amount and character of the force to be added to your command for further operations, which will be immediately forwarded.
Very respectfully, I am, general, your most obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, September 13, 1863.
GENERAL: It is with regret that I am obliged to report that the effort to effect a landing at Sabine Pass was without success.
The immediate cause of the failure was the misapprehension of the naval authorities of the real strength of the enemy's position, and the insufficient naval fore with which the attempt was made.
It represented, however, the entire naval power that the department affords for an enterprise of this character. No vessel drawing over 6 feet of water can pass the bar at the mouth of the Sabine. This reduced the number of boats able to enter to four, the Clifton, Sachem, Arizona, and Granite City. These were all old boats of decayed frames and weak machinery, constantly out of repair, even when engaged in the ordinary service of the river.
The naval authorities most familiar with the Sabine, which has been constantly under blockade, believed that this force would be sufficient. They supposed the battery at the Pass to mount but two guns, and were perfectly confident of being able, if the enemy was not so far apprised of our movements as to be able to concentrate their forces, to silence the guns without delay. It proved, however, that the battery mounted six heavy guns, three of which are believed to be 9-inch, one a 7 or 8 inch rifle, and the others to be mounted on siege carriages. To these were added a light battery and two gunboats.
The army, of course, relied confidently on the information furnished by the officers familiar with the ground. It would have been wiser to have tested the strength of the enemy's position, as might easily have been done by the gunboats stationed at that point forcing their fire, but the desire to avoid arousing suspicion of our movement, the pressure of the Government for prompt action, and the entire confidence of the naval authorities in their information, led to the course adopted.
The attack would have been successful as it was had the boats been adapted to the waters in which they engaged.
The action opened on Tuesday, the 8th instant, at 3 p. m., and lasted about one hour. The Clifton and Arizona were early grounded, and the Sachem disabled by a chance shot, before the Granite City reached the scene of action, and the Clifton and Sachem, being under the guns of the fort, were obliged to surrender.
The Arizona and Granite City, with all the transports and troops inside the bar, got off during the evening.
The Clifton is represented to have made a most gallant fight. General Weitzel, with 500 men on board the transport General Banks, was following close upon the Clifton when she commenced the attack, with an intention to land at Old Battery Point, about half a mile below the fort, and suppress the fire of the enemy's gunners. This would have been accomplished had not the Clifton grounded exactly between him and the point selected for the landing, and the attempt was abandoned only when the Clifton and Sached had surrendered, and the Arizona was seen to be aground and helpless. Being deprived of all aid of the gunboats, the troops [transports] fell back to a position outside the bar.