Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Red River Campaign and Its Toll: 69 Bloody Days in Louisiana, March-May 1864

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Red River Campaign and Its Toll: 69 Bloody Days in Louisiana, March-May 1864

Article excerpt

The Red River Campaign and Its Toll: 69 Bloody Days in Louisiana, March-May 1864. By Henry O. Robertson. (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 2016. Pp. x, 209. $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4766-6378-4.)

Henry O. Robertson provides a brisk narrative of military events and quite a bit more in The Red River Campaign and Its Toll: 69 Bloody Days in Louisiana, March-May 1864. His goal is to explore "the meaning, the why of the campaign" (p. 5). Robertson has turned to source materials relating to soldiers, civilians, and politicians to create a new understanding of the Red River campaign's immediate consequences and even its impact on our lives in the twenty-first century.

Robertson lays out the economic background of the Red River Valley before the Civil War and explains the Confederacy's cotton strategy in the region once the war began. When New Orleans was captured in April 1862, planters simply continued their normal routine of growing cotton and storing it in hopes of future sales to Europe at greater profits. The great stockpile of wealth that Confederates were amassing in the valley did not go unnoticed by Washington, D.C. After taking Vicksburg, Mississippi, Federal strategists began to see the stores of cotton in the Red River Valley as a significant target that, if captured, could pave the way to conquering Texas.

While the Union army under Nathaniel P. Banks assembled in Alexandria, Louisiana, for the Red River campaign, other dynamics emerged that affected how events unfolded. As Union forces worked their way up the river, Louisiana loyalists took oaths of allegiance to the United States. …

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