Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Battle of Mansfield / Sabine Crossroads
April 8, 1864




The Battle of Mansfield, also known as the Battle of Sabine Crossroads, occurred on April 8, 1864, in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana. 

DeSoto Parish
Confederate forces commanded by General Richard Taylor attacked Union forces commanded by General Nathaniel Banks a few miles outside the town of  Mansfield, near Sabine Crossroads. 
Nathaniel Banks

Richard Taylor
 The Union forces held their positions for a short time before being overwhelmed by Confederate attacks and driven from the field. The battle was a decisive Confederate victory which stopped the advance of the Union army's Red River Campaign.

During the second half of March 1864, a combined force from the Union army and navy led by General Banks ascended the Red River with the goal of defeating the rebel forces in Louisiana and capturing Shreveport.  The main supply depot for the Confederate army west of the Mississippi, Shreveport was equipped with docks, machine shops and warehouses.

By April 1 Union forces had occupied Grand Ecore and Natchitoches. While the accompanying gunboat fleet with a portion of the infantry continued up the river, the main force followed the road inland toward Mansfield, where Banks knew his opponent was concentrating. General Taylor, in command of the Confederate forces in Louisiana, had retreated up the Red River in order to connect with reinforcements from Texas and Arkansas. Taylor selected a clearing a few miles south of Mansfield as the spot where he would take a stand against the Union forces. 

By the end of April 7, the federal force had reached the vicinity of Pleasant Hill, only two days march from Shreveport. However it was badly stretched out along a single road, with almost a day's march between the advance guard and the rear of the army. Although Banks had around 26,000 men available on April 8, only a small part of that force was involved in the day's fighting.
Map of Battle at Sabine Crossroads
The morning of April 8 found Banks' army stretched out along a single road through the woods between Natchitoches and Mansfield. When the cavalry at the front of the column found the Confederates taking a strong position along the edge of a clearing, it stopped and called for infantry support. Riding to the front, Banks decided that he would fight Taylor at that spot and he ordered all his infantry to hurry up the road.

At the start of the battle, Taylor had approximately 9,000 troops.  He had also called on the 5,000 men in the divisions which had been encamped near Keachie, between Mansfield and Shreveport. These troops arrived late in the afternoon, after the battle had commenced.
For about two hours the two sides faced each other across the clearing as Banks waited for more of his troops to arrive and Taylor arranged his men. At that point, Taylor enjoyed a numeric advantage over Banks.  At about 4 p.m., the Confederates surged forward.

West of the road, Walker's Texas division wrapped around the Union position, folding it in on itself.  Hundreds of Union troops were captured and the rest retreated in a panic. As the first Union line collapsed, another division arrived to form a second line, but it too was pushed back by the charging Confederates.  The Confederates launched several charges on the Union line but were repulsed, while nightfall ended the battle.

Banks withdrew, but met Taylor again on the 9th at Pleasant Hill.  Mansfield was the decisive battle of the Red River Campaign, influencing Banks to retreat back toward Alexandria.  The retreat itself came close to turning into a disaster when the falling water levels in the Red River threatened to trap the gun boat fleet above Alexandria.

With the failure of the Red River campaign, Banks was removed from the field. He spent the rest of the war in Washington working on Lincoln’s reconstruction plans for Louisiana.

The Union forces had suffered 113 killed, 581 wounded, and 1,541 captured as well as the loss of 20 cannon, 156 wagons, and a thousand horses and mules killed or captured.

The Confederate loss was "about 1,000 killed and wounded" at Mansfield, but precise details of Confederate losses were not recorded. 
Captain Joseph De La Garza, CSA, killed at Battle of Mansfield
The local town of Keatchi converted its Women's College into a hospital and morgue on its second floor. Soldiers' remains are marked nearby in Keatchi's Confederate Cemetery, maintained by the local Sons of Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy.


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