massed Union forces.
The regiment sustained heavy casualties during the Battle of Pleasant Hill. The regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, was severely wounded in both legs. Regimental Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls and Sergeant William Pyers both sustained gunshot wounds.
Color-Sergeant Walls, the oldest man in the regiment, was shot in the left shoulder as he was mounting the 47th’s flag on one of the Massachusetts artillery caissons that had been recaptured by the 47th. Sergeant Pyers was then shot while retrieving the American flag from Walls, thereby preventing it from falling into enemy hands. Both men survived and continued to fight for the 47th – Walls until his three-year term of service expired on 18 September 1864, Pyers until he was killed in action just over a month later during the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia.
Many others were less fortunate. Hastily buried by comrades or local citizens, several still rest in unknown graves.
In addition, more men from the 47th Pennsylvania were captured and marched off to Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas, becoming the only soldiers from any Pennsylvania regiment to have men imprisoned there. At least three 47th Pennsylvanians never made it out alive the remaining POWs were released in prisoner exchanges which took place from July through the Fall of 1864.
Nearly two decades later, 1st Lieutenant James Hahn recalled his involvement (as a Sergeant) in both engagements for a retrospective article in the 31 January 1884 edition of The National Tribune:
A PENNSYLVANIA SOLDIER’S EXPERIENCE.
Lieutenant James Hahn, of the 47th Pennsylvania infantry, writing from Newport, Pa., refers as follows to the engagements at Sabine Cross-roads and Pleasant Hill :
‘The 19th Corps had gone into camp for the evening about four miles from Sabine Cross-Roads. The engagement at Mansfield had been fought by the 13th Corps, who struggled bravely against overwhelming odds until they were driven from the field. I presume the rebel Gen. Dick Taylor knew of the situation of our army, and that the 19th was in the rear of the 13th, and the 16th still in rear of the 19th, some thirteen miles away, encamped at Pleasant Hill. They thought it would be a good joke to whip Banks’ army in detail : first, the 13th corps, then 19th, then finish up on the 16th. But they counted without their hosts for when the couriers came flying back to the 19th with the news of the sad disaster that had befallen the 13th corps, we were double-quicked a distance of some four miles, and just met the advance of our defeated 13th corps – coming pell-mell, infantry, cavalry, and artillery all in one conglomerated mass, in such a manner as only a defeated and routed army can be mixed up – at Sabine Cross-roads, where our corps was thrown into line just in time to receive the victorious and elated Johnnies with a very warm reception, which gave them a recoil, and which stopped their impetuous headway, and gave the 13th corps time to get safely to the rear. I do not know what would have been the consequence if the 19th had been defeated also, that evening of the 8th, at Sabine Cross-roads, and the victorious rebel army had thrown themselves upon the ‘guerrillas’ then lying in camp at Pleasant Hill. It was just about getting dark when the Johnnies made their last assault upon the lines of the 19th. We held the field until about midnight, and then fell back and left the picket to hold the line while we joined the 16th at Pleasant Hill the morning of the 9th of April, soon after daybreak. It was not long until the rebel cavalry put in an appearance, and soon skirmishing commenced. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon the engagement become general all along the line, and with varied success, until late in the afternoon the rebels were driven from the field, and were followed until darkness set in, and about midnight our army made a retrograde movement, which ended at Grand Ecore, and left our dead and wounded lying on the field, all of whom fell into rebel hands. I have been informed since by one of our regiment, who was left wounded on the field, that the rebels were so completely defeated that they did not return to the battlefield till late the next day, and I have always been of the opinion that, if the defeat that the rebels got at Pleasant Hill had been followed up, Banks’ army, with the aid of A. J. Smith’s divisions, could have got to Shreveport (the objective point) without much left or hindrance from the rebel army.’
10 April-20 June 1864:
After the regiment resettled in at Grand Ecore, Louisiana, 47th Pennsylvania scribe Henry D. Wharton finally had time to gather his thoughts and pen an account for the Sunbury American of the regiment’s recent battles:
Grand Ecore, Western La. >
April 12, 1864.
DEAR WILVERT:–After lying over for three days at Natchitoches to recruit and get a fresh supply from the Commisariat [sic], we again pushed forward in hunt of the rebs, as the sequel will show, proved lucky to us, and a perfect discomfiture to the enemy. On the first days march we were detained several hours by letting the 13th Army Corps pass by us, when we pushed forward to Double Bridges, a distance of sixteen miles. It was at this place, shortly before our arrival that a brisk skirmish came off between our cavalry and the rebs, in which we lost ninety men in killed and wounded. The rebs loss was more severe, besides a number of prisoners. On our march next day we saw unmistakeable [sic] evidence of hot work, the limbs were knocked from trees and their trunks were well pierced with shot and a number of horses lie dead by the road side, which showed the good work done by our cavalry…. We made Pleasant Hill that day and encamped. It was here that we expected a heavy fight, but there was a mere skirmish, the rebs skedaddling in a hurry, followed by our cavalry. Our forces moved early next morning, the 13th corps far in the advance. We made but seven miles and then went into camp, when the news [broke] that the 13th and cavalry had engaged the enemy in force. Receiving two days hard tack, orders came to forward, which was done in double quick, making the distance, eight miles, in one hour and twenty minutes. We reached there at the right time, for the 13th had fought hard, expending their ammunition the cavalry were repulsed and in their retreat made such confusion among the teams, that had it not been for our timely arrival, a panic would have ensued, exceeding that of Bull Run.
Our corps, the 19th, rushed to the rescue, fell into line of battle, and were soon pouring on the rebs a fire which turned the tide of affairs. We were two hours under fire, giving the enemy more than we received, when darkness caused the fight to come to a close, not, however, until we gave them a parting salute of two volleys from the whole corps. Three pieces of Nimm’s battery was [sic] captured by the enemy before our corps got there, besides the train of the cavalry, with ammunition and stores.
About 10 o’clock that night our forces made a retrograde movement, falling back to Pleasant Hill, to secure a better position.– The trains were sent back so as not to interfere with our movements. We arrived safely at nine o’clock, next morning [10 April 1864], and immediately prepared for the coming work. An hour later the rear guard came in informing us of the approach of the enemy.– Our skirmishers of cavalry and infantry were sent out, and ’twas not long until shots were exchanged. At this time, 10 o’clock, Smith’s 16th Army Corps reinforced us, and was soon formed in line of battle. Skirmishing continued until four o’clock, when the rebs commenced feeling our lines, with artillery, on right, left and centre [sic]. This was well replied to by the 25th N.Y. Battery. (The Battery to which Dad Randels and some others of our own boys are attached.)
The battle then commenced in real earnest. The rebs charged our lines, with cheers, firing volleys of musketry that would seem to annihilate our forces. They tried to flank our right and left, but the boys repulsed them handsomely. Batteries were captured and recaptured advances were made and repulsed, the enemy fighting as though it was the last of a desperate cause. Our volleys of musketry, of which more was used than in any fight during the war, and the executions of the artillery was too much for them, for they fled, our men after them, yelling shouts of victory, and chasing them for five miles beyond the battlefield. Our fire told with terrible effect. A rebel Lieut.-Col. prisoner, said that in a charge made by one of their Brigades, when they advanced so far as to make a capture of a portion of our left a sure thing, they were met by a fire that destroyed four hundred, and then were driven back in confusion. In another advance, our fire was so destructive that only three men were left unscathed to return within their lines.
The prisoners captured amounted to two thousand among them one General, one Lieutenant-Colonel, and any quantity of Captains and Lieutenants. Of the number killed and wounded I am unable to say, but the general impression is it amounted to over five thousand. The dead body of Lieut.-Gen. Mouton was found on the field, they leaving him in their hasty retreat. He was killed by the explosion of a shell, tearing away the upper portion of his head.
Nimm’s Battery was recaptured by our regiment. Twenty-three pieces of artillery were captured by the enemy. It was at the recaptured of Nimm’s Battery that our Color Sergeant, B. F. Walls, received his wound. The Squire was so well pleased at the recapture, that he rushed forward with his flag and raised it on the wheels of a caisson, when he fell pierced by a bullet in the left shoulder.
It seems the enemy were panic stricken, fleeing from the field in confusion, not caring for the wounded. They burned their entire train for fear of its falling into our hands. Part of this was well for us, for by doing so, the train taken from our cavalry was destroyed, giving us the satisfaction that our stores done [sic] them no good.
Our whole loss, in killed, wounded, missing and stragglers is estimated at three thousand. The greatest portion belonging to the 13th corps, having occurred at Sabine, on the 8th, in the first fight. The loss in Company “C,” is Jeremiah Haas, killed. Jerry felt no pain, dying almost instantly. He was beloved by his comrades, and his loss is much regretted by them. He was a good soldier, a young man whose morals were not injured from the influences of an army, and best of all, an honest man. The wounded are –
Serg. Wm. Pyers, arm and side, not dangerous.
” B. F. Walls, left shoulder.
Private Thomas Lothard, two wounds in arm, slight,
” Cornelius Kramer, left leg, below knee.
” George Miller, side.
” Thomas Nipple, hip, slight.
” James Kennedy, right and side, severe.
Missing – J. W. McNew, J. W. Firth, Samuel Miller, Edward Matthews, John Sterner and Conrad Holman.
The whole force of the enemy was thirty-five thousand – ten thousand of them coming fresh into the fight on the second day, at Pleasant Hill, under General (Pap) Price. Our forces, parts of the 19th and 16th corps, amounted to fifteen thousand, the 13th taking no part in this action. We expect to have another fight soon, probably at Shreveport, where it is expected the rebellion will be crushed on the western side of the Mississippi.
Our wounded are getting along finely, and are in the best of spirits. They will be sent to New Orleans to remain in hospital until convalescent. The boys remaining are well and seem anxious for another encounter with the graybacks.
The 47th Pennsylvanians remained at Grand Ecore for a total of eleven days (through 22 April 1864), where they engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications in a brutal climate. They then moved back to Natchitoches Parish where they arrived in Cloutierville, after marching 45 miles, at 10 p.m. that night. En route, the Union forces were attacked again – this time in the rear, but they were able to end the encounter fairly quickly and continue on.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were stationed just to the left of the “Thick Woods” with Emory’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Division for the Battle of Cane River Crossing at Monett’s Ferry, Louisiana, 23 April 1864 (Union Army map, public domain).
The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Monett’s Ferry (also known as the “Cane River Crossing”).
Affair at Monett’s Bluff, Louisiana, 23 April 1864 (Union Army map, public domain).
Responding to a barrage from the Confederate’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River.
As part of the “beekeepers,” 47th Pennsylvanians supported Emory’s artillery.
Meanwhile, other Emory troops found and worked their way across the Cane River, attacked Bee’s flank, and forced a Rebel retreat. That Union brigade then erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day.
As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.
Christened “Bailey’s Dam” for Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, the officer supervising its construction, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 facilitated the passage of Union gunboats (public domain).
Encamping overnight before resuming their march toward Rapides Parish, the 47th Pennsylvanians finally arrived on 26 April in Alexandria, where they camped for 17 more days (through 13 May 1864). While there, they engaged yet again in the hard labor of fortification work, and also helped to build “Bailey’s Dam,” a timber structure that enabled Union gunboats to make their way back down the Red River.
In a follow-up letter penned from the 47th’s encampment at Morganza to the Sunbury American on 29 May 1864, Henry D. Wharton reported on the dam’s construction and other key details from this difficult period of service:
MORGAWZA [sic] BEND, La., May 29, 1864
DEAR WILVERT: – The uncertainty of a mail passing the blockade on the Red river, established by the Johnny Rebs while we were lying at Alexandria, prevented me from writing to you until now but knowing the anxiety you have for us, I feel justified in commencing from where I dated my last letter, and will give you the ‘dangers we have passed’ as I recollect them.
Our sojourn at Grand Ecore was for eleven days, during which time our position was well fortified by entrenchments for a length of five miles, made of heavy logs, five feet high and six feet wide, filled in with dirt. In front of this, trees were felled for a distance of two hundred yards, so that if the enemy attacked we had an open space before us which would enable our forces to repel them and follow if necessary. But our labor seemed to the men as useless, for on the morning of 22d April, the army abandoned these works and started for Alexandria. From our scouts it was ascertained that the enemy had passed some miles to our left with the intention of making a stand against our right at Bayou Cane, where there is a high bluff and dense woods, and at the same attack Smith’s forces who were bringing up the rear. This first day was a hard one on the boys, for by ten o’clock at night they made Cloutierville, a distance of forty-five miles. On that day the rear was attacked which caused our forces to reverse their front and form in line of battle, expecting too, to go back to the relief of Smith, but he needed no assistance, sending word to the front that he had ‘whipped them, and could do it again.’ It was well that Banks made so long a march on that day, for on the next we found the enemy prepared to carry out their design of attacking us front and rear. Skirmishing commenced early in the morning and as our columns advanced he fell back towards the bayou, when we soon discovered the position of their batteries on the bluff. There was then an artillery duel by the smaller pieces, and some sharp fighting by the cavalry, when the ‘mule battery,’ twenty pound Parrott guns, opened a heavy fire, which soon dislodged them, forcing the chivalry to flee in a manner not at all suitable to their boasted courage. Before this one cavalry, the 3d Brigade of the 1st Div., and Birges’ brigade of the second, had crossed the bayou and were doing good service, which, with the other work, made the enemy show their heels. The 3d brigade done some daring deeds in this fight, as also did the cavalry. In one instance the 3d charged up a hill almost perpendicular, driving the enemy back by the bayonet without firing a gun. The woods on this bluff was so thick that the cavalry had to dismount and fight on foot. During the whole of the day, our brigade, the 2d was supporting artillery, under fire all the time, and could not give Mr. Reb a return shot.
While we were fighting in front, Smith was engaged some miles in the rear, but he done his part well and drove them back. The rebel commanders thought by attacking us in the rear, and having a large face on the bluffs, they would be able to capture our train and take us all prisoners, but in this they were mistaken, for our march was so rapid that we were on them before they had thrown up the necessary earthworks. Besides they underrated the amount of our artillery, calculating from the number engaged at Pleasant Hill. The rebel prisoners say it ‘seems as though the Yankees manufacture, on short notice, artillery to order, and the men are furnished with wings when they wish to make a certain point.
The damage done to the Confederate cause by the burning of cotton was immense. On the night of the 22d our route was lighted up for miles and millions of dollars worth of this production was destroyed. This loss will be felt more by Davis & Co., than several defeats in this region, for the basis of the loan in England was on the cotton of Western Louisiana.
After the rebels had fled from the bluff the negro troops put down the pontoons, and by ten that night we were six miles beyond the bayou safely encamped. The next morning we moved forward and in two days were in Alexandria. Johnnys followed Smith’s forces, keeping out of range of his guns, except when he had gained the eminence across the bayou, when he punished them (the rebs) severely.
We were at Alexandria seventeen days, during which time the men were kept busy at throwing up earthworks, foraging and three times went out some distance to meet the enemy, but they did not make their appearance in numbers large enough for an engagement. The water in the Red river had fallen so much that it prevented the gunboats from operating with us, and kept our transports from supplying the troops with rations, (and you know soldiers, like other people, will eat) so Banks was compelled to relinquish his designs on Shreveport and fall back to the Mississippi. To do this a large dam had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’
Tragically, sometime after the 47th’s departure from Alexandria, an individual or groups of individuals torched the city. Although many present-day historians indicate that this terrible act was the work of Union troops, Henry Wharton recounted in his same letter of 29 May what had been reported about the fire to leaders of the 47th on 14 May 1864, and also provided a glimpse into two horrific attacks by Confederates on non-combatant ships:
The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, and unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.
As the Union troops continued their march toward the southeastern part of Louisiana, they passed Fort DeRussy, and then engaged in yet another battle – this time in Avoyelles Parish near Marksville. Fighting in this Battle of Mansura on 16 May 1864, Union infantry skirmished with Dick Taylor’s Confederates, and then orchestrated a flanking attack to force Taylor’s troops into retreat during what was largely a four-hour artillery shoot out:
On Sunday, May 15, we left the river road and took a short route through the woods, saving considerable distance. The windings of Red river are so numerous that it resembles the tape-worm railroad wherewith the politicians frightened the dear people during the administration of Ritner and Stevens. – We stopped several hours in the woods to leave cavalry pass, when we moved forward and by four o’clock emerged into a large open plain where we formed in line of battle, expecting a regular engagement. The enemy, however, retired and we advanced ‘till dark, when the forces halted for the night, with orders to rest on their arms. – ‘Twas here that Banks rode through our regiment, amidst the cheers of the boys, and gave the pleasant news that Grant had defeated Lee. Early next morning we marched through Marksville into a prairie nine miles long and six wide where every preparation was made for a fight. The whole of our force was formed in line, in support of artillery in front, who commenced operations on the enemy driving him gradually from the prairie into the woods. As the enemy retreated before the heavy fire of our artillery, the infantry advanced in line until they reached Mousoula [sic], where they formed in column, taking the whole field in an attempt to flank the enemy, but their running qualities were so good that we were foiled. The maneuvring [sic] of the troops was handsomely done, and the movements was [sic] one of the finest things of the war. The fight of artillery was a steady one of five miles. The enemy merely stood that they might cover the retreat of their infantry and train under cover of their artillery. Our loss was slight. Of the rebels we could not ascertain correctly, but learned from citizens who had secreted themselves during the fight, that they had many killed and wounded, who threw them into wagons, promiscuously, and drove them off so that we could not learn their casualties. The next day we moved to Simmsport on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands.
It is amusing to read the statements of correspondents to papers North, concerning our movements and the losses of our army. I have it from the best source that the Federal loss from Franklin to Mansfield, and from their [sic] to this point does not exceed thirty-five hundred in killed, wounded and missing, while that of the rebels is over eight thousand.
On Saturday, 21 May 1864, Brigadier-General William Emory then ordered the men of Company C – the 47th Pennsylvania’s Color-Guard Unit – to move enemy prisoners to a safer Union stronghold. So, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin and his men marched 187 Confederate soldiers south, transferred their management to the appropriate Union authorities, and returned to the regiment.
In his continuation of his 29 May letter home, Henry Wharton delivered the sad news that James Kennedy had died at a Union hospital in New Orleans from the wounds he had sustained in action during the Battle of Pleasant Hill on 9 April:
His friends in the company were pleased to learn that Dr. Dodge of Sunbury, now of the U.S. Steamer Octorora, was with him in his last moments, and ministered to his wants. The Doctor was one of the Surgeons from the Navy who volunteered when our wounded was [sic] sent to New Orleans.
In addition to deaths in combat or at Confederate prison camps, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers lost a significant number of men to disease and the hardships wrought by hard duty in a difficult climate. Three members of the regiment also drowned during the Red River Campaign – one at the start of the expedition, the other two as the regiment’s time in Louisiana wound down.
Many of the regiment’s dead were ultimately laid to rest at the Chalmette National Cemetery in Chalmette, Louisiana – a fair number in unmarked graves. The graves of others still have not yet been located. At least one historian believes the missing status of soldiers on both sides is due to a combination of factors – poor military record keeping, hasty burials of war dead by civilians or retreating troops in shallow, unmarked graves, or the destruction of bodies by feral hogs which devoured soldiers’ remains before they could be properly interred. Quite simply, the scale of the carnage, once again, had overwhelmed military leaders on both sides.
History books record the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield as a Confederate victory, the Battle of Pleasant Hill as a technical victory for the Union, and the Battle of Monett’s Ferry/Cane River Crossing and Battle of Mansura/Marksville as clear victories for the Union.
Through it all, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was represented by just one regiment – the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
1. 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Records, in Camp Ford Prisoner of War Database. Tyler, Texas: The Smith County Historical Society, 1864.
2. A Pennsylvania Soldier’s Experience, in Up the Red River: How the Famous Banks Expedition Came to Grief: Off for Shreveport: The March from Grand Ecore to Pleasant Hill: Sabine Cross-Roads, And the Part the 13th Corps Played in That Battle. Washington, DC: 31 January 1884.
3. Banks, Nathaniel P. General Banks’s Report of the Red River Campaign, in Annual Report of the Secretary of War, in Message of the President of the United States, and Accompanying Documents, to the Two Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the First Session of the Thirty-Ninth Congress. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1866.
4. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
5. Burial Ledgers, in Records of The National Cemetery Administration, and in Records of the U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General). Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: 1864-1865.
6. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
7. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1865. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
8. Claims for Widow and Minor Pensions, in U.S. Civil War Widows’ Pension Files. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives.
9. Dixon, Boyd. Archaeological Investigations at the Third Phase of the Battle of Mansfield, in Bulletin of the Louisiana Archaeological Society, Number 33. New Orleans, Louisiana: 2006. Retrieved online December 2015.
10. Gilbert, Randal B. A New Look at Camp Ford, Tyler Texas: The Largest Confederate Prison Camp West of the Mississippi River, 3rd Edition. Tyler, Texas: The Smith County Historical Society, 2010.
11. Interment Control Forms, in Records of the U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General. College Park, Maryland: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
12. Joiner, Gary D. The Red River Campaign: March 10 – May 22, 1864. Civil War Trust: Washington, DC. Retrieved online December 2015.
13. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, in Records of the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: 1864-1865.
14. Reports of Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks (dated 6 April 1865), et. al., in The War of the Rebellion, Vol. XXXIV: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
15. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
17. Wharton, Henry D. (as “H. D. W.”). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1864-1865.
Battle of Pleasant Hill Memorial
Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy Louisiana Division.
Topics and series. This memorial is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the United Daughters of the Confederacy series list.
Location. 31° 51.197′ N, 93° 30.813′ W. Marker is in Old Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, in De Soto Parish. Memorial is at the intersection of Louisiana Route 175 and Parish Road 1068, on the right when traveling north on State Route 175. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 23271 LA-175, Pelican LA 71063, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Pleasant Hill Battle Park (here, next to this marker) The Old Cistern (a few steps from this marker) Old Pleasant Hill (a few steps from this marker) Account of the Battle of Pleasant Hill (a few steps
from this marker) War for Southern Independence (within shouting distance of this marker) Pleasant Hill Battlefield (within shouting distance of this marker) Headquarters Department of the Gulf / Headquarters Trans-Mississippi Dept. (within shouting distance of this marker) Road to Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Old Pleasant Hill.
Also see . . . Wikipedia article on the Battle of Pleasant Hill. (Submitted on July 12, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
The Battle of Pleasant Hill
On this 4 square miles in around the village of Pleasant Hill, approx. 15,000 Confederates under Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor attacked approx. 25,000 Union troops under Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks on April 9, 1864. That was the 3rd day of fighting that stopped the union attempt to capture Shreveport (Confederate capital of Louisiana and headquarters of Trans-Miss. Dept.) and launch an invasion of Texas.
Red River Campaign
Erected 1994 by The Battle of Pleasant Hill, Inc.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. A significant historical date for this entry is April 9, 1864.
Location. 31° 50.753′ N, 93° 30.615′ W. Marker is in Old Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, in De Soto Parish. Marker is on Louisiana Route 175 north of Patrick Road, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Pelican LA 71063, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Federal Hospital (about 800 feet away, measured in a direct line) The Village of Pleasant Hill (approx. half a mile away) The Old Cistern (approx. half a mile away) Pleasant Hill Battle Park (approx. half a mile away) Account of the Battle of Pleasant Hill
(approx. half a mile away) Battle of Pleasant Hill Memorial (approx. half a mile away) Old Pleasant Hill (approx. 0.6 miles away) Road to Cemetery (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Old Pleasant Hill.
Also see . . . Wikipedia article on the Battle of Pleasant Hill. (Submitted on July 16, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)