The Red River Campaign Discussion
This discussion was held in WebAmerica's Civil War Chat Room on the evening of August 31, 1997. It was hosted by Tiger (a handle used by a historian from Louisiana) who's specialty is the Western theater of the American Civil war. The amount of people actively involved in the discussion is not representative of all those present. I have received several Emails from those that were just observing. The following link was used by those of us not familiar with the subject to prepare for the discussion.
Red River Campaign Study Site
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:08:27]: let's begin @ the beginning! and as we are talking about a campaign tonight instead of a single battle we may not have time to go into much detail, OR we might have to brush over certain aspects.. let's play it by ear.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:10:43]: First, why was this campaign undertaken by the Union? Well, two main reasons, to procure cotton and retake control of Texas to discourage French intervention
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:12:22]: Grant, upon being named commander of all Union armies in March, 1864 tried to cancel this campaign in favor of a move on Mobile...but Lincoln over-ruled any such notions
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:14:47]: strangely Grant attaches no blame to Banks in his memoirs an officer that Grant did not hold in high esteem. Banks blames Halleck and says he only planned such an operation cuz he was ordered to.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:17:22]: ( jump in any time with questions) And so, as the spring campaigning season began in 1864 this expedition was put into motion....some 18,000 men under MJ WB Franklin marching overland and another 10,000+ on transports from Vicksburg.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 20:19:34]: Where are they marching from?
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:19:43]: the only Conf in position to contest this early movement was some 250 troops at Ft DeRussy and Scurry's Texas Infantry Brigade at Yellow Bayou, but Scurry gave way without a fight and without warning the fort so the garrison was captured (March 14, 1864).
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:21:07]: Franklin's Union contingent began it's march on March 13th from Franklin, La (named for Benjamin Franklin not the Union general ).
Tigert at [Aug 31 20:22:25]: the town of Alexandria fell on March 15th and the Conf were forced to retreat northward.
JEB at [Aug 31 20:25:00]: What was happening simultaneously in the east during the Red River Campaign? What were Lee and Grant up to during this time period? and, Xan, what was Joseph Baileys rank when he constructed the dam? *jumping in with the excitement of an ardent schoolboy*
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:28:55]: overview of armies: Nathaniel Banks was in overall command of the Union army, Franklin 19th Corps, Ransom 13th Corps, and 16th & 17th Corps under A.J. Smith, cavalry under Albert Lee E. Kirby-Smith was overall Confederate commander with Richard Taylor in command in the field would have two infantry divisions, Walker's and Mouton's, and cavalry under Tom Green.
Xan at [Aug 31 20:29:28]: JEB, we are pleased to see enthusiasm in class (but watch that jumping around business.) Bailey was I believe a colonel at this point; might have had a brevet to Maj. Gen. or soon did in any case. ;)
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:30:39]: This was March, 1864 Grant had just been appointed overall Federal commander as for Lee I suppose he was watching Meade's army in Va.
ks at [Aug 31 20:31:11]: JEB, Grant had just been commissioned as a lieutenant General on March 9th. On the 10th he was given official authority to take command of the Armies of the U.S. and he was in Virginia visiting the Army of the Potomac still commanded by George Gordon Meade.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:32:14]: As for Bailey's rank most references have him still a major at this point some a LTC he would receive further promotions later in his career though.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:34:21]: Thanks JEB. Anyway on March 21st Taylor's scouting unit, the 2nd La cav was captured at Henderson's Hill by March 31 the leading elements of Banks' army entered Natchitoches.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:35:53]: It had been "all too easy" to this point and Banks, and Porter, (Admiral David Porter) contested each other to see who could confiscate the most cotton.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:37:41]: Banks' own father-in-law was the chief cotton speculator and they planned to get rich selling this confiscated cotton to north. textile mills; little wonder banks paid scant attention to the military aspects.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 20:37:51]: Why confiscate? What happened to the scorched earth policy of the North?
3rdLa at [Aug 31 20:38:44]: Evening gang, hey Tiger, just made it in, It would not be over estimating if one stated that some within the Union forces expected to take home 150 million dollars or more in cotton.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:39:07]: on April 1st banks ordered Albert lee to move his cavalry div (5,000) westward and open the road thru Pleasant Hill and Mansfield.
Xan at [Aug 31 20:40:12]: JEB, per Generals in Blue Bailey was a colonel at the time of the Red River Expedition and got the brevet to Maj. Gen. afterwards along with the thanks of Congress, and a really spiffy sword from Adm. Porter. ;) Xan
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:40:53]: Lincoln had ordered the cotton taken and brought back to relieve some of the unemployment problemss brought on by shut-down textile mills (purely a political decision).
cob2mo at [Aug 31 20:43:26]: Do you know how they intended to get it back North? There is a war going on you know.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:43:45]: hello 3rd Porter had ordered the cotton painted with : CSA USN to indicate it was conf gov cotton....and now belonged to the Navy , When asked what the initials stood for a reported quipped "Cotton Stealing Assc. of the U.S. Navy."
3rdLa at [Aug 31 20:44:51]: I find it interesting that cotton taken by the infantry became property of the US government, but cotton taken by the naval forces were theirs, divided among the sailors, sure made for hard feeling among the Union forces.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:45:05]: That was easy straight up the Mississippi River on steamers. This was post Vicksburg so the Federals had control of the Mississippi River.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:46:45]: anyway all this "cotton stealing" did serve a useful purpose for the Confederate cause..it made Banks pause for days at a time at each plantation and this gave Taylor more time to gather his forces.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 20:47:20]: I'm sure that there were still Confederate forces operating in and along the Mississippi.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:48:38]: On April 2nd, Lee with 3 of his brigades, about 4,000 men were surprised at a crossroads known as Crump's Corner by 1,500 Confederate cavalry.
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:49:43]: well, cob2mo that was their plan and they did end up taking some off that way and some more back to New .Orleans. and shipped from there.
Xan at [Aug 31 20:50:08]: 3rd, that thing with the Navy getting to keep the proceeds was indeed slick but it was a result of strategy meant for ocean-going vessels. One of the rights of a ship of war is to confiscate prizes, up to and including the ship itself which after release had to pay a bond to the capturer. Navy men found this a powerful motivating factor..;)
Tigert at [Aug 31 20:51:59]: The Crump's fight was fiercely contested and caused Lee to retire back to Natch...Lee asked for infantry support to which Franklin replied: "It is the job of the cav to protect the army...not the other way round."
Xan at [Aug 31 20:52:12]: JEB, how did you come to ask about Col. Bailey in particular? Just wonderin'.. ;)
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:53:42]: Xan the Confederates burned most of the cotton in the Cane River valley to prevent it being taken.
JEB at [Aug 31 20:55:14]: Xan - In your essay, you identified Bailey as a Lt. Col. Tiger referred to him as a Major. *I notice details. Part of AADD*
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:55:35]: at Natchitoches, banks really had three choices of rds but decided the western most, thru P Hill and Mansfield was his best choice...the exact thing Taylor was hoping he would do.
3rdLa at [Aug 31 20:57:20]: Think Bailey was Major during Red River Campaign, promoted shortly after.
Tigerat [Aug 31 20:57:38]: And JEB there are letters written by the participants themselves that make ref to officers with diff ranks example : Henry Gray is referred to as both Colonel and Brig Gen by Taylor in reference to Mansfield Tiger
Xan at [Aug 31 20:58:55]: Durn, JEB, yer good. I paste a gold star on your monitor. ;) Xan *suspecting that acronym stands for Admirably Attentive to Damnest Details*
Tiger at [Aug 31 20:59:00]: Most references I've seen have Bailey as a major...but let's press on ..we can discuss bailey's rank another night.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:01:47]: By April 6th Banks' entire army was on the road to Shreveport..they reached P Hill on the 6th and Lee's cav was sent ahead again the next day...some very heavy fighting took place on the 7th @ Wilson's Farm and again @ Tenmile Bayou.
ks at [Aug 31 21:02:49]: *Interesting note (to me anyway)--->April 6th the Constitutional Convention of Louisiana met at New Orleans and adopted a new state constitution, abolishing slavery. -per THE CIVIL WAR DAY BY DAY .
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:03:15]: Banks confined most of his army to the single lane Stage road and this caused his column to stretch out 22 miles from head to toe - the very thing Taylor was waiting for.
3rdLa at [Aug 31 21:03:37]: The army was stretched out over twenty miles in length, placement of calvary wagons were critical it seems.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:05:34]: Taylor was determined to strike now before banks could pass Mansfield and have access to 3 parallel roads whereby he could "get up" his army.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:07:31]: Taylor selected the Moss Planation 3 miles below Mansfield and ordered all his forces to concentrate there --except Churchill's two divisions which he held in reserve and besides Taylor wasnt sure if Kirby-Smith might not order him to fall back more.
Xan at [Aug 31 21:08:02]: 3rd, the supply wagons were indeed critical because the whole area was very short of food, clean water, supplies of all sorts, even forage for horses.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:09:35]: on the morning of April 8th Lee's leading regts struck Conf cav at the Moss Plantation and drove them in...it was the appearance of Confederate Infantry, namely the 18th La that halted the Federal cav, Lee recognized the danger and placed his division into a defensive line along Honeycutt Hill .
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:10:45]: and Xan the placement of the 200 or so wagons right behind Lee's cav would later jam up the road causing mass confusion amongst the Union troops.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:12:36]: Lee sent for infantry support and franklin sent one small brigade..later banks ordered a 2nd brigade forward, both under the command of Gen. Landrum , these Union troops joined Lee's cav along a rail fence and waited.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:15:24]: Taylor realized it was now or never, he was outnumbered in the theater 5 to 1 but held a slight advantage at the moment there..it didn't matter, for at 4 PM it seems that Gen. Mouton started events rolling by ordering his entire division to advance...the Battle of Mansfield thus begun with the impetuous order of the fiery Cajun , Mouton.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:16:56]: some accounts say that Taylor ordered Mouton to reinforce his skirmish line which Mouton did by sending forward his whole division...in any case, Taylor seized the moment and ordered a general advance of his entire line.
ks at [Aug 31 21:17:42]: *Please excuse another little aside about what is happening at this time...The U.S. Senate on the 8th passed a joint resolution 38 to 6 abolishing slavery and approving the Thirteenth Amendment. The resolution reflected the change in the attitude of Congress since the beginning of the war, and there was little real opposition to it.
Xan at [Aug 31 21:18:39]: Meanwhile, over on the river, something interesting was NOT happening--it wasn't raining. The whole plan for the joint army-navy operation assumed that the Red and its tributaries would be at normal water level for this time of year, spring. They weren't. It was the driest spring in 20 years and the river was falling like a rock.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:18:54]: Gray's Louisiana Brigade composed of just 3 regiments, the Crescent, 18th and 28th would suffer incredible losses...they started with 1000 men and left 400 on the field.
3rdLa at [Aug 31 21:19:47]: not sure of change of attitude ks, or realignment of Congress, lot of empty Southern seats.
3rdLa at [Aug 31 21:21:08]: Seven standard-bearers for the Crescent Reg. went down during this charge.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:22:10]: Mouton's Charge could be the topic for a whole night's discussion but for now let's just say that Mouton's div, Gray's La brigade and Polignac's Texas brigade succeeded in forcing the Feds off the fence..and Walker's div met much less resistance and delivered a blow to the Union left flank.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 21:23:07]: Again I ask the question how did they get the cotton out of La with the river so low. I remember reading about a La outfit nearly capturing a federal gunboat because of the low river.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:24:11]: Lee and Landrum's divisions collapsed and went "hell bent for leather" to the rear...oh, but those supply wagons...ummm many a Federal was captured trying to get past that log jam.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:25:59]: okay cob2mo their "Plan" was to carry away the cotton aboard steamers I never sed they were entirely successful..alot of the cotton was dumped over board to lighten the trapped ships trying to pass Bailey's dam .
Xan at [Aug 31 21:26:05]: Persistence, cob2mo, persistence is the answer. Some of those "CSA-USN" bales proved considerably more effective than tin at protecting the vessels, or at least their crews. Porter's boys are getting shot up bad.
Xan at [Aug 31 21:27:54]: Tiger, what say you handle the land battles and I will endeavor to keep up the narrative of the waterborne side? Deal?
3rdLa at [Aug 31 21:28:19]: Not sure cob2mo, but most likely, the cotton was transported by boats to the rapides in Alexandria, then off loaded, when boats were able to navigate across the rapides with the wing dams built, then cotton loaded back onto union boats.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:28:22]: Phase 2 of the battle took place at the Sabine Crossroads itself where another Union infantry division was routed and the fighting finally ended about 2 miles down the road at Chapman's Bayou when Emory's div of the 19th Corps finally halted Taylor's conf.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 21:29:07]: OK I"ll shut up I just figured some screwy Yankee plan that backfired.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:31:06]: ok Xan - April 9th would bring on the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the largest west of the Miss River..@ Pea Ridge a total of 23, 000 men were engaged, @ P Hill there were 24,600.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 21:32:40]: 3La what are rapides? remember you're talking to a Missourian.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:33:20]: The battle of P. Hill was a series of goof-ups that really boiled down to one thing...Churchill had NOT flanked the Federals but was instead flanked himself by Smith's 16th Corps..any hope Taylor had of victory was really gone from the git-go.
3rdLa at [Aug 31 21:35:02]: Low points on the river cob2mo, small falls you might say, during low river stages, the river flowed over these ridges that were located at the bottom of the river.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:35:31]: But the fighting was fierce and close, yes even some bayonet play..and another strange one....opposing infantry actually charging each other..most of the time one side would stop and "receive" the charge..Walker and Mower's union division closed on each other.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:38:06]: that battle is considered a draw by most historians..but Banks would hand Taylor's Conf a strategic victory by retreating back Natch-Grand Ecore...for all intents and purposes the Union effort of capturing Shreveport and moving into East Texas was over.
Xan at [Aug 31 21:38:12]: To answer an earlier question about what was happening in the East at this time, Apr. 9 was the day Grant issued his famous order to Meade and the AoP: "Where ever Lee goes, there you will go also." The Army of Northern Virginia was finally the target.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:39:47]: when Frederick Steele was defeated in Arkansas by Price any hope of rec. reinforcements was gone for Banks too....now shall we pause for some questions and general discussion.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 21:41:15]: Yeaaaa Gen. Price My commander!
JEB at [Aug 31 21:42:51]: How 'bout that Price, cob2mo?
Xan at [Aug 31 21:43:04]: Back to the West: on April 10 Porter came to the end of the line too: at Springfield Landing, LA., the big steamship New Falls City was stretched sideways and dragged up on the banks on both sides and her keel broken down. The river was totally blocked. Attached to her mast was an invitation, written in large letters, asking the Union sailors to attend a ball in Shreveport.."which invitation we were never able to accept" Porter said. Xan
3rdLa at [Aug 31 21:45:53]: The threat of Steele from the North had General Kirby Smith in a state of near confusion it appears to me. Although Steele had little impact on the campaign, military wise, he had a big impact on Smith, his fear of Steele prevented Taylor from disposing of Banks and Porters army, or so it appears to me.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:46:40]: I will say this, had Taylor been in overall command history would have been different for sure..I know it's easy to use 20/20 and speculate (after all isnt that the fun of this) but I think Taylor would have dealt Banks, and then Porter a severe blow.
JEB at [Aug 31 21:47:12]: Seeing how the objectives for the Federals were 1- to procure cotton for northern mills to relieve unemployment and unrest, and 2 - to discourage an invasion by Maxmillian in Mexico via Texas in support of the CSA, how did the RRE effect the latter?
3rdLa at [Aug 31 21:47:46]: Just call it "Southern Hospitality" Xan, they would have been welcomed at the dance :)
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:48:50]: Price's troops didn't need any help beating Steele..heck they had already proven that! why did Kirby-Smith take Walker, Churchill, and most of the cav away from Taylor? Taylor had an answer for that.
Xan at [Aug 31 21:50:07]: Whew! That worked out well, Tiger...of course the retreat was at least as long, complicated, nasty and convoluted as the advance had been. Shotgun, I did my durndest to read all of Banks' OR and I don't think I have ever seen a more self-serving document in my life. All the good ideas were his; all the bad ideas were forced on him by others; and everything would have gone just fine if every Union army had dropped everything else they were doing to come and assist him. Really something of a masterpiece of writing..;)
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:51:18]: JEB Lincoln's gov was in no position to make demands on ole Max. in regards to Tex and the rest of the southwest it wasn't the North's country..but retake Texas, plant the stars and stripes there and now! Lincoln could threaten war with ole Max had he tried anything.
cob2mo at [Aug 31 21:52:10]: JEB I hold the man in the highest regard, along with Jeff Thompson SD Kitchens, and Col WL Jeffers.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:53:30]: dern! is time almost up? well that flew by and I have a pile of notes here I haven't even got to yet.
Tiger at [Aug 31 21:55:44]: Any last questions..of course I could stay past the appointed time I work overtime all the time...nothing new there!
JEB at [Aug 31 21:56:30]: Tiger - As far as I'm concerned, your time is never up. Please go on. cob2mo - the other night, no one could figure out who earned the nickname "Missouri Swamp Rat" when I posed the question. Tiger accused me of having a book on CW trivia. You would have got it right off, huh?
As a matter of fact the discussion did continue in the wee hours. However, because of space constraints on the site, I had to cut it off here. It continued the following week with the Retreat phase.
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