Camp, Court, and Seige.
Colonel Wickham Hoffman
CAMP COURT AND SIEGE
A NARRATIVE OF PERSONAL ADVENTURE AND
OBSERVATION DURING TWO WARS
By WICKHAM HOFFMAN
ASSISTANT ADJ.-GEN. U. S. VOLS. AND
SECRETARY U. S. LEGATION AT PARIS
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET.
Hatteras. — “Black Drink.” — Fortress Monroe. — General Butler. — Small-pox. — “L’Isle des Chats.” — Lightning. — Farragut. — Troops land. — Surrender of Forts …
New Orleans. — Custom-house. — Union Prisoners. — The Calaboose. — “Them Lincolnites.” — The St. Charles. — “Grape-vine Telegraph.” — New Orleans Shop-keepers. — Butler and Soulé. — The Fourth Wisconsin. — A New Orleans Mob. — Yellow Fever
… Page 23
Vicksburg. — River on Fire. — Baton Rouge. — Start again for Vicksburg. — The Hartford. — The Canal. — Farragut. — Captain Craven. — The Arkansas. — Major Boardman. — The Arkansas runs the Gauntlet — Malaria … Page 35
Sickness. — Battle of Baton Rouge. — Death of Williams. — “Fix Bayonets!” — Thomas Williams. — His Body. — General T. W. Sherman. — Butler relieved. — General Orders, No. 10. — Mr. Adams and Lord Palmerston. — Butler’s Style … Page 47
T. W. Sherman. — Contrabands. — Defenses of New Orleans. — Exchange of Prisoners. — Amenities in War. — Port Hudson. — Reconnoissance in Force. — The Fleet. — Our Left. — Assault of May 27th. — Sherman wounded. — Port Hudson surrenders … Page 59
Major-general Franklin. — Sabine Pass. — Collision at Sea. — March through Louisiana. — Rebel Correspondence. — “The Gypsy’s Wassail.” — Rebel Women. — Rebel Poetry. — A Skirmish. — Salt Island. — Winter Climate. — Banks’s Capua. — Major Joseph Bailey
… Page 74
Mistakes. — Affair at Mansfield. — Peach Hill. — Freaks of the Imagination. — After Peach Hill. — General William Dwight. — Retreat to Pleasant Hill. — Pleasant Hill. — General Dick Taylor. — Taylor and the King of Denmark. — An Incident
… Page 87
Low Water. — The Fleet in Danger. — We fall back upon Alexandria. — Things look Gloomy. — Bailey builds a Dam in ten Days. — Saves the Fleet. — A Skirmish. — Smith defeats Polignac. — Unpopularity of Foreign Officers. — A Novel Bridge. — Leave of Absence.
— A Year in Virginia. — Am ordered again to New Orleans
… Page 98
Visit to Grant’s Head-quarters. — His Anecdotes of Army Life. — Banks relieved. — Canby in Command. — Bailey at Mobile. — Death of Bailey. — Canby as a Civil Governor. — Confiscated Property. — Proposes to rebuild Levees. — Is stopped by Sheridan. — Canby appeals.
— Is sustained, but too late. — Levees destroyed by Floods. — Conflict of Jurisdiction. — Action of President Johnson. — Sheridan abolishes Canby’s Provost Marshal’s Department. — Canby asks to be recalled. — Is ordered to Washington. — To Galveston. — To Richmond.
— To Charleston. — Is murdered by the Modocs. — His Character
… Page 105
CAMP, COURT, AND SIEGE.
Hatteras. — “Black Drink.” — Fortress Monroe. — General Butler. — Small-pox. — “L’Isle
des Chats.” — Lightning. — Farragut. — Troops
land. — Surrender of Forts.
February, 1862, the writer of the following
pages, an officer on the staff of Brigadier-general
Thomas Williams, was stationed at Hatteras. Of all
forlorn stations to which the folly and wickedness
of the Rebellion condemned our officers, Hatteras
was the most forlorn. It blows a gale of wind half
the time. The tide runs through the inlet at the
rate of five miles an hour. It was impossible to unload
the stores for Burnside’s expedition during
more than three days of the week. After an easterly
blow — and there are enough of them — the waters
are so piled up in the shallow sounds between Hatteras
and the Main, that the tide ebbs without intermission
for twenty-four hours.
The history of Hatteras is curious. There can
be little doubt that English navigators penetrated
into those waters long before the Pilgrims landed at
Plymouth. But the colony was not a success. Of
the colonists some returned to England; others died
of want. The present inhabitants of the island are
a sickly, puny race, the descendants of English convicts.
When Great Britain broke up her penal settlement
at the Bermudas, she transported the most
hardened convicts to Van Diemens Land; those who
had been convicted of minor offenses, she turned
loose upon our coast. Here they intermarried; for
the inhabitants of the Main look down upon them as
an inferior race, and will have no social intercourse
with them. The effect of these intermarriages is
seen in the degeneracy of the race.
Until within a few years their principal occupation
was wrecking. Hatteras lies on the direct route of
vessels bound from the West Indies to Baltimore,
Philadelphia, and New York. The plan adopted by
these guileless natives to aid the storm in insuring
a wreck was simple, but effective. There is a half-wild
pony bred upon the island called “marsh pony.”
One of these animals was caught, a leg tied up Rarey
fashion, a lantern slung to his neck, and the
driven along the beach on a stormy night. The
effect was that of a vessel riding at anchor. Other
vessels approached, and were soon unpleasantly aware
of the difference between a ship and a marsh pony.
The dwellings bear witness to the occupation of
their owners. The fences are constructed of ships’
knees and planks. In their parlors you may see on
one side a rough board door, on the other an exquisitely
finished rose-wood or mahogany cabin door,
with silver or porcelain knobs. Contrast reigns everywhere.
But the place is not without its attractions to the
botanist. A wild vine, of uncommon strength and
toughness, grows abundantly, and is used in the
place of rope. The iron-tree, hard enough to turn
the edge of the axe, and heavy as the metal from
which it takes its name, is found in abundance, and
the tea-tree, from whose leaves the inhabitants draw
their tea when the season has been a bad one for
wrecks. This tea-tree furnishes the “black drink,”
which the Florida Indians drank to make themselves
invulnerable. They drank it with due religious ceremonies
till it nauseated them, when it was supposed
to have produced the desired effect. What a pity
that we can not associate some such charming superstition
maladie de mer!
It would so comfort
us in our affliction!
But we were not to stay long on this enchanted
isle. Butler had organized his expedition against
New Orleans, and it was now ready to sail. He had
applied for Thomas Williams, who had been strongly
recommended to him by Weitzel, Kenzel, and other
regular officers of his staff. Early in March we received
orders to report to Butler at Fortress Monroe.
We took one of those rolling tubs they call “propellers,”
which did the service between the fortress and
Hatteras for the Quartermaster’s Department; and,
after nearly rolling over two or three times, we reached
Old Point. Here we found the immense steamer
the Constitution, loaded with three regiments, ready
to sail. Williams had hoped to have two or three
days to run North and see his wife and children,
whom he had not seen for months. But with him
considerations of duty were before all others. He
thought that three regiments should be commanded
by a brigadier, and he determined to sail at once.
It was a disappointment to us all. To him the loss
was irreparable. He never saw his family again.
It has always appeared to me that General Butler
has not received the credit to which he is entitled
for the capture of New Orleans. Without him New
Orleans would not have been taken in 1862, and a
blow inflicted upon the Confederacy, which the London
Times characterized as the heaviest it had yet
received — “almost decisive.” The writer has no
sympathy with General Butler’s extreme views, and
no admiration for his protégés; but he was cognizant
of the New Orleans expedition from its inception,
he accompanied it on the day it set sail, he landed
with it in New Orleans, he remained in that city or
its neighborhood during the whole of Butler’s command;
and a sense of justice compels him to say that
Butler originated the expedition, that he carried it
through, under great and unexpected difficulties,
that he brought it to a successful termination, and
that his government of the city at that time, and under
the peculiar circumstances, was simply admirable.
General Benjamin F. Butler
It is not perhaps generally known that it was Butler
who urged this enterprise upon the President.
He was answered that no troops could be spared;
M’Clellan wanted them all for his advance upon
Richmond. Butler thereupon offered to raise the
troops himself, provided the Government would
give him three old regiments. The President consented.
The troops were raised in New England,
and three old regiments — the Fourth Wisconsin,
the Sixth Michigan, and the Twenty-first Indiana — designated
to accompany them. At the last moment
M’Clellan opposed the departure of the Western
troops, and even applied for the “New England
Division.” It was with some difficulty that, appealing
to the President, and reminding him of his
promise, Butler was able to carry out the design for
which the troops had been raised.
We sailed from Old Point on the 6th of March
with the three regiments I have named. We numbered
three thousand souls in all on board. If any
thing were wanting at this day to prove the efficacy
of vaccination, our experience on board that ship
is sufficient. We took from the hospital a man who
had been ill with the small-pox. He was supposed
to be cured. Two days out, his disease broke out
again. The men among whom he lay were packed
as close as herring in a barrel, yet but one took the
disease. They had all been vaccinated within sixty
days. I commend this fact to the attention of those
parish authorities in England who still obstinately
refuse to enforce the Vaccination Act.
Five days brought us, in perfect health, to Ship
Island. Here was another Hatteras, with a milder
climate, and no “black drink;” a low, sandy island
in the Gulf, off Mobile. This part of the Gulf of
Mexico was discovered and settled by the French.
They landed on Ship Island, and called it “L’Isle
des Chats,” from the large number of raccoons they
found there. Not being personally acquainted with
that typical American, they took him for a species of
cat, and named the island accordingly. From Ship
Island and the adjacent coast, which they settled, the
French entered Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain,
and so up the Amite River in their boats.
They dragged their boats across the short distance
which separates the upper waters of the Amite from
the Mississippi, embarked upon the “Father of Waters,”
and sailed down the stream. Here they played
a trick upon John Bull; for, meeting an English
fleet coming up, the first vessels that ever entered
the mouths of the Mississippi, they boarded
them, claimed to be prior discoverers, and averred
that they had left their ships above. There existed
in those days an understanding among maritime
nations that one should not interfere with the prior
discoveries of another. The English thereupon turned,
and the spot, a short distance below New Orleans,
is to this day called “English Turn.”
We remained at the “Isle of Cats” about six
weeks — the life monotonous enough. The beach
offered a great variety of shell-fish, devil-fish, horse-shoes,
and sea-horses. An odd thing was the abundance
of fresh, pure water. Dig a hole two feet
deep anywhere in the sand on that low island, rising
scarcely five feet above the sea, and in two hours
it was filled with fresh water. After using it a
week, it became brackish; when all it was necessary
to do was to dig another hole.
When on Ship Island, I witnessed a curious freak
of lightning. One night we had a terrible thunderstorm,
such as one sees only in those southern latitudes.
In a large circular tent, used as a guard-tent,
eight prisoners were lying asleep, side by side. The
sentry stood leaning against the tent-pole, the butt
of the musket on the ground, the bayonet against
his shoulder. The lightning struck the tent-pole,
leaped to the bayonet, followed down the barrel,
tearing the stock to splinters, but only slightly stunning
the sentry. Thence it passed along the ground,
struck the first prisoner, killing him; passed through
the six inside men without injury to them; and off
by the eighth man, killing him.
Finally, the expedition was complete. Stores,
guns, horses, all had arrived. Butler became impatient
for the action of the navy. He went to the
South-west Pass, where Farragut’s fleet was lying,
and urged his advance. Farragut replied that he
had no coal. Butler answered that he would give
him what he wanted, and sent him fifteen hundred
tons. He had had the foresight to ballast his sailing
ships with coal, and so had an ample supply. A
week passed, and still the ships did not ascend the
river. Again Butler went to the Pass, and again
Farragut said that he had not coal enough — that
once past the forts, he might be detained on the
river, and that it would be madness to make the attempt
unless every ship were filled up with coal.
Once again Butler came to his aid, and gave him
three thousand tons. We were naturally surprised
that so vital an expedition should be neglected by
the Navy Department. The opinion was pretty
general among us that the expedition was not a favorite
with the Department, and that they did not
anticipate any great success from it. They were
quite as surprised as the rest of the world when
Farragut accomplished his great feat.
At length all was ready. The troops were embarked,
and lay off the mouth of the river, waiting
for the action of the fleet. Farragut, after an idle
bombardment of three days by the mortar-boats,
which he told us he had no confidence in, but which
he submitted to in deference to the opinions of the
Department and of Porter (the firing ceased, by-the-way,
when it had set fire to the wooden barracks in
Fort Jackson, and might have done some good if
continued), burst through the defenses, silenced the
forts, and ascended the river. It is not my province
to describe this remarkable exploit. Its effect
was magical. An exaggerated idea prevailed at that
time of the immense superiority of land batteries
over ships. One gun on shore, it was said, was equal
to a whole ship’s battery. The very small results obtained
by the united English and French fleets during
the Crimean war were quoted in proof. Those
magnificent squadrons effected scarcely any thing,
for the capture of Bomarsund was child’s play to
them. The English naval officers, proud of their
service and its glorious history, were delighted to
find that, when daringly led, ships could still do
something against land batteries, and all England
rang with Farragut’s exploit.
The part played by the army in this affair was minor,
but still important. Our engineer officers, who
had assisted in building forts St. Philip and Jackson,
knew the ground well. Under their guidance
we embarked, first in light-draught gun-boats, then
in barges, and made our way through the shallow
waters of the Gulf, and up the bayou, till we landed
at Quarantine, between Fort St. Philip and the city,
cutting off all communication between them. As, in
the stillness of an April evening, we made our slow
way up the bayou amidst a tropical vegetation, festoons
of moss hanging from the trees and drooping
into the water, with the chance of being fired on at
any moment from the dark swamp on either side,
the effect upon the imagination was striking, and the
scene one not easily forgotten.
The Capture of New Orleans, 1862.
Farragut had passed up the river, but the forts
still held out, and the great body of the troops was
below them. When, however, they found themselves
cut off from any chance of succor, the men in
Fort St. Philip mutinied, tied their officers to the
guns, and surrendered. Fort Jackson followed the
example. No doubt our turning movement had hastened
their surrender by some days. I once suggested
to Butler that we had hastened it by a week. “A
month, a month, sir,” he replied.
It was here they told us that the United States
flag had been hauled down from the Mint by a mob
headed by that scoundrel Mumford, and dragged
through the mud. I heard Butler swear by all that
was sacred, that if he caught Mumford, and did not
hang him, might he be hanged himself. He caught
him, and he kept his oath. There never was a wiser
act. It quieted New Orleans like a charm. The
mob, who had assembled at the gallows fully expecting
to hear a pardon read at the last moment, and
prepared to create a riot if he were pardoned, slunk
home like whipped curs.
New Orleans. — Custom-house. — Union Prisoners. — The Calaboose. — “Them
Lincolnites.” — The St. Charles. — “Grape-vine Telegraph.” — New
Orleans Shop-keepers. — Butler and Soulé. — The Fourth
Wisconsin. — A New Orleans Mob. — Yellow Fever.
the evening of the 1st of May, 1862, the leading
transports anchored off the city. Butler sent for
Williams, and ordered him to land at once. Williams,
like the thorough soldier he was, proposed to
wait till morning, when he would have daylight for
the movement, and when the other transports, with
our most reliable troops, would be up. “No, sir,”
said Butler, “this is the 1st of May, and on this day
we must occupy New Orleans, and the first regiment
to land must be a Massachusetts regiment.” So the
orders were issued, and in half an hour the Thirty-first
Massachusetts Volunteers and the Sixth Massachusetts
Battery set foot in New Orleans.
As we commenced our march, Williams saw the
steamer Diana coming up with six companies of the
Fourth Wisconsin. He ordered a halt, and sent me
with instructions for them to land at once, and fall
into the rear of the column. I passed through the
mob without difficulty, gave the orders, and we resumed
our march. The general had directed that
our route should be along the levee, where our right
was protected by the gun-boats. Presently we found
that the head of the column was turning up Julia
Street. Williams sent to know why the change had
been made. The answer came back that Butler was
there, and had given orders to pass in front of the
St. Charles Hotel, while the band played “Yankee
Doodle,” and “Picayune Butler’s come to Town,” if
they knew it. They did not know it, unfortunately,
so we had one unbroken strain of the martial air of
“Yankee Doodle” all the way.
Arrived at the Custom-house late in the evening,
we found the doors closed and locked. Williams
said to me, “What would you do?” “Break the
doors open,” I replied. The general, who could not
easily get rid of his old, regular-army habits, ordered
“Sappers and miners to the front.” No doubt the
sappers and miners thus invoked would have speedily
appeared had we had any, but two volunteer regiments
and a battery of light artillery were the extent
of our force that night. I turned to the adjutant
of the Fourth Wisconsin, and asked if he had any
axes in his regiment. He at once ordered up two
or three men. We found the weakest-looking door,
and attacked it. As we were battering it in, the major
of the Thirty-first came up, and took an axe from
one of the men. Inserting the edge in the crack
near the lock, he pried it gently, and the door flew
open. I said, “Major, you seem to understand this
sort of thing.” He replied, “Oh! this isn’t the first
door I have broken open, by a long shot. I was once
foreman of a fire-company in Buffalo.”
We entered the building with great caution, for
the report had been spread that it was mined. The
men of the Fourth Wisconsin had candles in their
knapsacks; they always had every thing, those fellows!
We soon found the meter, turned the gas on,
and then proceeded to make ourselves comfortable
for the night. I established myself in the postmaster’s
private room — the Post-office was in the Custom-house — with
his table for my bed, and a package
of rebel documents for a pillow. I do not remember
what my dreams were that night. We took the
letters from the boxes to preserve them, and piled
them in a corner of my room. They were all subsequently
delivered to their respective addresses.
Pretty well tired out with the labor and excitement
of the day, I was just making myself tolerably
comfortable for the night, when the officer of the
day reported that a woman urgently desired to see
the general on a matter of life or death. She was
admitted. She told us that her husband was a
Union man, that he had been arrested that day and
committed to the “Calaboose,” and that his life was
in danger. The general said to her, “My good woman,
I will see to it in the morning.” “Oh, sir,” she
replied, “in the morning he will be dead! They
will poison him.” We did not believe much in the
poison story, but it was evident that she did. Williams
turned to me, and said, “Captain, have you a
mind to look into this?” Of course I was ready,
and ordering out a company of the Fourth Wisconsin,
and asking Major Boardman, a daring officer
of that regiment, to accompany me, I started for
the Calaboose, guided by the woman. The streets
were utterly deserted. Nothing was heard but the
measured tramp of the troops as we marched along.
Arrived at the Calaboose, I ordered the man I was
in search of to be brought out. I questioned him,
questioned the clerk and the jailer, became satisfied
that he was arrested for political reasons alone, ordered
his release, and took him with me to the Custom-house,
for he was afraid to return home. Being
on the spot, it occurred to me that it would be as
well to see if there were other political prisoners in
the prison. I had the books brought, and examined
the entries. At last I thought I had discovered another
victim. The entry read, “Committed as a suspicious
character, and for holding communication with
Picayune Butler’s troops.” I ordered the man before
me. The jailer took down a huge bunch of keys,
and I heard door after door creaking on its hinges.
At last the man was brought out. I think I never
saw a more villainous countenance. I asked him
what he was committed for? He evidently did not
recognize the Federal uniform, but took me for a
Confederate officer, and replied that he was arrested
for talking to “them Lincolnites.” I told the jailer
that I did not want that man — that he might lock
him up again.
Having commenced the search for political prisoners,
I thought it well to make thorough work of it;
so I inquired if there were other prisons in the city.
There was one in the French quarter, nearly two
miles off; so we pursued our weary and solitary
tramp through the city. My men evidently did not
relish it. The prison was quiet, locked up for the
night. We hammered away at the door till we got
the officers up; went in, examined the books, found
no entries of commitments except for crime; put
the officers on their written oaths that no one was
confined there except for crime; and so returned to
our Post-office beds.
The next day was a busy one. Early in the
morning I went to the St. Charles Hotel to make
arrangements for lodging the general and his staff.
With some difficulty I got in. In the rotunda of
that fine building sat about a dozen rebels, looking
as black as a thunder-cloud. I inquired for the
proprietor or clerk in charge, and a young man stepped
forward: “Impossible to accommodate us; hotel
closed; no servants in the house.” I said, “At all
events, I will see your rooms.” Going into one of
them, he closed the door and whispered, “It would
be as much as my life is worth, sir, to offer to accommodate
you here. I saw a man knifed on Canal
Street yesterday for asking a naval officer the time
of day. But if you choose to send troops and open
the hotel by force, why, we will do our best to make
you comfortable.” Returning to the rotunda, I
found Lieutenant Biddle, who had accompanied me — one
of the general’s aids — engaged in a hot discussion
with our rebel friends. I asked him “What
use in discussing these matters?” and, turning to the
rebs, with appropriate gesture said, “We’ve got you,
and we mean to hold you.” “That’s the talk,” they
replied; “we understand that.” They told us that
the rebel army was in sight of Washington, and that
John Magruder’s guns commanded the Capitol.
Why they picked out Magruder particularly, I can
not say. This news had come by telegraph. We
used to call the rebel telegraphic lines “the grapevine
telegraph,” for their telegrams were generally
circulated with the bottle after dinner.
The shop-keepers in New Orleans, when we first
landed there, were generally of the opinion of my
friend the hotel-clerk. A naval officer came to us
one morning at the Custom-house, and said that the
commodore wanted a map of the river; that he had
seen the very thing, but that the shop-keeper refused
to sell it, intimating, however, that if he were compelled
to sell it, why then, of course, he couldn’t help
himself. We ordered out a sergeant and ten men.
The officer got his map, and paid for it.
But Butler was not the man to be thwarted in
this way. Finding this
on the part of
the shop-keepers, he issued an order that all shops
must be opened on a certain day, or that he should
put soldiers in, and sell the goods for account “of
whom it might concern.” On the day appointed
they were all opened. So, too, with the newspapers.
They refused to print his proclamation. An order
came to us to detail half a dozen printers, and send
them under a staff officer to the office of the True
Delta, and print the proclamation. We soon found
the men. From a telegraph-operator to a printer,
bakers, engine-drivers, carpenters, and coopers, we
had representatives of all the trades. This was in
the early days of the war. Afterward the men
were of an inferior class. The proclamation was
printed, and the men then amused themselves by
getting out the paper. Next morning it appeared
as usual; this was enough. The editor soon came
to terms, and the other journals followed suit.
On the 2d of May Butler landed and took quarters
at the St. Charles. There has been much idle
gossip about attempts to assassinate him, and his
fears of it. In regard to the latter, he landed in
New Orleans, and drove a mile to his hotel, with
one staff officer, and one armed orderly only on the
box. When his wife arrived in the city, he rode
with one orderly to the levee, and there, surrounded
by the crowd, awaited her landing. As regards the
former, we never heard of any well-authenticated
attempt to assassinate him, and I doubt if any was
That afternoon Butler summoned the municipal
authorities before him to treat of the formal surrender
of the city. They came to the St. Charles,
accompanied by Pierre Soulé as their counsel. A
mob collected about the hotel, and became turbulent.
Butler was unprotected, and sent to the
Custom-house for a company of “Massachusetts”
troops. The only Massachusetts troops there were
the Thirty-first, a newly raised regiment. They
afterward became excellent soldiers, but at that time
they were very young and very green. It so happened,
too, that the only company available was
composed of the youngest men of the regiment.
They were ordered out. The officer in charge did
not know the way to the St. Charles. No guide
was at hand, so I volunteered to accompany them.
We drew the troops up on Common Street, and I
entered the hotel to report them to Butler. I found
him engaged in a most animated discussion with
Soulé. Both were able and eloquent men, but
Butler undoubtedly got the better of the argument.
Perhaps the fact that he had thirteen thousand bayonets
to back his opinions gave point to his remarks.
Interrupting his discourse for a moment only, he
said, “Draw the men up round the hotel, sir; and
if the mob make the slightest disturbance, fire on
them on the spot,” and went on with the discussion.
Returning to the street, I found the mob apostrophizing
my youthful soldiers with, “Does your
mother know you’re out?” and like popular wit. It
struck me that the inquiry was well addressed. I
felt disposed to ask the same question. I reported
the matter to Williams, and he thought that it would
be well to counteract the effect. That evening he
sent the band of the Fourth Wisconsin to play in
front of the St. Charles, with the whole regiment,
tall, stalwart fellows, as an escort. In a few minutes
the mob had slunk away. An officer heard one
say to another, “Those are Western men,
and they say they do fight like h—— .” One of the
officers told me that his men’s fingers itched to fire.
I suppose that all mobs are alike, but certainly the
New Orleans mob was as cowardly as it was brutal.
When we first occupied the Custom-house, they collected
about us, and annoyed our sentries seriously.
The orders were to take no notice of what was said,
but to permit no overt act. I was sitting one day in
my office, the general out, when Captain Bailey, the
officer who distinguished himself so much afterward
in building the Red River dam — and a gallant fellow
he was — rushed in, and said, “Are we to stand
this?” I said, “What’s the matter, Bailey?” He replied
that “One of those d——d scoundrels has taken
his quid from his mouth, and thrown it into the sentry’s
face.” I said, “No; I don’t think that we are
to stand that: that seems to me an ‘overt act.’ Arrest
him.” Bailey rushed out, called to the guard to
follow him, and, jumping into the crowd, seized the
fellow by the collar, and jerked him into the lines.
The guard came up and secured him. The mob fell
back and scattered, and never troubled us from that
day. The fellow went literally down upon his
knees, and begged to be let off. We kept him locked
up that night, and the next day discharged him.
He laid it all to bad whisky.
As the course of this narrative will soon carry the
writer from New Orleans into the interior, he takes
this opportunity to say that he has often been assured
by the rebel inhabitants, men and women of
position and character, that never had New Orleans
been so well governed, so clean, so orderly, and so
healthy, as it was under Butler. He soon got rid of
the “Plug-uglies” and other ruffian bands: some
he sent to Fort Jackson, and others into the Confederacy.
There was no yellow fever in New Orleans
while we held it, showing as plainly as possible that
its prevalence or its absence is simply a question of
quarantine. (Butler had sworn he would hang the
health officer if the fever got up.) Before we arrived
there, the “back door,” as it was called — the
lake entrance to the city — was always open, and for
five hundred dollars any vessel could come up. In
1861, when our blockade commenced, and during the
whole of our occupation, yellow fever was unknown.
In 1866 we turned the city over to the civil authorities.
That autumn there were a few straggling
cases, and the following summer the fever was virulent.
Vicksburg. — River on Fire. — Baton Rouge. — Start again for Vicksburg. — The
Hartford. — The Canal. — Farragut. — Captain Craven. — The
Arkansas. — Major Boardman. — The Arkansas runs the Gauntlet. — Malaria.
was anxious, after the capture
of New Orleans, to proceed at once against Mobile.
I heard him say that, in the panic excited by the
capture of New Orleans, Mobile would fall an easy
prey. The Government, however, for political as
well as military reasons, was anxious to open the
Mississippi. Farragut was ordered against Vicksburg,
and Williams, with two regiments and a battery,
was sent to accompany and support him.
When one reflects upon the great strength of Vicksburg,
and the immense resources it afterward took
to capture it, it seems rather absurd to have sent us
against it with two regiments and a battery. The
excursion, however, if it is to be looked upon in this
light, was delightful. We had two fine river boats.
The plantations along the banks were in the highest
state of cultivation; the young cane, a few inches
above the ground, of the most lovely green. Indeed,
I know no more beautiful green than that of the
young sugar-cane. Our flag had not been seen in
those parts for over a year, and the joy of the negroes
when they had an opportunity to exhibit it
without fear of their overseers was quite touching.
The river was very high, and as we floated along
we were far above the level of the plantations, and
looked down upon the negroes at work, and into the
open windows of the houses. The effect of this to
one unused to it — the water above the land — was
very striking. Natchez, a town beautifully situated
on a high bluff, was gay with the inhabitants who
had turned out to see us. The ladies, with their
silk dresses and bright parasols, and the negro women,
with their gaudy colors, orange especially, which
they affect so much, and which, by-the-way, can be
seen at a greater distance than any other color I
One often hears of “setting a river on fire,” metaphorically
speaking: I have seen it done literally.
The Confederate authorities had issued orders to
burn the cotton along the banks to prevent its falling
into our hands. But as the patriotism of the
owners naturally enough needed stimulating, vigilance
committees were organized, generally of those
planters whose cotton was safe at a distance. These
men preceded us as we ascended the river; and
burned their neighbors’ cotton with relentless patriotism.
The burning material was thrown into the
stream, and floated on the surface a long time before
it was extinguished. At night it was a very beautiful
sight to see the apparently flaming water. We
had to exercise some care to steer clear of the burning
Arrived opposite Vicksburg, we boarded the flag-ship
to consult for combined operations. We found
Farragut holding a council of his captains, considering
the feasibility of passing the batteries of Vicksburg
as he had passed the forts. We apologized for
our intrusion, and were about to withdraw, when he
begged us to stay, and, turning to Williams, he said,
“General, my officers oppose my running by Vicksburg
as impracticable. Only one supports me. So
I must give it up for the present. In ten days they
will all be of my opinion; and then the difficulties
will be much greater than they are now.” It turned
out as he had said. In a few days they were nearly
all of his opinion, and he did it.
But we found no dry place for the soles of our
feet. “The water was down,” as the Scotchmen
say (down from the hills), and the whole Louisiana
side of the river was flooded. It would have been
madness to land on the Vicksburg side with two
regiments only. Nothing could be done, and we
returned to Baton Rouge, where, finding a healthy
and important position, a United States arsenal, and
Union men who claimed our protection, Williams
determined to remain and await orders.
Here cotton was offered us, delivered on the levee,
at three cents a pound. It was selling at one dollar
in New York. I spoke to Williams about it, and he
said that there was no law against any officer speculating
in cotton or other products of the country (one
was subsequently passed), but that he would not have
any thing to do with it, and advised me not to. I
followed his advice and example. A subsequent
post-commander did not. He made eighty thousand
dollars out of cotton, and then went home and was
made a brigadier-general; I never knew why.
But the Government was determined to open the
river at all hazards. Farragut was re-enforced.
Butler was ordered to send all the troops he could
spare. Davis was ordered down with the Upper
Mississippi fleet. Early in June we started again
for Vicksburg, with six regiments and two batteries.
It was a martial and beautiful sight to see the long
line of gun-boats and transports following each other
in Indian file at regular intervals. Navy and army
boats combined, we numbered about twenty sail — if
I may apply that word to steamers. On our way
up, the flag-ship, the famous Hartford, was nearly
lost. She grounded on a bank in the middle of the
river, and with a falling stream. Of course there
was the usual talk about a rebel pilot; but no vessel
with the draught of the Hartford, a sloop-of-war, had
ever before ventured to ascend above New Orleans.
The navy worked hard all the afternoon to release
her, but in vain. The hawsers parted like pack-thread.
I was on board when a grizzled quartermaster,
the very type of an old man-of-warsman,
came up to the commodore on the quarter-deck, and,
pulling his forelock, reported that there was a six-inch
hawser in the hold. Farragut ordered it up at
once. Two of our army transports, the most powerful,
were lashed together, the hawser passed round
them, and slackened. They then started with a jerk.
The Hartford set her machinery in motion, the gun-boat
lashed along-side started hers, and the old ship
came off, and was swept down with the current. It
required some seamanship to disentangle all these
We found that the waters had subsided since our
last visit to Vicksburg, and so landed at Young’s
Point, opposite the town. Some years previously
there had been a dispute between the State authorities
of Louisiana and of Mississippi, and the Legislature
of the former had taken steps to turn the river,
and cut off Vicksburg by digging a canal across the
peninsula opposite. This we knew, and decided to
renew the attempt. We soon found traces of the
engineers’ work. The trees were cut down in a
straight line across the Point. Here we set to work.
Troops were sent to the different plantations both
up and down the river, and the negroes pressed into
the service. It was curious to observe the difference
of opinion among the old river captains as to the feasibility
of our plan. Some were sure that the river
would run through the cut; others swore that it
would not, and could not be made to. The matter
was soon settled by the river itself; for it suddenly
rose one night, filled up our ditch, undermined the
banks, and in a few hours destroyed our labor of
days. A somewhat careful observation of the Mississippi
since has satisfied me that if a canal be cut
where the stream impinges upon the bank, it will
take to it as naturally as a duck does to water. But
when the current strikes the opposite bank, as it
does at Young’s Point, you can not force it from
its course. Had we attempted our canal some miles
farther up, where the current strikes the right bank,
we should have succeeded. Grant, the next year,
renewed our ditch-digging experiment in the same
place, and with infinitely greater resources, but with
no better success.
Farragut had now made his preparations to run
by the batteries. He divided his squadron into three
divisions, accompanying the second division himself.
The third was under command of Captain Craven, of
the Brooklyn. We stationed Nim’s light battery — and
a good battery it was — on the point directly opposite
Vicksburg, to assist in silencing the fire of one
of the most powerful of the shore batteries. Very
early in the morning Farragut got under way;
two of his divisions passed, completely silencing the
rebel batteries. The third division did not attempt
the passage. This led to an angry correspondence
between the commodore and Craven, and resulted in
Craven’s being relieved, and ordered to report to
Washington. There was a great difference of opinion
among naval officers as to Craven’s conduct.
He was as brave an officer as lived. He contended
that it was then broad daylight, that the gunners on
shore had returned to their guns, and that his feeble
squadron would have been exposed to the whole fire
of the enemy, without any adequate object to be
gained in return. Farragut replied that his orders
were to pass, and that he should have done it at all
And now an incident occurred which mortified
the commodore deeply. His powerful fleet, re-enforced
by Davis, lay above Vicksburg. The weather
was intensely hot, and the commodore, contrary to
his own judgment, as he told Williams, but on the
urgent request of his officers, had permitted the fires
to be extinguished. Early one morning we had sent
a steamboat with a party up the river to press negroes
into our canal work. Suddenly a powerful
iron-clad, flying the Confederate colors, appeared
coming out of the Yazoo River. There was nothing
for our unarmed little boat to do but to run for
it. The Arkansas opened from her bow-guns, and
the first shell, falling among the men drawn up on
deck, killed the captain of the company, and killed
or wounded ten men. It is so rarely that a shell
commits such havoc, that I mention it as an uncommon
The firing attracted the attention of the fleet, and
they beat to quarters. But there was no time to get
up steam. The Arkansas passed through them all
almost unscathed, receiving and returning their fire.
The shells broke against her iron sides without inflicting
injury. The only hurt she received was
from the Richmond. Alden kept his guns loaded
with powder only, prepared to use shell or shot as
circumstances might require. He loaded with solid
shot, and gave her a broadside as she passed. This
did her some damage, but nothing serious.
In the mean time the alarm was given to the transports.
Farragut had sent us an officer to say that
the Arkansas was coming, that he should stop her if
he could, but that he feared that he could not. The
troops were got under arms, and our two batteries
ordered to the levee. A staff officer said to General
Williams, “General, don’t let us be caught here like
rats in a trap; let us attempt something, even if we
fail.” “What would you do?” said the general.
“Take the Laurel Hill, put some picked men on
board of her, and let us ram the rebel. We may
not sink her, but we may disable or delay her, and
help the gun-boats to capture her.” “A good idea,”
said the general; “send for Major Boardman.”
Boardman, the daring officer to whom I have before
referred, had been brought up as a midshipman. He
was known in China as the “American devil,” from
a wild exploit there in scaling the walls of Canton
one dark night when the gates were closed; climbing
them with the help of his dagger only, making holes
in the masonry for his hands and feet. He was afterward
killed by guerrillas, having become colonel
of his regiment. Boardman came; the Laurel Hill
was cleared; twenty volunteers from the Fourth
Wisconsin were put on board, and steam got up.
The captain refused to go, and another transport
captain was put in command. We should have attempted
something, perhaps failed; but I think one
or other of us would have been sunk. But our preparations
were all in vain. The Arkansas had had
enough of it for that day. She rounded to, and took
refuge under the guns of Vicksburg.
Reporting this incident to Butler subsequently, he
said, “You would have sunk her, sir; you would
have sunk her.”
Farragut, as I have said, was deeply mortified.
He gave orders at once to get up steam, and prepared
to run the batteries again, determined to destroy
the rebel ram at all hazards. He had resolved
to ram her with the Hartford as she lay under the
guns of Vicksburg. It was with great difficulty he
was dissuaded from doing so, and only upon the
promise of Alden that he would do it for him in the
Richmond. Farragut, in his impulsive way, seized
Alden’s hand, “Will you do this for me, Alden?
will you do it?” The rapidity of the current, the
unusual darkness of the night, and the absence of
lights on the Arkansas and on shore, prevented the
execution of the plan. To finish with the Arkansas,
she afterward came down the river to assist in the
attack on Baton Rouge. Part of her machinery gave
out; she turned and attempted to return to Vicksburg,
was pursued by our gun-boats, run ashore,
abandoned, and burned.
The rebels never had any luck with their gun-boats.
They always came to grief. They were
badly built, badly manned, or badly commanded.
The Louisiana, the Arkansas, the Manassas, the
Tennessee, the Albemarle — great things were expected
of them all, and they did nothing.
But we were as far from the capture of Vicksburg
as ever. Fever attacked our men in those
fatal swamps, and they became thoroughly discouraged.
The sick-list was fearful. Of a battery of
eighty men, twenty only were fit for duty. The
Western troops, and they were our best, were homesick.
Lying upon the banks of the Mississippi,
with transports above Vicksburg convenient for
embarkation, they longed for home. The colonels
came to Williams, and suggested a retreat up the
river, to join Halleck’s command. Williams held a
council of war. He asked me to attend it. The
colonels gave their opinions, some in favor of, and
others against, the proposed retreat. When it came
to my turn, I spoke strongly against it. I urged
that we had no right to abandon our comrades at
New Orleans; that it might lead to the recapture
of that city; that if our transports were destroyed,
we should at least attempt to get back by land. I
do not suppose that Williams ever entertained the
least idea of retreating up the river, but thought it
due to his officers to hear what they had to say in
favor of it. The plan was abandoned.
Sickness. — Battle of Baton Rouge. — Death of Williams. — “Fix Bayonets!” — Thomas
Williams. — His Body. — General T. W. Sherman. — Butler
relieved. — General Orders, No. 10. — Mr. Adams and Lord
Palmerston. — Butler’s Style.
the events which immediately followed the
council of war referred to in the last chapter, the
writer knows only by report. He was prostrated
with fever, taken to a house on shore, moved back
to head-quarters boat, put on board a gun-boat,
and sent to New Orleans. Farragut, with his usual
kindness, offered to take him on board the Hartford,
give him the fleet-captain’s cabin, and have the fleet-surgeon
attend him. But Williams declined the
offer. Farragut then offered to send him to New
Orleans in a gun-boat. This Williams accepted.
The writer was taken to New Orleans, sent to military
hospital, an assistant-surgeon’s room given up
to him, and every care lavished upon him; for one
of Williams’s staff — poor De Kay — wounded in a
skirmish, had died in hospital. Butler had conceived
the idea — erroneous, I am sure — that he had
been neglected by the surgeons. When I was
brought down he sent them word that if another of
Williams’s staff died there, they would hear from
him. I did not die.
Meantime, unable to effect any thing against
Vicksburg, with more than half his men on the sick-list,
Williams returned to Baton Rouge. The rebel
authorities, with spies everywhere, heard of the condition
of our forces, and determined to attack them.
Early one foggy morning twelve thousand men, under
Breckenridge, attacked our three or four thousand
men fit for duty. But they did not catch
Williams napping. He had heard of the intended
movement, and was prepared to meet it. Our forces
increased, too, like magic. Sick men in hospital,
who thought that they could not stir hand or foot,
found themselves wonderfully better the moment
there was a prospect of a fight. Happily a thick
mist prevailed. Happily, too, they first attacked
the Twenty-first Indiana, one of our stanchest regiments,
holding the centre of the position. This fine
regiment was armed with breech-loaders, the only
ones in the Gulf. Lying on the ground, they could
see the legs of the rebels below the mist, and fire
with a steady aim upon them, themselves unseen.
On the right the Thirtieth Massachusetts was engaged,
but not hotly. The left was but slightly
pressed. Williams had carefully reconnoitred the
ground the afternoon before, and marked out his
different positions. As the battle progressed, he fell
back upon his second position, contracting his lines.
As it grew hotter, he issued orders to fall back upon
the third position. As he gave the order, the lieutenant-colonel
of the Twenty-first, Colonel Keith, as
plucky a little fellow as lived, came to him and said,
“For God’s sake, general, don’t order us to fall back!
We’ll hold this position against the whole d—d rebel
army.” “Do your men feel that way, colonel?” replied
Williams; and turning to the regiment, he said,
“Fix bayonets!” As he uttered these words, he was
shot through the heart. The men fixed bayonets,
charged, and the rebels gave way. But there was
no one competent to take command. The Fourth
Wisconsin, on our left, waited in vain for the orders
Williams had promised them, eager to advance, for
he had meant that this regiment should take the
rebels in flank. The victory was won, but its fruits
were not gathered.
I think that grander words were never uttered by
a commander on the field of battle as he received
his death-wound than these words of Williams’s.
“Fix bayonets!” means business, and in this instance
they meant victory.
Thomas Williams was a noble fellow. Had he
lived, he would have been one of the great generals
of our war. Butler told the writer that, had Williams
survived Baton Rouge, it was his intention to
have turned over the whole military command to
him, and confined himself to civil matters. The
“General Order” he issued on Williams’s death is a
model of classic and pathetic English. It is quoted
as such by Richard Grant White in his “Miscellany.”
I give it entire, for it can not be too widely
circulated, both on account of its style and its subject.
“Head-quarters, Department of the Gulf,
“New Orleans, August 7th, 1862.
“General Orders, No. 56:
“The commanding general announces to the
Army of the Gulf the sad event of the death of
Brigadier-general Thomas Williams, commanding
Second Brigade, in camp at Baton Rouge.
“The victorious achievement, the repulse of the division
of Major-general Breckenridge by the troops
led on by General Williams, and the destruction of
the mail-clad Arkansas by Captain Porter, of the
navy, is made sorrowful by the fall of our brave,
gallant, and successful fellow-soldier.
“General Williams graduated at West Point in
1837; at once joined the Fourth Artillery in Florida,
where he served with distinction; was thrice
breveted for gallant and meritorious services in
Mexico as a member of General Scott’s staff. His
life was that of a soldier devoted to his country’s
service. His country mourns in sympathy with his
wife and children, now that country’s care and precious
“We, his companions in arms, who had learned to
love him, weep the true friend, the gallant gentleman,
the brave soldier, the accomplished officer, the
pure patriot and victorious hero, and the devoted
Christian. All, and more, went out when Williams
died. By a singular felicity, the manner of his death
illustrated each of these generous qualities.
“The chivalric American gentleman, he gave up
the vantage of the cover of the houses of the city,
forming his lines in the open field, lest the women
and children of his enemies should be hurt in the
“A good general, he made his dispositions and prepared
for battle at the break of day, when he met
“A brave soldier, he received the death-shot leading
“A patriot hero, he was fighting the battle of
his country, and died as went up the cheer of victory!
“A Christian, he sleeps in the hope of a blessed
“His virtues we can not exceed; his example we
may emulate, and, mourning his death, we pray,
’May our last end be like his.’
“The customary tribute of mourning will be worn
by the officers in the department.
“By command of Major-general Butler.
"R. T. Davis, Captain and A. A. A. G.”
Williams was an original thinker. He had some
rather striking ideas about the male portion of the
human race. He held that all men were by nature
cruel, barbarous, and coarse, and were only kept in
order by the influence of women — their wives, mothers,
and sisters. “Look at those men,” he would
say. “At home they are respectable, law-abiding
citizens. It’s the women who make them so. Here
they rob hen-roosts, and do things they would be
ashamed to do at home. There is but one thing
will take the place of their women’s influence, and
that is discipline; and I’ll give them enough of it.”
I used to think his views greatly exaggerated, but I
came to be very much of his opinion before the war
A curious thing happened to his body. It was
sent down in a transport with wounded soldiers.
She came in collision with the gun-boat Oneida coming
up, and was sunk. Various accounts were given
of the collision. It was of course reported that the
rebel pilot of the transport had intentionally run
into the gun-boat. I think this improbable, for I
have observed that rebel pilots value their lives as
much as other people. Captain (afterward Admiral)
Lee lay by the wreck, and picked up the wounded:
none were lost. Shortly afterward Gun-boat No. 1,
commanded by Crosby, a great friend of Williams,
came up. Lee transferred the men to her, ordered
her to New Orleans, and himself proceeded to Baton
Rouge. Crosby heard that Williams’s body
was on board. He spent several hours in searching
for it, but without success. He reluctantly concluded
to abandon the search. Some hours later
in the day, and several miles from the scene of the
disaster, a piece of the wreck was seen floating
down the current, with a box upon it. A boat was
lowered, and the box was picked up. It turned out
to be the coffin containing the body. His portmanteau
too floated ashore, fell into honest hands, and
was returned to me by a gentleman of the coast.
It had been General Butler’s intention, on my recovery,
to give me command of the Second Louisiana,
a regiment he was raising in New Orleans, mostly
from disbanded and rebel soldiers. My recovery
was so long delayed, however, that he was compelled
to fill the vacancy otherwise. Shortly afterward
General T. W. Sherman was ordered to New Orleans,
and I was assigned to duty on his staff. He
was sent to Carondelet to take charge of the post
at the Parapet, and of all the northern approaches
to New Orleans. This was done under orders from
Washington; but of this Sherman was not aware, for
no copy of the orders had been sent him. He never
knew to what an important command it was the intention
of the Government to assign him till some
years later, when the writer, having become Adjutant-general
of the Department of the Gulf, found
the orders in the archives of the Department.
But the days of Butler’s command were brought
to a close. Banks arrived with re-enforcements, and
exhibited his orders to take command of the Department.
No one was more surprised than Butler.
He had supposed that Banks’s expedition was directed
against Texas. His recall seemed ungrateful on
the part of the Government, for it was to him that
the capture of New Orleans at that early date was
principally due. It is probable that the consuls in
that city had complained of him, and our Government,
thinking it all-important to give no cause of
complaint to foreign governments, Great Britain and
France especially, recalled him.
General Nathaniel P. Banks
As General Butler will not again appear in these
pages, I can not close this part of my narrative without
endeavoring to do him justice in regard to one
or two points on which he has been attacked. The
silver-spoon story is simply absurd. Butler confiscated
and used certain table-silver. When Banks relieved
him, he turned it over to him. When a howl
was made about it toward the close of the war, and
the Government referred the papers to Butler, for a
report, he simply forwarded a copy of Banks’s quartermaster’s
receipt. I was amused once at hearing
that inimitable lecturer, Artemus Ward, get off a joke
upon this subject in New Orleans. He was describing
the Mormons, and a tea-party at Brigham Young’s,
and said that Brigham Young probably had a larger
tea-service than any one in the world, “except,” said
he, and then paused as if to reflect — “except, perhaps,
General Butler.” Imagine the effect upon a
New Orleans audience. It is perhaps needless to
observe that Butler was not at that time in command.
The only charge against Butler which was never
thoroughly disproved was that he permitted those
about him to speculate, to the neglect of their duties
and to the injury of our cause and good name. He
must have been aware of these speculations, and
have shut his eyes to them. But that he himself
profited pecuniarily by them, I do not believe.
The famous General Orders, No. 10, “The Woman’s
Order,” was issued while I was in New Orleans,
and excited much and unfavorable comment. Butler
ordered that ladies insulting United States officers
should be treated “as women of the town plying
their trade.” Strong, his adjutant-general, remonstrated,
and begged him to alter it. He said that
he meant simply that they should be arrested and
punished according to the municipal law of the city,
i.e., confined for one night and fined five dollars.
Strong replied, “Why not say so, then?” But Butler
has much of the vanity of authorship. He was
pleased with the turn of the phrase, thought it happy,
and refused to surrender it.
In this connection, when in London, I heard an
anecdote of Mr. Adams and Lord Palmerston which
is not generally known. It was not often that any
one got the better of old “Pam,” but Mr. Adams
did. When Butler’s order reached England, Lord
Palmerston was the head of the Government; Lord
John Russell was Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs. Lord Palmerston wrote to Mr. Adams to
know if the order as printed in the London papers
was authentic. Mr. Adams asked if he inquired officially
or privately. Lord Palmerston replied rather
evasively. Mr. Adams insisted. Lord Palmerston
answered that if Mr. Adams must know, he
begged him to understand that he inquired officially.
Mr. Adams had the correspondence carefully copied
in Moran’s best handwriting, and inclosed it to
Lord John with a note inquiring, who was Her
Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; was
it Lord Palmerston, or was it Lord John? A quick
reply came from Lord John, asking him to do nothing
further in the matter till he heard from him
again. The next day a note was received from
Lord Palmerston withdrawing the correspondence.
I have given two specimens of Butler’s style.
Here is another, and of a different character. At
the request of a naval officer in high command, Farragut
applied to Butler for steamboats to tow the
mortar vessels to Vicksburg. Butler replied that
he regretted that he had none to spare. The officer
answered that if Butler would prevent his
brother from sending quinine and other contraband
stores into the Confederacy, there would be boats
enough. This came to Butler’s ears. He answered.
After giving a list of his boats, and stating their different
employments, he proceeded substantially as
follows. I quote from memory. “Now, there are
two kinds of lying. The first is when a man deliberately
states what he knows to be false. The second
is when he states what is really false, but what
at the time he believes to be true. For instance,
when Captain —— reports that the ram Louisiana
came down upon his gun-boats, and a desperate
fight ensued, he stated what is in point of fact false;
for the Louisiana was blown up and abandoned,
and was drifting with the current, as is proved by
the report of the rebel commander, Duncan: but
Captain —— believed it to be true, and acted accordingly;
for he retreated to the mouth of the
river, leaving the transports to their fate.”
T. W. Sherman. — Contrabands. — Defenses of New Orleans. — Exchange
of Prisoners. — Amenities in War. — Port Hudson. — Reconnoissance
in Force. — The Fleet. — Our Left. — Assault of May 27th. — Sherman
wounded. — Port Hudson surrenders.
autumn of 1862 passed without any special
incident. Sherman rebuilt the levees near Carrollton,
repaired and shortened the Parapet, pushed his
forces to the north, and occupied and fortified Manchac
Pass. All these works were constructed by
Captain Bailey, to whom I have already alluded,
and of whom I shall have much to say hereafter;
for he played a most important and conspicuous part
in the Louisiana campaigns. At Manchac he constructed
of a work built of mud and clamshells.
He had the most remarkable faculty of making
the negroes work. I have seen the old inhabitants
of the coast (French côte, bank of the river)
stopping to gaze with surprise at the “niggers"
trundling their wheelbarrows filled with earth on the
double-quick. Such a sight was never before seen
in Louisiana, and probably never will be again.
Sherman was the first officer, too, to enroll the
blacks, set them to work, and pay them wages. He
was no professed friend of the negro, but he did
more practically for their welfare to make them useful,
and save them from vagabondage, than Phelps
or any other violent abolitionist, who said that the
slaves had done enough work in their day, and so
left them in idleness, and fed them at their own
tables. Every negro who came within our lines — and
there were hundreds of them — was enrolled
on the quartermaster’s books, clothed, fed, and paid
wages, the price of his clothing being deducted.
The men worked well. They were proud of being
paid like white men.
Later in the season, Sherman sent out successful
expeditions into the enemy’s territory. One to Ponchitoula
destroyed a quantity of rebel government
stores; another, across Lake Pontchartrain, captured
a valuable steamer. Sherman employed an admirable
spy, the best in the Department. As a rule, both
Butler’s and Banks’s spies were a poor lot, constantly
getting up cock-and-bull stories to magnify their
own importance, and thus misled their employers.
Sherman’s spy was a woman. Her information
turned out to be reliable, and, what is perhaps
a little remarkable, was never exaggerated.
Butler had now left the Department, and Banks
was in command. About this time Holly Springs
was occupied by Van Dorn, and our dépôts burned,
Grant falling back. The attack upon Vicksburg, too,
from the Yazoo River had failed. Banks’s spies exaggerated
these checks greatly, and reported that the
enemy was in full march upon New Orleans. There
was something of a stampede among us. A new
command was created, called the “Defenses of New
Orleans,” and given to Sherman. In a fortnight the
face of these defenses was vastly changed. When
he took command, the city was undefended to the
east and south. In a few days the rebel works were
rebuilt, guns mounted, light batteries stationed near
the works, each supported by a regiment of infantry.
New Orleans, with our gun-boats holding the river
and lake, was impregnable.
No commanding officer in our army was more
thorough in his work than Sherman. I remember
an instance of this in an exchange of prisoners which
took place under his orders. The arrangements
were admirable. We were notified that a schooner
with United States soldiers on board lay at Lakeport,
on Lake Pontchartrain. Within an hour of receiving
the report I was on my way to effect the exchange.
I was accompanied by our quartermaster, to insure
prompt transportation to New Orleans; by our commissary,
to see that the men were fed, for our prisoners
were always brought in with very insufficient
supplies, the rebel officers assuring us that they had
not food to give them; and by our surgeon, to give
immediate medical assistance to those requiring it.
Sherman told me to give the rebel officers in charge
a breakfast or dinner, and offered to pay his share.
We reached Lakeport about sunset. I went on
board at once, and made arrangements for the exchange
at six o’clock in the morning. I inquired of
the men if they had had any thing to eat. “Nothing
since morning.” The officer in charge explained
that they had been delayed by head-winds; but they
were always delayed by head-winds. We sent food
on board that night. At six in the morning the
schooner was warped along-side of the pier. A train
was run down, a line of sentries posted across the
pier, and no stranger permitted to approach. The
roll was called, and as each man answered to his
name, he stepped ashore and entered the train.
Meantime I had ordered down a breakfast from the
famous French restaurant at Lakeport; and while
the necessary arrangements were being completed by
the quartermaster, we gave the Confederate officers
a breakfast. It was easy to see, from the manner
in which they attacked it, that they did not fare so
sumptuously every day. Colonel Szymanski, who
commanded, an intelligent and gentlemanly officer,
asked permission to buy the remnants from the restaurant
for lunch and dinner on the return voyage.
The train was now ready, the schooner set sail, and
we started for New Orleans. On our arrival, we
bought out a baker’s shop and one or two orange-women.
It was a long time since the prisoners had
tasted white bread. They formed, and marched to
the barracks. Before noon that day they were in
comfortable quarters, and seated at a bountiful dinner,
prepared in advance for them. This was Sherman’s
organization. I had an opportunity to contrast
it, not long after, with an exchange effected under
direct orders from head-quarters. The contrast
was not in Banks’s favor.
On this occasion I had gone down as a spectator,
and to see if I could be of use. I was going on
board the cartel, when I was stopped by a lady who
asked me to take a young girl on board to see her
brother. Of course I was compelled to refuse. She
then asked if I would not tell her brother that she
was on the end of the pier, that they might at least
see each other. This I promised to do. On board
I found a number of sailors, part of the crew of the
Mississippi, which had been recently lost at Port
Hudson. As usual, they had had nothing to eat
since the previous evening.
Battle of Port Hudson, March 14th, 1863
Before leaving the vessel, I inquired for Lieutenant
Adams. They told me that he was in “that
boat,” pointing to one, having pulled ashore, hoping
to see his sister. As I approached the shore I met
his boat returning; I stopped it, and asked him if he
had seen his sister. He had not. I told him to get
in with me, and I would take him to her. He did
so, and I pulled to within a few yards of the spot
where she was standing. Scarcely a word passed
between them, for both were sobbing. We remained
there about three minutes, and then pulled back.
We were all touched, officers and men, by this little
display of the home affections in the midst of war.
I think it did us all good.
General Banks was not pleased when he heard of
this incident. Perhaps it was reported to him incorrectly.
But Sherman thought that I had done
right. I always found that our regular officers
were more anxious to soften the rigors of war, and
to avoid all unnecessary severity, than our volunteers.
On our march through Louisiana under Franklin, a
strong provost guard preceded the column, whose
duty it was to protect persons and property from
stragglers till the army had passed. If planters in
the neighborhood applied for a guard, it was always
furnished. On one occasion such a guard was captured
by guerrillas. General Franklin wrote at once
to General Taylor, protesting against the capture of
these men as contrary to all the laws of civilized
warfare. Taylor promptly released them, and sent
them back to our lines. General Lee did the same
And so the winter wore through, and the spring
came. Banks made a successful expedition to Alexandria,
winning the battle of Irish Bend. I am the
more particular to record this, as his reputation as a
commander rests rather upon his success in retreat
than in advance. And the month of May found us
before Port Hudson.
Vicksburg is situated eight hundred miles above
New Orleans. In all this distance there are but five
commanding positions, and all these on the left or
east bank of the river. It was very important to
the rebels to fortify a point below the mouth of the
Red River, in order that their boats might bring
forward the immense supplies furnished by Louisiana,
Texas, and Arkansas. They selected Port Hudson,
a miserable little village not far below the Red
River, and fortified it strongly. Sherman had seen
the importance of attacking this place when the
works were commenced, but Butler told him, very
truly, that he had not troops enough in the Department
to justify the attempt.
I think that it was the 24th of May when we
closed in upon Port Hudson. Sherman’s command
held the left. He had a front of three miles, entirely
too much for one division. The country
was a terra incognita to us, and we had to feel our
way. Of course there was much reconnoitring to
be done — exciting and interesting work — but not
particularly safe or comfortable. Sherman did
much of this himself. He had a pleasant way of
riding up in full sight of the enemy’s batteries, accompanied
by his staff. Here he held us while he
criticised the manner in which the enemy got his
guns ready to open on us. Presently a shell would
whiz over our heads, followed by another somewhat
nearer. Sherman would then quietly remark, “They
are getting the range now: you had better scatter.”
As a rule we did not wait for a second order.
I remember his sending out a party one day to
reconnoitre to our extreme left, and connect with
the fleet, which lay below Port Hudson. We knew
it was somewhere there; but how far off it lay, or
what was the character of the country between us,
we did not know. A company of cavalry reconnoitring
in the morning had been driven in. Sherman
determined to make a reconnoissance in force. He
sent out the cavalry again, and supported it with a
regiment of infantry. I asked permission to accompany
them. He gave it, and added, “By-the-way,
captain, when you are over there, just ride up and
draw their fire, and see where their guns are. They
won’t hit you.” I rode up and drew their fire, and
they did not hit me; but I don’t recommend the
experiment to any of my friends.
This reconnoissance was successful. We passed
through a thickly wooded country, intersected by
small streams, for about two miles, when we emerged
upon the open in full view of the works of Port
Hudson. This we had to cross, exposed to their
fire. We thus gained the road, running along the
top of the bluff; and, following this, we came in
view of the fleet. Our arrival produced a sensation.
They had been looking out for us for two or three
days. The men swarmed up the rigging and on to
the yards. Fifty telescopes were leveled at us; and
as we galloped down the bluff and along the levee to
the ships, cheer after cheer went up from the fleet.
We went on board the nearest gun-boat, and got
some bread-and-cheese and Bass — which tasted remarkably
good, by-the-way. I staid but a little
while, for I was anxious about my men. On our
homeward march the enemy opened on us, and we
lost two or three men. I felt saddened at the loss
of any men while in some measure under my command,
and reported this loss first to the general. I
was much comforted when he replied, “Lose men!
of course you lost men. Reconnoissances in force
always lose men!”
A few weeks previous to my visit to the fleet,
Farragut had attempted to run by Port Hudson,
with a view to communicate with Porter at Vicksburg,
but more especially to blockade the mouth of
the Red River. This, though the least known of his
great exploits, was probably the most perilous and
the least successful. But two vessels passed the batteries — his
own, the old Hartford, as a matter of
course, and the gun-boat that was lashed to her.
Several were driven back disabled, and that fine
ship, the Mississippi, got aground and was lost.
The Hartford and her consort, however, did good
service, preventing all rebel vessels from showing
themselves upon the river between Port Hudson
While on board the gun-boat, I remarked to her
captain that I was surprised that General Banks did
not make his assault upon our left, where we could
have the aid of the fleet, instead of on the right, as he
evidently proposed to do. The remark was repeated
to Farragut, who mentioned it to Banks. A day
or two after the failure of our assault of the 27th of
May, I was surprised by a summons to head-quarters,
and still more surprised when I was asked what
was my plan for taking Port Hudson. My plan was
simply to utilize our powerful fleet instead of ignoring
it. Sherman, who, after his recovery from his
wound received a few days later, visited the place
after its fall, and carefully examined the ground,
told me that the assault should undoubtedly have
been made on our left, not only on account of the
fleet, but on account of the character of the ground.
We afterward erected batteries here within a very
short distance of the enemy’s, and commanding
them; and we dug up to their very citadel. Had
another assault been ordered, as it seemed at one
time probable, it would have been made here, and
would probably have been a repetition, on a small
scale, of the affair of the Malakoff. There was another
advantage on this flank. Had we effected
a lodgment even with a small force, we could have
maintained our position in the angle between the
parapet and the river until re-enforcements reached
us. At the points selected for the assault of the
27th of May — had we succeeded in getting in — we
should have found ourselves exposed to attacks in
front and on both flanks, and should probably have
been driven out again.
The siege of Port Hudson was tedious and bloody.
Banks ordered an assault. It was made, and resulted
in a miserable repulse. He was asked why assault
when the place must inevitably be starved out
in a few weeks. He replied, “The people of the
North demand blood, sir.” Sherman led the assault
in person, at the head of the Sixth Michigan regiment;
Bailey headed the negroes, with plank and
other materials to fill up the fosse. I had heard before
of negroes turning white from fright, and did
not believe it; but it is literally true. The men advanced
within a few yards of the works, but could
effect no lodgment. There never was a more useless
waste of life. Sherman lost his leg, and his horse
was killed under him; one staff officer and his horse
were killed; an orderly was killed; another staff
officer was wounded, and his horse killed; and another
orderly had his horse killed. This is a pretty
bloody ten minutes’ work for a general and his staff.
The staff officer who was wounded was Badeau,
our consul-general at London, and author of that
model military history, the first volume of the “Life
Fortunately, probably, for me, I had been sent
with orders to Sherman’s other brigade, to support
the attack by an assault on the left. It was hot
enough where I was. The shells shrieked over my
head, and a round shot rolled playfully between my
horse’s legs. But it was nothing like the “hell of
fire" to which Sherman was exposed.
Sherman having been sent to New Orleans, to hospital,
General William Dwight took command of the
division. After a while another assault was made:
it was as fruitless as the first. But the enemy was
now getting short of provisions. They lived mostly
on Indian corn. Many deserters came to us, mostly
Louisianians, for the “Wrackensackers" (Arkansas
men) and the Texans rarely deserted. These made
up the garrison. They reported great want in the
place; and, what was far better proof — for it will
not do to trust implicitly to deserters’ stories — their
gums showed the want of proper food. The end
was approaching. On the 4th of July Vicksburg
surrendered. Our outposts communicated this intelligence
to the rebel outposts, and chaffed them about
it. The news was reported to Gardiner. He sent a
flag to Banks to inquire if it were true. Banks replied
that it was, and Port Hudson surrendered.
It was curious to observe the sort of
which the soldiers on both sides established
during the siege. When they were tired of trying
to pick each other off through the loop-holes, one of
them would tie a white handkerchief to his bayonet,
and wave it above the parapet. Pretty soon a handkerchief,
or its equivalent — for the rebs did not indulge
in useless luxuries — would be seen waving on
the other side. This meant truce. In a moment
the men would swarm out on both sides, sitting with
their legs dangling over the parapet, chaffing each
other, and sometimes with pretty rough wit. They
were as safe as if a regular flag were out. No man
dared to violate this tacit truce. If he had done so,
his own comrades would have dealt roughly with
him. After a while, on one side or the other, some
one would cry out, “Get under cover now, Johnnie,”
or “Look out now, Yank; we are going to fire,” and
the fire would recommence.
Active military operations were now suspended,
and I obtained leave of absence. But it was revoked;
for General William B. Franklin had arrived
in the Department, and I was assigned to his
staff. I naturally felt disappointed at losing my
leave, but I was subsequently glad that it had so
happened; for it led to my promotion, and to the
establishment of friendly and pleasant relations
which have survived the war.
Major-general Franklin. — Sabine Pass. — Collision at Sea. — March
through Louisiana. — Rebel Correspondence. — “The Gypsy’s Wassail.” — Rebel
Women. — Rebel Poetry. — A Skirmish. — Salt Island. — Winter
Climate. — Banks’s Capua. — Major Joseph Bailey.
in the fall of 1863, Major-general Franklin
was put in command of the military part of an expedition
which had been planned against Sabine Pass,
on the coast of Texas. The arrangement was for
the navy to enter the port at night, get in the rear
of the work, and capture it; whereupon the troops
were to land, garrison the place, and hold it as a base
for future operations in Texas. The plan failed.
The expected signals were not displayed. The gun-boats
made the attempt in broad daylight, got
aground in the shallow and winding channel, and
were captured. Many of the sailors jumped overboard,
swam ashore, ran down through the marsh,
and were picked up by our boats. The plan had
failed, and there was nothing for the troops to do
but to return.
That night we had a collision between one of our
large sea-going steamers and our light river boat
used for head-quarters. Our side was apparently
smashed in. A panic seized the crew; captain, pilot,
engineer, hands, all rushed for the steamer. Most
of our head-quarters company and officers followed
the example. I was reading in the cabin when
the collision occurred. The crash and the cries attracted
my attention. I went upon deck, and tried
for a moment to restore order, but in vain. The
soldiers on the steamer shouted, “Come on board!
come on board! You’re sinking! there’s a great
hole in your side!” The waves dashed our little
boat against the sides of the steamer, and the light
plank of the wheel-house was grinding and crashing.
I can easily understand how contagious is a panic.
It was with a great effort I could restrain myself
from following the example set me. I knew, however,
that my place was with the general, and I went
in search of him. I found him on the hurricane-deck,
seated on the sky-light, quietly smoking his
cigar. I said, “General, are you not going to leave
her?” “I don’t believe she’ll sink,” he replied.
“But she is an abandoned ship, sir; every one has
left her.” “Have they? are you sure?” “I’ll
make sure,” I replied; and, going to the wheel-house,
found it deserted. Then I looked into the engine-room — I
remember the engine looked so grim and
stiff in its solitude. Franklin then consented to go.
We found a quiet place aft where there was no confusion;
and as the waves tossed up our light vessel
to a level with the steamer, he sprung upon her
deck. As soon as he had jumped, I attempted to
follow, but the vessel was not tossed high enough.
So I watched my chance, and plunged head foremost
into a port-hole, where friendly hands caught me,
and prevented my falling on the deck.
But our little steamer would not sink. Franklin
at once ordered out the boats, secured the captain
and crew, and returned on board. We found that
the outer shell of the boat was crushed in, and that
she was leaking badly; but the inner ceiling was
unhurt. We easily kept her free with the pumps
until we had repaired damages. I do not think that
the general ever quite forgave me for persuading
him to leave her.
As we had failed by sea, we next tried the land,
and with better success. We marched to Opelousas,
driving the rebels before us. A pleasant incident
happened on this march, one of those trifles which
soften the horrors of war. I had known at New
Orleans a charming rebel creole whose husband was
a general in the Confederate army. I had had an
opportunity to render the family some trifling service.
One day we intercepted a courier bearing a
letter from General —— to General Miles, commanding
the district. He wrote that he had fallen
upon the rear of our column and picked up a number
of stragglers, and that he should send them next
day to head-quarters. Of course we laid our plans,
captured the escort, and recaptured our own men.
With the general’s assent, I sent the letter to the
lady in question, with a line to the effect that she
probably had not seen her husband’s handwriting
for some time, and might be gratified to learn from
the inclosed letter that he was well. She would regret
to learn, however, that our men had been retaken
and the escort captured; that I should spare no
pains to capture the general himself, and send him
to his wife; and that if he knew what fate was in
store for him, I was sure that he would make but a
feeble resistance. She replied in the same spirit,
that with such generous enemies war lost half its
Under Franklin nothing was left undone that
could properly be done to soften the rigors of war
to non-combatants. Often have his staff officers
spent weary hours over intercepted correspondence.
It was our duty to examine the correspondence in
search of intelligence that might be useful to us; but
it was no part of our duty carefully to reseal those
letters which were purely on domestic or personal
matters, re-inclose the hundred odd little souvenirs
they contained, and send them under a flag to the
rebel lines. And yet we did this repeatedly. I
wonder if the rebels ever did as much for us anywhere
in the Confederacy!
Speaking of intercepted letters, I remember that
at New Orleans we once seized a bag as it was about
to cross the lake. Among other letters, it contained
one from a young lady to her brother-in-law in Mobile.
I have rarely seen a cleverer production. She
gave an account, with great glee, of a trick she had
played upon a Boston newspaper, perhaps the “Respectable
Daily.” She wrote that she had sent them
a poem called “The Gypsy’s Wassail,” the original
in Sanscrit, the translation of course in English, and
all that was patriotic and loyal. “Now, the Sanscrit,”
she wrote, “was English written backward,
and read as follows:
“‘God bless our brave Confederates, Lord!
Lee, Johnson, Smith, and Beauregard!
Help Jackson, Smith, and Johnson Joe,
To give them fits in Dixie, oh!’”
The Boston newspaper fell into the trap, and
published this “beautiful and patriotic poem, by our
talented contributor.” But in a few days some sharp
fellow found out the trick and exposed it.
The letter was signed “Anna” simply, and no
clue to the author was given. Anna thought that
she was safe. She forgot that in the same bag was
a letter from her sister to her husband, with signature
and address, in which she said, “Anna writes
you one of her amusing letters.” So I had discovered
who Miss Anna was, and wrote her accordingly.
I told her that her letter had fallen into the hands of
one of those “Yankee” officers whom she saw fit to
abuse, and who was so pleased with its wit that he
should take great pleasure in forwarding it to its
destination; that in return he had only to ask that
when the author of “The Gypsy’s Wassail” favored
the expectant world with another poem, he might be
honored with an early copy. Anna must have been
As may be supposed, there were constant trials of
wit between the rebels and ourselves, in which we
sometimes came off second best. But they had their
women to help them, which gave them an immense
advantage, for in such matters one woman is worth
a “wilderness” of men. I recollect one day we sent
a steamboat full of rebel officers, exchanged prisoners,
into the Confederacy. They were generally accompanied
by their wives and children. Our officers
noticed the most extraordinary number of dolls on
board — every child had a doll — but they had no suspicions.
A lady told me afterward that every doll
was filled with quinine. The sawdust was taken out
and quinine substituted. Depend upon it that female
wit devised that trick.
They attacked us in poetry too, generally written
by young ladies, and some of it decidedly clever.
Strong, Butler’s adjutant-general, had stopped the
service in one of the Episcopal churches, because the
clergyman prayed for Jeff Davis instead of for the
“President of the United States.” This furnished
a theme for some bitter stanzas. Banks had sent a
light battery to drive among a crowd of women and
children collected on the levee to see their friends
off, and disperse them. This furnished a fruitful
theme for the rebel muse.
To return to our Opelousas campaign.
We followed the course of the Teche for several
days through a lovely country, the “Garden of
Louisiana,” and it deserves its name. The names in
this part of the country are French. I remember
we had a skirmish at a place called “Carrion-crow
Bayou.” It struck me as an odd name to give
to a stream. I made inquiries, and found that a
Frenchman had settled upon its banks, named Carran
Our march to Opelousas was without striking incident.
The Confederates once or twice came into
position, as if to dispute our progress, but they always
gave way. Our return, however, was more
eventful. The rebels attacked an outlying brigade,
and caught it napping. It occupied a strong position,
and could easily have beaten cavalry off, the
only force by which it was attacked. Two regiments,
however, were seized with a panic, and surrendered
without firing a shot. The alarm was given to the
main body, and re-enforcements quickly arrived, and
drove off the rebels; but they carried off many prisoners.
Not long afterward we turned the tables
upon them. They encamped a regiment of Texas
cavalry at a beautiful spot near Iberville, called
“Camp Pratt.” Franklin organized an attack upon
them. One night he sent our cavalry to make a
wide détour upon the prairie and get into their rear.
Then he attacked them in front with infantry. They
mounted and fled in disorder, and fell, nearly to a
man, into the hands of our cavalry. It was a well-organized
and well-conducted expedition, and reflected
credit upon Lee, who commanded the cavalry, and
upon Cameron, who commanded the infantry. Tradition
says that Dick Taylor, who commanded in
that part of Louisiana, swore “like our army in Flanders”
when he heard of it.
There is a very curious salt island near Iberville,
well worth a visit, in a scientific point of view.
Franklin wanted very much to explore it, but he did
not wish to take an army as an escort, and he said it
would be too absurd if he were captured on such an
expedition. It would not have been quite so absurd
for me, however; so I went, accompanied by Colonel
Professor Owen, of the Indiana University, and volunteers,
and with our head-quarters cavalry company
as an escort. The island lies in the Gulf, and is perhaps
half a mile in diameter. In the centre is a hollow
about a hundred yards across, which has all the
appearance of an extinct crater. Here, a few inches
below the surface, lies the salt, in an almost perfect
state of purity. For years our Southern brethren,
who do not shine as inventors, sunk wells, pumped
up the water, evaporated it, and so made their salt.
At last it occurred to some one more clever than his
neighbors, “Why not blast out the salt itself?” And
so it was done. It seems scarcely possible, and yet
I was credibly assured that so scarce was salt in the
Confederacy, that wagons came all the way from
Charleston, were loaded with salt, and returned to
that city. It must have been a journey of months.
We wintered at Franklin, preparing for a spring
campaign to the Red River. The climate of Louisiana
is delicious in winter. I have tried both the
South of France and Italy, but know no climate
equal to that of Louisiana. The summer,
is intensely hot, and lasts from May to October, the
thermometer ranging from 86° at night to 96° in the
day-time. Yet the heat is not stifling. You feel
no particular inconvenience from it at the time; but
two seasons affect the nervous system seriously, and
a white man must from time to time get the Northern
or the sea-air. Happily the sea-coast is of easy
access from New Orleans.
But while our command was under canvas, and
preparing for the approaching campaign, the cavalry
was being mounted and drilled amidst the allurements
of a large city. Why Banks did not send it to
Thibodeaux, or to some other post where the prairie
gave admirable opportunities for cavalry exercise, is
a question which was often asked, but to which no
satisfactory answer has ever been given. Farragut
said that he feared that New Orleans would prove
Banks’s Capua. One of the consequences, as regards
the cavalry, was, that they started upon the campaign
with “impedimenta" enough for an army. Crossing
a ford one day, Franklin spied a country cart
drawn by a mule, containing bedding, trunks, and a
negro woman. He sent the corps inspector to see to
whom it belonged. It turned out to be the property
of a sergeant of a cavalry regiment. Needless to say
that the cart went no farther. After the rebels had
captured their Champagne, sardines, and potted anchovies,
at Sabine Cross Roads, they became excellent
And now, fortunately for the navy, Bailey joined
our staff. He had done such good work at Port
Hudson — built half our works, got out a steamboat
that lay high and dry in the mud, etc., etc. — that
Banks had promoted him to be colonel of the regiment,
over the head of the lieutenant-colonel.
Banks had no right to do this. In so doing, he had
usurped the prerogative of the Governor of Wisconsin;
and the governor, as might be expected, resented
it. Of course the governor was sustained by the
War Department. Bailey was, naturally enough,
annoyed and mortified, and wrote to me that he
should leave the service; indeed, he supposed that
he was already out of it, for he had been mustered
out as major when he was mustered in as colonel;
and now he had been mustered out as colonel. I
wrote to him not to go off at half-cock, to write
to the governor and ask in what capacity he recognized
him, and then to the adjutant-general and
ask the same question. He was answered by the
governor that he recognized him as lieutenant-colonel,
and by the Government that they recognized
him still as major. He then wrote me that he
would gladly remain in the service if I could get
him on Franklin’s staff, but that, under the circumstances,
he could not return to his regiment. I
spoke to the general upon the subject, and mentioned
all that he had done under Sherman at Port
Hudson and elsewhere. The general applied for
him; he was ordered to report to us, and was announced
as “Military Engineer of the Nineteenth
Army Corps.” Thus it happened that Bailey was
with us when his regiment was not, and the fleet
on the Red River consequently saved from destruction
Brigadier General Joseph Bailey
Mistakes. — Affair at Mansfield. — Peach Hill. — Freaks of the Imagination. — After
Peach Hill. — General William Dwight. — Retreat to
Pleasant Hill. — Pleasant Hill. — General Dick Taylor. — Taylor and
the King of Denmark. — An Incident.
it was on the 20th of March that we left
for the Red River. We marched the whole distance,
arriving at Natchitoches about the 3d of April.
From Alexandria to Natchitoches we followed the
Red River. Here began our mistakes. Banks arrived
from New Orleans, and ordered us to take the
inland road to Shreveport. Franklin suggested the
river road, where the army and the fleet could render
mutual support. Banks said no; that the other
was the shorter route. It was the shorter in distance,
but for the greater part of the way it was a
narrow wood road, unfitted for the march of troops
and the movement of artillery and wagons. We
marched two or three days without interruption.
Lee, who commanded the cavalry in advance, had
often applied for a brigade of infantry to support
him. Franklin had always declined to separate his
infantry, answering that if Lee found the enemy too
strong for him, to fall back, and we would come
up with the whole infantry force and disperse them.
On the evening of the 6th of April, I think it was,
Banks came up at Pleasant Hill, and assumed command.
The next day we were beaten; for that
evening Lee again applied for his infantry, and got
them. Franklin sent in a written remonstrance
against the danger of separating the infantry, and
having it beaten in detail. He was disregarded;
and we marched to certain defeat.
The Red River Campaign
The battle of Sabine Forks — Mansfield, the rebels
call it; and as they won it, they have a right to
name it — scarcely rises to the dignity of a battle.
We had our cavalry and one brigade of infantry
only engaged. We lost heavily, however, in guns
and wagons, for the wagon-train of the cavalry followed
close upon its heels, and blocked up the narrow
road, so that the guns could not be got off.
When Franklin heard from Banks that the cavalry
and infantry brigade were seriously engaged, and
that he must send re-enforcements, he at once ordered
Emory up with the First Division of the Nineteenth
Corps, and then rode forward himself to the
scene of action. Here he lost his horse and was
wounded in the leg, while one of our staff officers
was killed. When our cavalry and brigade were
finally defeated, the rebels advanced upon us. It
was a striking and beautiful sight to see a column
of their best infantry — the “Crescent City Regiment,”
I think it was — marching steadily down
the road upon us, while their skirmishers swarmed
through the woods and cotton fields. The column
offered so beautiful a mark for a shell or two, that
the general rode up to a retreating gun, and tried
hard to get it into position, but the stampede was
too general, and we had to look to our own safety.
When he found how things were likely to turn out,
Franklin had sent an aid-de-camp to Emory with orders
to select a good position, come into line, and
check the advancing enemy. Meantime, we retreated,
abandoning the road — it was too blocked up — and
taking to the woods and across the cotton
fields, not knowing our whereabouts, or whether we
should land in the rebel lines or in our own. At
length we caught sight of Emory’s red division flag,
and a joyful sight it was. We soon reached it, and
found that “Bold Emory" had chosen an excellent
position on the summit of a gentle eminence, called
Peach Hill, and had already got his men into line.
His division had behaved admirably. In face of
cavalry and infantry retreating in disorder — and
every officer knows how contagious is a panic — the
First Division of the Nineteenth Army Corps steadily
advanced, not a man falling out, fell into line,
and quietly awaited the enemy. They did not keep
us waiting long. In less than half an hour after
we had joined the division, they appeared, marching
steadily to the attack. But they were received
with a fusillade they had not counted upon, and retreated
in confusion. Again they attempted an attack
on our right, but with no better success. They
were definitively repulsed.
Battle of Mansfield, April 8, 1864
In this skirmish Franklin had another horse killed
under him, shot in the shoulder, for the enemy’s fire
was very sharp for a few minutes. I offered him
my horse, but he refused it. The captain of our
head-quarters cavalry company offered him his, and
he accepted it. The captain dismounted a private.
I saw here a striking instance of the effect produced
by the imagination when exalted by the excitement
of battle. A staff officer by my side dropped
his bridle, threw up his arms, and said, “I am
hit.” I helped him from his horse. He said, “My
boot is full of blood.” We sent him to the ambulance.
I said to myself, “Good-bye to —— I shall
go to his funeral to-morrow.” Next day he appeared
at head-quarters as well as ever. He had been
struck by a spent ball. It had broken the skin and
drawn a few drops of blood, but inflicted no serious
injury. At Port Hudson I saw the same effect produced
by a spent ball. A man came limping off the
field supported by two others. He said his leg was
broken. The surgeon was rather surprised to find
no hole in his stocking. Cutting it off, however, he
found a black-and-blue mark on the leg — nothing
more. The chaplain was reading to him, and the
man was pale as death. I comforted him by telling
him to send the stocking to his sweetheart as a trophy.
As we lay on our arms that night at Peach Hill
without fire, for we were permitted to light none,
lest we should reveal our small numbers to the enemy,
we could hear distinctly the yells of the rebels
as they found a fresh “cache” of the good things
of the cavalry. It was very aggravating. They got
our head-quarters ambulance too, but there was precious
little in it. Expecting to bivouac, we had
thrown a few things hastily into it. All they got
of mine was a tooth-brush. I comforted myself
with the reflection that they would not know what
use to put it to.
Banks now sent for Franklin, and communicated
to him his intention to remain on the battle-field all
night, and renew the fight in the morning. Franklin
represented that we had six thousand men at
most, and the rebels thirteen thousand. Banks replied
that A. J. Smith would be up. (Smith was
thirteen miles in the rear, with eight thousand men.)
“But how is he to get up, sir? The road is blocked
up with the retreating troops and wagons, and
is but a path, after all. He can’t get up.” “Oh!
he’ll be up — he’ll be up;” and the interview ended.
On his return to head-quarters, partly under a tree
and partly on a rail fence, Franklin told me what
General William Dwight, of Boston, commanded
the First Brigade of Emory’s division. I knew
Dwight well, for he had succeeded Sherman in command
of our division at Port Hudson. I had recommended
him highly to Franklin, when he was offered
his choice of two or three generals for commands
in the Nineteenth Corps, as an officer who could be
thoroughly relied upon in an emergency. Dwight
had said to me, “Major, if Franklin ever wants
Banks to do any thing, and he won’t do it, do you
come to me.” I thought that the time had arrived
to go to him; so I found my way through the darkness.
“Well, general, we’ve got to stay here all
night, and fight it out to-morrow.” Dwight, who is
quick as a flash, and whose own soldierly instinct
told him what ought to be done, said at once, “Does
Franklin think Banks ought to fall back upon A. J.
Smith?” “Yes, he does.” “Then I’ll be d—d if
he sha’n’t do it. Wait here a minute.” Dwight
disappeared in the darkness. In ten minutes he returned
and said, “It’s all right; the order is given.”
That night we fell back upon Pleasant Hill,
Dwight bringing up the rear with his brigade.
Franklin asked him if he could hold his position till
half-past ten. “Till morning,” he replied, “if you
At Pleasant Hill we found General Smith with
his “gorillas,” as they were profanely called.
Smith’s command boasted that they had been in
many a fight, and had never been defeated. I believe
it was a true boast. It was partly luck, partly
their own courage, and partly the skill with which
they were handled. They were a rough lot, but
good soldiers. I have seen them straggling along,
one with a chicken hung to his bayonet, another
with a pig on his back: turkeys, ducks, any thing of
the kind came handy to them. The alarm sounded,
and in an instant every man was in the ranks, silent,
watchful, orderly, the very models of good soldiers.
The battle which now ensued at Pleasant Hill
formed no exception to the rule which Smith’s corps
had established. The rebels, too, had been re-enforced,
and attacked us in the afternoon with great
spirit. But they soon found the difference between
an affair with a single brigade of infantry, and one
with three divisions fully prepared and admirably
handled; for Franklin and Smith had made all the
dispositions. They drove in the left of our first line,
where we had a Five Points New York regiment
(rowdies, by-the-way, always make the poorest
troops); but they could make no impression on the
second line, composed of Smith’s “gorillas,” and
were beaten off with considerable loss.
General Dick Taylor, son of the President, commanded
the rebel army in these engagements, and
received much credit, and deservedly, for the manner
in which he had defeated us at Mansfield. It
was reported that General Smith, who commanded
the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy,
found fault with Taylor for attacking us, as
he had intended to draw us on to Shreveport, and
there, with the help of Magruder from Texas, and
Price from Arkansas, overwhelm us disastrously.
Perhaps it was as well that we had it out at Mansfield.
As regards the affair at Pleasant Hill, it was
a mistake of the rebels. They were not strong
enough to attack us in position. Taylor has since
said that the attack was against his better judgment,
but that the officers who had come up the night before
wanted their share of glory. Perhaps, too, they
had tasted the cavalry Champagne, and liked the
brand. They might not have been quite so eager
for the fray had they known what force they had
to deal with at Mansfield, and what lay before them
at Pleasant Hill.
General Richard Taylor
The writer has since met General Taylor in London,
and a most agreeable companion he is. He is
a great favorite in court circles, largely for his own
merits, but partly as “Prince Dick.” In monarchical
countries they can not divest themselves of the
idea that our presidents are monarchs, and their
children princes. “Prince John,” “Prince Dick,”
“Prince Fred,” all received quasi-royal honors. At
Constantinople, when Fred Grant was with Sherman,
a lieutenant on his staff, it was to Grant that the
Sultan addressed his remarks. Grant tried to stop
it, but could not.
They tell an amusing story of Dick Taylor in
London. Taylor plays a good game of whist. The
King of Denmark was on a visit to his daughter,
and she sent for Taylor to make up a game with
her father. Taylor won largely, and laughingly
said to the king, “Your majesty can not find fault;
I am only getting back those ‘Sound Dues’ my
country paid Denmark for so many years.”
Banks now wanted to continue his onward march
to Shreveport, but A. J. Smith opposed it. He said
that he belonged to Sherman’s command, and had
been lent to Banks for a season only; that he was
under orders to return to Sherman by a certain day;
that much time had been lost; and that if he undertook
the march to Shreveport, he could not return
by the date appointed. Our supplies, too, were
rather short, the cavalry having lost their wagon-train.
We fell back, therefore, upon Grand Ecore,
where we rejoined the fleet. And here a curious
incident occurred. An officer in high position came
to Franklin and said that the army was in a very
critical situation; that it required generalship to extricate
it; that under Banks it would probably be
captured or destroyed; and proposed to put Banks on
board of a steamer, and send him to New Orleans,
and that Franklin should take command. “And
my men, general,” he said, “will stand by you to
the last man.” Of course Franklin treated it as a
joke, and laughed it off. But there can be no doubt
that the officer was in earnest.
General Banks did not command the confidence
of his troops, especially of the Western men. They
generally spoke of him as “Mr. Banks.” It was a
great pity that his undoubted talent could not have
been utilized in the civil service. As it turned out,
he was perhaps the most striking instance in our
service of the grave, almost fatal, mistake we made
at the beginning of the war. He had been a good
Speaker, so we made him a major-general; he had
roused a certain interest in Massachusetts in her
militia, so we gave him command of armies, and
sent him out to meet trained soldiers like Stonewall
Jackson and Dick Taylor. The result was a foregone
Low Water. — The Fleet in Danger. — We fall back upon Alexandria. — Things
look Gloomy. — Bailey builds a Dam in ten Days. — Saves
the Fleet. — A Skirmish. — Smith defeats Polignac. — Unpopularity
of Foreign Officers. — A Novel Bridge. — Leave of Absence. — A
Year in Virginia. — Am ordered again to New Orleans.
THE RED RIVER
had now fallen very low. The
gun-boats had great difficulty in descending the
stream. One chilly evening, as we stood round the
head-quarters camp-fire, word was brought us that
one of Porter’s best iron-clads was fast aground in
the stream, and that they had tried in vain to get
her off. I turned laughingly to Bailey, and said,
“Bailey, can’t you build a dam and get her off?”
alluding to what he had done at Port Hudson.
Bailey followed me to my tent and said, “Seriously,
major, I think I could get that ship off, and I should
like to try.” I went immediately to the general,
and got a letter from him to Porter, and sent Bailey
to the grounded ship. She was built in compartments.
He found them breaking in the partitions.
He remonstrated, and said, “Pump out one compartment,
then shut it hermetically, and the confined air
will help to buoy up the ship.” The navy men, naturally
enough, resented the interference of an outsider.
Bailey gave Porter Franklin’s letter. Porter
said, “Well, major, if you can dam better than I
can, you must be a good hand at it, for I have been
d—g all night.” Bailey had not met with a very
encouraging reception. He was one of those serious
men, who, as Sydney Smith said, require a surgical
operation to get a joke into their heads. He
returned to camp, and reported to me that Porter
had insulted him. “What did he say, Bailey?” He
told me; whereupon I explained to him the joke,
and he was perfectly satisfied. “Oh, if that’s what
he meant, it’s all right!” The ship was not got off.
She was blown up and abandoned.
From Grand Ecore we fell back upon Alexandria.
Franklin was put in command of the movement, and
Bailey selected our line of march. We started at
dark, and marched all night. But the Confederates
were on the watch. They threatened our rear, and
compelled us to halt, and deploy, while they hurried
a strong force to take position at Kane’s Ferry.
Here we had a sharp skirmish. The position is a
very strong one, the stream not being fordable at
the Ferry. We crossed two brigades higher up.
Moving slowly through the woods, for there were
no roads, they struck the rebels on the left flank,
and dislodged them. The fight was very sharp for a
time. Colonel Fessenden, afterward brigadier-general,
commanding a Maine regiment, and gallantly
leading it, lost a leg in this affair.
But a severer trial awaited the fleet. About a
mile above Alexandria the river shoots over a rapid,
the Falls of Alexandria. On this shoal there
was about five feet of water, and the river was falling.
The boats drew from seven to nine feet. The
floods come down with great rapidity in the Red
River. One night’s rain would have given the ships
plenty of water. Twenty-four hours’ hard rain raises
it twenty feet. But the rain would not come.
Things looked gloomy enough for the fleet. Bailey
came to me and said that he could build a dam in
ten days, and get those ships out. The river was
six hundred and sixty-six feet wide at the Falls.
Franklin sent me to Porter with the proposition.
Porter said that it was not worth while — “It will
rain to-night or to-morrow.” To-night and to-morrow
came, and it did not rain, and still the river fell.
Again Franklin sent me to Porter. I found him
unwell and despondent. “Tell General Franklin,”
he said, “that if he will build a dam or any thing
else, and get me out of this scrape, I’ll be eternally
grateful to him.” I returned to Franklin. “Now
go to Banks, and get his permission.” I found
Banks closeted with General Hunter. It was reported
that the Government had become anxious
about our command, and had sent Hunter down to
examine and report upon our condition. I stated
what was proposed. Banks turned to Hunter and
said, “What do you think of it, general?” Hunter
replied that he thought it impracticable, “But if
Franklin recommends it, try it; for he is one of the
best engineers in the army.” Banks said, “Tell the
general to give the necessary orders.” The orders
were given. Maine and Wisconsin regiments, principally
lumbermen, were detailed for the work. In
ten days the dam was built, the water rose, and the
fleet came over in safety.
The rebels made a great mistake in not interfering
with our work. Had they done so, they might
have embarrassed us seriously on the left bank of
the river, opposite Alexandria. But they never
fired a shot. We were told that they laughed at the
idea of damming the Red River, and said that we
might as well try to dam the Mississippi. We would
have done this, had it been necessary.
Bailey handled water as a lumberman handles his
axe. One of the gun-boats was aground, hanging by
the stern some little way above the Falls. They
tugged at her with all sorts of mechanical contrivances,
but in vain. In two hours Bailey built a little
“wing-dam,” he called it, turned the current under
the stern of the vessel where she hung, washed
out the sand, and the ship floated off.
Porter told me that if Bailey got his fleet out he
would never rest till he was made a brigadier-general.
He kept his word. The Government promoted
him. The naval officers subscribed, and gave
him a sword of honor and a service of plate. He
deserved it all.
The fleet saved, we renewed our march to the
Mississippi. It was made without incident, except
that Smith defeated the rebels in a skirmish on the
Atchafalaya. He practiced a ruse upon them: concealed
a brigade in the deep dry ditches that intersect
the sugar-fields there, then sent his skirmishers
out. The rebs drove them in and pursued them;
when up rose the men in the ditches, poured in a
deadly fire, and took two hundred prisoners. We
were not again troubled by the enemy.
Prince Polignac commanded the rebels upon this
occasion. It was reported that he had come to Louisiana
expecting that the Confederacy would become
a monarchy; and it probably would have done so,
had the Rebellion succeeded. I afterward heard that
his defeat was not very disagreeable to his brother
officers, for he was not popular with them. Indeed,
very few foreign officers were popular on either side.
Both Union and rebel officers were very much disposed
to look upon it as a family quarrel, and wanted
no interference from outsiders.
We crossed the Atchafalaya by a novel bridge
constructed of steamboats. This, too, was Bailey’s
work. He anchored them side by side, the bows
level with each other, and placed planks across them.
The whole army, with its baggage-wagons and artillery,
crossed safely and rapidly. A steam-whistle
sounded, and in ten minutes the bridge had disappeared,
and every boat was under full headway to
The writer’s connection with the Department of
the Gulf now ceased for a year. He obtained leave
of absence, and went North. But he had scarcely
arrived there when Early made his daring march
upon Washington. My leave was revoked, and I
was ordered to report to Major-general Gillmore.
For a year I remained in Virginia, most of the time
in Norfolk, for Gillmore had been thrown from his
horse, and was unable to take the field in command
of the Nineteenth Army Corps, as had been intended,
and I had been assigned to a different duty.
Early in the spring of 1865, on application of Brigadier-general
T. W. Sherman, I was ordered again to
Visit to Grant’s Head-quarters. — His Anecdotes of Army Life. — Banks
relieved. — Canby in Command. — Bailey at Mobile. — Death of
Bailey. — Canby as a Civil Governor. — Confiscated Property. — Proposes
to rebuild Levees. — Is stopped by Sheridan. — Canby appeals. — Is
sustained, but too late. — Levees destroyed by Floods. — Conflict
of Jurisdiction. — Action of President Johnson. — Sheridan abolishes
Canby’s Provost Marshal’s Department. — Canby asks to be recalled. — Is
ordered to Washington. — To Galveston. — To Richmond. — To
Charleston. — Is murdered by the Modocs. — His Character.
after my arrival at the North, I paid a
visit of a few days to Colonel Badeau at Grant’s
head-quarters at City Point. Badeau had been with
me on Sherman’s staff. I staid at head-quarters in a
tent reserved for guests, and messed with the general
and his staff. Grant has the reputation of being a
taciturn man, and he is generally so. But when
seated on a summer’s evening under the awning in
front of his tent with his staff, and, perhaps, a few
friends about him, he took his share of the conversation.
He was full of anecdote, especially of army
life. He talked very freely, not hesitating to express
his opinions of men and things. Grant contended
that no commanding officer could succeed in the long
run, if he were not an honest and an honorable man.
He did not care what were his talents, he was sure
to come to grief, and injure the cause sooner or later.
But Butler took different ground. He held that he
could appoint clever and energetic officers to command,
and benefit by their talents, while he could
prevent their dishonesty from injuring the cause.
Grant was undoubtedly right, and Butler wrong.
One evening, as we sat before his tent, Grant observed
that he had that day sent orders to remove a
certain general from high command in the West. I
expressed my surprise, and said that I had always
understood, and from army men too, that the officer
in question was one of the best of our volunteer generals.
Grant took his cigar from his mouth, and remarked,
in his quiet way, “He’s too much mixed up
Politics makes strange bed-fellows. What a pity
that President Grant was unable to carry into his
civil appointments the same admirable principle
upon which General Grant acted so inflexibly and
so successfully in his military appointments! The
officer whom he removed from command as “too
much mixed up with cotton" he soon after appointed,
under strong party pressure, to high civil office.
On my return to New Orleans, I found that Banks
had been relieved, and Canby now commanded the
Department of the Gulf. He was absent, engaged
in the campaign against Mobile, which resulted in
the capture of that city. Here Bailey again distinguished
himself. The bay was strewed with torpedoes.
Bailey had no fear of torpedoes. He told
me that he had often navigated the Upper Mississippi
when enormous cakes of ice, swept along by
the rapid current, threatened to destroy the boat, but
that it was easy enough by some mechanical contrivance
to avoid them. He thought that torpedoes
might be treated in the same way. He showed his
faith by his works. He took the quartermaster’s
boats up without accident. The navy followed his
lead, and safely. But the Admiral, changing his
mind, ordered some of the boats back. In backing
down, two were blown up and sunk.
But the war was now near its close. Bailey was
shortly afterward mustered out of service, and returned
to civil life. He removed from Wisconsin to
Missouri, and settled in one of the border counties.
Here he was elected sheriff. His end was a sad one.
With his usual daring, he attempted to arrest two
noted desperadoes, horse-thieves, single-handed.
They murdered him. He had not lived in vain.
He had rendered good service to his country.
To return to Louisiana. The writer was now promoted
to General Canby’s staff, and became adjutant-general
of the Department. Canby enjoyed the
full confidence of the Government, and most justly.
He had an exceedingly important command, extending
from St. Louis to the Gulf, and from Florida to
Texas. We had one hundred and eighty-seven thousand
men upon our rolls. Canby was an excellent
military commander, but his forte lay in civil government.
Never was a Department better governed
than was Louisiana in his day. A kind-hearted, benevolent
gentleman, he gave one half of his pay to
the rebel poor. Often have I seen his wife driving
about New Orleans, accompanied by a Sister of Charity,
dispensing his bounty. A clear-headed, just
man, he governed that turbulent city with wisdom
and justice, and with unflinching firmness. There
were no riots in his day. More than once we were
told that a riot was planned for the next day. Canby
sent for Sherman; that night a battery would be
quietly marched up from Jackson Barracks, and stationed
out of sight in a cotton-press. Very early in
the morning a company of cavalry picketed their
horses in Esplanade Street. The quiet citizens saw
nothing unusual, but the would-be rioters of course
knew what had been done, and there was no riot.
Canby was relieved; Sherman got leave of absence;
and within a month a riot took place.
General Canby has saved millions of money to
the United States. In these days of barefaced raids
upon the Treasury, under color of bogus Southern
claims, Canby’s foresight and care are brought out
in strong relief. When the war was ended, he returned
all confiscated rebel property to its owners,
but he took from them a release to the United States
for all claim for rent or damage during our occupation.
These men’s mouths are now closed. The
only exception he made was made most reluctantly
under the orders of Sheridan. That great soldier
does not shine in civil government as he does in the
field. When he arrived in New Orleans, he told
General Canby that he came there to take military
command; that as for civil matters he knew nothing
about them, and left them all to Canby. Before a
month had passed an order came that General Canby
would please report why he did not return the Metairie
Ridge Race-course to its owners. This course
was owned by gamblers. The gamblers of New Orleans
are an institution and a power in that city.
Canby replied with the indorsement, “Respectfully
returned with a copy of the order bearing date (a
month back) returning the Metairie Ridge Racecourse
to its owners on the usual conditions.” The
order came back, “General Canby will return the
Metairie Ridge Race-course without condition.”
Canby felt deeply hurt. His carefully devised and
impartially executed plan to protect the Treasury
had been frustrated, and this in favor of a lot of
gamblers. I do not doubt that these men are now
before Congress as “loyal citizens,” with their humble
petition for reimbursement for the occupation of
the race-course and the destruction of the fences.
Had Canby been permitted to have his own way,
the levees in Louisiana would have been rebuilt in
the fall of 1865, millions of money saved to the
United States, and much suffering and vagabondage
among the inhabitants avoided. In 1862 Butler had
confiscated the crops on many abandoned estates.
This property, when sold, realized a fund which was
turned over to the successive Department commanders,
to be used for various public purposes. Banks
gave a monster concert, with artillery accompaniments,
out of it, and balls, to dance the fair Creoles
into loyalty. Canby proposed to rebuild the levees.
In his day the fund amounted to about eight hundred
thousand dollars. He thought that this money,
raised in Louisiana, could with propriety be expended
in repairing the levees in Louisiana. He said expressly
that the rebels had no right to this expenditure — as
they had sown, so must they reap; but that
it was in the interest of the United States and of humanity
that he proposed to rebuild the levees. That
if this were done, the people would be occupied, contented,
and quiet, they would be no expense to the
Government, and their crops would add to the general
wealth of the country. That if it were not done,
the plantations would be overflowed, the crops ruined,
the inhabitants discontented, the value of the
crops lost to the country, and the United States compelled,
as a matter of humanity, to issue rations to
the starving people. In the month of October, 1865,
every thing was ready, the unemployed negroes enrolled,
our negro regiments detailed, and the work
about to commence, when it was stopped by an order
from General Sheridan. Of course Sheridan did not
do this from any mere caprice. He had his reasons,
and to his mind they were conclusive. But they
were purely technical and narrow. He said that the
fund referred to did not belong to the Department;
that it belonged to the Treasury, or at least to the
Quartermaster-general, and could not be used without
his assent. Canby was always most reluctant to
appeal from his superior officer to higher authority,
but he thought that in this instance the interests of
his Department, and those of the United States itself,
were too deeply involved for him to accept Sheridan’s
decision. He appealed to Washington, and
was sustained. But the Government, instead of ordering
him to commence the work at once, sent out a
board of engineers — Barnard at the head — to survey
the levees, and agree upon plans for repairing them.
At length all these most unnecessary formalities were
got through with, and Canby was ordered to proceed
with the work. This was promptly done. But it
was now January, instead of October. In February
the water rose, and swept away all that had been
done. All the evils predicted by Canby now came
upon the country. And not for that year only, but
for several succeeding years, the Government was
compelled to feed a suffering, discontented, and turbulent
Several nice and novel legal questions arose on the
termination of the war in reference to confiscated
property. These were determined by General Canby
so wisely and so justly that the Quartermaster-general
not unfrequently sent to him for copies of his
orders as guides for the Department at Washington
in its own decisions. I recollect one question particularly,
which brought him into conflict with the
United States District Judge. It will be remembered
that at the close of the war an immense quantity
of cotton was found stored in the by-ways of the Confederacy,
especially far up the Red River. Part of
this cotton was undoubtedly liable to confiscation,
but the greater part was not. Treasury agents
thronged all over the South. The character of these
men “left much to be desired,” as the Frenchman
politely puts it. They were “on the make.” Their
object was to prove all cotton liable to confiscation,
for the law gave them a large percentage of the proceeds.
The amount of perjury committed by these
men, and by the professional perjurers whom they
employed, was fearful. The effect was demoralizing
to the last degree, and exasperated the inhabitants;
while it was the object of the Government, and the
earnest desire of the victorious North, to pacify the
South by dealing not only justly, but generously, by
it. Canby felt this, and with his usual sagacity and
foresight made a proposition to the Secretary of the
Treasury, which, if adopted, would have saved the
Government millions in money, and more than millions
in peace and good-will. He proposed that ports
should be designated on the Mississippi for the receipt
of cotton; that every pound arriving there
should pay the Government twenty-five cents, or
fifty cents (any thing that the Government might
designate), and that no questions should be asked as
to its origin. Mr. M‘Culloch replied that it was an
admirable plan, but that there were reasons why it
could not be adopted. The reason, I fear, was the
influence brought to bear at Washington by the nascent
race of carpet-baggers. There was money in
the Treasury-agent system.
This system led, as I have said, to a collision between
the military and the judicial authorities in
New Orleans, which in any other hands than Canby’s
might have been serious. M‘Culloch wrote to
the general asking him to sustain his agents with the
military power in their seizure of cotton. Canby
of course replied that he would do so. Shortly afterward
an agent applied to us for a military force.
He had seized a lot of cotton, and brought it to New
Orleans. The owner, an alleged Union man, had
applied to the United States District Court, and the
United States Marshal had been ordered to take possession
of it. He attempted to do so, but was, of
course, repulsed by the military, the city being still
under martial law. The judge thereupon issued an
order for Canby to appear before him, and show
cause why he held the cotton against the process of
the court. The order was an impertinent one; for
the judge knew well enough that the city was still
under martial law. The judge was that Durell who
afterward came to grief. But Canby always showed
the greatest respect to the judiciary. I remember,
as if it were yesterday, seeing him start for the
court-room at the appointed time, in full uniform,
accompanied by Major De Witt Clinton, his judge-advocate.
His return to the order of the court was
to my mind conclusive. He said, substantially, that
the United States District Court was a creation of
the law; that it possessed precisely those powers
which had been conferred upon it by Congress, and
no others; that if this cotton had been captured by
the navy on the high seas, he should have surrendered
it at once on the order of the judge, for the
court was clothed with admiralty jurisdiction, but
that it had no military jurisdiction, and that he had
no right to surrender, and might be held responsible
for surrendering, powers which, under martial
law, were vested in him alone. The judge reserved
his decision. The claimant’s lawyers telegraphed to
the President; and Johnson, who was then beginning
to coquet with the Democrats, contrary to Stanton’s
advice, and without waiting for Canby’s report,
ordered the cotton to be given up, to the general’s
great satisfaction; for it soiled the fingers of every
one who touched it.
General Canby had now been thwarted twice by
General Sheridan in purely civil matters — matters
belonging properly to the commander of the Department.
He felt as if his usefulness were gone,
and prepared a letter to the Adjutant-general asking
to be relieved from his command, and ordered elsewhere.
He showed me this letter. I felt that his
loss to the Department would be irreparable, and I
persuaded him to withhold it. But shortly afterward
Sheridan again interfered with the civil government
of the city, and this time by breaking up
the provost-marshal’s department of General Canby’s
own staff. It is a matter of great delicacy for
one general to interfere with the staff of another.
Canby felt deeply hurt, and told me that he should
forward his letter to Washington. Of course I
could no longer object; for it seemed to me that
self-respect left him no choice. He was relieved
at once, for he was all-powerful with Stanton, who
had the highest esteem and regard for him, and
unbounded confidence in his integrity and wisdom.
He was made president of a most important board
on war claims, sitting at Washington. But shortly
afterward there was disturbance in Texas, and Canby
was immediately sent there. Again, there was
disturbance in Virginia, and Canby was transferred
to Richmond. Then came difficulty in South Carolina,
and at once Canby was ordered to Charleston.
Wherever he went, order and tranquillity followed
This wise, great, and good man lost his life miserably.
He fell a victim to the Peace Commission.
He commanded the Department in which Captain
Jack and those wretched Modocs gave us so much
trouble. Although the force operating against the
Indians numbered but five hundred men, and the
weather was so severe that the ink froze in his tent,
Canby thought it his duty to go in person to the
“Lava Beds.” Here he was rapidly unearthing the
savages from “their caves and dens in the rocks,”
when the Peace Commission begged him to send
the Indians a flag of truce and invite them to a
“talk.” He replied that it was useless; that he
knew the Indians far better than those gentlemen
could; and that the best and most humane method
was to follow up his military advantages. They entreated,
and appealed to his love of peace. He yielded,
went unarmed and without escort to the conference,
and was murdered by the savages. Thus died
one of the best, ablest, and purest men the war had
brought to the front.
The writer left Louisiana in June, 1866, and shortly
afterward, on his own request, was mustered out
of the service. He looks back with pleasure to
the years passed in that lovely and fruitful land.
He regrets the evil days which have fallen upon it,
and can not but think that the upright and honorable
men whom he knew there — and there are plenty
of them among its inhabitants — must regret the loss
of the rule of justice, law, order, and economy under
Canby, when they contrast it with the infamous rule
of the carpet-baggers — fraud and corruption on one side
met by violence and intimidation on the other.
- Maladie de mer.
Sea sickness. — French.
- Parti pris.
Bias. — French.
Street urchin. — French.
Jewel. — French.
- Entente cordiale.
Cordial agreement. — French.
- En revanche.
On the other hand. — French.
Text prepared by:
Hoffman, Wickham. Camp Court and Siege: A Narrative of Personal Adventure and Observation During Two Wars: 1861-1865, 1870-1871. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1877. Internet Archive. Web. 05 May 2019.
<https:// archive.org/ details/ camp court siege n00hoffiala/>.