By Wednesday, March 16, 1864 Federal forces occupied Alexandria, Louisiana on the Red River. Their target was Shreveport, the capital of Confederate Louisiana and the headquarters for the Army of the Trans-Mississippi.
The potential fall of Shreveport would render East Texas, especially Galveston and Sabine Pass, vulnerable to invasion. With both the Union army and navy involved on the Red River, a secondary force of Union troops from Little Rock, Arkansas would move south under General Frederick Steele with the intention of joining Banks’ expedition moving up the Red River.
If successful, the Red River campaign would break up the Confederacy west of the Mississippi River and finally allow Nathaniel Banks to penetrate into the interior of Confederate Texas, a goal that until March 1864 essentially had eluded him.