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Official Report of Colonel George William Logan, on the Engagement Between the Federal Gunboats and Fort Beauregard, on the 10th and 11th of May, 1863.
Headquarters, Fort Beauregard,
Harrisonburg, La., May 18, 1863
To Captain S. B. Davis,
A. A. General, Sub District North La.
At 7 o’clock on the evening of the 9th instant, my picket boat, from Trinity, brought me a communication from Mr. R. G. Smith, one of my scouts, at Major Beard’s, on Black River, bearing date 3pm that day, informing me that two Federal gunboats were near that place, proceeding up the river.
At 10 o’clock P. M., the same day, I received a communication from Lieutenant Stone, of Captain Purvis’s company, to the effect that our scouts opposite Alexandria had obtained information that four gunboats had left that place for the avowed purpose of capturing Fort Beauregard.
At 4 o’clock A. M., on the 10th instant, G. Spencer Mayo, whom I had appointed, by your orders, Provost Marshall, at Trinity, and Superintendent of Scouts on Black River, brought me further information that four gunboats had laid up the night previous four miles above Major Beard’s. The officers of the gunboats stated, at Major Beard’s, that they were to cooperate with a large land force for the capture of Fort Beauregard.
Major Harrison having just reported here for duty with his battalion of cavalry, and he himself being absent, Captain Purvis, senior Captain of the battalion, was ordered to dispose of his forces in such a manner as to check the advance of land forces, and to bring intelligence of their approach. I had previously built a line of bonfires along the banks of the river, which were to be ignited by Captain Purvis’s pickets in case the boats attempted to pass at night. I also called upon Captain Purvis for an additional guard for the fort, to serve as infantry.
To Captain Thomas O. Benton, commanding Bell’s battery, I assigned the command of all the artillery on the fort, and to Captain William B. Spencer, Company F, Eleventh Louisiana battalion, I assigned the command of all the infantry. Lieutenant A. R. Abercrombie, Superintendent of Heavy Artillery Drill, personally inspected the management of the heavy artillery during the action, and Lieutenant J. D. Girtman, the light artillery, the fire of which was very effective.
All the heavy artillery were manned by Captain Spencer’s company of infantry, which had been drilling for some time in heavy artillery, commanded by Lieutenants C. C. Duke, D. Castleberry and A. D. Parker.
This disposition of the troops having been made, and all being in readiness, on the receipt of the first intelligence the long roll was beaten, and the troops, with spirit and enthusiasm, awaited the attack of the enemy.
All the government stores were moved to the large commissary in the fort, and the few remaining citizens notified to leave the town. Officers and men laid on their arms all Saturday night, a vigilant guard being kept.
At daylight, Sunday, 10th instant, the smoke from the gunboats was in sight, but the boats themselves did not appear before 1 o’clock that day. They were the iron-clad Pittsburg, the Arizona, General Price and ram Switzerland. They rounded the bend two miles distant, and proceeded up the reach in line of battle to a point a mile and a half from the fort.
Not wishing to throw away a single shot, I took position in the lower casemate and issued orders that fire should not be opened until the lower gun was fired as a signal. Just when we expected the boats to open fire, a yawl bearing a flag of truce was observed approaching the fort. Anticipating that its object was to demand the surrender of the fort, I deputized Captain Benton and my Adjutant, Lieutenant James G. Blanchard, to meet the yawl, with instructions, in case of such a demand, to respond that “we would hold the fort forever.”
The deputation proceeded to a point a mile below the fort, where it met the yawl. Lieutenant Faulks, bearing the flag of truce, stated that Commodore Woodworth, commanding the fleet, demanded the unconditional surrender of the fort; and, in case the demand was not acceded to, we would be allowed one hour to move the women and children out of town. The deputation replied as they had been instructed, and stated that the women and children had already been removed. The yawl then returned to the gunboats, and within a half hour their fire was opened on the fort. When this fire had continued about a half hour, the boats gradually approaching the fort, I sighted and fired the signal gun, as I then considered them within range. All our rifle pieces and heavy guns immediately opened fire, striking the boats several times, evidently with such effect that they dropped down some distance, when I immediately ordered a cessation of our fire. After keeping up their fire for some time, whilst out of our range, the boats began approaching the fort again. When within our range we re-opened our fire, and a close combat raged until 6 1/2 o’clock P. M., when the enemy retreated down the river, evidently crippled. They laid up during the night some four miles down the river. Our officers and men remained at their guns during the night, expecting that the boats would attempt to pass under cover of darkness; but they did not make their appearance until 11 o’clock next morning, when they renewed their attack more vigorously than the day previous, with only the iron-clad and two other gunboats, however. They approached nearer the fort, fired more briskly and accurately (striking the lower casemate alone six times), and exploded most of their shells in the fort. Our fire was most effective, striking the boats repeatedly and exploding rifled shells in their midst.
Captain Purvis, about this time, with a body of sharpshooters, proceeded down the river in the rear of an Indian mound near the boats, and, at the time when the decks were most crowded, opened fire upon them from ambush, and continued firing until they retreated, annoying them to such an extent that they shifted their guns and opened fire with grape and canister.
At about 2 o’clock the same day they retired, evidently much damaged, from the fact that quantities of broken timber from the wooden boats were found floating down the river. I also learned that eight men were buried from off the boats, at a point just above Trinity, and from their own statements there were some thirty or forty wounded on board.
I ordered Captain Purvis to direct Lieutenant Gillespie, of his company, to follow the boats down the river, and from him we learned that the boats passed out of Black River on the 12th instant.
On their way up they committed no depredations at Trinity except to take eighteen bales of cotton to strengthen their boats. As they retreated down the river they landed a force at Trinity, seized the merchandise and stores of the loyal citizens, appropriated such as they wanted, destroyed and threw into the river some one hundred barrels of salt and provisions, divided the goods among the poorer classes, with a view, no doubt, of ingratiating themselves in the friendship of the latter, and notified the citizens that upon their return they would burn the entire town if seventy-eight bales of cotton accumulated there, were removed. I proceeded down to Trinity on our picket boat, on the morning of the 12th instant, seized the cotton and brought it to the fort to strengthen our fortifications.
One of the boats was observed passing Trinity with one wheel disabled, and the general hammering on all the boats indicated considerable damage.
I would respectfully report, as the certain result of the fight, that the enemy were defeated in their attempt to take the fort—that they were repulsed, and returned down the river with a loss of eight killed and thirty or forty wounded.
Under the storm of shell rained upon us, damaging our parapets in many places, and exploding within the fort, my command behaved with great gallantry. To Captains Purvis, Benton and Spencer; to my Adjutant, Lieutenant Blanchard, and also to Lieutenants Abercrombie and Girtman, I am under obligations for their coolness and gallantry, and their untiring energy and activity throughout the two days’ bombardment. Lieutenants Parker, Duke, Castleberry and Carter, have my thanks for their exertions at the guns, and the precision of their fire.
I regret to report that Lieutenant Carter was mortally wounded by a large fragment of shell while gallantly discharging his duties. Private Ford, of Spencer’s company, was severely wounded in the arm, and two others slightly wounded. These were the only casualties on our side. G. Spencer Mayo and George H. Wells, of the Engineer Department, volunteered for duty, and did good service.
Great praise is due Lieutenant Buhlow, for having planned and executed this almost impregnable work. The nine and ten-inch rifled shells and heavy shot thrown at us failed in almost every instance to penetrate the parapets and casemates, those entering and bursting on the terrplaine having generally passed over the parapets.
Many houses in Harrisonburg have been sadly torn and damaged by the enemy’s shells.
I have the honor to remain, Captain,
Very respectfully, your ob’t servant,
GEO WM. LOGAN
Source Citation: Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 11