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The Second Bayou Teche Campaign
October 3 to November 17, 1863
By Terry L. Jones
Web Author's Notes:
The following are excerpts from the book by Terry L. Jones, Historical Dictionary of the Civil War, Volume 1, Scarecrow Press, 2002.

In March, 1863, Union General Nathaniel Banks attempted to drive out the Confederate forces from western Louisiana, in an attempt to secure a route to the Mississippi, then controlled in key locations (Vicksburg, Port Hudson) by the Confederates. Banks met with some success at the Battle of Fort Bisland and Battle of Irish Bend as well as capturing the enemy forts at Butte a la Rose and Alexandria.

Texas Overland Expedition

After the 1863 Port Hudson Campaign, Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks wanted to join forces with U.S. Grant and David Farragut for an attack on Mobile, Alabama. Abraham Lincoln's administration, however, was eager to occupy parts of Texas to counter France's Maximilian regime in Mexico. Although General-in-Chief Henry Halleck preferred a move into Texas by way of the Red River, he was convinced an invasion by sea was best and sent an expedition to Sabine Pass, but it was turned back on September 8, 1863, by a small Confederate force under RIchard Dowling.

Banks next decided to move overland to Texas through south Louisiana by marching up Bayou Teche to Vermilionville and then west to Texas. He picked Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin to lead the operation. Franklin had two divisions each from the XIII and XIX Corps and Brig. Gen. Albert L. Lee's cavalry division, about 19,500 men in all. Facing him was Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor's small Confederate army, numbering about half as many men.

Franklin left Bisland, Louisiana, on October 3, marched up Bayou Teche, and reached Opelousas and Washington after some skirmishing. Then, instead of moving toward Texas, he became concerned about supplies. Taylor's army had stripped the countryside of forage and fodder, and low water and muddy roads made it difficult to bring supplies up Bayou Teche. As a result, Franklin canceled the invasion and began marching back south at the end of October. Taylor followed and on November 3 attacked Brig. Gen Stephen G. Burbridge's rear guard at Bayou Bourbeau and inflicted heavy casualties. Franklin continued the withdrawal, frequently skirmishing with Confederates, and reached New Iberia on November 17.

Banks Texas Expedition had failed, but he did gain a foothold on the Texas coast. On October 26, a detachment under Maj. Gen. Napoleon J. T. Dana sailed from New Orleans to Brazos, Santiago, Texas, and successfully captured Brownsville, Point Isabel, and a few points inland.

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In the second half of 1863, Banks was under orders to gain a foothold in Texas. His first attempt had been repulsed at the Second Battle of Sabine Pass. In October, he ordered troops under Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin to move north-west from New Iberia and the Berwick Bay area to probe the land route toward Texas. The difficulty of the route, the resistance from Confederates, and the success of a coastal operation in Texas led to the termination of Franklin's advance.

Battle of Bayou Bourbeau, Louisana, November 3, 1863

Following his repulse at Sabine Pass, Texas, Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks sent two corps under Maj. Gen. William Franklin up Bayou Teche to Opelousas, Louisiana, in October, 1863, on the Texas Overland Expedition. Opposing the movement was the small army of Confederate Maj. Gen. Richadr Taylor. Franklin reached Opelousas without difficulty but was unable to continue westward because of poor roads over the difficult terrain and lack of supplies. In late October, he retreated back down the Teche, and Taylor followed.

On November 3, Taylor launched a surprise attack against Brig. Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge's division near Grand Coteau, along Bayou Bourbeau. Led by Brig. Gen. Thomas Green, the Confederates hit the Union front and flanks and drove the enemy back in confusion. When the 67th Indiana, holding Burbridge's left flank, was surrounded and captured, Burbridge ordered a retreat. He fell back three miles to another Union encampment and, with reinforcements, finally stopped Green's Confederates. In the engagement, Burbridge lost on cannon and 716 men, mostly taken prisoners. Green lost approximately 200 men.

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