Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/196

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

Battle of Pleasant Hill—An Error Corrected.

By General H. P. Bee.

San Antonio, Texas, February, 1880.

Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Va.:

It has been said that "history is the concurrent opinion of the day." The Philadelphia Times newspaper has been collating and publishing for a considerable time annals of the war, which purport to be, or are intended to mould, the concurrent opinion of the American people upon the subjects of that great contest, and hence it becomes desirable, if not important, to correct the errors of its issues.

I have observed in an article published in that paper from the pen of Captain Burns, of the staff of General A. J. Smith, on the Red river expedition in the spring of 1864, a statement that is incorrect, and I propose to correct it through the authentic medium of the press of the Southern Historical Society, and to that end respectfully offer the following observations. He says:

"Our rear guard did not leave Pleasant Hill until day was breaking. During the forenoon, while our surgeons (who were left on the battlefield) were trying to make comfortable the wounded, they were surprised at the appearance of a party from the camp of the enemy under a flag of truce, asking permission to bury the dead."

The battle of Pleasant Hill was fought by General Taylor, under the impression that he had defeated Banks' army at Mansfield the day before. This opinion would seem to have been justly formed, from the incidents of that battle. The captured train, the captured cannon, the thousands of prisoners, the pursuit at dawn the next morning by the cavalry under my command, encountering burning wagons, scattered material of war, the capture of prisoners along the road, who had strayed from their commands or been lost in the darkness of the night—all told of a defeated and demoralized army. General Taylor himself told me at three o'clock of the day of the battle of Pleasant Hill, that the superb line of battle which I had watched all day, with its serried lines compact and entrenched, and which he had not seen, "was a mere feint to cover the retreat of their wagon trains." On this hypothesis, he formed his plan of attack, and with a force of less than 12,000 men of all arms, tired and worn by severe fighting the day before and by a march