Bankss Red River operation

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Because of French presence in Mexico, a desire to seize valuable cotton, and a distant hope to secure complete control of Louisiana and to begin the reconstruction process, in spring 1864, Lincoln called for an expedition under Banks up the Red River. Banks would march overland to Alexandria, Louisiana, where he would link with 10,000 veterans from the Army of Tennessee under Major-General A.J. Smith, whom McPherson would loan temporarily. Their goal was Shreveport. Admiral Porter with an assortment of ironclads and gunboats accompanied Smith. In addition, Major-General Frederick Steele would march from Little Rock. Arkansas, with another 15,000. To oppose this force, the Confederates had some 15,000 men under Major-General Richard Taylor, Davis's former brother-in-law and one of Stonewall Jackson's old brigade commanders.

After a disastrous campaign in the Shenandoah valley, in which he earned the nickname of Stonewall Jackson's quartermaster, the ante bellum politician Nathaniel P Banks took over command of the Department of the Gulf. He oversaw the fall of Port Hudson, but then led the Federal forces in the disastrous Red River campaign. Banks's late start also deprived the Army of Tennessee of 10.000 of its men for the Atlanta campaign. He was succeeded by E. R. S. Canby. (Library of Congress)

After a disastrous campaign in the Shenandoah valley, in which he earned the nickname of Stonewall Jackson's quartermaster, the ante bellum politician Nathaniel P Banks took over command of the Department of the Gulf. He oversaw the fall of Port Hudson, but then led the Federal forces in the disastrous Red River campaign. Banks's late start also deprived the Army of Tennessee of 10.000 of its men for the Atlanta campaign. He was succeeded by E. R. S. Canby. (Library of Congress)

Even though Sherman instructed Banks that he must conduct the campaign promptly and return McPherson's troops for the spring offensive. Banks began late and arrived at Alexandria eight days after Smith's men had taken the town. Taylor's Confederates fell back beyond Natchitoches and halted around Mansfield, forming their defense at Sabine Crossroads. On 8 April, Federals stumbled into an unanticipated fight and suffered a rout, losing 2,500 as prisoners. Yankees fled pell mell to Pleasant Hill, where Banks prepared a defense built around Smith's corps.

The next day, Taylor attacked, and although Federals blocked the advance. Banks withdrew the next day. The Rebels pursued, harassing Banks's command and Porter's fleet at every opportunity. By the time the Yankees had reached Alexandria, low water trapped the vessels. An ingenious engineer, Major Joseph Bailey from Wisconsin, erected a dam to build up the water level. When they broke the dam, the rushing water carried Porter's fleet to safety. Still, Confederates continued to strike at retreating Union columns until 18 May. Not only had Banks suffered a severe repulse, and nearly lost Porter's expeditionary force, but delays deprived McPherson of critical manpower in the early days of the great spring campaign. Banks's retreat allowed the Confederates to concentrate on Steele's command and defeat it as well.

Poor leadership was only part of the Federal problem, though. The Red River campaign was the product of misdirected strategy on the part of Lincoln and Halleck. They ordered the expedition over the objections of Grant and Sherman, and even Banks preferred an advance on Mobile. The administration committed (and risked) valuable resources to an enterprise that, in the final analysis, would not have brought the rebellion appreciably closer to its conclusion, even if it had been extremely successful.

The son of ZacharyTaylor and Jefferson Davis's former brother-in-law. Richard Taylor led a brigade under Stonewall Jackson and was one of the few who earned his admiration. He returned west where he ser\ed out the war As lieutenant-general, he skillfully opposed Banks's Red Rrver campaign and whipped the larger Union force.Taylor surrendered his command to E R. S. Canby in May 1865. (Library of Congress)

The son of ZacharyTaylor and Jefferson Davis's former brother-in-law. Richard Taylor led a brigade under Stonewall Jackson and was one of the few who earned his admiration. He returned west where he ser\ed out the war As lieutenant-general, he skillfully opposed Banks's Red Rrver campaign and whipped the larger Union force.Taylor surrendered his command to E R. S. Canby in May 1865. (Library of Congress)

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