History of the Battle of Pleasant Hill
The Battle of Pleasant Hill was fought on April 9, 1864, during the Red River Campaign of the American Civil War, near Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, between Union forces led by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks and Confederate forces, led by Major General 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. The night time provided a brief interlude in hostilities. On April 9, Taylor launched an ambitious assault against the newly reinforced Federals at Pleasant Hill and had the upper hand before General 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. This was the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi River.
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.
History of Pleasant Hill
The original site of Pleasant Hill, now referred to as Old Town was given its name by John Jordan. In 1844, Mr. Jordan, from the community of Pleasant Valley in Dallas County, Alabama, was looking for a new home. A beautiful spot in slightly hilly country in the extreme southern part of DeSoto Parish appealed to Mr. Jordan so much that he and his family settled there.
Soon, relatives and friends from Alabama joined the Jordans. Others came. By the early 1850’s Pleasant Hill had become a village, a center of refinement and education. Among its early settlers were families named Jordan, Childers, Chapman, Davis, Harrell, and Hampton. Because of cotton, most of them became wealthy before the Civil war. Some lived in fine homes described as mansions.
When the Civil War began, Pleasant Hill was a thriving little town with a post office, a hotel, a school for girls, the Pierce-Payne Methodist College for boys, and a Methodist church. But on April 7, 1864, terror came to Pleasant Hill and everything was changed. On that day Federal troops (the Yankees) entered town. Stores were broken into and goods carried off; chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs,garden produce, and clothes were taken; fences and even buildings were used for fuel; and officers were quartered in some of the nicest homes.
The last known surviving witness of the days of terror in Pleasant Hill was Mrs. R.A. Rembert who resided in the town until her death at the age of 93. As Miss Sallie Chapman, she knew the suspense and the agony of Civil War days when only women were left in her town, when the enemy occupied her home, and when 1,200 men were left dead or wounded on one of the bloodiest battlefields of the war.
The ordeal for the women of Pleasant Hill began when Federal troops passed that way in their march toward Mansfield. The soldiers left the little town of Pleasant Hill on the night of April 7, but returned after the Battle of Mansfield. Confederate troops followed, and fighting began about three or four o’clock in the afternoon on April 9, 1864. The battle lasted only a few hours. Both sides claimed the victory. There is still a question as to who really won.
On the morning after the battle, the women of Pleasant Hill did what they could for the sick and the dying. Later in the day, Federals returned to bury their dead and nurse the wounded. Pierce-Payne College was turned into a hospital for the Yankees, while the Confederates were cared for in other buildings, including private homes. Among them was the Childers mansion, which General Banks had used as his headquarters.
Time passed. The Civil War ended. In 1881, the railroad came. Again, Pleasant Hill changed; the town moved. Since the railroad, the Texas and Pacific, did not come to the town, the town went to the railroad.
The new community, about two miles away and in Sabine Parish, was called Sodus; but the residents, most of whom had moved from the old town, continued to say Pleasant Hill. In 1922, the railroad commissioners decided to drop the name Sodus. Pleasant Hill, the little town incorporated in 1893, was and is.
There is little to the area now to remind a visitor that Pleasant Hill was once an educational center. The Pleasant Hill Academy for Girls, which operated from 1850 to 1870 and which had as many as 65 – 70 pupils in attendance, has long been gone. The Pierce-Payne College, which opened in 1858 as a companion school to Mansfield Female College, has passed into history, as well. Its construction was halted by the Civil War and its buildings were never completed; but the college filled a need during its few years of existence and its home, Pleasant Hill, was an important place.