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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE

(Private)

NEW ORLEANS, LA., March 25th, 1863.

DEAR SIR: Military operations near Port Hudson have ceased. Our army is all in Baton Rouge, except a few regiments sent down to Weitzel. Admiral Farragut is known to be all right, and it is supposed, has communicated with Porter at Vicksburg.
The center of interest is now Gen. Weitzel's command. He recently fell back from the Bay to Bayou Boeuf, a short distance nearer the City. Kirby Smith commands the Rebels on the other side of Berwick's Bay (on the Teche), and his entire force is believed to be 12,000 or 15,000. Weitzel is being largely reinforced for the purpose, probably, of making an offensive movement. Gen. Banks went down to him on Monday (day before yesterday) but has since returned to the City. The rebels contemplated a heavy attack on Weitzel, but he was too sharp for them. They have the "Queen of the West" and the "Webb" at "Bute la Rose" to assist them.
From New Iberia on Bayou Teche, to Plaquemine on the Mississippi, draw a straight line. "Bute la Rose" is a little north of the center of such line. It is a sort of lake formed by the widening of the Bayou. At this time all the numerous bayous in that part of Louisiana, are navigable. The Queen of the West and the Webb came down one of the bayous from Red River.
If Weitzel takes the Teche country, it will be almost the same as taking Port Hudson, for during the high waters, boats can go up the Atchafalaya into Red River and thence to Vicksburg, in the same manner as up the River.
Gen. Banks says he accomplished all he intended at Port Hudson, yet the movement is generally regarded as a failure. I prefer to think it undertaken for the purpose of carrying out Weitzel's expedition, which was postponed until our fleet could command the River above Port Hudson. Now, Kirby Smith cannot retreat to the East side of the River, nor can reinforcements be sent him from Port Hudson - therefore if Weitzef is successful, it will be a great success.
The Queen of the West and the Webb were at "Bute la Rose" one week ago to-day. It is not known whether they are still there. The rebels have many river steamers at New Iberia, but all unarmed, intended only for transportation.
Enclosed is a very good map of Port Hudson and its fortifications. The estimates of the number of men there, vary from 8,000 to 25,000 - probably nearer the former than the latter number. Some officers in the expedition think Banks could have taken the place, had he made a serious attempt.
Your letter of the third of March was received this morning and I thank you for it.
Mr. Bullitt does not disapprove of limited trade with the enemy and argues much in favor of the policy. If you do not wish him to permit it (he has not yet) I suggest the propropriety of your telling him so, without, however, informing him the above information or suggestion comes from me.
Gen. Banks is doing the best he can, but I look for no great success. His troops are raw - his means limited - he has thought best not to avail himself of colored troops - and he is not Gen. Butler. Confidence is a great thing. Gen. Butler inspired everybody with it - Gen. Banks, none, or few.

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Annual Report of the American Historical Association; Volume II; Washington, Government Printing Office; 1903

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