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Overview of the Civil War: The Trans-Mississippi: the Red River Campaign

Special Thanks to Robley F. Poché for this Newspaper Article

Battle of Mansfield

Capt. S.A. Poché Writes Interesting Account of
Memorable Struggle and Tells of Part Taken by
the Eighteen Louisiana.

The following account of the battle of Mansfield, fought on April 8, 1864, appeared
in last Sunday’s Picayune over the signature of Capt. S. A. Poche, of Donaldsonville,
the gallant commander of Company B, Eighteenth Louisiana Regiment, C. S. A.:

"The Eighteenth Louisiana Regiment and the Yellow Jacket Battalion, consolidated
with the Twenty-Eighth Louisiana Regiment and the Crescent Louisiana Regiment
formed General Mouton’s brigade. My company, B, was on the right company of the
Eighteenth Regiment. At about 9 a.m. on the day of the fight we were already in line
to the left of the Sabine road, in front of the pine woods, but soon after we had to
move further to the left to make room for more infantry. We marched in columns by
four left in front, Colonel Armant leading the head of the column. The columns soon
entered a patch of woods projecting in front of the pines and covering, maybe, one
half acre. My company and Captain Jenkins’ company were yet in open field.

"While so marching, the enemy’s cavalry charged and fired on us, thinking that
we would retreat, but as I knew that we intended to give battle, and seeing that
the enemy was yet charging, I ordered my men to load, prime and keep ready.
Captain Jenkins, seeing me load, loaded also.

"Hardly had we loaded when General Mouton, who was in the pines back of us
with General Taylor, came out alongside of me and said to me: ‘Captain, those
are Yankees!’ I answered, ‘Yes! I knew it, and am loaded!’ He then ordered me
to give them a volley. I came to a halt and front, and gave the command to fire.
My eighty-six muskets made only one report, and about thirty of the enemy dropped
to the ground.

"General Mouton hurrahed and said the Eighteenth was the first to draw blood.
The balance of the enemy faced about and retreated to their lines on the run.
Captain Jenkins’ company fired in their backs, but no one was hurt.

"Colonel Armant came on a run to find out who gave the order to fire. Captain
Jenkins answered that as I had fired, he thought he would fire too.

"We came to a halt and front; this was between the hours of 9 and 10 a.m.
Colonel Armant soon ordered me to deploy my company in front to cover the
regiment. Soon after the enemy also sent out a line of skirmishers. The enemy’s
line was back of a rail fence. At 4 p.m., about, Colonel Armant sent his orderly
to order me to drive back the enemy’s skirmishers, and this was done at
double-quick time. They had repeating rifles and gave us hot fire, but we
drove them in at a run, nobody being hurt.

"I halted on their lines and looked back and saw another company coming at
double-quick time. It was Captain Field of the Crescent Regiment, and his
company. He reported to me that he had been sent to re-enforce me. Looking
back I saw the whole of our infantry line coming at double-quick time.

"Turning to Captain Field, I said: ‘Captain, we are going to make a charge;
we are far yet; let us go closer.’

"‘I am at your orders, Captain; give the command,’ he replied.

"‘I ordered ‘Double quick! Let us go at the fence.’

"We halted about forth yards from the fence, in front of about 2600 infantry
of the enemy, and there we held them in check until we made prisoners just
before sundown. Captain Field was shot down before we had gone ten or
twelve steps. This was a great loss.

"A little while after the Twenty-Eighth Regiment came up to my line, having
lost in killed and wounded all their field officers, except their adjutant. Two
of their color-bearers also were killed or wounded. The regiment laid down.
My first sergeant, Elie Gagnier, asked me leave to go rally them. Leave was
granted. He started at a run, picked up their flag and called them to follow.
But it was not for long. He was wounded above the ankle and disabled, the
flag was handed to Adjutant Blackman, who had been acting adjutant of the
division and who rallied the regiment and charged through the enemy’s lines,
routing them.

"It was at this time I was shot through the upper part of my right thigh, the ball
passing between the main artery and the bone. My second lieutenant, J. S. Webre,
lost his right arm; my third lieutenant, Francois Gagnier, was shot above the
knee; and my color bearer was killed. His name was Benoit Bethancourt.
Many others were killed and wounded. Two men from the Twenty-Eighth tried
to carry me from the field. The one on the left was shot; the other tried to raise
me but was not able. I ordered him to his command, and I was picked up at
sundown by four of my own men and brought to the hospital at 10 o’clock that

"Colonel Armant was killed back of me in the charge, and General Mouton by
four of the prisoners just captured, so I was told. Those two officers were
both great losses. The whole line of enemy was routed.

"Our division captured about 2600 prisoners, about 300 wagons, 22 cannons
and quantities of small arms and ammunition. Our loss, killed and wounded,
was about 1800; the enemy’s loss, 1900. Our army received at sundown
5000 or 6000 fresh troops, which took part next day in the battle of Pleasant Hill,
where the enemy was again routed.

"General Taylor, in his history, writes that in the morning, at Mansfield, a part
of the Eighteenth Regiment opened fire on the enemy’s cavalry and routed them.
It was my company, B, Eighteenth Louisiana. A. M. Herbert, a federal, writes in
his ‘History of the War of Secession, ‘that the Red River expedition was a blunder
of the war department, and that General Banks, at Mansfield, had received a
disastrous defeat, losing in the expedition at least 14,000 men.’

"What I write of the battle of Mansfield I have seen with my eyes, and was told
of the disastrous defeat by the doctor who attended me and my own man who
nursed me."

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View from the other side:  The battle of Mansfield was also known as
the battle of  Sabine Crossroads.  Read the description of the battle from the
regimental history of the 48th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry who directly
opposed the 18th Louisiana on the other side of the rail fence at Mansfield. 
Two years before this battle, these two groups had opposed each other at Shiloh.