The Union launched a multi-purpose expedition into Confederate Gen. E. Kirby Smith's Trans-Mississippi Department, headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana, in early 1864. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Rear Adm. David D. Porter jointly commanded the combined force. Porter's fleet and Brig. Gen. A.J. Smith's XVI and XVII Army Corps detachments of the Army of the Tennessee set out on March 12, 1864, up the Red River, the most direct route to Shreveport. Banks with the XIII and XIX Army Corps advanced by way of Berwick Bay and Bayou Teche. After removing various obstructions that the Rebels had placed in the river, the major impediment to the Union expedition was the formidable Fort DeRussy, an earthen fortification with a partly iron-plated battery designed to resist the fire of Union ironclads that might come up river. Union Brig. Gen. A.J. Smith's command had embarked on transports at Vicksburg and then disembarked at Simmesport, on the 12th, about thirty miles from Fort DeRussy. Smith sent out some troops on the morning of the 13th to determine if any enemy was in their path. This force dispersed and chased an enemy brigade, after which, Smith set his men in motion up the Fort DeRussy road. They did not proceed far before night.