Page images




until night. Schoepf's brigade coming up, it was hoped that their entire force would have been captured. During the darkness, however, it escaped, leaving ten guns, 1200 horses and mules, and a large quantity of clothing.

At the time of the evacuation of Columbus, preparations had been made to capture it by an attack from the river, under Commodore Foote and General W. T. Sherman. On this expedition appearing before the works, it was ascertained that they had been abandoned, and that in very great haste. The cannon had been spiked and pushed over the bluff into the river. The garrison had retreated to New Madrid and Island No. 10.

The Mississippi, approaching that island, leaves its southerly course, and, making a bend to the northwest, reaches New Madrid, which is on the Missouri bank. Following the course of the river, New Madrid is therefore below the island.

The position at

Strong works had been established at New Madrid. It was also defended by six gun-boats, the New Madrid. cannon of which commanded the adjacent country; for the river at the time was very high.

Halleck dispatched General Pope from St. Louis to make an attack on New Madrid. The troops were landed on the Missouri bank from transports on February 24th, and found great difficulty in approaching the town March of General on account of the swampy state of the counPope to that place. try. The men declared that they "waded in mud, slept in mud, ate in mud, and were as completely surrounded by mud as St. Helena is by the ocean." They reached their destination, however, on the 3d of March. Finding the place stronger than he expected, Pope was obliged to send to Cairo for siege guns. To prevent the Confederates being re-enforced from below, he established a sunken battery at Point Pleasant. The siege guns were

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


evacuate it.

placed in position before the town immediately on their arrival. Three of the Confederate gun-boats were speedily disabled, and it was soon apparent that the place must The Confederates be evacuated. The garrison fled at midnight to Island No. 10, leaving their supper untouched and candles burning in their tents. They abandoned thirty-three cannon, several thousand stand of smallarms, hundreds of boxes of musket cartridges, and tents for an army of 10,000 men.




On the 15th of March, Commodore Foote, who had brought down from Cairo seven armored gun-boats, one not armored, and ten mortar-boats capable of throwing 13-inch shell, appeared before Island No. 10, and at once Bombardment of commenced its siege. Though the bombardIsland No. 10. ment was vigorously maintained and continued for nearly three weeks, it proved to be very inef. fective. Beauregard reported that the enemy's guns had thrown into the works three thousand shells and burned fifty tons of gunpowder without doing any damage to the batteries, and only killing one of the men. On the other hand, Commodore Foote reported to his government that "Island No. 10 is harder to conquer than Columbus, its shores being lined with forts, each fort commanding the one above it."

Cutting of a canal.

Pope, who was on the Missouri side of the river, could give but little assistance unless he should cross over to the Tennessee side and come upon the rear of the island. It was impossible for him to do this unless some of the gunboats could be brought down to New Madrid, as the opposite shore was crowned with batteries. To accomplish this, General Schuyler Hamilton proposed that a canal should be cut across Donaldson's Point, between Island No. 8 and New Madrid. This work was actually accomplished in nineteen days. The canal was twelve miles long; for a part of the distance, however, it passed through two ponds. The width was about fifty feet. To make the cut, it was necessary to remove about a thousand trees varying from six inches to three feet in diameter. They had to be sawn off by hand in many places four feet under water. When the river was admitted into the canal it flowed through with great force.

By the aid of this canal, transports could be passed below the island, and Pope's troops taken across the Missis



sippi to the Tennessee side. To cover the passage when it should be made, the gunboat Carondelet ran down the river, past the island, during a thunder-storm on the night of the 4th of April: she was protected on her exposed side by a barge laden with hay. Though the soot in her chimney caught fire as she approached the batteries, and, revealing her, brought on her a hail of cannon-shot, she escaped safely. On the 6th, another gun-boat in like manner ran past. The bombardment was now vigorously kept up; the transports were brought out of their concealment through the canal; the Carondelet and her consort silenced the batteries at the proposed place of landing, and in a furious rain-storm Pope's troops accomplished the brilliant operation of a forced passage across the Mississippi. The defenders of the batteries fled in confusion.

The gun-boats run the batteries.

Flight of the Confederates.

They were pursued so vigorously by Pope that during the following night they were driven back on the swamps, and compelled to surrender before daylight (April 8th). The garrison in the island, learning what had taken place, sent a flag of truce to Commodore Foote, offering to surrender. Nearly seven thousand prisoners (6700), including three generals, 273 field and company officers, were taken. The spoils were a floating battery, 100 heavy siege-guns, 24 pieces of field artillery, an immense quantity of ammunition and supplies, several thousand stand of small-arms, and a great number of tents, horses, and wagons. The surrender was conducted with so much confusion that many important papers and documents were left; among others, drawings of the works of Fort Pillow. On the national side not a single life was lost.

The fall of the island was like a thunderbolt in Richmond. "We have saved none of our cannon or munitions; we have lost our boats;

Surrender of the island.

Moral effect on the




our sick have been abandoned; there can be no excuse for the wretched mismanagement and infamous scenes that attended the evacuation; our transports have been scattered; the floating battery, formerly the Pelican dock at New Orleans, with sixteen heavy guns, has been sent adrift. In one of the hospital boats were a hundred poor wretches, half dead with disease and neglect. On the shore are crowds of our men wandering about, some trying to construct rafts with which to float down the river; some lost in the cane-brakes, and without food. No single battle-field has yet afforded to the North such visible fruits of victory as have been gathered at Island No. 10."

The capture of Island No. 10 opened the river as far as Fort Pillow. This work was a short distance above Memphis; it had 40 heavy guns in position, nine gun-boats, and about 6000 troops. General Pope's army of 20,000 reached its vicinity on April 13th, and preparations were immediately made for an attack. Unexpectedly, however (April 17th), Pope's troops were withdrawn, and ordered to join Halleck's army, then advancing on Corinth.

Fort Pillow-its strength.

The Confederates, having a fleet, of which eight vessels Destruction of the were iron-clads, came out from under the Confederate fleet. guns of Fort Pillow on May 10th, in the hope of surprising some of the national mortar-boats which lay above. In less than an hour half the Confederate flotilla had been disabled or destroyed. Some had their boilers shot through; others had been butted and sunk. None of them, however, were captured. The steam power of the national gun-boats was too small to stem the stream of the river. It was feared that if they grappled the disabled vessels, they might be dragged under the guns of the batteries. Their victory was due to the superi ority of their construction-for they were more heavily

« PreviousContinue »