When: April 10th
Where: Otterbein University, Towers Hall 3rd floor. Room 318. Westerville Ohio 43081. Please go to the “About the COCWRT” tab for more information.
Speaker: Dale Phillips
Topic: Red River Campaign
In the early spring of 1864, the new overall commander of the Federal forces, General U.S. Grant, was determined to bring the full weight of all his available resources against the Confederates. General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac was to advance on Richmond supported by other Union thrusts up the Shenandoah Valley and James River. General William Sherman’s forces were to advance from Chattanooga toward Atlanta. This left only the Army of the Gulf under General Nathaniel Banks without a clear objective. Most thought it would be the Confederate port of Mobile but instead the army was ordered to advance up the Red River valley with Shreveport, Louisiana being its primary target. The objectives of the campaign were many. The primary reason was the seizure of masses of cotton needed by northern mills. Another objective was the destruction of the Confederate forces and military support facilities in the upper Red River region. There was the political objective of trying to return as much of Louisiana to the Union fold before the 1864 election.
A powerful Union army and naval force was assembled under the command of Banks and Admiral David Dixon Porter. Opposing this force was a much smaller Confederate army under the command of Richard Taylor. My presentation will look at the successes and failures of both commanders. We will discuss the route of the Union forces as they advanced from the mouth of the Red River to within 12 miles of Shreveport. We will look at and discuss the mistakes and the results of this very unique campaign.
The presentation will take a special look at Alexandria, Louisiana. During the Civil War Alexandria was a major city on the Red River because it was a portage point around a series of huge rapids that, at times of low water, blocked the river. These rapids would also play a key role in the Civil War story. My program will open with the assault on Fort DeRussey. It will then follow the route of the advancing Union forces to Alexandria, Nachitoches, and Mansfield. We will discuss the battlefield at Mansfield where on, April 8, 1864, General Richard Taylor halted his retreat and inflicted a devastating defeat on the Federal forces. We also discuss the battlefield at Pleasant Hill where, on April 9, 1864, the largest battle of the campaign would be waged. Even though Pleasant Hill would be a Union victory it would so unnerve General Banks that he will order his forces to retreat.
The presentation will then cover the Union forces return to Alexandria where they found the Red River too low to get their fleet over the rapids. Engineer Joseph Bailey would enter the picture and supervise the construction of a series of dams that would eventually allow the Union fleet to escape. We will discuss the entire retreat route and the battlefields on which Taylor attempted to block the Union withdrawal and destroy the Army of the Gulf. The presentation will include the engagements at Blair’s Landing, Monett’s Ferry, Mansura and Yellow Bayou. The program will end with the conclusion of the campaign on the banks of the Atchafayla River. It was here that a bridge of river steamers tied together by Engineer Joseph Bailey would allow the Union forces to complete their escape from the pursing Confederates.
Dale Phillips is a native of New Jersey. He earned a BA degree in American History from York College of Pennsylvania in 1978 and began working for the National Park service as an interpreter at Gettysburg in 1976. His other duties have included being a law enforcement ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Shelbyville, Illinois, a interpretive ranger at Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina, supervisory park ranger/historian at Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Park, unit manager of the Chalmette (Battle of New Orleans site) Unit of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, unit manager of the Acadian Unit of Jean Lafitte, and superintendent of the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.
His present position is that of superintendent of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, IL. He has written numerous articles on U.S. military history for various publications and is also a guide/lecturer for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Civil War Roundtables, and other history touring organizations. His area of expertise is from the colonial period (French and Indian War) through the American Civil War.
Mr. Phillips is married to the former Carol Patton Bernstein of Shreveport, Louisiana. They have one daughter, Laura, who attends college in Phoenix, Arizona.