Thursday, July 6, 2017

Civil War Battle of Port Hudson

From Port Hudson---Battle Expected

Intelligence, reliable and of the greatest importance, has been received from the front.  Preparations are being made by Banks' army which point unmistakably to an early advance.  Seventeen Mortar boats and sloops of war, and the Mississippi gunboat Essex, are now anchored at Baton Rouge.  Banks' force is thirty thousand.  Ambulances and litters are being prepared.  It is the opinion of the Military at this point that we will be attacked within a few days.  The utmost confidence prevails among boyh officers and men of our ability to defeat the enemy.  The report that our pickets have been driven in is unfounded, but an immediate advance is anticipated.  The latest information confirms the dissatisfaction in the Abolition ranks.  It is reported that Banks is opposed to the attack, but has orders from the War department. 

Battle of Port Hudson: Conflict & Dates:

The Battle of Port Hudson lasted from May 22, to July 9, 1863 during the American Civil War. 
The Union was under the command of Major General Nathaniel Banks with about 30,000 men.
The Confederate soldiers were under the command of Major General Franklin Gardner with about 7,500 men.

Taken From:

Confederate Soldiers Who Served at Port Hudson
(Includes Soldiers from AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, TN, TX, and Staff/Misc. Units)


The Siege

The siege period was a progressively miserable period for the Confederate soldiers inside the fortress.  They had no source of outside supply, and food, ammunition, and other essentials were consumed rapidly.  As the siege went on, they ate the horses, mules, dogs, and even the rats to survive.  They were subjected to constant bombardment by Union artillery ringing the garrison, and from Farragut's ships on the river.  Many were killed or wounded by sniper fire from Union troops, who were approaching ever closer to their lines by digging trenches, or "saps".  In spite of these hardships, they held out and kept the Federals at bay.  With little chance of rescue by other Confederate forces, their situation was ultimately hopeless.
The Union troops also suffered greatly during the trench warfare of the siege.  Most were unaccustomed to the summer heat of Louisiana, and a large number of these men became ill and died, or were disabled.  Over 4,000 Union soldiers were hospitalized due to sunstroke or disease during the fight for Port Hudson.  They were also subjected to constant sniper fire from the Confederate sharpshooters, which took a terrible toll.  Morale was low among the troops.  Many of Bank's regiments were made up of men who enlisted for only nine months, but they were held over until Port Hudson surrendered, causing much dissention in those regiments.

General Banks planned another all-out attack for July 11.  On June 15 he had called for a thousand volunteers to form a storming party, known as the "forlorn hope", which would serve as the spearhead for the coming assault.  The approximately 1000 volunteers had been pulled from their regiments and formed into a unit, to train for their coming assault.  Union soldiers had dug tunnels under the Confederate fortifications and planted large mines which were to be exploded at the beginning of the assault, giving the storming party an avenue to rush into the fortress.  But Vicksburg, under siege since May 22nd, fell on July 4th.   Banks received the news on the 7th, and the Confederates quickly were told by shouts from Union soldiers.  But General Gardner wanted to see proof.  When Banks showed him the dispatches from Vicksburg, he agreed to surrender.  The 48 day siege, the longest in American history, was over.  Banks agreed to parole the Confederate enlisted men, but sent the officers to prison.  Of the prisoners, 5,593 were paroled and some 500 sick and wounded were retained in the hospitals.  General Gardner reported his casualties as 200 killed, between 300 and 400 wounded, and about 200 died from sickness.  Only about 2,500 men were fit for duty at the time of the surrender.

The battle was over and the Mississippi River was in the hands of the Union, and the Confederacy was cut in half.

Both my 2nd Great Grandfather Francis Marion Meek and his brother, James Monroe Meek fought in the battle of Port Hudson, were captured and paroled.

Francis Marion Meek

Francis Marion Meek was my paternal Grandmother, Cora Meek's Grandfather. 
Francis M Meek military record.
Record of Release as prisoner captured at Port Hudson

James Monroe Meek (Francis'  brother) was born April 5, 1839 in Carroll County, Arkansas.  He was still single when he became a private in Co. E, Hill's Regiment, Arkansas Infantry (which later became Co. E, 16th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry). He was captured and released on parole at Port Hudson, Louisiana in July, 1863.  He died on May 9, 1864 of Civil War wounds. 

Mrs. Ona Twilleager recalls her grandmother, Mary Meek Parker, saying that one of her brothers “was shot through the tongue and couldn’t eat; they finally got him home and tried to feed him soup.”  This was apparently James.  He was buried in the (Meek) family cemetery, Carroll County, Arkansas.            
As documented by Larry J Gage, Houston, Texas

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