This week in the Civil War | The Red River Campaign

April 4, 2014 

Union forces in the spring of 1864 launched a joint Army-Navy incursion up the Red River in a bid for control of western Louisiana and Arkansas.

It would be the last major campaign by the Union’s so-called Mississippi Squadron.

The aim was to penetrate deep into the Confederacy and shut off a key Southern supply route from Texas.

Thousands of Union soldiers marched inland from New Orleans toward northwest Louisiana with plans to join up with the naval fleet steaming upriver.

The Union gunboats began gathering on the lower river in mid-March 1864 and moved upriver over coming weeks. But Union commanders encountered problems with low river levels and could only move 12 of their gunboats north of the falls near Alexandria, La.

On April 8, 1864, Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor attacked federal forces at the Battle of Mansfield in Louisiana. Though outnumbered, the Confederates assaulted Union fighters on two flanks, pushing them back until a fresh Union division met the Confederate attack.

Attempts by the Union to regain momentum failed and federal forces under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks were forced to retreat, ending the Red River Campaign and handing the Confederates a decisive strategic victory.

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