Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 1863 (Tuesday): An Action In Louisiana

Civil War Waterfront Baton Rouge (

MISSISSIPPI RIVER, January 27, 1863.
    GENERAL: I have the honor to submit to you the following reports: Yesterday the Yankees landed a small foraging force from two transports on this side, and had collected about 5,000 bushels of corn at Mrs. Barrow's place, 1 mile above Baton Rouge. They succeed in moving only a small portion of it on board their boats by night, leaving the remainder, the amount above specified, on shore without a guard. The young men of the Signal Corps, W. C. Miller, D. M. Bedford, Edward B. Roberts, John Ducker, and J. B. Holden, assisted by two young men citizens of the vicinity, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Clark, conceived the project of destroying it, provided I gave them the authority to do so. I consented, upon the belief that I would be doing our Government a service by cutting off their supplies, especially in corn, as it would in crease their difficulties in maintaining a large force of cavalry either on this or the other side. Major Beard, commanding a battalion of infantry of General Sibley's command, also gave his consent.
   The young men above mentioned proceeded to the place about 10 o'clock and without any difficulty succeed in setting fire to the corn, completely destroying it in less than two hours.
    The Yankees came up after the sheds and cribs containing it were in full blaze and attempted to save them, but were too late; and after some ineffectual efforts retired to their boats.
     I hope I have done right in this matter; and, if so, I will destroy any other they may attempt to remove, if unattended by any serious difficulty.
    There is no doubt now that the river will be over the bank in a day or two, as the levee is entirely washed away at Captain Chinn's place and the water beginning to run over now. The crevasse will separate two of my signal posts and cut the cavalry off from us entirely. The greatest difficulty, however, will be in the inundation of the railroad, preventing any co-operation of General Sibley's forces with yours, besides the cutting off this section of country for foraging purpose from General Sibley. I believe 1,000 men, with the proper implements, could mend the levee in a day or two so as to save the country. I do not offer this as a suggestion, but only state it as a fact.
    I will of course do the best I can and remain as long as possible I will soon have the line complete to Rosedale. The rise in the river will be the only difficulty in the way.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Captain, Commanding Signal Corps

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 16, Part 1, Page 692.

We naturally focus on the major battles of the Civil War, but forget the many small battles which went on outside the view of generals and grand strategy.  Across the great expanse of America portions of the armies were in close contact, especially in occupied territory.  Supply lines stretched for long distances and required guarding by small garrisons, observation points were maintained, and cavalry units were dispersed across the countryside on scouting missions.  Between combat armies could not be maintained in a central location and were forced to spread out for food and sanitary reasons.  Here a band of seven men set out to destroy corn which was being used to supply Union troops.  It was only a small episode of the war, but the war itself was made up of innumerable such actions.

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