Page:Confederate Military History - 1899 - Volume 10.djvu/90

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my reinforcements failed to come on, no alternative was left me but to maneuver with the enemy and save my force. In consequence I issued orders for the removal of the sick to Berwick bay and made all needful preparations for the removal of the stores."

Mouton, still retiring slowly, faced the enemy like a lion at bay, until he was ready to withdraw. At 4 p. m. on the 28th, he sent forward all the troops which could be collected. Then, as proof that he was still able to damage the enemy, he ordered the destruction by fire of the Thibodeaux bridge, the Lafourche crossing bridge, and the Terrebonne station. After which, riding with his cavalry, he reached Berwick bay on the 29th. By the 30th, everything worth reserving had been crossed over the Atchafalaya. Mouton did not long hold Berwick. Barely resting in that post, he was informed of the presence of four of the enemy's gunboats. He learned, moreover, that those boats were lying outside of obstructions which had been placed in the passes. Evidently the enemy was preparing for a war-raid up the bayou. Knowing that he could not offer resistance to gunboats, if once in the bay, Mouton, selecting a defensible position on the Teche, hastened to intrench and fortify about half a mile up the bayou. To provide for every contingency he placed obstructions in the bayou at Cornay's bridge. What was to be done needed swiftness. Not many miles separated the passes and the Teche. It would not be long before the gunboats would be pushing their black prows up to Cornay's. His only hope was that a low tide might prevent them from removing his obstructions, or from finding the channel, always somewhat uncertain. This hope was destined to speedy disappointment. Captain E. W. Fuller, commanding the Confederate gunboat, J. A. Cotton, which with two small steamers and a launch composed the flotilla in Berwick bay, was sharply watching the Federal squadron under Lieut. T. McK. Buchanan.