Union General Nathaniel Banks, commander of the Department of the Gulf, was under orders to move upon Shreveport and hold western Louisiana for use as a base for a campaign into east Texas. Roughly 10,000 men from Vicksburg commanded by General Andrew Jackson Smith would augment Banks’ forces.
Smith landed at Simmesport on March 13, 1864, and moved up the Red River with support from Rear Admiral David Porter’s fleet. Following skirmishes with Confederate cavalry at Yellow Bayou and Mansura, Federal troops took Fort DeRussy on March 14, with naval shelling aiding the infantry. They occupied the city of Alexandria and met Banks on March 15. Confederate General Richard Taylor ‘s 7,000-man army initially withdrew, but on April 8, he stopped and met the Union force east of Mansfield, which had marched up an old stagecoach road from Grand Ecore. The Confederates routed the Federal troops, taking another Union line at Sabine Crossroads before darkness fell. Banks pulled back to Pleasant Hill, and fighting resumed on April 9. Taylor withdrew, after which the Federals retreated back to Grand Ecore.
After a skirmish with cavalry at Blair’s Landing, Porter met Banks and proceeded to Alexandria, where low water levels from a blown dam trapped the Union fleet. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey devised a system of dams to raise the water level and allow the fleet to escape on May 13 through the rapids. Bank’s army continued to retreat down river, with Taylor pursuing to trap them--skirmishes flared at Fort DeRussy on May 16 and Yellow Bayou on May 18. Bailey again rescued the Federals by devising a pontoon bridge to allow troops to cross the flooded Atchafalaya River on May 20, effectively ending the campaign.