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9 Series I Volume XXVI-I Serial 41 - Port Hudson Part I

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Page 9 Chapter XXXVIII. GENERAL REPORTS.

accomplishing, by a swifter course, the object of our campaign west of the river.

The army was called upon to make a demonstration against the fortifications at Port Hudson, while the fleet should run the batteries upon the river. All the disposable force of the department ws moved to Baton Rouge for this purpose early in March.

On March 13, the troops moved out to the rear of Port Hudson, about 12,000 strong. The pickets of the enemy were encountered near Baton Rouge, and a considerable force in the vicinity of Port Hudson, which was quickly driven in. The army reached the rear of the works on the night of the 14th, and made a demonstration as for an attack on the works the next morning.

The arrangement between the admiral and myself was that the passage of the batteries by the navy should be attempted in the gray of the morning, the army making a simultaneous attack of the fortifications in the rear; but affairs appearing to be more favorable to the fleet than was anticipated, the object was accomplished in the evening and during the night of the 14th. Naval history scarcely presents a more brilliant act than the passage of these formidable batteries.

The army returned to Baton Rouge the next day, the object of the expedition having been announced in general orders as completely accomplished. Our loss in this affair was very slight, the enemy not resisting us with any determination until we were in the vicinity of their outer works. Colonel John S. Clark, of my staff, received a wound while closely reconnoitering the position of the enemy, which disabled him from further participation in the campaign.

Pending these general movements, a force, under command of Colonel Thomas S. Clark, of the Sixth Michigan Volunteers, was sent out from New Orleans to destroy the bridge at Ponchatoula, and a small force, under Colonel F. S. Nickerson, of the Fourteenth Maine Volunteers, to destroy the enemy's communication by the Jackson Railroad and the bridges on the Amite River. Both these objects were successfully accomplished.

Endeavors were made at this time to collect at Baton Rouge a sufficient force to justify an attack upon Port Hudson, either by assault or siege; but the utmost force that could be collected for this purpose did not exceed 12,000 or 14,000 men. To withdraw the force of Weitzel from Berwick Bay would open the La Fourche to the enemy,who had 10,000 or 15,000 men upon the Teche, and the withdrawal of the forces from New Orleans would expose that city to the assault of the enemy from every point. The strength of the enemy at Port Hudson was then believed to be from 18,000 to 20,000. It is now known with absolute certainty that the garrison on the night of March 14 was not less than 16,000 effective troops.

The statement of the General-in-Chief of the Army, in his report of November 15, 1863, that, had our forces invested Port Hudson at this time it could have been easily reduced, as its garrison was weak, was without any just foundation. Information received from Brigadier General W. N. R. Beall, one of the officers in command of Port Hudson at this time, as well as from other officers, justifies this opinion. It was inadvisable, therefore, to make an attack upon Port Hudson, either by assault or siege, with any expectation of a successful issue. Operations, therefore on the waters west of the Mississippi were immediately resumed. While at Baton Rouge, an attempt was made to force a passage to the upper river, across a point of land opposite to Port Hudson. This was successfully accomplished after some days, but without establishing


Page 9 Chapter XXXVIII. GENERAL REPORTS.

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