I found the enemy's pickets at this place, where there is a bridge over the bayou. The bayou is fordable. I sent a reconnoitering party 9 miles anther to another branch of the Plaquemine Bayou, and they ascertained that the enemy camped yesterday on Emile Mouton's plantation, just across the branch of the bayou mentioned, their numbers from 1,500 to 2,000 so the negroes and citizens report. They came there Monday, directly from Carrison Crow Bayou (where we formed line of battle), and have not passed through Opelousas or by this road. The negroes say that General Mouton was with them. they describe the appearance of Mouton Correctly, according to drexel. But they all say that there was no infantry; and the whites say they don't known where the infantry went. They report that 300 passed over this bridge this forenoon; had been burning cotton an scouting. Drexel says they cannot get away except by crossing the Mermenton River, which is difficult crossing-only poor ferries-and thinks they could be overtaken. I think proper to make the report to you of his opinion. He inclose a map. I shall return in the morning.
There are every few horses, mules, or negroes left. The rebels have taken everything.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. A. BEAN,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Detachment.
Chief of Staff.
Bayou Plaquemine Brule, April 23, 1863-8 a. m.
GENERAL: The enemy's force is estimated at over 2,000 by the most intelligent witnesses I find. There are 2,000 cavalry, and some say the infantry went before them, but others that they have not seen any infantry. General Mouton is with them. Yesterday morning they were 4 miles from here; were collecting transportation and burning cotton. When we drove in their pickets they retreated hurriedly, leaving a good deal of cotton unburned. But I have only 500 men, and cannot follow them ut. I have only this day's rations, and there is nothing in the country. My orders were to return to-day.
The enemy are now on the Mermenton River, crossing. They have to cross on ferries. After they are over the river and have gone 30 miles they come to the Calcasien, over which there is no bridge, but tow ferried, 4 or 6 miles apart. Now, Drexel, the guide, says a force may be sent so as entirely to cut them off, or that they can be overtaken before they can get over the Calcasieu.
I have not force enough to act against them-only 30 cavalry and no rations. I report the facts and wait for orders. Unless order to the contrary, I shall have to return this evening. They (the enemy) are now about 20 miles from this point. There is cotton here, but no transportation-no mules, carts, or harness.
Whatever is done, be pleased to send me a map, if convenient.
Drexel says that a force should be sent on the road to Bayou Canne, and one on this road, in order to cut them off. A man just reports that there were yesterday 1,000 men at Bellevue, wherever that is, about 6 miles from here.
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. A. BEAN,
Lieutenant Col. Fourth Wisconsin Vols., Commanding.
Chief of Staff.