Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE CAPTURE OF PORT HUDSON.
GENERAL BANKS arrived in New Orleans on the 14th of December, 1862 with the advance of a fleet of , transports from New York and Hampton Roads, bringing reenforcements for the Department of the Gulf. (1) On the 15th he took command of the department, Butler then formally taking leave of the troops. His orders were to move up the Mississippi, in order to open the river, in cooperation with McClernand's column from Cairo. Banks was to take command of the combined forces as soon as they should meet.
On the 16th General Grover, with 12 regiments and a battery, without disembarking at New Orleans, accompanied by two batteries and two tr oops of cavalry from the old force, and convoyed by a detachment of Farragut's fleet under Captain James Alden, of the Richmond, was sent to occupy Baton Ronge. The next morning the town was evacuated by the small Confederate detachment which had been posted there, and General Grover quietly took possession. The town was held without opposition until the war ended.
An attempt followed to occupy Galveston, apparently under importunity from Brigadier-General Andrew J. Hamilton, and in furtherance of the policy that had led the Government to send him with the expedition as military governor of Texas. This resulted on the 1st of January in a military and naval disaster in which three companies of the 42d Massachusetts regiment, under Colonel Isaac S. Burrell, were taken prisoners by the Confederates under Magruder. (2)
Weitzel, who was occupying the La Fourche, was strengthened so as to enable him to make the district safe in view of the projected operations on the Mississippi ; a strong work was constructed at Donaldsonville commanding the head of the bayou ; and intrenchments were thrown up at Brashear City to prevent, with the aid of the navy, any approach of the enemy from the direction of Berwick Bay. On the 14th of January, having crossed the bay, Weitzel ascended the Teche, accompanied by the gun-boats Calhoun, Estrella, and Kinsman, under Lieutenant-Commander Buchanan, forced the Confederates to destroy the gun-boat Cotton, and took 50 prisoners, with a loss of 6 killed and 27 wounded. Among the dead was Buchanan, who was succeeded by Lieutenant-Commander A. P. Cooke.
(1) These reenforcements finally included 39 regiments of infantry (of which 22 were 9-months' men), six batteries of artillery, and one battalion of cavalry.
(2) On the 21st of December three companies of the 42d Massachusetts, under Colonel Isaac S.
Burrell, were dispatched from New Orleans, without disembarking. Holcomb's 2d Vermont battery was sent with them, but, waiting for its horses to arrive, did not go ashore. Burrell landed at Kuhn's wharf on the 24th, took nominal possession of the town, but really occupied only the wharf itself, protected by barricades and the 32 guns of the fleet under Commander W. B. Renshaw. Major-General J. B. Magruder, who had been barely a month in command of the district of Texas, had directed his attention as soon as he arrived to the defenseless condition of the coast, menaced as it was by the blockading fleet; thus it happened that Burrell's three companies found themselves confronted by two brigades (Scurry's and Sibley's, under Colonel Reily), an artillery regiment, 14 heavy guns, and 14 field-pieces. Ma ;ruder had also caused two improvised gun-boats to be equipped under an old California steamboat man, Captain Leon smith ; these were the Bayou City, Captain Henry Lubbock, and Neptune, Captain Sangster. Early in the morning of the 1st of January Magruder, having perfected his plans, under cover of a heavy artillery fire, assaulted the position of the 42d Massachusetts with two storming parties of 300 and 500 men respectively, led by Colonels Green, Bagby, and Cook, with the remainder of the troops under Brigadier-General W. R. Scurry in support. A sharp fight followed, but the defenders had the concentrated fire of the fleet to protect them; the sealing-ladders proved too short to reach the wharf, and as day began to break the assailants were about to draw off, when suddenly the Confederate gun-boats appeared on the scene, and in a few moments turned the defeat into a signal victory. The Neptune was disabled and sunk by the Harriet Lane ; the Harriet Lane herself was boarded and captured by the Bayou City ; the Westfield ran aground and was blown up by her gallant commander, and soon the white flag, first displayed on the Harriet Lane, was flying from all the fleet. Thereupon Burrell surrendered. The Confederates ceased firing on him as soon as they perceived his signal; but the navy, observing that the firing on shore went on for some time, notwithstanding the naval truce, thought it had been violated; accordingly the Clifton, Owasco, and Sachem put to sea, preceded by the army transport steamers, the Saxon, which had brought the three unlucky companies of the 42d, and the Mary A. Boardman, with Holcomb's 2d Vermont battery still aboard. The Confederates lost 26 killed and 117 wounded ; the Union troops 5 killed and 15 wounded: R. B. I. [See also p. 571.]