February 14, 2014

The Civil War ~ Natchitoches Road, 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.

Natchitoches Road 40 miles from
Alexandria, Rapides Parish, La.
September 6, 1863

Assistant Inspector General
Vienna, La.

CAPTAIN:  I wrote you last on the 2nd instant by Captain Purvis.  On the 3rd, before day, the Yankees in very heavy force crossed the river at Trinity and engaged all the cavalry, which I had taken away from the Tensas River lines and kept ready for the purpose of disputing their advance.  They fell back slowly before the overwhelming forces of the enemy advancing by the upper Trinity, or otherwise called the Hawthorn road.

Colonel (Horace) Randal with his brigade to reinforce me and take command, as per order sent me by General Taylor, has been communicating with me several days, reached the Bushley Bridge 10 miles from the fort on the evening of 3rd instant; had advised me that if I discovered that the Abolitionists were in heavy force to save what guns I could and form a junction with him, he being destitute of cavalry and artillery and needed them  The enemy are probably 15,000 strong, and have been following him up to last accounts, when he was encamped within 5 miles of them I could not feel assured of the very heavy forces of the enemy until the afternoon of the 3rd at dark.  They had steadily but slowly succeeded in driving in my cavalry, not only to the junction of the Hawthorn road with the Alexandria and Harrisonburg road, at a point half way between us and our reinforcements on the road, thus cutting off communications between Colonel Randal and myself, but pressed on nearly 2 miles nearer to the fort.

From desertion and sickness, having only about 40 men in garrison fit for duty and they being much disheartened under the strain, I called a council of all the commissioned officers of the fort and in accordance with their unanimous advice, given in secret council on the 3rd day, I determined to evacuate, save as many of the guns as possible, and by rapid march, attempt a junction with Colonel Randal, as suggested on the previous day.  Having had the horses for all except four pieces of artillery sent off some 20 miles to a place of security on the Natchitoches road the previous day, where I expected and intended to stand a siege and having too few men left to lift the 30-pounder Parrott rifle out of position into a wagon which I had kept prepared for it, I was unable to save anything more than all the Government horses, mules and wagons, and the 3-inch rifled guns and one howitzer (12-pounder).  I was obliged to move at night, as it was necessary to pass within 2 1/2 miles of the enemy, in force, and without a moment's delay.

After determining my course, I commenced the evacuation at 1 A. M., on the 4th, passed within short distance of the enemy several times with impunity, and having ever since been trying to reach Colonel Randal, with whom I have been in daily communication.

He engaged them on the morning of the 4th with his skirmishers.  I have crossed the Little River at Gilmore's Ferry, having traveled 26 miles on the 4th to Centreville, 24 miles yesterday and 8 this morning since daylight to this hour (9:30 A.M.) when I halted the rear guard for the purpose of writing this letter which heretofore I have been unable to do.  I now fear, from what I can hear of the road, that I will be unable to overtake Colonel Randal until he reaches Alexandria, as I will have to travel some 98 miles, while he has the direct road of 60 miles, only 50 miles of which he has to make.

My last accounts of the enemy were that they were in great force some 10 or 11 miles from Fort Beauregard, on the Alexandria road, and supposed to be still pursuing Colonel Randal and advancing upon Alexandria in force--15,000 or 16,000 strong.

I am continuing this route by order of Colonel Randal and hope to be not much behind him in reaching Alexandria.  I expect to camp tonight within 20 miles of Alexandria, on the road from that place to Winfield.

I neglected to state previously that I remained with Lieutenants Moore, Parker, Nichols, and a few others at the fort until 4:15 A. M. on the 4th instant, when I superintended personally the destruction of the casements, commissary, guns, etc. by fire and explosion.

I am very respectfully, your obedient servant.

Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Garrison

P.S.  I dispatch this by Private Isaac Ross of Captain McCall's Cavalry Company, who will give you more news of our condition, etc.

Note:  The 1910 U.S. Census provides the following description of Police Jury Ward 6, Catahoula Parish which includes the location of the Natchitoches Road:

Commencing at a point where the range line between ranges 4 and 5 crosses Little River, thence along said Little River to Bushley Bayou, thence along said Bushley Bayou to where the range line between ranges 5 and 6 crosses the township line between townships 8 and 9, thence up said range line to Old Natchitoches road, thence east along said road to the Old Hays Mill road, thence up Old Hays Mill road to the southern boundary line of Ward 3, thence along said boundary line to the range line between ranges 4 and 5 thence south along said range line to point of beginning.

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