Thursday, December 22, 2016

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant George G. Smith: April 24, 1864

At three o'clock in the morning heavy cannonading across the river in our rear. General J. M. Smith was covering our retreat, with ten thousand men of the sixteenth army corps, furnished by General Sherman, to assist in this campaign. The firing ceased at about eight a. m., the rebels attacking him, being defeated with heavy loss. By ten a.m. the army with all the train was across the river, except Smith's corps: and we were on the march again towards Alexandria: Our road for the next fifteen miles lay through the piney woods, but it was accomplished without molestation, and by nine p. m. we emerged into the opening on Red river. Four miles further on, along the Rapides Bayou, we halted for the night. Thousands of negroes followed us from Caney river bringing all their belongings with them: some with beds in bundles on their heads, and some with frying pans and kettles and every conceivable thing you could mention. These poor creatures were of every shade of color from ebony black to pure Caucasian white. Many of the soldiers formed an acquaintance with some one of these swarthy damsels and they marched along side by side in apparent entertaining conversation, thus beguiling the tedium of the march. On emerging from the piney woods, a wonderful sight burst upon us. It seems the cavalry and mounted infantry, in the advance, had not spared the torch, and the country for miles around was a light blaze, with camp fires and burning plantations, I don't think there was a building standing on the line of our march four or five miles wide that was not burned even with the ground.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 103-4

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