February 17, 2014

Civil War ~ Headquarters, Randal's Brigade, September 6, 1863

The following transcription is from a collection of letters written by Union and Confederate officers during the Civil War.  Catahoula Bank in Harrisonburg and Jonesville provided a complimentary transcription of this collection in 1966.

Headquarters, Randal's Brigade
Camp on Little River, La.
September 6, 1863


Assistant Adjutant General

MAJOR:  In obedience to Special Orders No. 223, district headquarters, I left the vicinity of Alexandria on the 1st instant; crossed Little River on the 2nd, and on the 3rd marched to Bushley Bridge 10 miles west of Harrisonburg, where the command slept on their arms until 4 o'clock of the morning of the 4th instant.

The enemy having driven in Lieutenant-Colonel Logan's pickets on the evening of the 3d, and occupied the approaches to Harrisonburg, thus rendering a night march in the face of an enemy whose strength greatly outnumbered mine, hazardous in the extreme, the total absence of cavalry left me no other alternative than to rest until light.

In the meantime, Colonel Logan's confidential scout came to me from Colonel Logan, informing me that he could not hold the fort until morning; that 1,100 men would be of no assistance to him in resisting the enemy, and that it would be useless for me to attempt to reach him if I had not more than 1,100 muskets, and that he would evacuate the fort some time during the night.  His scout further stated that the enemy's strength was between 10,000 and 15,000, composed of artillery, infantry and cavalry.

On the 3d the enemy advanced on the Alexandria road, and formed a line of battle east of the Bushley Bridge, in a strong position behind open fields exposed to the fire of his artillery, with the approaches to his position strongly ambuscaded.  My advance pickets on the night of the 3d were within 400 yards of the enemy's lines, and the opposing forces passed within 800 yards of each other, the enemy outnumbering me five to one with the additional advantage of artillery and cavalry.

At 4:30 o'clock on the 4th my pickets received the first fire from the enemy's advance.  Captain Flynn's battalion of sharpshooters were thrown forward and drove in the enemy's skirmishes.  Wishing to evade a battle, I formed on his right, forcing him to change his front.

In the meantime, I had occupied the hills immediately in my rear, giving me the advantage in position where I wished to receive the attack, which the enemy declined, preferring to face me through his ambuscade.

The object of the expedition having failed, the superior strength of the enemy and the remoteness of any assistance and the facility with which the enemy could gain my rear, induced to me to retire to the line of Little River where I am now encamped.

I have compared all the reports as to the enemy's strength and composition, and conclude as follows:  Eight pieces of artillery, 400 cavalry, and 15,000 infantry west of the Washita (Ouachita), and one brigade of infantry east of that stream.  Their cavalry (200 strong) are reported by citizen 7 miles west of Harrisonburg on the Alexandria road.  There seems to be no intention to advance in the direction of Alexandria as yet.

Loss of the enemy in this skirmish, 3 killed; wounded not known.  None of my men were injured.

The cavalry forces that I have should be increased, as it is not strong enough to perform the required duties; besides a force of cavalry could inflict serious injury upon the enemy and keep him within narrow limits.

I will remain in this vicinity until further orders.  Lieutenant Colonel Logan is now on the Alexandria road leading to Gilmore's Ferry on Little River.

I am, Major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Commanding Brigade



Headquarters, District of Western Louisiana
Alexandria, September, 1863

Respectfully forwarded.  A brigade of infantry with a battery has been sent forward this morning to reinforce Colonel Randal.  Major's Brigade will reach this place tonight, and will immediately push on to the point.  I hope to receive some reliable information today.

Major-General, Commanding

Note:  Colonel Horace Randal was appointed brigadier general by General E. Kirby Smith on April 8, 1864, but his promotion was never confirmed by the Confederate government.  Randal died on April 30, 1864 from wounds received at the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry in Arkansas.

Source Citation:  
Tom Jones, "RANDAL, HORACE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fra28), accessed February 16, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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