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1864 May 14: The Battle of Monett’s Ferry in Louisiana

May 19, 2014

The following update on what’s going on in Louisiana is from the May 14, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.  The Cane River Crossing was known as Monett’s Ferry; this article is about the Battle of Monett’s Ferry, which took place on April 23, 1864—a Saturday—in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.  Near the end of the Red River Campaign (March 10-May 22, 1864), Union Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks‘ army evacuated Grand Ecore (in Natchitoches Parish) and retreated to Alexandria.  They were pursued by Confederate forces under General Hamilton P. Bee.

From Louisiana.

ALEXANDRIA, La., April 27, }
via Cairo May 6th. }

The army of Gen. Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks], including the forces of Gen. A. J. Smith, is now all back at this place, having arrived yesterday and to-day.  Gen. Banks turned over the command of the army at Grand Ecore¹ to General Franklin [William B. Franklin], who conducted the retreat to this place.

The army left Grand Ecore last Tuesday, crossing Cane river² at that place, and coming down between the two rivers.  On arriving at a point near the mouth of Cane river, where Gen. Franklin expected to cross, he found the enemy under Dick Taylor posted on a high eminence on the opposite side, and in his front to dispute his passage.

An artillery engagement ensued, lasting all day Saturday last [the 23rd], and Saturday night until Sunday morning at 9 o’clock.

Meantime Gen. Franklin had sent two brigades of Infantry up Cane river a few miles, where a crossing was effected at a ford.

The infantry then came down on the opposite side and opened a musketry fire on the rebels on the hill.  A spirited fight ensued, lasting two or three hours.  Our forces carried the hill by assault, driving the enemy off, thus securing crossings for the main army.  We lost 300 or 400 in killed and wounded.  The rebel loss was about the same.  It was rumored here that we had captured 1000 prisoners and seven cannon.  Such is not the case.  The only advantage gained was in driving the rebels from our front, they having a position between our army and Alexandria, and in securing the crossing of Cane river.  After our army crossed, the rebels closed in our rear, and sharp skirmishing has been kept up all the way down.

The steamer Relief brought down on Monday, 250 wounded from the Cane river fight.  They had not had there [sic] wounds dressed when they arrived here.

Maj. Gen. McClernand [John A. McClernand] arrived here last night with two brigades of the 3d army corps, who came from New Orleans on transports.  Maj. Gen. Hunter [David Hunter] has arrived here, but so far as the public are concerned, nothing is yet known of his presence here or business.

Admiral Porter [David D. Porter] is up the river about 60 miles with two transports and a gunboat Eastport.  If he should fail he will blow her up.  Nothing has been heard from him except heavy firing all day Monday.  There are twelve gunboats above the falls, nine of which are heavy iron clads.  The transports now are all below the falls except the Champion No. 3 and Champion No. 5.  The Hastings is sunk.  No boats can come over the falls until the river rises.  There are now about 40 transports here below the falls.

Gen. A. J. Smith stated yesterday that Gen. Banks and his army were going to New Orleans, but that he and the 16th army corps were to remain until the gunboats could get over the falls.  The Red River expedition, taken altogether, has been one of the most disastrious [sic] campaigns of the war.  No good has resulted, or can now result from it.  The worst may not have come yet.  How the army is to get away from here, and how the gunboats are to be saved, are questions which perplex the minds of all.  Gen. Banks is held responsible for the whole thing.  No one here thinks of censuring Gens. Lee [Albert L. Lee], Stone, or Franklin. Banks has had control of everything.  He alone is responsible.  The feeling against him among the officers and men is becoming more intense every day.  Until he is removed no good results can be expected.

The appointment of Gen. Franklin, to the command of the Department of the Gulf would give general satisfaction.  The army is considerably demorilized [sic].  Soldiers are everywhere making insulting and ridiculous remarks concerning the Commanding General.

Scouts reported to Gen. Grover [Cuvier Grover] today that a company of rebels passed back of here last night, going below with a parrott gun.  It will not surprise anyone here should they blockade Red river between here and Fort de Russy.

Reliable information has been received from a naval officer that a negro recently boarded a gunboat off the mouth of Red river and reported the enemy to be moving in two columns with sixteen pieces of artillery in the direction of Port Hudson.—That port is garrisoned by negro troops, the white ones having been withdrawn to go up Red river.

It is reported that Dick Taylor, before the battle of Pleasant Hill, carried a flag of truce to Banks, saying that if negro troops were put on the field the next day he would show no quarter, and Banks refrained from using them in the engagement, and sent them back with the wagon train as guards.

1.  Grand Ecore is a small community on the Red River in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. “Ecore” is French for “bluff.”
2.  Cane River is a 36-mile-long lake and 30-mile-long river formed from a portion of the Red River. It is located in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.

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