1864: Account of the Red River Campaign

The author of this account of the Red River Campaign in 1864 has not been  identified. It was reportedly discovered in an old tattered bible and is unsigned. It appears to be a retrospective summary, perhaps a synopsis compiled from a pocket diary. The soldier does not identify his original regiment but he makes it clear that during the Red River Campaign, he was officially transferred to Co. E of the 33rd Missouri Infantry — a company composed primarily of men from the St. Louis area. At the end of his account, which ends in June 1864 back in Memphis, the soldier states that he was transferred back to his home regiment and we are told that some six weeks later he was mustered out of the service.

In searching for soldiers who were temporarily transferred to the 33rd Missouri, I found that many soldiers in Missouri regiments were being offered the opportunity to re-enlist as veterans in January 1864. Those that opted to re-enlist were given the opportunity to return home on extended furloughs. Those that did not re-enlist as veterans were temporarily transferred to other Missouri regiments. “There were approximately 100 soldiers of the 11th Missouri Infantry who became non-veterans and were transferred to the 33rd Missouri Infantry. These men were soon marching as part of the 1,300 men of the 33rd Missouri Infantry in the Red River Campaign in Louisiana….When the campaign was over, the war was still not over for the non-veteran soldiers of the 11th Missouri Infantry as they campaigned throughout the term of enlistment which ended in August.” [Source: This Terrible Struggle for Life…” edited by Thomas S. Hawley et. al, p. 172]

In conclusion, I strongly believe this account was written by one of the approximately 100 men of the 11th Missouri Infantry who did not “veteranize” in 1864 and who were temporarily reassigned to the 33rd Missouri between February and June 1864. The 11th Missouri was organized at St. Louis and mustered into the service in early August 1861 for three years. It should be noted that a large number of the men serving in this regiment were recruited from western Illinois.

A similar account has been published by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The author of that account is also unknown but is conjectured to have been written by Lt. Col. William Health of the 33rd Missouri Volunteers. I have extracted the portion of the account that covers the same period of time described by the author of this account and attached it as an endnote. ¹

fort_derussy_la


For the Year 1864

This year found me at La Grange, Tennessee and it was a very cold day on the 26th [when] we started for Memphis. We reached there on the 27th. On the 31st we got on the steamer Florence [and] on the 1st of February we started for Vicksburg. On the 3rd we landed there and started for Black River Bridge. We reached there on the 4th. On the 25th [of February] I went on a foraging expedition and returned on the 26th.

On the 4th of March we started for Vicksburg. We reached there on the 5th. On the night of the 9th, we went down on the river bank. On the 10th we was transferred to the 33rd Missouri. I got in Co. E and started down the river the same day. We was on the steamer R. B. Hamilton. We landed at the mouth of Red River. On the 12th we started up Red River and landed at Simmesport on the Atchafalaya Bayou. We got our boats the 13th and that night started for Fort DeRussey which we reached on the 14th and took it on the 15th. We got on our boats and started up the river to Alexandria. We got off our boats at this place on the 16th and on the 21st we marched out to Henderson Hill and captured a lot of rebs.

Started back on the 22nd [March] and reached camp on the 23rd. On the 26th we started and went to Coartia Landing. We reached there on the 27th. On the 31st we got on our boats and went a foraging. On the 1st of April we went on picket. On the 2nd, we started up the river. On the 3rd we landed opposite to Grand Ecore and got out of our boats. On the night of the 5th, we got on our boats and crossed the river and got off on the 6th. On the 7th we started and marched in the direction of Pleasant Hill and reached there on the 8th and on the 9th we had a fight with the rebs.

On the 10th [of April] we commenced the retreat. On the 11th we reached Grand Ecore. On the 20th we started and went to Nacatask. On the night of the 21st we crossed the bed of the old Red River. On the 22nd we took up the line of retreat [and] marched all day and nearly all night. On the 23rd, we had two fights near Clouterville on Cain River. On the 26th, we reached Alexandria.

On the 2nd of May we marched out to the west of town. On the 3rd we marched out to Gov. [Thomas Overton] Moore‘s plantation and had a skir[mish] with the rebs. On the 4th & 5th we lay in line. On the 6th we advanced about 4 miles. On the 7th we had a hard skir[mish] and fell back that night to our old place at Moore’s. The 8th we laid in Clouterville and on the 9th on guard. 10th in camp. On the 14th we took up our line of retreat. On the 16th we had a fight near Yellow Bayou. 19th we laid at it all day. On the 20th we crossed Atchfalaya Bayou. On the 27th we reached the Aliss River and in the night of the 27th we got on board the steamer Idaho and started up the river on the 22nd. On the night of the 23rd we landed at Vicksburg. On the 24th we got off our boat.

On the 3rd of June we got on board the Emma Boyd. On the 4th we started up the river. On the 5th we landed near old river lake and got off our boats. On the 6th we marched up the lake and had a hard fight and the 7th we marched to the river and got on our boats. On the 8th we started up the river. On the 10th we reached Memphis and disembarked and went into camp on the 11th. On the 12th we was transferred to our regiment. On the 5th of August we was mustered out of the U. S. Service and [went] North.


¹ Anonymous account of the Red River Campaign:

January 28th 1864, the Regiment left Helena with troops of General Sherman to join the Expedition to Meridian Mississippi, marched from Vicksburg, to Clinton, Mississippi ordered back, to Messengers ferry with Pontoon train. March 7th, moved to Black River Bridge, and, was assignd to the 3rd Brigade 1st Division 16th Army Corps. March 10th General Joseph A. Mower assumed command of the Division and the Regiment moved from Vicksburg with the expedition to Red River, Louisiana. March 14th, the Regiment participated in the battle and capture of Fort DeRussey. March 21st, the Regiment — in conjunction with the 35th Iowa — captured Henderson Hill, Louisiana, by a midnight surprise and assault, capturing the 2nd Louisiana [Tigers] and Edgar’s Texas Battery, with horses, arms, ammunition and colors, complete surrounding and disarming the enemy before they had received any alarm.

April 9th, the Regiment took part in the gallant and overwhelming defeat of the enemy at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, capturing a five gun battery in the final charge and joining in pursuit of the flying rebels for one mile and a half. April 20th, moved with the army in retreat from Grand Ecore, Louisiana, crossing Cane River on the 21st. Skirmished with the enemy on the 22nd. Skirmished with the enemy at Cloutreville April 23rd. [On the] 24th, skirmished with the enemy at the second crossing of Cane River. Continuing the march, arrived at Alexandria, Louisiana, on April 26th.

May 2nd, the Regiment moved out on the Alexandria and Opelousas Rail Road to Moore plantation. Skirmished with the enemy April 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 9th. May 16th, took part in the battle of Marksville, Louisiana. May 17th, [the regiment] being in the rear of the entire army bore the heaviest part of the Battle of Bayou De Glaize. May 18th, the Regiment took part in the Battle of Yellow Bayou in the course of which the Regiment was one of four the charged and drove a rebel [force] four thousand strong, inflicting great loss upon the enemy. May 24th the troops of the 16th Army Corps returned to Vicksburg, Mississippi. June 6th, the Regiment took part in the attack upon Marmaduke’s forces at Lake Chicot, Arkansas. The 33rd Missouri and 35th Iowa were ordered to charge the enemy, [who] were strongly posted on the opposite side of a Bayou with 9 pieces of artillery. In making the charge, passed over another Brigade (which had failed to advance and were lying down) and moved, unflinchingly forward, to the bank of the Bayou which was then found to be unfordable [and] planting the colors within a few yards of the enemies guns, they stood up bravely and poured in such a galling fire that the rebels broke and ran in confusion. The Regiment lost here in a few moments 49 men, being one half of the loss sustained by the federal troops. June 10th, the regiment arrived at Memphis, Tennessee.

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