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Planting the Union Flag in Texas

The Campaigns of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks in the West

By Stephen A. Dupree

Publication Year: 2008

Appointed by President Lincoln to command the Gulf Department in November 1862, Nathaniel Prentice Banks was given three assignments, one of which was to occupy some point in Texas. He was told that when he united his army with Grant’s, he would assume command of both. Banks, then, had the opportunity to become the leading general in the West—perhaps the most important general in the war. But he squandered what successes he had, never rendezvoused with Grant’s army, and ultimately orchestrated some of the greatest military blunders of the war. “Banks’s faults as a general,” writes author Stephen A. Dupree, “were legion.” The originality of Planting the Union Flag in Texas lies not just in the author’s description of the battles and campaigns Banks led, nor in his recognition of the character traits that underlay Banks’s decisions. Rather, it lies in how Dupree synthesizes his studies of Banks’s various actions during his tour of duty in and near Texas to help the reader understand them as a unified campaign. He skillfully weaves together Banks’s various attempts to gain Union control of Texas with his other activities and shines the light of Banks’s character on the resulting events to help explain both their potential and their shortcomings. In the end, readers will have a holistic understanding of Banks’s “appalling” failure to win Texas and may even be led to ask how the post–Civil War era might have been different had he been successful. This fine study will appeal to Civil War buffs and fans of military and Texas history.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Red River Valley Books Series, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Texarkana


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

Texas remained almost completely free of Union occupation throughout the Civil War. This was not the result of a lack of interest in Texas on the part of the Federal leadership, nor of a lack of effort on the part of the Union military to occupy part of the state, but rather of a combination of factors that were unique to the state. First, Texas was remote from the heavily contested regions ...

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pp. 1-7

As the end of the year 1862 approached, the military situation prevailing in the politically divided United States of America did not appear favorable to those hoping to reunite the country. Although invasions of Kentucky and Maryland by the South had been repulsed and Northern armies had subsequently advanced, after twenty months of internecine war there was no discernible decline in the defiance offered by the Confederacy to U.S. authority. In the west ...

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Ch1 Lincoln’s Political General

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pp. 9-15

At the time of the Civil War there was a widely held opinion, both in Washington and Richmond, that professional military training was not a prerequisite for a man to become an effective army commander. On the contrary, many believed that the professionals from West Point were excessively defensive minded and would not take the steps necessary to win the war.1 The West Point generals were seen by some as prejudiced, cliquish, ...

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Ch2 A New Commander in Louisiana

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pp. 16-24

Toward the end of the Battle of Cedar Mountain, after most of the fighting had ended but while the armies were still partially engaged, Banks was injured when he, Maj. Gen. John Pope, and several other Union officers were charged by Confederate cavalry. In the confusion produced by the enemy charge Banks was struck by a horse and knocked to the ground. He quickly got to his feet, mounted his horse, and escaped, but he ...

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Ch3 The First Invasion Galveston

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pp. 25-34

The city of New Orleans was occupied by Union forces early in the second year of the war. The feat of capturing the South’s most populous city was accomplished by a Southern naval officer who was chosen for the task only after much discussion within the Navy Department about his allegiance to the Union and his capacity for high command. The flag officer selected to lead the expedition was Capt. David Glasgow Farragut. ...

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Ch4 Irish Bend, Alexandria,and Port Hudson

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pp. 35-48

In early April 1863 Banks traveled to Brashear City with the intent of opening his water route to the upper Mississippi. By that time some 15,000 Union soldiers were stationed at or near the town. Taylor, observing this activity, had positioned his small army, approximately 3,000 in number, at a place called Fort Bisland, about ten miles up Bayou Teche from Berwick City.1 ...

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Ch5 The Second Invasion Sabine Pass

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pp. 49-61

Following the capture of Port Hudson, Banks proposed to Halleck that he, Banks, either invade Texas or cooperate with General Grant in the capture of Mobile. It is not clear whether Banks believed these objectives to be of equal value militarily, but certainly Lincoln and Halleck knew that the military importance of Mobile was much greater than that of ...

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Ch6 The Third Invasion The Great Texas Overland Expedition

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pp. 62-68

Two days before Franklin’s abortive attack on Sabine Pass, Gen. Braxton Bragg abandoned Chattanooga to Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans. Rosecrans pressed the advantage gained by his opponent’s retreat, dividing his army while following Bragg into Georgia. However, as he retired, Bragg gained strength. Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner abandoned Knoxville ...

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Ch7 The Fourth Invasion The Texas Coast

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pp. 69-85

General Sherman came to Chattanooga, Tennessee, with 17,000 reinforcements for General Grant on November 14, 1863. With these additional troops, and with his friend and subordinate Sherman to help him, Grant was ready to attack Bragg’s army. Bragg, who had spread his men over the hills surrounding the town of Chattanooga, had lost the services ...

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Ch8 Beginning of the Fifth Invasion Halleck’s Red River Expedition

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pp. 86-96

Responding to the wishes of President Lincoln to establish a military presence in Texas, Halleck had encouraged Banks to “hoist the flag” in that state. Although he had not ordered Banks to conduct any specific military operations to accomplish that objective, Halleck was displeased with Banks’s choice of invasion route. He obviously expected his suggestion about the Red River being “the shortest and best line of defense, and ...

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Ch9 The Advance to Alexandria

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pp. 97-106

Late in the afternoon of March 13, 1864, Banks’s cavalry under Brig. Gen. Albert L. Lee left the town of Franklin to begin the march to Alexandria. The last of Lee’s troopers did not depart until the morning of March 14. The column of cavalry, with its baggage train, stretched some nine miles along the road up Bayou Teche. As the last of the cavalry wagons got under way, Emory’s division of the XIX Corps moved into column behind ...

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Ch10 The Advance to Sabine Crossroads

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pp. 107-121

General Banks boarded his headquarters boat April 2 and, in convoy with the army transports carrying Gen. A. J. Smith’s troops and the portion of Porter’s fleet that had passed the falls, moved upstream from Alexandria.1 This contingent of the expeditionary force arrived at Grand Ecore, eight miles above Natchitoches, on April 3. The tiny ...

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Ch11 The Battles at Sabine Crossroads and Pleasant Grove

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pp. 122-133

During the morning of April 8, Franklin, with Banks’s permission, planned to move his troops past Pleasant Hill about ten miles and then stop for the day. His purpose for scheduling such a short march was to allow the rear of the column to close up, rest the men, allow Emory to take the lead, and free the ground around Pleasant Hill for ...

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Ch12 The Battle at Pleasant Hill

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pp. 134-145

Gen. A. J. Smith and his detachment camped about two miles southeast of Pleasant Hill on the night of April 8, having marched some twenty- one miles that day. Smith reported that he had “heard heavy cannonading in front during the afternoon,” which he subsequently learned was “an attack by the enemy upon the cavalry and the Thirteenth Army Corps.” ...

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Ch13 The Retreat to Alexandria and the Affair at Monett’s Ferry

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pp. 146-155

Porter reported that he reached Loggy Bayou about two o’clock in the afternoon of April 10. A few miles above the point at which Loggy Bayou enters the Red River, the Southerners had blocked the river channel by sinking a large steamer, the New Falls City, filled with sand and stones, crosswise in the river. Porter claimed later that the presence and position of this boat was an accident,1 but at the time he expressed ...

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Ch14 The Red River Dams

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pp. 156-165

Admiral Porter continued to experience enemy attacks from the shore during his trip downstream from Grand Ecore. He lost two boats en route but brought his battered fleet into Alexandria April 27. There he discovered that while the fleet was upriver, the water level in the Red had fallen more than three feet. It was continuing to fall at the rate of two inches per day. ...

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Ch15 The End of the Fifth Invasion

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pp. 166-178

On the evening of May 8 the naval officers and sailors of Porter’s fleet retired pleasantly for the night, leaving the final effort to pass the rapids for the morrow. Banks was restless, however, and later stated that “I went over the dam at eleven o’clock. It was completed, and two gunboats had passed the [upper] rapids to the dam the evening before. . . . I went over the dam and felt conscious that it could not long stand ...

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Ch16 A Summation

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pp. 179-199

During his tour of duty as commanding officer of the Department of the Gulf, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks was given three assignments: open the Mississippi River to Union control and reduce Fort Morgan or Mobile City, establish Union control at some point in Texas, and institute a loyalist state government in Louisiana. Although he ...


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pp. 201-204


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pp. 205-246


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pp. 247-263


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pp. 265-293

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444422
E-ISBN-10: 1603444424
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585446414
Print-ISBN-10: 1585446416

Page Count: 314
Illustrations: 11 b&w photos. 6 maps.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Red River Valley Books Series, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Texarkana

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Biography
  • Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss, 1816-1894.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Campaigns.
  • United States. Army -- Biography.
  • Texas -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Campaigns.
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