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Will's Red River IV: The Advance

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  • Will
    Will s Red River IV: The Advance The campaign was supposed to kick off the second week of March, but everyone is a little delayed [see next part regarding
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 15, 2002
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      Will's Red River IV: The Advance

      The campaign was supposed to kick off the second week of March, but
      everyone is a little delayed [see next part regarding Steele's
      timing].

      AJ Smith sets out from Vicksburg on March 10, only a couple days
      behind. His force consisted of 2 brigades of his own division, 3
      brigades of Mower's Division and 2 brigades of TK Smith's division.
      He meets up with Porter at the mouth of the Red River. Landing his
      men at Simmesport (which they promptly burn down) he moves inland on
      the 14th moves to Marksville where Mower is directed to assault
      nearby Fort De Russy. After successfully capturing the fort, Mower
      is then sent on to Alexandria, which he enters on the 16th. The rest
      of the force (AJ and TK Smith) follow after destroying Fort De Russy.

      AJ Smith had a slight problem destroying the fort. The magazine was
      primed to be blown up, but it was accidentally set off early, killing
      two men and wounding several others. In "Red River Campaign;
      Politics and Cotton in the Civil War", Johnson quotes from Edmund
      Newsome's "Experiences in the Great War of the Rebellion" (1880)
      that Smith was hissed at and taunted by his men after this incident.
      I bring this up to illustrate that Banks would not be the only
      commander on this campaign so treated by the men.

      Banks has to linger in New Orleans but he directs Franklin to lead
      the army to Alexandria ahead of him. Rains (and possibly Franklin's
      personal style) delay the overland march of the force and Banks (by
      boat) actually gets to Alexandria before Franklin. Albert Lee's
      Cavalry division gets to Alexandria on the 19th, but Franklin with
      the four infantry divisions [Landram, Cameron, Emory and Grover]
      doesn't get there until a few days later.

      However, these army delays don't amount to much when it is found that
      the water is too low at Alexandria for Porter to pass. Even if the
      army had gotten an earlier start, they still would have been stuck in
      Alexandria while the Navy worked to get above the rapids. One of the
      river pilots advises Porter not to take the Eastport, the largest
      gunboat, further than Alexandria. Porter doesn't listen and in fact
      decides to send the Eastport up the falls first, also against the
      pilot's advice. Unsurprisingly, the Eastport gets stuck on rocks and
      three days are spent getting her off.

      While working on getting his ships above the rapids, Porter takes
      time to write a note [Naval ORs v26 p35] happily reporting that he
      has captured 2,021 bales of cotton and lists the ships entitled to a
      share of the proceeds. Also while hanging around Alexandria, Mower,
      with a part of Lee's cavalry, successfully defeats a detachament of
      enemy cavalry at Henderson's Hill.

      On March 26th Banks receives a message from Grant [OR 34/2 p610].
      Recently made general-in-cheif, this is Grant's first opportunity to
      issue orders to Banks. In my opinion this would have been the
      perfect time for Grant to have cancelled the campaign. Steele hasn't
      started yet and Banks, Porter and Smith have only moved a short way.
      Cancel it, call it a minor but successful raid and tell everybody to
      start getting ready for the real campaign in May. Instead Grant
      sends banks the opposite message: the campaign is very importance but
      he is under a tight time constraint. Banks must press on and do it
      fast.

      Grover's division is left to guard Alexandria because it is an
      important point in the supply line because of the rapids. The rest of
      the force moves forward, Lee's cavalry starting out on the 26th
      followed by the rest of Banks men the next day while AJ Smith's men
      move by boat with Porter on the river. Banks men reach Natchitoches
      on April 2. The Eastport runs aground again, slowing the navy, but
      during the first week of April the army concentrates at Natchitoches
      and nearby Grand Ecore. Lee's cavalry is sent out in different
      directions, skirmishing with the enemy on the 2nd at Crump's Hill, on
      the 4th at Campti, and on the 5th near Natchitoches.
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