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the 13th of January, the President had addressed the following letter:
Executive ManSION, WASHINGTON, January 18, 1864.
I understand an effort is being made by some worthy gentlemen to reconstruct a legal State Government in Florida. Florida is in your Department, and it is not unlikely you may be there in person. I have given Mr. Hay a commission of major, and sent him to you, with some ank-books and other blanks, to aid in the reconstruction. He will explain as to the manner of using the blanks, and also my general views on the subject. It is desirable for all to co-operate, but if irreconcilable differences of opinion shall arise, you are master. I wish the thing done in the most speedy way, so that when done it be within the range of the late proclamation on the subject. The detail labor will, of course, have to be done by others; but I will be greatly obliged if you will give it such general supervision as you can find consistent with your more strictly military duties.
The advance portion of the expedition reached Jacksonville on the 8th of February. General Gillmore returned to Port Royal on the 16th, leaving the command of the expedition to General Seymour. The first operations were successful. Near Jacksonville one hundred prisoners, with eight pieces of serviceable artillery, fell into our hands, and expeditions were pushed forward into the interior, by which large amounts of stores and supplies were destroyed. On the 17th, General Seymour, with five thousand men, was on the Florida Central Railroad, about forty-five miles from Jacksonville. Here they remained until the 20th, when the preparations for a movement towards Lake City were completed. The enemy was found in force, a little before reaching Lake City, at Olustee, a small station on the railroad. The engagement was commenced between the enemy's skir mishers and our advance. The fire directed against our men was so hot that they were compelled to fall back; then we brought two batteries to bear on the enemy, and our whole force became engaged with more than twice their number of the rebels, who occupied a strong position, flanked by a marsh. Again we retreated, taking
another position; but it was impossible to contend with a force so greatly superior, and, after a battle of three hours and a half, General Seymour retired, leaving his dead and severely wounded on the field. Five guns were lost, and about a thousand men killed, wounded, and missing.
On the 3d of February, General Sherman, with a strong force, set out from Vicksburg, in light marching order, and moved eastward. Shortly after, a cavalry expedition, under General Smith, set out from Memphis, to work its way southeastward, and join Sherman somewhere on the borders of Mississippi and Alabama. By the 18th, Smith had accomplished nearly one-half of his proposed march, but soon after found the enemy concentrated in superior force in his front. Finding it impossible to proceed, he fell back, destroying the bridges on the Memphis and Ohio Railroad in his retreat. There was continual skirmishing, but no decisive battle, during the retreat, which lasted until the 25th, when the expedition accomplished its return to Memphis. Much damage was done to the enemy by the destruction of property, but the main object of making a junction with Sherman failed. Sherman went as far east as Meridian, almost on the borders of Mississippi and Alabama, and after destroying large quantities of rebel stores, and breaking their lines of communication, he returned to Vicksburg.
Another enterprise was a raid upon Richmond, made by a large cavalry force under General Kilpatrick. Leaving his camp on the 28th of February, he crossed the Rapidan, gained the rear of Lee's army without being discovered, and pushed rapidly on in the direction of Richmond. A detachment under Colonel Dahlgren was sent from the main body to Frederick's Hall, on the Virginia Central Railroad. The road was torn up for some distance; then the James River Canal was struck, and six grist-mills, which formed one of the main sources of supply for the Confederate army, were destroyed. Several locks on the canal were blown up, and other damage done. Dahlgren's main body then pressed onward to
wards Richmond, and came within three miles of the city, when, encountering a Confederate force, it was compelled to withdraw, Dahlgren himself being killed, and a large part of his force captured. Kilpatrick, meanwhile, pressed onward to Spottsylvania Court-House, and thence to Beaver Dam, near where the two lines of railway from Richmond, those running to Gordonsville and Fredericksburg, cross. Here the railway was torn up, and the telegraph line cut, and the cavalry pushed straight on towards Richmond. They reached the outer line of fortifications at a little past ten on the morning of the 1st of March, about three and a half miles from the city. These were fairly passed, and the second line, a mile nearer, was reached, and a desultory fire was kept up for some hours. Towards evening Kilpatrick withdrew, and encamped six miles from the city. In the night an artillery attack was made upon the camp, and our troops retired still farther, and on the following morning took up their line of march down the Peninsula towards Williamsburg. Several miles of railway connection of great importance to the enemy were interrupted, stores to the value of several millions of dollars were destroyed, and some hundreds of prisoners were captured, as the result of this expedition.
In the early part of March, General Banks organized an expedition with all the available force of the army and navy in his department, to move up the Red River as far as Shreveport, where the rebels had large supplies, and where it was intended that he should be joined by General Steele, with the forces which he could collect in Arkansas, when the combined armies would be powerful enough to sweep away all rebel opposition in that part of the State, if not in Texas.
A force of about ten thousand men, under command of General A. J. Smith, left Vicksburg on the 10th of March in twenty transports, and, having joined the fleet, proceeded up the Red River. This portion of the expedition met with a decided success in the capture of Fort De Russey by storm, with but little loss, by which cap
ture the river was opened to the fleet as far as Alexan. dria, where the whole expedition was united under command of General Banks. On the 26th of March they moved forward, meeting with uninterrupted success, as far as Natchitoches, some eighty miles above Alexandria. But at Sabine Cross-Roads, about twenty miles farther up, they found the rebel army posted, under the command of General Dick Taylor. This resistance had not been anticipated: the army was not marching compactly, nor could the gunboats be of any assistance, on account of the distance of the river from the road.
The consequence was, that the Thirteenth Corps of our army, being too far in advance to receive proper support, was attacked by the rebels in superior force and driven back upon the Nineteenth Corps, which had formed in line of battle, and which repulsed the advancing enemy with great slaughter. This battle was fought on the 8th of April. That night General Banks determined to fall back to Pleasant Hill, at which point two other divisions, under General A. J. Smith, had arrived. Here our forces were attacked, about five o'clock in the afternoon of the next day. The rebels at first gained some advantage, pressing the Nineteenth Corps back up a hill, behind the crest of which lay General Smith's troops, by whose unexpected and destructive fire the rebel lines of battle, as they came over the crest, were suddenly arrested. A rapid charge of the Union troops put the rebels entirely to flight, with a loss of several thousand killed and wounded, many hundred prisoners, and some guns, most of which, however, had been taken from us by the rebels the day before.
Our own army, however, was so shattered in the two battles, that General Banks ordered a retreat of the entire force to Grand Ecore, some forty miles below. The water in the Red River being unusually low, and falling, it was found necessary to remove the fleet, and with it the army, still farther down the river to Alexandria. On the way down, the gunboat Eastport having got aground, had to be abandoned, and was blown up.
General Steele, in consequence of the retreat of General Banks, was himself compelled to fall back to Little Rock, which he reached without much fighting, but with the loss of a good deal of material.
The water in the Red River continued to fall until it was found that there was not water enough on the falls at Alexandria to allow the gunboats to pass over. The rebels were enabled to throw forces below, so as to impede the communication with the army by the river, and as it became evident that the army must retreat still farther, the gravest apprehensions were felt lest the whole fleet of twelve gunboats should be of necessity, abandoned to the rebels, or blown up. In this extremity, a plan was devised by Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey, of the Fourth Wisconsin Cavalry, Acting Engineer of the Nineteenth Corps, of building a series of dams on the falls, by which to raise the water sufficiently to allow the gunboats to pass over. The plan was ridiculed by some of the best engineers; but under the approval of Commodore Porter, who commanded the fleet, and General Banks, it was tried with perfect success. The dams were built within ten days, and all the gunboats brought safely Commodore Porter, in his report, says, "Words are inadequate to express the admiration I feel for Colonel Bailey. *** Leaving out his ability as an engineer and the credit he has conferred upon the country, he has saved the Union a valuable fleet, worth nearly $2,000,000, and has deprived the enemy of a triumph which would have emboldened them to carry on this war a year or two longer." Colonel Bailey was at once appointed by the President a brigadier-general for these distinguished services.
After this escape, the fleet and the army retreated down the river. The fleet lost two small gunboats by rebel batteries on the way down; but the army, though attacked several times, repulsed the rebels with considerable loss, and crossed the Atchafalaya in safety, on the 19th of May.
About the time of the check which General Banks re