May 18th, 1864
As no chance occurred to mail my last until now I enclose this with it. We arrived here last night all safe and sound as far as our Regiment or Brigade is concerned.
We left Alexandria on the morning of the 13th and met with but little resistance that day. On the 14th the Cavalry were opposed to some extent but were able to drive the enemy with out requiring the aid of the infantry. We passed the wrecks of the sunken boats near Suaggy ?? Point where the Enemy batteries had been posted. Such a cowardly way of fighting as they had here was a disgrace the name of soldier. Choosing a point where the river bent sharply toward them, their batteries were plated to rake the river for a mile both up and down and to guard against injury themselves they had dug holes behind the levee into which when shelled by our boats they would crawl each into his own hole and as near to China as possible lest some piece of shell should send them where they belong. Close to the bank there were also holes dug into which their sharpshooters would hide whiles coolly murdering our sick and wounded on the defenseless transports. But what was most exciting to our boys was the finding of our mail sent down by the John Warner steamer for miles along the river bank mingled with letter from loved ones at home, from a mail captured upon steamer bound upriver. Upon both sides of the river at all available points these rifle pits had been built, and owing to the very crooked course of the river a small party could fire upon the same boat from dozens of places on its passage down, crossing a mile or two from point to point while the boat must take a circuit of many miles. It was strongly suspected that the guns from off the Gunboats that they captured were buried in the river bank to protect them form our destruction and give them a chance to dig them out after we passed, but no traces of them could be found.
On the third day we were given to understand by the Rebs that they meant to give us trouble. So thick is the undergrowth of the forest that our Cavalry on the flank found it impossible to detect and drive all the small bodies of the Enemy off so that at one time a volley from fifty was fired into a battery that was facing immediately in rear of our Brigade. They had probably waited until the Infantry had passed and gave it to the artillery on account of the difficulty of its replying in time to do them mischief. On the front they gave way sullenly before our cavalry, occasionally forcing us to bring into play the Battery of horse artillery attached to the Cavalry. So it continued all day of the 15th. Front, flank, and rear, continually harassed, and our transports, which had until the latter part of this day, kept us company, receiving severe guerrilla fire from the opposite bank of the river. Less damage than might have been expected was the result of all this. Between four and five o'clock in the afternoon our road led out into an open field, across which and in a clump of trees the enemy made a stand with artillery and cavalry opening with six pieces of ordinance. After replying for a while with Artillery a charge of our Cavalry was ordered. It resulted in driving the enemy but although hard-pressed the Rebs were unable to get their guns off safely. They made no further stand until about an hour afterwards and near the town of Marksville. We had now left the river too far to our left to have use of the Gunboats. Here it was found necessary to throw forward the Infantry, when Grover's ?? division was pushed further up and engaged them, our Division acting as support should they be too strong for Grover but night shut in just as they made a show of firmness. We now stacked arms and gave the men a chance to rest they having double quicked it for a long distance. Early in the night the Enemy were discovered withdrawing from the field and our trains were then thrown forward and parked to give Gen. Smith a chance to "take a hand" on the morrow should they be there in force. While these preparations were gong on we, the 1st Division, were resting and sleeping.
Early on the morning of the 16th we were on the move. Passing the trains we were deployed and the whole Army marched in lines of battle across an open plain of great extent for this part of the country.
Would they make a stand. If so why did not hey do so instead of continually leaving every position they took? They knew, through the captured mail, everything they wanted to know concerning our force and intentions. On account of our circuitous route and slow progress they had every chance to get prepared for us; plenty of time. If they were not going to stand why did not hey get off, and not expose themselves to defeat. If they gave us battle knowing our force, they must be well assured of success. Constant artillery firing and constant advance on our part soon gave us confidence so spreading our massed lines into a single one stretching far and wide we pushed on. Son a stand was made and our artillery had plenty to do. Battery after Battery was brought into position and for hours the cannonading was heavy. Solid shot and shell were plenty on both sides but that of the enemy was in some instances of a peculiar shape to claim the name of solid shot. If they wanted to lay a rail-road track they had the proper material, but the stuff would not lay where it was put insisted on going somewhere else greatly to the peril of anyone who stood opposed to it. It sung such a tune and asked such an immeasurable question that many would like to have been able to satisfy it with an answer. It continually asked "which way? which way?" repeating the question more rapidly each time until it would stamp and tear up the earth in its rage and go jumping across the field and make many wish that they only knew "which way" it was coming. The soil was old and baked almost as hard as a brick by the sun, and when a missile struck it would bound like an India-rubber ball. Wish our long range Parrotts we soon put the "Railroad" battery out of "track throwing" range. There after until their final withdrawal from the field, round balls came skipping over the field, very pretty to look at but not so pleasant to encounter. I had to move out of the line of fire upon the Regiment, as my white horse was too good a mark to draw fire upon them. The position was such that involved no risk to myself from that battery, as we were at full range and the balls could only reach us after having struck once. I knew the position of the Battery Dan whenever I saw a shot fired I had only to note where the ball first struck and if it was in a direct range. I had only to step my horse over side and let it pass. It is no easy matter to "dodge a ball on the fly, but when you know that they must strike before they can reach you and when in striking they throw up a cloud of dust fifty feet high and they approach at a speed so much diminished as to be readily seen you have time to "change your base" in time to save yourself. Being out of range of musketry, supporting a battery of Parrott 20 pounders we had nothing to do but look on and "look out". Every once in a while could be heard the cry "look out for that ball" "Don't try to stop that one" "Lay down" and as a ball would strike and roll toward the line or bounce over it. Luckily none of the Regiment were hurt - although many balls were pick up very near it both in front and rear.
The Enemy slacked their fire and we ours. A dead silence prevailed for some minutes, such a silence that usually proceeds desperate work or - the end. it was the latter for, we commenced advancing and taking a new position forward in a severe fire upon the dark lines of moving troops, and at the distant dust lines that traced the course of the retreating Artillery of the Enemy. Smith had gone off to the right, to intercept them and we were breathlessly listening for him to engage them. Soon a sharp skirmish fire was heard in his direction and then his artillery, but shortly, the head of his Infantry column approached in our front and, and "the jig was up."
We all thought it strange that the Rebels should give us battle in the field he did which offered so little of the shelter he so much uses, but upon occupying his ground we found that he must, if he fought at all, fight openly or, make a stand beyond a bayou which, if we beat him, would have rendered it impossible for him to run and, by adopting so unusual a course, for him, of offering Battle on open ground he hoped to scare us by the noise of his Artillery. They must have had twenty off pieces engaged .
I met with an accident, that likely had no more serious results, just as we were leaving Alexandria. I have been riding one of Lt.Col Greene's horses since I lost my other at Pleasant Hill, a rather wild young gray. On Friday morning his saddle was not properly girthed and in trying to drive him over the levee, he jumped through the girth and brought the saddle over on his haunches and me on the ground., He must then kick away pretty lively and dance a jig over me that threatened to be a serious dance for me to witness, being in the position I was, on my back and unable to move. Luckily he was satisfied with stepping on me but once, that nearly denuded me and cause me, entirely stripping off an inexpressible garment. I was stiff until the day of the action and am now only suffering as a slightly spavined horse, being only a little stiff at starting.
The enemy are now asking brazen-face questions and we are making Parrott like replies off to our rear from or five miles off.
Happy to be able to affirm you of the entire safety of the army I remain