Monday, May 19, 2014

March 31, 1864 (Monday): Banks Rises, River Falls

Red River Dam

Shreveport, La., March 31, 1864.
Major General S. PRICE:
    GENERAL: I am directed by the lieutenant-general commanding to acknowledge the receipt of General Marmudake's dispatches of the 29th forwarded by you, and to says he advises that you concentrate your forces except that you have operating on the enemy's communications, and that you use every exertion to retard his approach without risking a general engagement, which you will not do unless you have such information of the enemy's strength or position as will giving you some prospect of success. He thinks that the enemy's arrival at Arkadelphia clearly indicates that he will move by Washington. The force from Alexandria is moving up Red River. All information indicates it to be the Thirteenth and Nineteenth Army Corps, under McClernand and Franklin, with a portion of Sherman's command. Should these columns of the enemy, from their superior force, resist or efforts to hold them in check, the lieutenant-general commanding proposes to concentrate when they come sufficiently near upon the one which the best prospect of success. The lieutenant-general commanding directs that you spare no trouble or exertion to get reliable and detailed information of the enemy's strength as upon the accuracy of this information will very much depend the success of our operations. I have the honor to inclose a copy* of a letter from Brigadier General S. B. Maxey, giving information of the enemy's strength and movements at Fort Smith.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     Lieutenant and Aide-de-Camp.

*Of March 26, p. 1085 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 34, Part 2, Page 1102.

Banks was working closely under Halleck's direction.  Although Grant, Sherman, and Banks opposed a line of operations up the Red River it was decided upon in Washington.  Banks was to move up Bayou Teche and link up with Sherman.  Steele was to advance south from Little Rock and join Banks at Alexandria, Louisiana.  This would, be mid-March give the Union close to 42,000 men.  Kirby Smith and his 30,000 troops would oppose the advance. Initially Banks was stalled at Alexandria when low water made it barely possible for his naval supports to pass the rapids above town.  Engineers set about building a dam to back up the water in sufficient depth to allow a canal to be built by which the ships could go around the low water.


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