Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXV.

APRIL, 1862

ISLAND NUMBER TEN-CHANNEL CUT AROUND IT BY COLONEL BISSELL_DIFFI

CULTIES OF THE UNDERTAKING_TRANSPORTS GOT THROUGH-BUFORD'S AT

TACK ON UNION CITY-COLONEL ROBERTS SPIKES THE UPPER BATTERY OF

THE ISLAND-A DARING EXPLOIT-THE CARONDELET RUNS THE BATTERIES

IN A TERRIFIC THUNDER STORM-THE PITTSBURG

FOLLOWS-POPE MOVES

HIS ARMY ACROSS THE MISSISSIPPI AND CAPTURES THE ENEMY ISLAND NUM

BER TEN SURRENDERED WITH ALL ITS ARMAMENT.

[ocr errors]

THE first of April brought dim intimations of some new,

strange movement on the part of the Army of the Potomac; but the excited public curiosity was withdrawn for a moment from it, by stirring news that came from the west. The tedious bombardment of Island Number Ten had been kept up for so

so long a time, that the public began to be weary of hearing the place mentioned, for we seemed no nearer its possession than when the fleet of Foote first appeared before it. If transports could only be got to Pope, below, the work would be accomplished, and the following plan to do this was adopted. A slough of standing water struck inland through the swamp from the Mississippi, where the fleet lay, and at length joined a stream which emptied into the river below the island, and near New Madrid. If Foote could oniv get some light draft transports through this, he could run the batteries with some of his gun boats for their protection. Pope, with his accustomed resolution, determined to accomplish this with his corps of engineers under Colonel Bissell. When he first took position at New Madrid, he had sent this accomplished officer to see if he could not establish batteries on the shore opposite the enemy's works,

[graphic][merged small]

1. REAR-ADMIRAL S. F. DUPONT 2. REAR-ADMIRAL L. M. GOLDSBOROUGI. 3. COMNODORT D. 0. PORTER.

4 REAR-ADMIRAL A. H. FOOTE. 6. LIEUTENANT JOHN L. WORDEN. 6. COMMODORE CHARLES H DAVIS.

7. REAR-ADMIRAL D. G. FARRAGUT.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

BOLD ENGINEERING.

331

and shell them out; but the Colonel, after spending three days in the swamps in canoes, with negroes as guides, reported it impracticable. He declared, however, that he could by hard labor, cut a channel for transports through this slough. Popc at once gave him full permission to take whatever force he wanted, and order every thing he needed and go to work. The latter immediately sent to Cairo for four steamboats, six flats, and such guns as could be spared, and put his regiment into the swamps, to commence the herculean task. The route to be laid open was twelve miles long, six of it through timber, and the remaining six through narrow, crooked bayous, matted with brush and small trees that had grown up from the bottom. The standing timber, to a common observer, presented an insuperable obstacle. Large trees that had been growing there from time immemorial, sent their huge trunks out of the water, some of them nearly six feet in circumference. These had to be sawed off four feet below the surface of the water, for the space of fifty feet in width. In one short stretch, seventy-five of these trees had to be thus cut. The machines for doing this were rigged on rafts and flats, and worked by twenty men. Ahead of them went large gangs of men to clear away the drift wood and fallen timber that loa od the surface, and behind came two barges and a steamboat, the last of which, with long strong lines, hauled out the logs that the men could not handle. Last of all came the fleet, the flat boats being converted into floating batteries, for no one knew how soon the enemy might ascertain what was going on, and fill the swamp with sharp shooters.

At the very outset, the difficulties that presented them. selves were sufficiently formidable, for it was five hundred feet from the shore to the levee, the whole way filled with stumps. Then the levee itself had to be cut. But the ground inland, being lower than this, when an opening was

20

332

A DASH BY BUFORD.

Wiods.

made the water poured through it like a torrent, tearing a channel across a corn field for a quarter of a mile, to the

The boats had to be dropped through this cut with liries, it taking five men to manage the largest. The two miles through the timber, occupied eight days. It sometires took twenty men a whole day, to get out a half sunken log. If the saws worked well, they would cut off a tree two feet through in a quarter of an hour; but if they ran crooked or pinched, it would require two or three hours of hard wirk, even after all the brush had been fished up around its rats. Three bayous had to be traversed after tłe woods were cleared, in the middle one the water runring like a tiill-race, making it necessary to check the boats down with lines. At last they came in sight of the Mississippi, near New Madrid, and the song, “ Jorilan is a hard road to travel,which the men had chanted through these days of til, was changed to “t'other side of Jordan.” It was an astonishing feat of engineering skill and energy, and re? ected as much credit on the commander, as though he had won a battle.

While 1' is gigantic task was being acconiplished, the monotonous life • f the flotilla above the island was broken by tw: brilliant exploits. The rebels who occupied Union city, nearly opposite the head of Island Number Ten becoming very troublesi ime to the Unionists at Hickman, Colonel Buford, at the head of a thousand men, made a night march upon the plare, and surprising them, drove them in affright from it and took all their camp equipage. The other, was a r.ight attack by boats, upon the upper battery of the enemy on the island. Two weeks had elapsed since the fleet set sail, and no perceptible progress had been made towards de. stroying the rebel works. The troops were wearied to death with their long idleness, and many of the officers were ready for any undertaking, however desperate, that would give

« PreviousContinue »