The Battle of Pleasant Hill was fought on 9 April, 1864, during the Red River Campaign of the American Civil War, near Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, between Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Confederate forces, led by Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor.
The battle was essentially a continuation of the previous day's Battle of Mansfield, fought nearby, which ended around sunset due to darkness — night time provided a brief interlude in hostilities. On 9 April, Taylor launched an ambitious assault against the newly reinforced Federals at Pleasant Hill and had the upper hand before Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Churchill's Arkansas division was flanked on its right and repulsed. After the battle, the Federals remained demoralized and unconfident in their commander — they retreated to Grand Ecore, and from there to Alexandria.
Officially, the battle was a Union victory — as the Confederates were successfully driven from the field. However, because Banks and his army had retreated so soon afterwards, many argued over who had really won.
The Battle of Mansfield took place about 3 miles southeast of the town of Mansfield at Sabine Cross Roads. Pleasant Hill was located about 16 miles southeast of Sabine Cross Roads.
Confederate reinforcements had arrived late on the 8 April — Churchill's Arkansas Division arrived at Mansfield at 3.30 p.m. and Parson's Missouri Division (numbering 2,200 men) arrived at Mansfield at 6 p.m. Neither of these Divisions participated in the Battle of Mansfield — however, both would play a major role during the Battle of Pleasant Hill.
On the Union side reinforcements also arrived, when Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith, commanding detachments of XVI and XVII Corps, arrived from Grand Ecore late on the 8 April, around nightfall, and encamped about 2 miles from Pleasant Hill.
On the morning of the 9 April, Franklin ordered the baggage train to proceed to Grand Ecore. It left Pleasant Hill at 11 a.m., and included many pieces of artillery. Most of Franklin's Cavalry (commanded by Brig. Gen. Albert Lindley Lee) and the XIII Corps left with it. This included the Corps D'Afrique commanded by Colonel William H. Dickey (wounded on the 8 April) and Brig. Gen. Thomas E. G. Ransom's detachment of the XIII Corps, now under the command of Brig. Gen. Robert A. Cameron — Ransom was also wounded on the 8 April. The baggage train made slow progress and was still only a few miles from Pleasant Hill when the major fighting began later that day. Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone, Chief of Staff, and others, attempted to get Cameron to return to Pleasant Hill throughout the day, but he failed to do so — he stated that he never received any written orders to return. Banks doesn't appear to have been fully aware of the exact orders Cameron had received from Franklin.
The Union side lost 18 pieces of artillery at the Battle of Mansfield. These were turned on the Union forces the next day at Pleasant Hill. Brig. Gen. Jean Jacque Alexandre Alfred Mouton, CSA, was killed during the Battle of Mansfield, 8 April 1864. Brig. Gen. Camille J. de Polignac commanded Mouton's forces at Pleasant Hill.
Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith (CSA), who was at Shreveport, received a dispatch from Taylor that reached him at 4 a.m., 9 April. It informed him of the Battle of Mansfield. Smith then rode 45 miles to Pleasant Hill, but did not reach there in time for the battle — arriving around nightfall.
In 1864, Pleasant Hill was a small village, situated about 2 miles north the current village of Pleasant Hill — a new village that later grew up nearby (in order to be closer to the railroad) and that took the same name, after the old village was abandoned. The site of old village is today referred to as the 'Old town' or 'Old Pleasant Hill'. Dr. Harris H. Beecher, Assistant-Surgeon, 114th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, present at the battle, described the village of Pleasant Hill as
In 1864, the countryside in this part of Louisiana mostly consisted of pine forests and scrub oaks. According to Banks,
A newspaper described Pleasant Hill as "a little village situated on a low ridge, containing in peace-times probably 300 inhabitants." It further stated that,
|Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin||Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Churchill|
|Brig. Gen. William H. Emory||Brig. Gen. James C. Tappan|
|Brig. Gen. James W. McMillan||Brig. Gen. Mosby M. Parsons|
|Brig. Gen. William Dwight||Maj. Gen. John G. Walker|
|Colonel William T. Shaw||Brig. Gen. Camille J. de Polignac|
|Colonel Lewis Benedict||Brig. Gen. William Read Scurry|
|Brig. Gen. Andrew J. Smith||Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Green|
|Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Mower||Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee|
|Colonel William F. Lynch||Brig. Gen. Xavier Blanchard Debray|
|Colonel Risdon M. Moore||Brig. Gen. Augustus C. Buchel|
|Brig. Gen. Richard Arnold||Brig. Gen. James P. Major|
|Colonel Thomas J. Lucas||Brig. Gen. Thomas Neville Waul|
|Colonel Sylvester G. Hill||Brig. Gen. Arthur P. Bagby|
|Colonel Lucius F. Hubbard||Colonel Robert Dillard Stone|
|Captain George T. Hebard||Colonel Horace Randal|
|Colonel Francis Fessenden||Colonel Henry Gray|
|Colonel S. P. Burns|
|Colonel H. L. Grinstead|
|Colonel Lucien C. Gause|
|Brig. Gen. John Bullock Clark, Jr.|
At 5 p.m., the Confederate forces launched their attack, charging the entire Union line. Walker's and Mouton's attack on the Union right had little success — the Union right, for the most part, held its ground. However, overall, this initial charge by the Confederates was highly successful and many of the positions down the Union left and center were overrun by Churchill's and Parson's forces and the Union positions were forced backwards. However, the Union side succeeded in halting the advance and regained the left and center ground, before driving the Confederates from the field. The fiercely fought battle lasted about two hours. Losses were heavy on both sides. The 32nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment (USA) sustained especially heavy casualties, as it was cut off from the rest of the Union forces during the Battle.
Banks and his army began their retreat from Pleasant Hill at 1 a.m. on the morning of the 10 April (just a few hours after the battle had ended).
A number of Union soldiers were captured during the battle (and many more at the Battle of Mansfield), and were taken to Camp Ford, a Confederate prisoner-of-war Camp, near Tyler, Texas. Most were kept prisoner here for the next year or so, and were not released until a general exchange of prisoners occurred near the end of the war — a small number, however, were released at an earlier date.
After the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Banks and his Union forces retreated to Grand Ecore and abandoned plans to capture Shreveport, Louisiana.
The decisive failure of the Red River Campaign was a rare bit of uplifting news for the Confederacy in a bleak year. Despite the loss of resources (including the mercurial and beloved Brig. Gen. Tom Green, who was killed 12 April), the failure of this offensive helped to prolong the war by tying down Union resources from other fronts.