had previously given him, he sent out to Ponchatoula on the 23rd instant, under the command of Col. Thomas S. Clark, Sixth Michigan.* The forces engaged were the Sixth Michigan and five companies of the One hundred and sixty-fifth New York, Lieutenant Col. Abel Smith. Colonel Clark's orders were to ascertain the force of the enemy on the lowed end of Jackson Railroad, drive them out of Ponchatoula, and break up the railroad bridges across the Ponchatoula River. I have not as yet received the official reports of this reconnaissance, but I am able to state that these orders have been successfully carried out, and that we now hold securely Manchac Pass and the defile leading from the Pass to Ponchatoula. I propose to have the bridges over the Pass rebuilt as soon as practicable, with a view to future operations on the Jackson Railway.
Simultaneous with this reconnaissance a demonstration was made on the lower Amite by three companies of cavalry and one regiment of infantry, under Col. Frank S. Nickerson, Fourteenth Maine, to threaten the road leading from the Mississippi to Springfield and Ponchatoula. This demonstration was skillfully executed and materially aided the main enterprise under Colonel Clark.
The want of cavalry, which I have so frequently and so strongly represented, is felt almost hourly in every movement. Large detachments of infantry are required to do slowly and uncertainly what a small party of cavalry would accomplish speedily had accurately . We must use a brigade to holds a road which a squadron could patrol. I cannot but regret that any consideration of economy should have prevented the Government from sending to this department all the cavalry which it could control. I feel especially the loss of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, raised expressly for my expedition, for, besides its strength, I relied upon Colonel Lowell to infuse the necessary vigor into the whole cavalry service, and particularly into companies which have recently come to us from Rhode Island and New York.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.
No. 2. Report of Captain William W. Rowley, U. S. Signal Corps, Chief Signal Officer, of operations March 7-22.
OFFICE CHIEF OF SIGNAL CORPS, DEPT. OF THE GULF,
Baton Rouge, La., March 22, 1863.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that on the 7th instant I received orders from Headquarters Department of the Gulf to proceed with it to this place.
I was accompanied by Lieutenants Russell, Eaton, and Abbott, acting signal officers.
We arrived at this point the evening of the 8th instant. My party
*See March 21-29. Expeditions, &c., pp.280-289.