Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 13.djvu/162
A Sketch of Debray's Twenty-Sixth Regiment. 161
a short distance from Natchitoches, entrenched itself under the pro- tection of its gunboats. Our cavalry following close on its heels, established itself on the surrounding pine hills, and by frequent patrols, in and about Natchitoches, prevented depredations, and, probably saved that old town from the devastation which signalized every step of the retreating Federals. Soon it became apparent that Banks was prepaiing to move farther down the Red River. The greater part of our cavalry was ordered to proceed to a position on Cane River, a tributary of the Red, where it was believed that the crossing of that stream by a superior force could be prevented. General William Steele's division of cavalry, and Polignac's division of infantry, were directed to follow and harass the enemy.
Monnette's Bluff is an elevated ground on the eastern bank of Cane River, which was supposed to be fordable only at that point. The front and right of the position selected for us is protected by a high and abrupt bank, and its left, extending over timbered hills, represented to us as inaccessible for the enemy, owing to intervening swamps, overlooks the western side of the stream. General Bee, who was in command, assigned the right of our line to General Bagby ; the center to General Major, and the left to General Debray. Early in the afternoon the enemy appeared and opened against our front the fire of his batteries, which was answered by our artillery. Soon after our left was suddenly attacked by a detachment which had crossed the Cane River above our position and, well guided, had succeeded in clearing the swamps represented to us as impassable. Two successive attacks had been repelled, when the left received the order to join the right and center, which, for causes as yet unac- counted for by the writer, had abandoned their position, and were in full retreat. It is true, that the enemy having crossed the river, our smaller force was powerless to materially impede his march. A hard and tedious night's march followed till daybreak, when we arrived at Beasley's Station, thirty miles off the road to Alexandria. On the morning of the next day McNutt's Hill was reached, where the rear of the enemy's column was seen defiling in the valley of Red River, supported by gunboats, out of harm's way, on its retreat to Alexan- dria.
At McNutt's Hill Major-General Wharton assumed command of the cavalry corps. General Bee was ordered to proceed with his division Bagby's and Debray's brigades to Folk's plantation, about seven miles west of Alexandria, while General Steele with his division was to take position on Bayou Rapid, north of that city, and