Red River Campaign begins, March 25th, 1864

Sketches of the Red River Campaign


Source: Harper’s Weekly, April 30, 1864

WE give on this page three sketches illustrative of the Red River Expedition, which has so far been attended with such marked success. FORT DE Russy, which is here accurately presented, was captured by our forces on the 15th of March last. The fort was a formidable work, quadrangular in shape, with bastions, and bomb-proof; covered with railroad iron. A powerful water-battery connected with the fort, the casemates of which were considered capable of resisting the heaviest shot and shell. It is said, however, that the gun-boat Essex tried some of her guns on these casemates, and succeeded in sending her shot straight through them. About 800 negroes were employed a year in constructing the fort and adjacent works, all the guns of which, upon its capture, fell into our hands, including one belonging to the Indianola when she was captured by the rebels.

Our sketch of the celebrated ram Switzerland, belonging to the Mississippi squadron, represents her as she appeared in “full dress” on the 22d of February last. This ram will be remembered as having attempted, with the Lancaster, to run the Vicksburg batteries on the 25th of March, 1863, when the

Lancaster was sunk and the Switzerland badly disabled.

Admiral Porter’s flotilla, which has done excellent service, consists of twenty-two gun-boats, together with several supply steamers, hospital-boats, etc. Among the vessels are the following: Fort Herman,7 guns ; Cricket, 8 guns ; Lafayette, 9 guns ; Neosho, 3 guns : Oscark, 2 guns ; Eastport, 9 guns ; Choctaw, 8 guns ; Osage, 3 guns; Chillicothe, 4 guns ; Louisville, 14 guns; Carondelet, 14 guns; Benton, 18 guns ; Pittsburg, 14 guns ; Gazette, 8 guns ; Mound City, 14 guns ; General Price, 4 guns; Lexington, 8 guns ; Ouachita, 3 guns ; Black Hawk, 13 guns. Of these, the Osage and Oscark are turreted. The Lafayette, Eastport, Choctaw, Chillicothe, Benton, Carondelet, Louisville, Pittsburg, Mound City, and Essex are iron-clads. The Lexington is one of the three wooden boats first put in commission on the Mississippi. The Ouachita and Black Hawk are formidable wooden vessels partially plated. The others are denominated tin-clads. Our sketch was taken as the vessels were lying near Alexandria, preparing to go up the river. At last accounts they had passed the obstructions placed in the channel by the rebels, and were approaching Shreveport,

The opening of the Red River region has placed within our reach a vast amount of cotton, which the enemy had stored away for export or sale. On the 17th 800 bales from near Fort De Russy reached Cairo, and large quantities were still awaiting transportation at the date of our last advices. In the vicinity of Shreveport thousands of bales are believed to be hidden away ; and should our army arrive in time to prevent its destruction a large sum must be realized from this source. While thus weakening the rebels in the seizure of one of their main elements of strength, the advance of the Federal forces has also achieved a vast positive advantage in delivering the loyal people from the oppression which has so long restrained them. The moment the old flag was restored hundreds of citizens seem to have come forward rejoicingly to testify their devotion to the cause it symbolizes. Many who had been exiled from their homes hastened to resume their old places, and aid in the necessary work of social and civil reconstruction ; all animated, according to the newspaper accounts, by an intense hostility, not only to the rebellion, but to slavery, as its great cause and principal source of strength. Thus Freedom is every where achieving its own revenges.


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