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Story Archives: Oct.-Dec. 1863: Rebs on move; Waterproof fight; Christmas
|Oct.-Dec. 1863: Rebs on move; Waterproof fight; Christmas|
(25th in a series)
In October 1863, three months after the Union victory at Vicksburg, a small band of paroled Confederate troops -- former prisoners of war -- were traveling to Alexandria, La., to meet up with the Third Louisiana Infantry.
The Union war strategy now included sending part of its army and navy west up the Red River to Alexandria, while a larger Union force prepared to move east through Alabama and Georgia to the sea. The Mississippi River was now in Union hands and guerrilla warfare was being waged by Rebels in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Among the travelers in the small Confederate band heading west was 26-year-old W.H. Tunnard, who later wrote about his Civil War experiences in a book: "A Southern Record: The History of the Third Regiment, Louisiana Infantry." A Baton Rouge resident, Tunnard wrote that the party included officers, privates, himself and his brother.
Tunnard said that on the morning of Oct. 21 the band "appeared on the banks of the Mississippi River (Jefferson County, Miss.)...The party had two wagons, heavily loaded, and a skiff. The evening previous they had bivouacked in the grounds around Oakland College (Claiborne County, Miss.)...A heavy fog hung, like a cloud, over the stream, completely shutting out a view of the river.
"The boat was launched with a celerity and dispatch perfectly marvelous, baggage and dispatches hastily loaded into it, and swiftly rowed across the river (to Tensas Parish). An ambulance, mules and horses were soon ferried across, and hastily left the dangerous vicinity. The blockade was successfully evaded. Major Springer drove rapidly away from the river, leaving behind him the squad of Louisianians, with their heavy knapsacks. Behold them on this October day, wearily traveling along an unknown road, in close proximity to posts of the enemy, and hiding behind the embankment, to prevent being discovered by the enemy's gun-boats patroling the river. They were already travel-worn and completely exhausted for want of rest; yet many long miles must be footed ere they reached their destination (Alexandria). Two of the party were quite sick."
The next day, the men "passed through Tensas Swamp, along Choctaw Bayou; crossed the Tensas and Bayou Louie; also, the Ouachita River. They were cordially welcomed and hospitably entertained by the residents on Sicily Island. That night they reached Harrisonburg, after marching twenty-six miles" and soon gained refuge "in the cabin of a very poor man, about three miles from Harrisonburg. This hospitable man was named Daly. The cabin was a very rough structure, with only a single room; yet here slept the man and his wife, another woman, a young girl, three children, and the five Louisianians.
"The next morning they bade their warm-hearted host adieu, after tendering compensation for their accommodations, which was refused. A cold, drizzling rain was falling, yet the road through the dreary pine-forest was good..."
Encamped at Christmas, Tunnard said the "year of '63 went out amid a blustering storm. The wind blew almost a 'hurricane,' shrieking forth a wrathful requiem over the dying year, while snow-flakes, descending thick and fast, filled all the wintry, biting air. The gloom was indicative of the dark storm cloud of war, that hung like a funeral-pall over the land, bringing sorrow and woe to thousands of once happy households."
BATTLE AT WATERPROOF
Thirty-one-year-old Union General Walter Quintin Gresham, in command at Natchez, wrote his wife on November 23, 1863: "The navigation of the river above Natchez is attended with more peril than when you were down with us. The 'Welcome' was fired into at Waterproof on Saturday and badly riddled. She was struck over 120 times with minie balls and two shells exploded in her cabin..."
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