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Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, April 09, 1864, US Civil War

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The Battle of Pleasant Hill occurred on 9 April 1864 and formed part of the Red River Campaign during the American Civil War when Union forces aimed to occupy the Louisiana state capital, Shreveport.

The battle was essentially a continuation of the Battle of Mansfield (8 April), a Confederate victory, which had caused the Union commander, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, to send his wagons, with most of his artillery, downriver in retreat. However, both sides had been reinforced through the night, and when the Confederate commander, Major General Richard Taylor launched an assault against the Union line, it was repulsed though at a high cost in casualties; the Union army retreated the next day. The majority of historians consider the battle to be a Union tactical victory, although some consider it to be a draw.

The Battle

According to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks' Report of the Battle,

The enemy began to reconnoiter the new position we had assumed at 11 o'clock on the morning of the 9th, and as early as 1 or 2 o'clock opened a sharp fire of skirmishers, which was kept up at intervals during the afternoon.

At 5 p.m., the Confederate forces launched their attack, charging the entire Union line. Walker's and Major's attack on the Union right had little success — the Union right, for the most part, held its ground. However, overall, this initial charge by the Confederates was highly successful and many of the positions down the Union left and center were overrun by Churchill's and Parson's forces and the Union positions were forced backwards. However, the Union side succeeded in halting the advance and regained the left and center ground, before driving the Confederates from the field. The fiercely fought battle lasted about two hours. Losses were heavy on both sides. The 32nd Iowa Infantry sustained especially heavy casualties, as it was cut off from the rest of the Union forces during the battle.

Confederate Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee, with two regiments in columns of four rode swiftly down the Pleasant Hill road toward the enemy lines. The Confederate forces were suddenly attacked at close range by Federals concealed behind a fence. Winters describes the scene, accordingly: "Men toppled from their saddles, wounded horses screamed in anguish, and for a moment pandemonium reigned. Bee's men took temporary shelter . . . in a series of small ravines studded with young pines until they recovered from the shock of the unexpected attack. Bee rallied his men but in the process had two horses shot from under him. Colonel [Xavier B.] Debray was injured when he fell from the saddle of his dead horse. . . . Debray was able to withdraw his men safely to the rear leaving, however, about a third of them killed or wounded on the front."

Banks and his army began their retreat from Pleasant Hill at 1 a.m. on the morning of the April 10 (just a few hours after the battle had ended).


According to Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee, writing from his headquarters at Pleasant Hill on April 10, 1864, he was in possession of the battlefield of Pleasant Hill at daylight on the morning of April 10 and he wrote that,

The day has been passed in burying the dead of both armies and caring for the Federal wounded, our own wounded having been cared for the night before.[28]

A number of Union soldiers were captured during the battle (and many more at the Battle of Mansfield), and were taken to Camp Ford, a Confederate prisoner-of-war Camp, near Tyler, Texas. Most were kept prisoner here for the next year or so, and were not released until a general exchange of prisoners occurred near the end of the war — a small number, however, were released at an earlier date.

After the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Banks and his Union forces retreated to Grand Ecore and abandoned plans to capture Shreveport, by then the Louisiana state capital. Some of the wounded, perhaps thirty in number from both Pleasant Hill and Mansfield, were taken to Minden for treatment. Those who died of their wounds there were interred without markers in the historic Minden Cemetery. They were finally recognized with markers erected on March 25, 2008 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The historian Ludwell Johnson refers to the battle as a Union tactical victory; the majority of historians agree with this view, although a few consider the action to have been a draw.

The decisive failure of the Red River Campaign was a rare bit of uplifting news for the Confederacy in a bleak year. Despite the loss of resources (including the mercurial and beloved Brig. Gen. Tom Green, who was killed April 12), the failure of this offensive helped to prolong the war by tying down Union resources from other fronts.