Grand Ecore La
April 12th 1864
We have just got out of a bloody and disastrous scrape which I am confident would have resulted in a brilliant victory if all the wagon manufactories had burned before so many of those curse to an army had been made.
It may be a queer place to begin in a description of the scenes which we have witnessed during the past 4 or 5 days, but as it was at the bottom and furnished the foundation of one of the most fearful reverses our armies have yet met, I deem myself justified in beginning where I did.
Look at the map: find Natchitoches; four miles from it, upon the Red River is this town: fifty-five miles north of west lies the town of Mansfield through which place the road to Shreveport runs, the cause of such an elbow in the road being the presence of swamplands nearer the Red River. From Mansfield to Shreveport forty-five miles the road is too far west to allow the Gunboats to render the army any assistance. One hundred miles, running through dense pine woods with but small clearings scattered at intervals of from two to ten or twelve miles, was a road wholly unfitted for rapid transportation, over which the army must pass. The Rebels could ask for no better chance to meet us with an inferior force, even should ours be combined while advancing. But our wagon trains rendering this impossible, could the Enemy but concentrate on that road our successful advance was an impossibility. The Enemy did concentrate and - we are whipped badly. The published accounts will deceive you, should no further reverses befall us.
On the 6th we left Natchitoches fifteen miles behind us and on the 7th completed the march to Pleasant Hills twenty miles further. On the 8th we marched ten miles and early went in camp but toward evening were ordered to the front, eight miles, to support the Divisions of the 13th Corps upon whom the Cavalry advance had been driven. Our arrival was timely, for had not the fire of our (the 1st) Division of the 19th Corps driven back the advancing Enemy the 13th Corps would have been overwhelmed and their train captured, upon which a heavy stampede had already commenced. Our Brigade was posted on the extreme left under fire, as the Rebels had already flanked the troops then engaged. Our Reg. was in the woods and but little exposed, escaped with the loss of but four Wounded, but the 165th N.Y. (Abel Smiths Regiment) com'ded by Lt Col Carr were posted in an open field and being late in getting in line last about forty - shortly after dark; firing ceased on our part of the field we having repulsed the Enemy's attempt to flank us on our left. At Midnight we quickly withdrew and marched until eight o'clock on the morning of the 9th. At 2 P.M. we were again formed in line and awaiting the Enemy. We were changed several times upon the field and finally left in perhaps the worst place we could have found. We were in a shallow ditch with the crown of a hill twenty paces to our front, which would cover the Enemy until nearly upon us. At about half past four our skirmishers were sharply engaged and were finally driven from the woods in which they were posted and at six fell back in good order upon our, (the first), line of battle. About five minutes, and from the edge of the woods a quarter of a mile to our front, came pouncing out, one after the other, three lines of the Enemy with shout and yell. This could be seen by us when we stood up in our position. Running down the slope, across the ravine and up the hill before us, they met no opposition until rounding the hill, our boys had time to put in one volley and the Enemy were upon us before we could again load.
Had our flanks been supported by the troops posted upon them we could possibly have repulsed them even with the difficulties we were laboring under, but the 162d N.Y. on our left and the 165 N.Y. Zouaves on our right were first thrown into confusion and falling back exposed our flanks to capture by the advancing hosts. Our centre was steady for a while but our right and left were soon set upon a ????? to prevent being surrounded and captured. The Enemy s three lines seemed massed into one as they neared us. They kept up a very sharp fire as they advanced at double-quick which by some arrangement of their own invention was as galling as if a single line were firing while standing still. Our line being so broken but little use was made of their bayonets but prisoners were plenty, about a hundred of this Reg. being taken, The missing is much larger.