HDQRS. CAVALRY DIVISION, DEPT. OF MISSISSIPPI,
Memphis, Tenn., February 25, 1865.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to forward the following report of the late cavalry expedition into Arkansas and Louisiana under my command. The expedition consisted of detachments of the following brigades and regiments:
First Brigade, Col. J.P. C. Shanks: Seventh Indiana Cavalry. 155; Fifth Illinois Cavalry, 349; First Mississippi Cavalry, 57; total, 561. Second Brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Dox: Twelfth Illinois Cavalry, 260; Eleventh New York Cavalry, 340; total, 600. Third Brigade, Lieut. Col. Otto Funke: Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, 340; Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, 450; Second Wisconsin Cavalry, 400; Fourth Illinois Cavalry, 270; total, 1,460; making a total of 2,621 men. At 5 p.m. on the evening of the 26th of January, 1865, the troops were embarked on the transports John Raine, Autocrat, Laurel Hill, Fanny Ogden, Sallie List, Carrie Jacobs, Virginia Barton, Tycoon, Illinois, Ida May, Starlight, Belle of Peoria, Maria Denning, and Landes. By 10 p.m., the embarkation being completed, the fleet started for Gaines' Landing, Ark. Nothing of interest occurred during the trip. On the morning of the 28th we arrived at Eunice, a point six miles above Gaines' Landing, at 4.30 a.m. Owing to the darkness a collision occurred between the steamers Landes and Ida May, by which the latter was considerably damaged. The troops being disembarked, I immediately ordered the steamers John Raine, Autocrat, Illinois, Laurel Hill, and Maria Denning to proceed to Gaines' Landing, there to await further orders from me; and in order to save all unnecessary expense I relieved the smaller boats and ordered them to report to the quartermasters under whose charge they had been previously. At 8 a.m. we took up the line of march for Bayou Mason and arrived at the ferry at 1 p.m., the advance guard capturing a few pickets that had been stationed at the ferry for the purpose of preventing any cotton being brought to the Mississippi River unless properly permitted by the Cotton Bureau. Commenced ferrying the command across the bayou, which was completed at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 29th. At this point I left one squadron of the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry to guard the ferry, also thinking that probably they might be able to pick up any small scouting parties that would approach the bayou. January 29, marched at 8 a.m. down the western bank of the bayou to Mason's Lake, where we struck off in a southwesterly direction toward Bayou Bartholomew, the road running through an almost impassable swamp for a distance of twelve miles. Reached Bayou Bartholomew at Judge Belzer's about 2 p.m.
Finding a considerable quantity of corn at this plantation, I directed the rear brigade to procure and take with them forage for night and morning, and then follow the command to the next plantation, about four miles down the bayou. This last four miles of road was of even a worse character than the preceding twelve, and several pack-mules became so completely exhausted from fatigue and frequent miring down that they had to be abandoned. January 30, marched at 8 a.m. down the bayou to Holloway's Ferry, a distance of twenty-five miles, nothing of interest occurring except the capture of some prisoners by the advance guard and horses and mules by flanking parties sent out for that purpose. Also burned a large steam grist-mill which was in the employ of the Confederate Government. At Holloway's Ferry I sent a detachment of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry across the bayou. At the distance of a mile and a half from the ferry they found a supply depot, which contained, besides a considerable amount of commissary stores, about 100 stand of arms and a large amount of ammunition. These, with the building, were destroyed. January 31, marched at 6 a.m. Hearing that the O. S. transport Jim Barkman was loading corn for the use of the troops at Camden at a point ten miles down the bayou called Poplar Bluff, I immediately sent a detachment of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, at a rapid gait, to intercept and capture her, which was successfully performed, together with her crew and some 10 or 15 other prisoners, who were picked up in the vicinity. I placed a commissioned officer and twenty-five men on board the steam-boat and ordered them to proceed down the bayou to Turner's wood-yard, where I intended encamping for the night, instructing the officer to take in tow all the ferry-boats he might find. At Poplar Bluff I ordered to be burned a distillery and grist-mill, together with a large lot of cotton and corn, which I was informed was the property of the Confederate Government.
February 1, marched at 6 a.m.; proceeded along the bayou to Knox's Ferry; here left the bayou and took the Bastrop road; directed the officer in charge of the steamer to await me at Point Pleasant, a landing about two miles from the town of Bastrop. From the best information I could obtain I was led to believe that Colonel McNeill had a force of some 800 men at Oak Ridge, and judging that the heavy rains had rendered the country below Oak Ridge toward Boeuf River impassable, and that consequently if pushed he would endeavor to go toward Monroe, I determined on sending the Third Brigade to Oak Ridge, at the same time pushing the First and Second Brigades through Bastrop, La., to a point called Great Mills, where the Oak Ridge and Monroe road crossed Boeuf Bayou, hoping by this disposition of my forces to either capture his command or at least force a fight. I also directed Colonel Shanks to send a portion of the force under his command to Monroe. February 2, remained at Bastrop, La., all day with the Fourth Illinois Cavalry and detachments of the three brigades left in charge of the pack train.
Foraging details brought in a large number of horses, mules, and negroes. At 3 p.m. Colonel Funke arrived, and reported that on reaching Oak Ridge he found that McNeill's force had been greatly exaggerated, it amounting only to some sixty men, poorly Brined, who, hearing of his approach, fled and scattered about in the swamps. He succeeded in taking several prisoners and capturing some very good horses and mules. February 3, detached two squadrons of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, with orders to proceed to Prairie Mer Ronge (which I was informed was the finest agricultural portion of that section of country) and burn all large quantifies of forage, cotton, &c., that he might find; also to bring in all serviceable animals and negroes, and to rejoin the command at Hamburg, coming up the west side of Bayou Bartholomew from Knox's Ferry for that purpose. Moved the command two miles below Point Pleasant and commenced ferrying across the bayou, using the steam-boat for that purpose. In the interim Colonel Shanks returned and reported that he had gone, as directed, to Grant's Mills; found no enemy; had also sent a detachment into Monroe; found the place nearly deserted, all Government property having been moved by Harrison across the Washita River. Completed the crossing of the command by 2 a.m. morning of the 4th. As soon as this was effected I burned the steam-boat and sunk her hull in a narrow part of the channel.
February 4, marched at 6 a.m. in a northeasterly direction toward Hamburg, Ark. Marched twenty-eight miles and went into camp near Louisiana State line. From this point I sent a small detachment of the Second Wisconsin Cavalry, with orders to proceed north along the bayou, gather up all the stock they could find, and to rejoin me at Gaster's Ferry. February 5, marched at 6 a.m. Owing to the continuous heavy rain the country was completely flooded, and the character of the soil was such that after a few horses had passed over the road it became a perfect quicksand, while on each side of the road the land was so spouty that it afforded no footing whatever, the animals immediately miring down. Notwithstanding this I reached Hamburg with the advanced brigade. The other two brigades experienced considerable difficulty, as it became necessary for them to bridge several small streams that had been forded by the advanced brigade. They also lost several animals and some material, and were unable to reach Hamburg till the 6th. This was the most severe weather we experienced during the trip, being not only wet but also intensely cold. Several contrabands perished from cold and exposure in their wet condition. February 6, the detachment of the Fourth Illinois sent to Prairie Mer Rouge rejoined the command, and reported having burned about 200,000 bushels of corn, some cotton, and brought in several horses, mules, and negroes. They also captured a few prisoners. February 7, marched at 5 a.m., and after experiencing difficulty, on account of all the small creeks and sloughs being very full, reached Collins' Mill with a part of the Third Brigade at 7 p.m. February 8, remained at Collins' all day in order to give the rear brigade an opportunity of closing up, as it had been considerably delayed by bridging streams and the wretched condition of the roads. February 9, marched at 6 a.m. through the town of Shanghai to Bayou Bartholomew; crossed the bayou at Taylor's Ferry and went into camp at Hughes' plantation with a part of the First Brigade, the provost guard, and the prisoners at 3 p.m. February 10, marched at 6 a.m. Crossed Bayou Mason at 11 a.m., and reached Gaines' Landing at 2 p.m. February 11, embarked the Fourth Illinois Cavalry (who had acted as provost guard during the expedition) with the prisoners captured on board the steamer Laurel Hill and the Fifth Illinois Cavalry in steamer Autocrat. As soon as these boats had returned to Gaines' Landing with coal for the remainder of the fleet, I embarked the command and returned to Memphis. Taking into consideration the exceedingly adverse circumstances under which the expedition was made, the losses, both in men and material, are singularly light. The following is a report of these losses: Men, 1 killed, 2 captured, and 7 left sick, unable to ride; total number lost, 10. Horses, 203; mules, 49; horse equipments (sets), 20; pack-saddles, 6; carbines, 30; pistols, 38; picket ropes, 1. Our captures of stock foot up as follows: Horses of superior quality turned over to regiments, 182; horses of superior quality turned over to division quartermaster, 94; mules (serviceable) turned over to regiments and division quartermaster, 358, showing a net gain of stock of 73 horses and 309 mules. We also brought in 440 negroes, of whom 200 went into the service. The remainder were principally women and children. During the expedition 44 prisoners were captured and a large number of deserters and refugees brought in. We also destroyed at various points large amounts of cotton, corn, and meat; also burned several mills, distilleries, and store-houses, which were in the use of the Confederate Government. I submit herewith extract from [report of] Col. J. P. C. Shanks, commanding First Brigade, in reference to First Lieut. Charles H. Hare, Company I, Seventh Indiana Cavalry:
On the evening of January 29, 1865, when in camp at Quindley, on Bayou Bartholomew, Private Hendrickson, of Company I. Seventh Indiana Cavalry, presented him, Lieut. Charles H. Hare, with a $20 gold piece, with the remark that he, Private Hendrickson, made him, Lieutenant Hare, a present of it; and further, that on the evening of the 31st January, 1865, in camp at Furness, said Private Hendrickson delivered to Lieutenant Hare twenty pieces of gold coin of the value of $20 each, asking Lieutenant Hare to keep it for him. Lieutenant Hare states that when camp was called the following morning he returned the twenty pieces of gold to Private Hendrickson, and that Private Hendrickson left camp that morning before the column moved, and was that day captured (I have since learned, killed). Lieutenant Hare further states that he knew at the time he accepted the present of one piece of gold, and when he received on deposit the twenty pieces, that they had been gotten by Private Hendrickson on the expedition, and had been wrongfully obtained by him. Lieutenant Sloan, Company E, Seventh Indiana Cavalry, reports to me that he saw Lieutenant Hare in possession of twenty-one pieces of gold ($20 each) four days after Private Hendrickson was lost; and since his return from the expedition Lieutenant Hare has told Major Carpenter that he had the money after Hendrickson's capture, but that it was now lost. He has kept it so concealed as to be beyond recovery. I ask that First Lieut. Charles H. Hare, Company I, Seventh Indiana Cavalry, be dismissed the service dishonorably and without pay, with an accompanying order, that the order of dismissal be read in all the cavalry camps of the division.
I heartily approve and indorse the recommendation of the brigade commander, considering that the interests of the service imperatively demand that an example should be made of any commissioned officer who so far degrades himself and the position he occupies as to countenance, in any manner whatever, pillaging or marauding. This expedition had for its object the destruction of Harrison's command. As will be seen from the intercepted dispatch from him, herewith inclosed, it could not reach him without crossing the Washita River, at this point from one-half to three-quarters of a mile in width, and no boats of any kind in the vicinity to effect a crossing with. Desertions, furloughs to favorites, &c., have already placed Harrison's command hors de combat. He cannot raise in his whole brigade 500 properly mounted and equipped cavalry, and the only regiments he had that were worth anything were taken from his command and sent beyond Red River. The corn being burnt by us, and the horses and mules most thoroughly hunted up and taken possession of, he cannot possibly this season or during the next year subsist anything more than a scouting party on this side of the Washita River. A force of 100 men located anywhere on the west bank of the Mississippi River can scout the country to the Washita with safety, and would be amply sufficient to protect the whole country. What may be true of the country opposite Natchez and from there to Trinity I cannot speak of with any degree of certainty. A force could operate from Natchez now to the Tensas River even better than in the country through which we passed. In and around Bastrop every white resident has from ten to fifty bales of cotton, which constitutes his entire property. If the Government would send steam-boats to Washita City, properly convoyed by gun-boats, 5,000 bales of cotton could be obtained from this class of persons, nearly all of whom desire to leave the country with their families and become loyal citizens of the United States. It is but justice to the officers and men composing the expedition to say that the hardships of the trip were the most severe ever encountered by cavalry in this country. Anything less than their high discipline and determination would have failed to bring the expedition to a successful termination. To brigade commanders, and through them to every officer and soldier in the division, I desire to return my thanks for their indomitable energy and perseverance, as well as their soldierly conduct.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. D. OSBAND,
Colonel Third U.S. Colored Cavalry, Commanding.
Capt. F. W. FOX,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of Mississippi.
HEADQUARTERS HARRISON'S BRIGADE,
Monroe, February 1, 1865.
Col. A. J. MCNEILL,
Commanding Fourth Louisiana Cavalry:
COLONEL: We have just received news from Capt. John C. McKowen corroborating your statement. He reports that the enemy were sixteen miles above Bastrop at 12 o'clock to-day. If this should be true, and you are cut off, collect your forces and follow them in their rear, annoying them as much as possible. We will concentrate at Columbia, and if they occupy Monroe you must use your own good judgment in getting to us.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. V. GREEN,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.