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Louisiana Anthology

Wickham Hoffman.
Camp, Court, and Seige.

Colonel Wickham Hoffman
Colonel Wickham Hoffman

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1861-1865 1870-1871






Hatteras. — “Black Drink.” — Fortress Monroe. — General Butler. — Small-pox. — “L’Isle des Chats.” — Lightning. — Farragut. — Troops land. — Surrender of Forts … Page 11


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



Hatteras. — “Black Drink.” — Fortress Monroe. — General Butler. — Small-pox. — “L’Isle des Chats.” — Lightning. — Farragut. — Troops land. — Surrender of Forts.

IN 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 animal 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 with the 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
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
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.

ON 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 parti pris 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 ever made.

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 gamin 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.

ADMIRAL FARRAGUT 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 know of.

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 masses.

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 vessels.

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 hazards.

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 occurrence.

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.

OF 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 charge.

“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 fight.

“A good general, he made his dispositions and prepared for battle at the break of day, when he met his foe!

“A brave soldier, he received the death-shot leading his men!

“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 Redeemer!

“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 was over.

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
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.

THE 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 a bijou 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 always 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
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 in Virginia.

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 and Vicksburg.

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 of Grant.”

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 entente cordiale 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.

EARLY 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 terrors.

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 rather surprised.

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 Cro.

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, en revanche, 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 cavalry.

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 or capture.

Brigadier General Joseph Bailey
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.

I THINK 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 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
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 had happened.

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 say so.”

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
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 conclusion.


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.

Bailey's Dam
Bailey’s Dam.

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 its destination.

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 New Orleans.


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.

SHORTLY 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 with cotton.”

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 population.

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 his footsteps.

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.


  1. Maladie de mer. Sea sickness. — French.
  2. Parti pris. Bias. — French.
  3. Gamin. Street urchin. — French.
  4. Bijou. Jewel. — French.
  5. Entente cordiale. Cordial agreement. — French.
  6. 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/>.

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