Reports of Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Gulf

Before Port Hudson, La., May 30, 1863.

GENERAL: Leaving Simsport, on the Atchafalaya, where my command was at the date of my last dispatch, I landed at Bayou Sara at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 21st. A portion of the infantry was transported by steamer, and the balance of the infantry, artillery, cavalry, and wagon train moving down on the west bank of the river, and from this to Bayou Sara.

On the 23d, a junction was effected with the advance of Major-General Augur and Brigadier-General Sherman, our line occupying the Bayou Sara road, at a distance of 5 miles from Port Hudson. Major-General Augur had an encounter with a portion of the enemy on the Bayou Sara road, in the direction of Baton Rouge, which resulted in the repulse of the enemy with heavy loss.

On the 25th, the enemy was compelled to abandon his first line of works. General Weitzel's brigade, which had covered our rear in the march from Alexandria, joined us on the 26th, and on the morning of the 27th a general assault was made upon the fortifications. The artillery opened fire between 5 and 6 o'clock, which was continued with animation during the day.

At 10 o'clock a.m. Weitzel's brigade, with the division of General Grover, reduced to about two brigades, and the division of General Emory, temporarily reduced by detachments to about a brigade, under command of Colonel Paine, with two regiments of negro troops, made an assault upon the right of the enemy's works, crossing Sandy Creek and driving him through the wood into his fortifications. The fight lasted on this line until 4 o'clock, and was very severely contested. On the left, the infantry did not come up until later in the day, but at 2 o'clock an assault was opened upon the works on the center and left of center by the divisions under Major-General Augur and Brigadier General Sherman. The enemy was driven into his works, and our troops moved up to the fortifications, holding the opposite sides of the parapet with the enemy. On the right, our troops still occupy this position. On the left, after dark, the main body, being exposed to a flank fire, withdrew to a belt of wood, the skirmishers remaining close upon the fortifications.

The works are defended by a garrison much larger than generally represented. There appears to be no want of ammunition or provisions on the part of the enemy. The fortifications are very strong, and surrounded by a most intricate tract of country, diversified by ravines, woods, plains, and cliffs, which it is almost impossible to comprehend without careful and extended reconnaissances.

Six regiments, under command of Colonel Chickering, were detailed at Alexandria to guard the train from that point and from Opelousas. These troops will be here to-morrow, and strengthen our force some 3,000 men. My effective force on the day of the assault was about 13,000; that of the enemy, within the works, ten regiments, of between 500 and 600 each--in all, about 8,000 men--with mounted infantry out side the works in our rear (2,200), consisting of the Ninth and Eleventh Regiments of Arkansas troops.

In the assault of the 27th, the behavior of the officers and men was most gallant, and left nothing to be desired. Our limited acquaintance with the ground and the character of the works, which were almost hidden from our observation until the moment of approach, alone prevented the capture of the post.

We occupy the enemy night and day with harassing attacks of infantry and artillery, giving him no rest or sleep. Numerous prisoners and deserters, who are captured or come in, report that the men are dispirited and depressed. We wait only the arrival of our troops and the completion of more perfect reconnaissances to renew our assault, and have strong hopes that it will be successful. No time will be lost.

To avoid possible failure in carrying this important post, I have notified General Grant by one of his staff officers, who was present on the day after the assault, of the details of our position and our strength, and have asked him, if it be possible, to send us 5,000 or 10,000 men, with whose aid we could accomplish its reduction in a single day. I understand the pressing circumstances of his position, but hope that he may be able to assist us in this emergency. We want only men. With the reduction of Port Hudson we can join him without delay with at least 15,000 men and a finely appointed siege train of artillery, which he greatly needs. We shall not, however, delay our operations or post-pone effective movements for the reduction of the post on account of this application to him for aid.

On the extreme right of our line I posted the First and Third Regiments of negro troops. The First Regiment of Louisiana Engineers, composed exclusively of colored men, excepting the officers, was also engaged in the operations of the day. The position occupied by these troops was one of importance, and called for the utmost steadiness and bravery in those to whom it was confided. It gives me pleasure to report that they answered every expectation. In many respects their conduct was heroic. No troops could be more determined or more daring. They made during the day three charges upon the batteries of the enemy, suffering very heavy losses and holding their position at nightfall with the other troops on the right of our line. The highest commendation is bestowed upon them by all the officers in command on the right. Whatever doubt may have existed heretofore as to the efficiency of organizations of this character, the history of this day proves conclusively to those who were in condition to observe the conduct of these regiments that the Government will find in this class of troops effective supporters and defenders. The severe test to which they were subjected, and the determined manner in which they encountered the enemy, leaves upon my mind no doubt of their ultimate success. They require only good officers, commands of limited numbers, and careful discipline, to make them excellent soldiers.

Our losses from the 23d to this date, in killed, wounded, and missing, are nearly 1,000, including, I deeply regret to say, some of the ablest officers of the corps. I am unable yet to repeat them in detail.

I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant,


 Major-General, Commanding.

 Major-General HALLECK,

Commander-in- Chief, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.


Before Port Hudson, June 14, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to inform you that, having silenced all the enemy's artillery, completely invested the place, and established my batteries within 350 yards, I yesterday opened a vigorous cannonade for an hour, and at its expiration made a formal demand on General Gardner for the surrender of the garrison. He replied that his duty required him to defend the place, and therefore he declined to surrender. Accordingly the necessary arrangements were made to assault the works at daylight this morning, after a cannonade and bombard-merit lasting during the night, reviewed with vigor just previous to the attack. The attack was in three columns. One, of a division under Brigadier-General Dwight, was intended to gain entrance to the enemy's works on the extreme left; a feigned attack was to be made with vigor by Major-General Augur in the center, and the main attack was to be made by the right wing, under Brigadier-General Graver. Neither column was successful in gaining the work, but our troops gained advanced positions within from 50 to 200 yards from the works. These we shall hold and intrench to-night. The enemy made several attempts to open with artillery, but was almost immediately silenced. I believe our losses are not heavy except in officers. I regret to say that that gallant officer, Brig. Gen. Halbert E. Paine, fell, severely but it is thought not dangerously wounded, while leading the Third Division to the attack. I am still confident of success.

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


 Major-General, Commanding.

 Major-General HALLECK,

General-in- Chief U.S. Army.

Before Port Hudson, La., June 29, 1863.

GENERAL: Affairs here are progressing steadily to a favorable conclusion. The battery erected on our extreme left, at about 300 yards of the citadel, breached the parapet of the citadel, drove the enemy out of a troublesome rifle-pit, and destroyed a gallery, which is believed to have been a part of a mine. Under cover of its fire, our approach on the extreme left has been pushed up to the citadel, and General Dwight makes an attempt to enter it to-night.

The sap on General Grover's front has been pushed to within 13 feet of the ditch in the re-entrant of the priest-cap. The sap-roller rolled into the ditch last night.

An elite storming party has been organized, made up of about 850 volunteers from the whole force, under the command of Col. H. W. Birge, Thirteenth Connecticut, who has been engaged some days in preparing the column for its work.

The number of deserters increases steadily. There have been 30 to-day. The beef-cattle of the garrison have all been killed, either for food or by our fire, and the salt meat has all been eaten. The men who deserted to-day after dinner have had no meat, and were told they would get no more, and that mule meat was to be issued hereafter.

I have seen a copy of the Port Hudson Herald of the 28th, containing the news' of the arrival at that place of an officer from General Joe Johnston with dispatches. General Gardner publishes a general order, of date the 27th, assuring the garrison that General Johnston will soon relieve Vicksburg, and then send re-enforcements here, and declaring his purpose to defend the place to the last extremity.

On the 18th instant a force of the enemy (stated by some of our prisoners who were released on parole to be one regiment of infantry, two of cavalry, and a battery of artillery, under the command of Col. James P. Major, formerly of our service) captured and burned the steamers Anglo American and Sykes at Plaquemine, taking 68 prisoners, of whom 5 were citizens. The prisoners consisted mainly of some convalescents belonging to the Twenty-eighth Maine.

The same force then passed down the river and Bayou La Fourche, and, avoiding Donaldsonville, struck the Opelousas Railway at Terre Bonne Station on the 20th instant, cutting off communication between Brashear City and New Orleans.

The same day they attacked and were repulsed by our forces at La Fourche Crossing, consisting of the One hundred and seventy-sixth New York and Twenty-third Connecticut, lacking two companies, which had been concentrated to meet the attack, under the command of Lieut. Col. Albert Stickney, Forty- seventh Massachusetts.

The attack was renewed on the afternoon of the 21st, and again repulsed in a manner very creditable to the troops engaged and to their commander. With less than 1,000 men, he drove back the greatly superior force of the enemy, who retired, leaving 53 of his dead on the field and 16 prisoners in our hands. Our loss was 8 killed and 16 wounded.

The Twenty-sixth Massachusetts and Ninth Connecticut were sent down from New Orleans in a special train that night, and the Fifteenth Maine, which had opportunely arrived from Pensacola, followed the next morning. No further attack was made.

The steamer Saint Mary's, sent round from New Orleans, with orders from General Emory to the troops at Brashear to hold out to the last, met at Southwest Pass the gunboat Hollyhock, returning from Berwick Bay, with the unpleasant news that the enemy, having crossed the lake on rafts in considerable force, succeeded, on the 22d instant, in surprising and capturing the small garrison of Brashear--although as fully warned of their danger as any orders could warn them--taking at the same time about 300 prisoners, two 30-pounder Parrott and six 24-pounder guns, a small train of ears, and everything else at the place.

Early yesterday morning Donaldsonville, garrisoned by but 225 men, including convalescents, under the command of Maj. J. D. Bullen, Twenty-eighth Maine, was attacked by a large force of the enemy, under the command of Brig. Gen. Thomas Green, of Texas.

The attack began at 1.30 a.m., and lasted till daylight. The defense was most gallant. The brave garrison defended their interior line with desperation, and finally repulsed the enemy with great slaughter, killing and wounding more than their own number, and taking prisoners twice as many officers and nearly as many men as they had.

The enemy retreated some 5 miles, and General Green sent in a flag asking permission to bury his dead, singularly enough accompanied by an apology for his failure- that he was unfortunate in not getting his men into the skirmish, owing to the rashness of his commanders.

I sent down Brigadier General ------ last night with the First Louisiana Volunteers and two sections of Closson's battery, and General Emory sent up two companies from New Orleans.

The gunboats Winona, Princess Royal, and Monongahela rendered great assistance in the defense of Donaldsonville, and they have since been joined by the Genesee.

Our forces on the railway have fallen back upon Algiers. The forces of the enemy now occupying the La Fourche and operating upon our communications consist of all the troops in Western Louisiana, under Major-General Taylor, and about 5,000 cavalry, sent by Magruder from Texas. Their whole force is from 9,000 to 12,000. The fall of Port Hudson will enable us to settle that affair very speedily.

The dispositions of Brigadier-General Emory were well made and with the greatest promptitude, and our only misfortune at Brashear is due entirely to the carelessness and disobedience of subordinates.

In these operations but 400 soldiers could be left in New Orleans to protect the depots of this army and all our vital interests in a large city occupied by a population essentially hostile, and liable, from its position, to sudden attacks from several quarters.

The consequences that would have followed the movement of the enemy upon the La Fourche, had my command moved to Vicksburg, leaving Port Hudson and its garrison in my rear, are obvious--New Orleans would have fallen. A few more days must decide the fate of this place. I regard its fall as certain.

Our losses in the attack were as follows:


Officers and men.       Killed.    Wounded.    Missing.    Total.                                                

May 27:                                                 

Officers                           15              90                 2            107

Men                              278         1,455             155         1,888

Total.                           293         1,545             157         1,995


June 14:                                                 

Officers                           21             72                  6             99

Men                              182        1,245              180       1,607

Total.                            203       1,401               188       1,805

The discrepancy between the totals consists of 13 killed and 84 wounded and missing; total 99 reported in one instance without distinguishing between officers and men. Many who were at first reported missing are now known to have been killed.

I have the honor to be, general, your most obedient servant,


 Major-General, Commanding.

 Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,

General- in- Chief, Washington, D.C.


Before Port Hudson, La., July 6, 1863.

GENERAL: Since my dispatch of the 29th ultimo was written, the siege has been progressing rather slowly, indeed, but with all the rapidity attainable under the circumstances. Our approaches are pushed up to the ditch at the citadel on our extreme left, and in front of the right priest-cap, where the assault of the 14th was made.

On the morning of the 4th, when the right sap was within 10 feet of the ditch, the enemy sprung a small mine, and extended the approach into the ditch. Both on the right and left we are now engaged in pushing mines to blow up the parapet, and the enemy is clearly counter-mining. The column of stormers is fully organized and ready. A few days more must decide this operation, and, I have no doubt, in our favor.

By the arrival of Col. Kilby Smith yesterday, with dispatches from General Grant, I have news from the forces before Vicksburg to June 30. Affairs there are evidently in much the same condition as here. Colonel Smith was particularly struck with and remarked upon the coincidence. The most important piece of intelligence brought by the colonel is of the inactivity of Johnston's army, and of his apparent inability to raise the siege.

From the reports of General Emory, dated the 3d and 4th instant, copies of which and my replies I have the honor to inclose, you will see that the enemy has thrown more force into the La Fourche, and is actively engaged in annoying our communications and menacing New Orleans. I have urgently requested Admiral Farragut to patrol the river, so as to prevent the success of any attempt of the enemy to cross the river, either in force or by detachments, and partially, at least, to frustrate the attempt to cut off communication with the city. I inclose a copy of my note to the admiral.

As matters stand, the enemy will do us some harm in the La Fourche and cause us considerable annoyance on the river; but I consider it certain that Port Hudson will fall before New Orleans is seriously endangered, and that the close of this operation will enable us to make short work of the other; but I cannot refrain from reflecting what would have been the condition of affairs had this command, leaving the hostile garrison of Port Hudson in our rear, marched to Vicksburg, where General Grant has already, as he states, "a very large force--much more than can be used in the investment of the rebel works." When General Emory concentrated his little command at La Fourche Crossing, to repel the enemy's advance there, there were just 400 soldiers in and around New Orleans. I think General Emory overestimates the force in the La Fourche when he puts it at 13,000, and believe that the whole force of the enemy there consists of Taylor's army, of about 4,000 men, which we defeated on the Teche, and a re-enforcement of from 3,000 to 5,000 cavalry or mounted infantry from Texas. The infantry garrison of Port Hudson and the cavalry force which is hovering on our rear numbered, united, when we arrived here, at least 7.000. Against a combined attack of these forces on both sides of the river, New Orleans could not have been defended.

I shall request General Grant to send me at least -- thousand men as soon as he can possibly spare them, in order that we may secure what we shall so hardly have gained. I am confident, general, of a speedy and favorable result.

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


 Major-General, Commanding.

 Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,

General-in- Chief, Washington, D. C.

[Inclosure No. 1.]

Near Vicksburg, Miss., June 30, 1863.

 Maj. Gen. N. P. BANKS,
Commanding Department of the Gulf:

GENERAL: Feeling a great anxiety to learn the situation at Port Hudson, I send Col. Kilby Smith to communicate with you. Colonel Smith has been here during the entire siege of Vicksburg, and can inform you fully of the position of affairs at this place. I confidently expected that Vicksburg would have been in our possession before this, leaving me able to send you any force that might be required against Port Hudson. I have a very large force--much more than can be used in the investment of the rebel works--but Johnston still hovers east of Black River Whether he will attack or not, I look upon now as doubtful. No doubt he would, however, if I should weaken my force to any extent. I have sent into Louisiana to learn the movements of Kirby Smith, but, as yet, hear nothing definite.

Should it be my good fortune, general, to get into Vicksburg while you are still investing Port Hudson, I will commence immediately shipping troops to you, and will send such number as you may indicate as being necessary. The troops of this command are in excellent health and spirits. There is not the slightest indication of despondency among either officers or men.

Hoping to hear favorable news from your field of operations by the return of Colonel Smith, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



[Inclosure No. 2. ]

New Orleans, La., July 3, 1863.

 Major-General BANKS,
Commanding Nineteenth Army Corps:

GENERAL: The time has come when I think it imperatively necessary that you send me re-enforcements. The enemy are in force at Des Allemands Bayou, on the Vacherie road, and at Whitehall Saw-mill. The Iberville has been fired into and disabled, and is now coming down in tow of the Sallie Robinson. I do not think you have one moment to lose in sending re-enforcements. Transports will have to be conveyed by gunboats. The enemy have sent a flag of truce from Des Allemands Bayou, saying they have 1,200 prisoners they wish to deliver. Where they came from I do not know. They have already sent in 50 by the way of the fort at Donaldsonville. These men have used such seditious language that the commanding officer at the United States barracks has been obliged to put them in confinement.

The navy is all above, except the Pensacola and Portsmouth, and the New London, which is about being completed and sent to Texas.

Just as I finished the above, the Zephyr, with my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant French, returning from Donaldsonville, where I was compelled to send re-enforcements, has also been fired into, receiving two solid shots.

As I before informed you, the attempt to raise a force here is a failure.

The enemy's plan is to cut your communications, and then march on this city.

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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