Report of Maj. Gen. John G. Walker, C. S. Army,
Commanding Division, of Operations March 12-19.
RED RIVER CAMPAIGN
HEADQUARTERS WALKER'S DIVISION,
Near Carroll Jones', Parish of Rapides, La., March 19, 1864.
Maj. E. SURGET,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. Dist. of West La
MAJOR: I have the honor to report, for the information of the major-general commanding the District of West Louisiana, that on the 12th instant I was informed by Brigadier-General Scurry, commanding on Yellow Bayou, 4 miles from Simsport, that the enemy had landed a small force that day at the latter point. I received this information at 5 p.m., which I immediately dispatched to you. At 7 p.m. of the same day I dispatched to you the subsequently received intelligence from General Scurry that the enemy's force was very large, occupying twenty-seven transports and escorted by fourteen gun-boats, and that they were then debarking at Simsport with their artillery and trains.
Upon the first information General Scurry had moved down in the direction of the Atchafalaya with the purpose of attacking the enemy and driving him aboard of his vessels, but subsequent and more correct information as to the strength of the enemy induced him to fall back to Moreauville, 11 miles west of Simsport. The defenses constructed with so much labor at Yellow Bayou were rendered useless by the drying up of the swamps on the flanks, which were depended on as the chief means of defense. To avoid being cut off from Marksville by the enemy coming by a practicable road from Old River to the big bend of the De Glaize, this movement to the rear became necessary.
The night of the 12th was spent in withdrawing my infantry and light artillery from a point on Red River 7 or 8 miles below Fort De Russy and making preparations to march to General Scurry's support, who was instructed to delay the march of the enemy as much as possible, and in case he was pressed to fall back to the west of Bayou De Glaize and take position at the long bridge at Bout De Bayou, to resist the enemy's advance until I could re-enforce him.
Upon reaching Bout De Bayou the next morning I found that General Scurry had fallen back across the De Glaize and was taking position at the long bridge already mentioned. All the cavalry under my command having been cut off in Pointe Coupée by the entrance into the Atchafalaya of the enemy's gun-boats. I was wholly without the means of gaining information, as the enemy kept his front well covered by his small cavalry force. Late that night I received intelligence from Lieutenant Robinson, whom I had sent out to gain information, that from citizens he had learned that the enemy were re-embarking for the purpose of ascending Red River.
Soon after daylight on the 14th, this information was proven incorrect by hearing the sound of numerous drums in the distance in the direction of Simsport, and as the morning advanced it became apparent that the enemy in force was approaching our position. As to his strength we could only form a conjecture, as he kept his front too well covered to permit our obtaining a view of his infantry column, until at about 8.30 o'clock in the morning it reached Moreauville, and turning to the left defiled along the banks of the De Glaize in full view of our pickets, whom they drove in by a musketry and artillery fire. His column, then exposed to our view, extended for 2 miles along the banks of the De Glaize, through the village of Moreauville, and disappeared in the cut-off in the direction of the Atchafalaya. The force thus displayed consisted, as near as could be arrived at, of 15,000 to 17,000 infantry, thirty or forty pieces of light artillery, and a small cavalry force not exceeding 300. The enemy had no subsistence or baggage trains, and only his ordnance and hospital wagons.
In taking position at Bout De Bayou it had been my intention to give the enemy battle and hold him in check, at least until Mouton s brigade, which I supposed would reach me that night, could come up; but I soon found that the force of enemy was so overwhelming that my small division, numbering but 3,828 muskets present and twelve light guns, was entirely unequal to the task of checking more than momentarily the advance of the enemy. The position I had chosen offered some advantages against an enemy not so unequal in numbers, and if the swamps had been covered with water, as they usually are at this season of the year, even against a largely superior force; but the unusual dryness of the season had rendered the swampy grounds above and below Bout De Bayou bridge passable for artillery and trains, and rendered my position extremely hazardous, inasmuch as I was on [an] island formed by Red River, Bayous De Glaize, Du Lac, and Choctaw, the only outlet to which was Bayou Du Lac bridge, 8 miles to the south. In the event of the enemy turning my right, which he could easily have done, my march to Bayou Du Lac would have been intercepted and the destruction of my command inevitable. To have fallen back toward Marksville in order to cover Fort De Russy would equally have insured the disaster. By falling back, however, toward Bayou Du Lac and watching the movements of the enemy I was in hopes of finding an opportunity of attacking him should he march upon Fort De Russy with less than his entire strength. The prairie country through which the enemy would pass would give me an excellent opportunity for observing his movements and estimating his strength. All these considerations induced me to adopt the only course not dictated by folly or madness; and however mortifying it might be to abandon our brave companions in arms at Fort De Russy to their fate, it became my imperative duty to do so rather than attempt assistance, which at best could delay this danger but a few hours, and without a miracle from Heaven would insure the certain destruction of my entire command. I have never had a doubt about the propriety of my course, but do not expect to escape malignant criticisms. If they come from responsible sources I know how to meet them, and only ask that they be made in an open manner.
I commenced my movement to Bayou Du Lac bridge at 10 a.m. on the 14th, and not until the enemy, having repaired the burnt bridge over Bayou De Glaize, had commenced crossing his infantry in force. The road followed by my division diverges from the Marksville and Simsport road at Mansura. We retired leisurely and in perfect order along this road, and except by a body of 60 or 80 of the enemy's cavalry, who drove in on the infantry the few mounted officers who, in default of cavalry, were acting as a cavalry rear guard, our march was uninterrupted.
The enemy, on reaching the intersection of the road on which he was marching and that by which we were retiring, moved straight on to Fort De Russy without halting, his long column well closed up and leaving no stragglers behind. Moving slowly and halting frequently to watch the movements of the enemy, the rear of my column did not reach Bayou Du Lac until 4 p.m.
In the mean time I had been joined by a company of the Second Louisiana Cavalry and a portion of Faulkner's company, whom I dispatched at once toward Marksville and Mansura to gain information. From the latter direction I learned that the enemy's forces were under the command of Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith, and was a portion of Sherman's late Mississippi expedition, and that their force was about 15,000 infantry, with a large park of artillery. From the direction of Marksville I learned that the enemy's column reached Marksville about 3 o'clock, and that a column of about 4,000 men pushed directly through to Fort De Russy, while the greater portion of the command halted in the immediate vicinity of the village. Later I learned that the fort was invested about 4 p.m., and that a fierce musket and artillery fire was kept up until about sundown, when it ceased, and from the shout of the enemy it was supposed the fort then surrendered.
Up to this time I was in hopes that the holding out of the fort for a day or two would enable me to be re-enforced by Mouton's and Polignac's brigades, when we could have attacked the covering force of the enemy at Marksville, and perhaps raised the siege of Fort De Russy, although even with this re-enforcement the superiority of the enemy would have been too great to give more than the faintest hope of success. Being now satisfied, however, that Fort De Russy had surrendered, it became a matter of the utmost importance for my command to reach the Natchitoches road at this point in advance of the enemy, or otherwise we would necessarily be thrown back into the desert between the Calcasieu and Sabine, when the only escape from starvation would be a hasty retreat into Texas by way of Nib-lett's Bluff. The enemy, having now the control of the river, could re-embark his forces, and removing them rapidly to Alexandria could reach this point by a march of 30 miles, whereas my division, being compelled to make a long detour through the pine woods, could not reach this point in less than four or five days of ordinary marching, it being over 75 miles. Under these circumstances I thought it my duty to take up my line of march at once without awaiting instructions, which I did about 10 p.m. on the 14th, and on the next morning arrived at Lloyd's Bridge with my whole force, including Mouton's brigade, commanded by Colonel Gray, which I found encamped on the Huffpower, 19 miles south of Fort De Russy, under orders to re-enforce my division.
I was informed by Colonel Gray that he received the order to march to my assistance at 5 p.m. on the 13th, but too late to march that day, having had no previous intimation to be in readiness.
I would respectfully ask the attention of the major-general commanding to these facts and dates, inasmuch as there seems to have been some unaccountable delay, since the information in regard to the landing of the enemy in force reached your headquarters during the night of the 12th, and were acknowledged at 6 o'clock on the next morning, and yet Mouton's brigade received no orders to march until 5 o'clock on the 13th, and did not march until 5 a.m. on the 14th.
Since reaching this camp two officers (Captain Adams, of the Twenty-eighth Texas Cavalry, dismounted, and Lieutenant Jennings, of the Thirteenth Texas Cavalry, dismounted), who formed a portion of the garrison at Fort De Russy, have come in, bringing in 21 men, with their arms and accouterments. They represent that the fort was attacked from the direction of Marksville about 4 p.m. on the 14th; that the enemy planted batteries at three or four points and soon rendered the water battery (where they were) untenable; that but one of the guns in the water battery could be trailed upon the enemy, and from which but one shot was fired, and that was from the 32-pounder rifle; that in consequence of the heavy artillery fire into the rear of the water battery they were forced into the excavations in front of the parapet, where they remained for some time, until it became apparent that they could do nothing and that in a few minutes they would be surrounded and captured. Under such circumstances Captain Adams, the ranking officer left (Captain Hutton, who had command of the work, having disappeared early in the action), concluded to withdraw the men and endeavor to make his escape. All came out, including Captain Hutton's own company, but they threw away their arms and one by one disappeared, and, as Captain Adams supposes, returned to their homes. In striking contrast to this disgraceful conduct of Captain Hutton and his company, it is with great pleasure I record the gallant and noble conduct of a detachment of 9 men belonging to Captain King's company. Captain King, with the principal part of his company, was in the upper work, and this detachment, under Lieutenant Brooke, was sent to man one of the guns in the water battery. When it was proposed by the men here to make their escape, as they could do nothing, these 9 men declared their purpose of going into the upper fort to assist their comrades and share their fate, and amid a heavy fire of artillery and musketry set out with Lieutenant Brooke to carry out their design. Their fate is unknown, but such honorable and noble conduct deserves to be recorded.
I find upon examining the post returns of the fort, deducting those known to have escaped, that our loss does not exceed 205 enlisted men and 24 commissioned officers. The loss in material, especially in guns, is very heavy and perhaps irreparable. I succeeded, however, in saving two siege guns, a 24-pounder and a 30-pounder Parrott rifle, sent off early on the morning of the 14th. The only loss of material sustained by my division was 2 wagons and teams captured by the enemy from General Scurry's brigade while between Moreauville and Simsport.
In accounting for the disaster at Fort De Russy it is unnecessary to look to other causes than the overwhelming superiority of the enemy's force; but even with this disadvantage Fort De Russy might have been held for some days, perhaps, without relief from the outside, but for the vicious system of engineering adopted and the wretched judgment displayed in the selection of the position.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. WALKER,
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