Page images
PDF
EPUB

a store of ink and an abundant supply Porter, proceeded down the Ohio river of enthusiasm. The several Generals and within two miles of Columbus. The were criticised pretty freely, in conse- movement of these forces, was for the quence, for the shots which they fired same object, each having its sphere of acinto empty entrenchments, and the wear- tion conducing to a common result-the isome marches through seas of mud by reconnoitering of the enemy's left flank. which the men were led to the encounter The most active part taken in this grand of “no enemy but winter and rough reconnoissance was done under the comweather." The officers pursued their mand of General McClernand, coöperown way, however, gathered their stores ating with his senior and chief of the of information, formed their conclusions, whole movement, General Grant. and kept their own counsel, leaving the “General McClernand's brigade, conjournalists, in ignorance of their inten- veyed in river transports, left Cairo on tions, to bite their pens in despair, and the 10th for old Fort Jefferson, Kenthe public to fret and fume over the tucky, about fifteen miles distant. He vexatious delays which it was slow in disembarked his force on the following accepting as inevitable under such cir- day and encamped. On the 12th he cumstances to all prudent military. op- made a demonstration in the direction erations. A sufficient indication of these of Columbus, with a force of six compreliminary movements, which were so panies of cavalry and two regiments of little understood at the time, is given infantry, marching for several miles, unin the following brief résumé from the til they observed the rebel Fort BeaureNew York Herald : “On the 9th of gard. In front of this work was seen a January a large force of Union troops strong abatis of fallen timber, extending

-cavalry, artillery, and infantry—under over a distance of half a mile, and surthe command of Brigadier-General Mc- rounding the enemy's intrenchments. Clernand, left Cairo, Illinois, for a recon- The rigor of the weather and the nonnoissance in Southwestern Kentucky, to- appearance of any considerable force of wards the Tennesse border, in the direc- the enemy led the Union commander to tion of Columbus. This force numbered the belief that the rebels were massed about seven thousand men. Cotempo- within their intrenchments. The object raneously with this movement of Mc- of the reconnoissance being not to enClernand's brigade, another force of gage the enemy, if it could be avoided, nearly equal strength, under Brigadier- the party returned the same day to Fort General Paine, marched from Bird's Jefferson. Point, opposite Cairo, in the direction On the 13th another party of Union of Charleston, Missouri

, and thence to troops left Fort Jefferson and proceeded the Ohio river, to observe the move- to Blandsville, where it selected a strong ments of the rebels at Columbus on the position for an encampment. On the river front. About the same time an-14th the whole of McClernand's force other brigade, numbering six thousand marched to Blandsville. They moved men, under Brigadier-General C. F. in two columns, with strong guards in Smith, moved from Paducah to May- advance, so as to command the approachfield, Kentucky, and towards Columbus, es to. Columbus and both bridges across and another force from Cairo to Smith- Mayfield creek. On the 15th an advance land, a point on the Ohio river, between was made to Weston, within ten miles of the Tennessee aud Cumberland rivers. Columbus, going thence to the southwest Besides these land forces, and in coöpe- of the latter to Milburn, taking the town ration with them, several Union gun- by surprise. General Grant at this point boats, under the command of Captain assumed command of the troops. At this

PREPARATORY MOVEMENTS.

213

place a man came into camp who had just to bear on the Lexington, the shot from arrived from Columbus. From him was which fell into the water one-half mile obtained valuable information respecting short of its mark. General Smith obthe condition of the rebels at that place. tained an excellent view of the rebel This refugee stated that the movements fort, camp, and garrison, and immediof the Union troops had caused much ately returned with his brigade to Paduexcitement among the rebels, and caused cah, having met with the fullest success them to withdraw their forces from Fort in the reconnoissance." Beauregard, Jackson, New Madrid and At the close of the month, when the other places. On the 16th the forces unusual rise in the water offered a most marched to Milburn, and from thence the favorable opportunity for the navigation commander sent a detachment to May- of the river, and transport of troops, field, where it communicated with Gen- Commodore Foote earnestly urged upon eral Smith's brigade from Paducah. On General Halleck the expediency of an the 17th, the object of the expedition attack upon Fort Henry, giving it as his having been accomplished, the entire opinion and that of General Grant that force under McClernand retraced their with four iron-clad gunboats and a coöpsteps and returned to Cairo in the same erating military force the position might order as they came, having travelled a be taken. So confident, indeed, was he of distance of one hundred and forty miles, this result that when a few days after the obtaining the fullest information of the order was given, and he saw work ahead nature of the ground over which they for his flotilla, he issued his instructions had passed.

in advance to Lieutenant Phelps to pro"On the 21st of January, Brigadier- ceed immediately with the old lighter General C. F. Smith's brigade, consist- armed gunboats, “as soon as the fort ing of six thousand men, cavalry, artil- shall have surrendered,” to further conlery, and infantry, arrived at Crown Point quests on the river. *

a point on the Tennessee river-from At daylight on the 4th of February, Paducah, having marched a distance of the expedition, under command of Comone hundred and twenty miles over mud- modore Foote and General Grant, set dy roads, and crossing numerous swollen sail in a fleet of gunboats and transports water courses. On the 22d ult., the day from Paducah, on the Tennessee, for Fort after the arrival of the brigade at Crown Henry, distant some sixty-five miles by Point, General Smith proceeded on a the river. In the afternoon a point was personal reconnoissance, on the gunboat reached four miles below the fort, within Lexington, in the direction of Fort Henry. the state of Tennessee, where the flotilla The gunboat proceeded up the west chan- was arrested to land a body of troops, nel of the river, to a point within one under General McClernand, with a view mile and a half of the fort. Three rebel of making a detour and taking the work steamers were discovered lying off the in the rear, while the gunboats proceeded mouth of the small creek that empties with the attack from the water. A camp into the Tennessee river just above the was formed on the shore, named after Genfort. A well-directed shell was fired eral Halleck the commander of the defrom the Lexington, striking one of the partment, and the stars and stripes were rebel craft in the stern. A second shell raised again upon the soil of Tennessee. fell short of its mark just in front of the That afternoon a reconnoissance was made enemy's works; a third burst in the air,

Commodore Foote to General Halleck, Cairo, January directly over Fort Henry, doubtless do- 28, 1861; to Hon. Gideon Welles, Paducah, February 3, ing good execution. The rebels in the 1862; Special Order No. 3 to Lieutenant Phelps, Paducah

February 2, 1862. Speech of the Hon. James W. Grimes, fort then brought out a 32-pounder gun United States Senate, March 13, 1862.

by the gunboats in the direction of the degrees. It was certainly an ingenious fort, which demonstrated the long range and well arranged contrivance, but unand excellent handling of the enemy's fortunately for the schemes of its invenguns, Captain Porter's vessel, the Essex, tors, it failed of success in three most receiving a rifle shot at the distance of important particulars. In the first place two miles and a half. It entered, says the secrecy necessary to the success of all the curious correspondent of the New such devices was violated ; next, while York Tribune, who supplies us with va- they were planted with an eye to the rious details of these scenes, the Cap- usual depth of water, the river bad untain's state-room, a temporary affair, expectedly risen so high that boats of built of wood on her larboard side near any probable draft would float over quite the stern, entering in front just below the untouched ; and further, had all other roof, where there was nothing but an inch things concurred to favor the experipine board to resist it, passed between ment, it would have been defeated by his clock and bureau, darted under his the condition of the powder. After caretable and disappeared through the rear fully dragging up the torpedoes at a safe of the room near the floor. It did no distance, Lieutenant Phelps found the damage except grazing one of the legs canvas bag, upon which all depended, of his table and cutting the feet from a thoroughly saturated with water. The pair of stockings as neatly as if it had correspondent, whom we have just cited, been done with shears. A few moments tells us how the Lieutenant was put upon before the money chest of the boat was the track of these ill-meant contrivances. standing under the table, exactly where " Their existence and location,” says our the ball passed, and Captain Porter re-entertaining imformant, “were revealed moved it.”

by that most irrepressible of all the forces In the night, General Grant returned of nature-a woman's tongue. In the to the Ohio for reinforcements, which he morning, the 'Jessie Scouts ’-a volatile brought up the next day, when a further daring corps of young men, who inevitreconnoissance was made of the channel ably turn up wherever a fight is expected leading to the fort. This was conducted --went into a farm-house, where nearly by Lieutenant Phelps, in the Conestoga, thirty women had gathered for safety. and resulted in the extrication of eight The inmates, greatly alarmed, begged torpedoes which had been placed in the them not to injure a party of unprobed of the river for the destruction of tected females. The scouts allayed their the fleet. They were formidable looking fears, when the women informed them instruments of sheet iron, five feet and a they had frequently heard that Southern half in length and a foot in diameter, of wives and daughters had no mercy to a cylindrical form, pointed at the ends. hope for at the hands of the Lincoln solWithin, in the centre, was a canvas bag diery. In the conversation which ensued, containing seventy pounds of powder, one stated that her husband was a capalongside of which was placed a percus- tain in the rebel army at Fort Henry. sion cap for its explosion. This was to be By about to-morrow night, madam,' restruck by a trigger worked by a rod com- marked one of the scouts, “there will be municating with a lever outside, armed no Fort Henry-our gunboats will diswith grappling hooks to seize upon any pose of it.' *Not a bit of it,' was the vessel ascending the stream. To assist reply ; 'they will be all blown up before this purpose, the machine was attached to they get past the island. It was said so anchors at the bottom by cords of un- significantly that the scout questioned her equal length, so that it hung lightly in further, but she refused to explain. He the river at an angle of about forty-five finally told her that unless she revealed

FLAG-OFFICER FOOTE'S REPORT.

215

all she knew he would be compelled to Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps ; the Tytake her into the camp of the · Lincoln- ler, Lieutenant-Commanding Gwynn, and ites,' as a prisoner. This excited her the Lexington, Lieutenant-Commanding terror, and she explained that torpedoes Shirk, as a second division, in charge of had been planted, and described their Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps, which location as well as she was able, though took a position astern and in-shore of bewailing her slip of the tongue. the armed boats, doing good execution

About noon the next day, the 6th, the there in the action, while the armed land and naval forces advanced together boats were placed in the first order of to the encounter. The former, number- steaming, approaching the fort in a paring some fifteen thousand men, were ar- allel line. ranged in two divisions, one under Gen- “The fire was opened at 1,700 yards eral C. F. Smith, proceeding by the left distance, from the flag-ship, which was bank on the Kentucky shore to take and followed by the other gunboats, and reoccupy the heights on that side com- sponded to by the fort. As we apmanding the fort ; the other, under Gen- proached the fort, slow steaming till we eral McClernand, to pursue a circuitous reached within 600 hundred yards of the route to which they were compelled by rebel batteries, the fire both from the the rise of the waters, to the rear of the gunboats and the fort increased in rafort, on the road to Fort Donelson. There pidity and accuracy of range. At twenthey were to prevent all reinforcements ty minutes before the flag was struck, the to Fort Henry, or escape from it, and be Essex unfortunately received a shot in ready to storm the work promptly on her boiler, which resulted in the woundreceipt of orders.* Before either had ing and scalding of twenty-nine officers reached its destination, the work of the and men, including Commander Porter. day was already accomplished by flag- The Essex then necessarily dropped out officer Foote, to whose proceedings we of line astern, entirely disabled, and unnow turn our attention. The reader will able to continue the fight, in which she find, in the direct, manly language of his had so gallantly participated until the official report of the transaction to the sad catastrophe. The firing continued Department at Washington, the best ac- with unabated rapidity and effect upon count of the capture of Fort Henry. It the three gunboats as they continued still was dated the following day at Cairo, to approach the fort with their destrucwhither the writer withdrew, not to re- tive fire, until the rebel flag was hauled move himself from the scene of conflict, down, after a very severe and closelybut hastily to gather new forces and re- contested action of one hour and fifteen turn, if possible, with increased resolu- minutes. tion to a more arduous encounter. "I “A boat containing the adjutant-genhave the honor,” he writes, “ to report eral and captain of Engineers came alongthat on the 6th inst., at 12} o'clock P. M., side after the flag was lowered, and reI made an attack on Fort Henry, on the ported that General Lloyd Tilghman, the Tennessee river, with the iron-clad gun-commander of the fort, wished to comboats Cincinnati, Commander Stembel, municate with the flag-officer, when I disthe flag-ship; the Essex, Commander patched Commander Stembel and LieuPorter; the Carondolet, Commander tenant-Commanding Phelps, with orders Walker, and the St. Louis, Lieutenant- to hoist the American flag where the seCommanding Paulding ; also taking with cession ensign had been ilying, and to me the three old gunboats Conestoga, inform General Tilghman that I would

see him on board the flag-ship.

He came * General Grant's Field Oaders No. 1, near Fort Henry, February 5, 1862.

on board soon after the Union had been

submitted for the rebel flag on the fort, killing one in the Essex, while the casuand possession taken of it. I received alties in the latter from steam amounted the General and his Staff, and some sixty to twenty-eight in number. The Caronor seventy men, as prisoners, and a hos- delet and St. Louis met with no casupital ship, containing sixty invalids, to- alties. The steamers were admirably gether with the fort and its effects, mount- handled by the commanders and officers, ing twenty guns, mostly of heavy calibre, presenting only their bow guns to the with barracks and tents capable of ac- enemy, to avoid the exposure of the vulcommodating 15,000 men, and sundry nerable parts of their vessels. Lieutenarticles, which, as I turned the fort and ant-Commanding Phelps, with his divisits effects over to General Grant, com- ion, also executed my orders very effecmanding the army on his arrival, in one tually, and promptly proceeded up the hour after we had made the capture, he river in their further execution after the will be enabled to give the Government capture of the fort. In fact all the offia more correct statement of than I am cers and men gallantly performed their enabled to communicate from the short duty, and considering the little experitime I had possession of the fort. The ence they have had under fire, far more plan of the attack, as far as the army than realized my expectations. Fort reaching the rear of the fort to make a Henry was defended with the most dedemonstration simultaneously with the termined gallantry by General Ti!ghnavy, was frustrated by the excessively man, worthy of a better cause, who, muddy roads, and the high stage of wa- from his own account, went into action ter, preventing the arrival of our troops with eleven guns of heavy calibre bearuntil some time after I had taken posses- ing upon our boats, which he fought unsion of the fort.

til seven of the number were dismantled "On securing the prisoners, and mak- or otherwise rendered useless." ing the necessary preliminary arrange- The accident to the Essex, the chief ments, I dispatched Lieutenant-Com- disaster to the Union forces of the day, manding Phelps with his division up the was more particularly described in a letTennessee river, as I had previously di- ter by an officer of the gunboat flotilla, rected, to remove the rails, and so far published in the journals of the day. render the bridge of the railroad, for " It was a 32-pound shot passing through transportation and communication be- the edge of a bow port, through a strong tween Bowling Green and Columbus, bulkhead, plump into the boiler. There useless, and afterwards to pursue the was only about sixty pounds of steam rebel gunboats, and secure their capture on, just enough to stem the current, or if possible. This being accomplished, there would not have been one man left and the army in possession of the fort, to tell the tale. Porter was standing and my services being indispensable at near the gun and in the act of giving an Cairo, I left Fort Henry in the evening order to a bright young lad named Britof the same day, with the Cincinnati, Es- tain, the son of a clergyman in New sex and St. Louis, and arrived here this York, when the ball came through, carmorning

rying off Brittain's head before going The armed gunboats resisted effectu- into the boiler. The pilot-house was dially the shot of the enemy, when strik- rectly over the boiler, and the only coming the casemate. The Cincinnati, the munication with it was from below. The flag-ship, received thirty-one shots, the two pilots had no way of escape, and Essex fifteen, the St. Louis seven, and were literally boiled to death. They the Carondelet six-killing one and thrust their heads out of the little air wounding nine in the Cincinnati, and ports, which was all they could do. Some

« PreviousContinue »