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EXPEDITION AGAINST FORT HENRY.
PLAN OF FORT HENRY.1
creek defended by rifle-pits, and around it was swampy land with backwater in the rear. It was strong in itself, and so admirably situated for defense, that the Confederates were confident that it could not be captured. At the time we are considering, the garrison in the fort and the troops in camp within the outer works, consisting of less than three thousand men,' were commanded by BrigadierGeneral Loyd Tilghman, a Marylander, and graduate of West Point Academy, and it was supplied with barracks and tents sufficient for an army fifteen thousand strong.
General Ilalleck, as we have seen, had divided his large Department into military districts, and he had given the command over that of Cairo to General Grant. This was enlarged late in December,a so as to
. Dec. 20, include all of Southern Illinois, Kentucky west of the Cumberland River, and the counties of Eastern Missouri south of Cape Girardeau. Grant was therefore commander of all the land forces to be engaged in the expedition against Fort Henry. To that end he collected his troops at the close of the reconnoissance just mentioned, chiefly at Cairo and Paducah, and had directed General Smith to gain what information he could concerning the two Tennessee forts. Accordingly, on his return, that officer struck the Tennessee River about twenty miles below Fort Henry, where he found the gun-boat Lexington patrolling its waters. In that vessel he approached the fort so near as to draw its fire, and he reported to Grant that it might easily be taken, if attacked soon. The latter sent the report to General Halleck.
Hearing nothing from their chief for several days afterward, Grant and Foote united, in a letter to Halleck,' in asking permission to storm
Jan. 28, Fort Henry, and hold it as a base for other operations. On the following day Grant wrote an urgent letter to his commander setting forth the advantages to be expected from the proposed movement, and on the 30th an order came for its prosecution. The enterprise was
1 REFERENCES. — The A's denote the position of twelve 32-pounders; B, a 24-pounder barbette gan; C, a 12-inch Columbiad; D, 24-pounder siege-gun; EE, 13-rounder siege-guns; F, Flag-staff'; H, Draw-bridge; K, Well; M, Magazine; 0, Ordnance Stores; P, Adjutant's Quarters; Q. Head-quarters; R, Officers' Quarters.
? These were divided into two brigades—the first, under Colonel A. Hieman, was composed of the Tenth Tennessee (his own), consisting of about 800 Irish volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel McGavock; Twentyseventh A labama, Colonel Hughes; Forty-eighth Tennessee, Colonel Voorhies; Tennessee battalion of cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Gantt; and a light battery of four pieces, cominanded by Captain Culbertson. The Second Brigade, under Colonel Joseph Drake, of the Fourth Mississippi Regiment, was composed of his own troops under Major Adair; Fifteenth Arkansas, Colonel Gee; Fifty-first Tennessee, Colonel Browdler; Alabama battalion, Major Garvin; light battery of three pieces, Captain Clare; Alabama battalion of cavalry; an independent company of horse, under Captain Milner; Captain Padgett's Spy Company, and a detachment of Rangers, commanded by Captain Melton. The heavy artillery manned the guns of the fort, and were in charge of Captain Jesse Taylor.— Report of General Tilghman to Colonel Mackall, Johnston's Assistant AdjutantGeneral, Feb. 12, 1862.
• The number of troops officers and men-under General Grant's con and, who were fit for duty at tho middle of January, 1862, was 24,608.
• Grant and his Campaigns, by Henry Coppée, pages 39 and 40.
OPERATIONS OF GON-BOATS ON THE TENNESSEE.
> Feb. 3.
immediately begun, and on Monday morning, the 2d of February, Flag
officer Foote left Cairo with a little flotilla of seven gun-boats' a 1962,
(four of them armored), moved up the Ohio to Paducah, and on that evening was in the Tennessee River. He went up that stream cau
tiously, because of information that there were torpedoes in it, and on
Tuesday morning, at
dawn, he was a few miles below Fort Henry.
Grant's army, composed of the divisions of Generals McClernand and C. F. Smith, had, in the mean time, embarked in transports, which were convoyed by the flotilla. These landed a few miles below the fort, and soon afterward the armored gun-boats (Essex, St. Louis, Carondelet, and Cincinnati) were sent forward by Grant, with orders to move slowly and shell the woods on each
side of the river, in order to discover concealed batteries, if they existed. At the same time the Conestoga and Tyler were successfully engaged, under the direction of Lieutenant Phelps, in fishing up torpedoes.'
ANDREW 11. FOOTE.
1 These were the armored gun-boats Cincinnati (flag-ship), Commander Stembel ; Carondelet, Commander Walke; Essex, Commander W. D. Porter; and St. Louis, Lieutenant Commanding Paulding; and the wooden gun-boats Lexington, Lieutenant Commanding Shirk; Tyler, Lieutenant Commanding Givin; and Conestoga, Lieutenant Commanding Phelps.
2 Information concerning these had been given by a woman living near the banks of the river. The “Jessie Scouts," a daring corps of young men in Grant's army, went into a farm-house wherein a large number of women were gathered for safety. When their fears were allayed, one of the women said that her husband was a soldier in Fort Henry.“ By to-morrow night, madam," said one of the scouts, “there will be no Fort Henry-our gunboats will dispose of it."--"Not a bit of it," was the reply; "they will all be blown up before they get past the Island"-meaning Panther Island. The scouts threatened to carry her away a prisoner if she did not tell all she knew about them, when she told them that torpedoes had been planted all along the channels near the island, and gave them directions as to their locations. Acting upon this information, these little floating mines were searched for, and eight of them were found. They were cylinders of sheet iron, five feet and a half long, pointed at each enů, each containing, in a canvas bag, seventy-five pounds of gunpowder, with a simple apparatus for exploding it by means of a percussion cap, to bo operated upon by means of a lever, extending to the outside, and moved by its striking a vessel. These were anchored in the river, a little below the surface. The rise in the river at this time had made them harınless, and it was found that moisture had ruined the powder.
* EXPLANATION,-A, the shell of the Torpedo; B, air chamber, made of sheet zine, and tightly fastened : C, a chamber, or snck containing gunpowder ; D, a pistol with the muzzle in the powder, having its trigger connected with the rod E. That rod had prongs, which were designed to strike the bottom of a ves motion in such a way that ould operate, by a lever cord, on the pistol, discharging it in the powder, and so exploding the torpedo under the bow of the vessel. E, F, heavy iron bands, to which the anchors or weights, G, G, were attached. The torpedo was anchored 80 as to meet a vessel going against the current, the direction of which is indicated by the arrow.
ATTACK ON FORT HENRY.
By the morning of the 6th, every thing was in readiness for the attack, which was to be made simultaneously on land and water. McClernand's division' moved first, up the eastern side of the Tennessee, to get in a position between Forts Henry and Donelson, and be in readiness to storm the former from the rear, or intercept the retreat of the Confederates, while two brigades of Smith's division, that were to make the attack, marched up the west side of the river to assail and capture half-finished Fort Hieman, situated upon a great hill, and from that commanding point bring artillery to bear upon Fort Henry.
There had been a tremendous thunder-storm during the night, which made the roads very heavy, and caused the river to rise rapidly. The consequence was, that the gun-boats were in position and commenced the attack some time before the troops, who had been ordered to march at eleven o'clock in the morning, arrived. The little streams were so swollen that they had to build bridges for the passage of the artillery; and so slow was the march that they were compelled to hear the stirring sounds of battle without being allowed to participate in it."
It was at half-past twelve o'clock at noon when the gun-boats opened fire. The flotilla had passed Panther Island by the western channel, and the
armored vessels had taken position diagonally across the river, with the unarmored gun-boats Tyler, Lexington, and Conestoga, in reserve. The fort warmly responded to the assault at the beginning (which was made at a distance of six hundred yards from the batteries), but the storm from the 204
1 This was the First division, and consisted of two brigades, composed of the Eighth, Eleventh, Eighteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-seventh, Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, Thirty-first, Forty-fifth, and Forty-eighth Illinois Regiments; with one Illinois cavalry regiment, and four independent cavalry companies, and four batteries of artillery.
2 This, the Second division, comprised the Seventh, Ninth, Twelfth, Twenty-eighth, and Forty-first Illinois Regiments, the Eleventh Indiana, the Seventh and Twelfth Iowa, the Eighth and Thirtieth Missouri, with a considerable body of cavalry and artillery.
3 so named in honor of Colonel A. Hieman, of Tilghman's command, who was at the head of a regiment of Irish volunteers. Hieman was a German, and a resident of Nashville. He was an architect, and a man of taste, culture, and fortune.
4 General Lewis Wallace, who commanded one of the brigades that marched upon Fort Hieman, in a letter to the author soon after the affair, said: “ The whole march was an exciting one. When we started from our bivouac, no doubt was entertained of our being able to make the five miles, take up position, and be ready for the assault at the appointed hour. Never men worked harder. The guns of the teet opened while we were yet quite a mile from our objective. Our line of march was nearly parallel with the line of fire to and from the gun-boats. Not more than seven hundred yards separated us from the great shells, in their roaring, fiery pas. sage. Without suffering from their effect, we had the full benefit of their indescribable and terrible noise. Several times I heard the shot from the fort crash against the iron sides of the boats. You can imagine the excitement and martial furor the circumstances were calculated to inspire our men with. I was all eagerness to push on with my brigade, but General Smith rode, like the veteran he was, laughing at my impatience, and refusing all mr entreatics. Ile was too good a soldier to divide his column."
CAPTURE OF FORT HENRY.
• Feb. 6,
flotilla was so severe, that very soon the garrison became panic-stricken. Seven of the guns were dismounted, and made useless; the flag-staff was shot away; and a heavy rifled cannon in the fort had bursted, killing three
The troops in the camp outside the fort fled, most of them by the upper Dover road, leading to Fort Donelson, and others on a steamer lying just above Fort Henry. General Tilghman and less than one hundred artillerists in the fort were all that remained to surrender to the victorious Foote.'
The Confederate commander had behaved most soldierly throughout, at times doing a private's duty at the guns. His gallantry, Foote said in his report,“ was worthy of a better cause." Before two o'clock he hauled down
his flag and sent up a white one, and the BATTLE OF Fort II ENRY ceased, after a severe conflict of little more than an hour. It
was all over before the land troops arrived, and neither those on the Fort Henry side of the river, nor they who moved against Fort Hieman, on the other bank of the stream, had an opportunity to fight. The occupants of the latter had fled at the approach of the Nationals without firing a shot, and had done what damage they could by fire, at the moment of their departure.
“ A few minutes before the surrender,” says Pollard, “the scene in and around the fort exhibited a spectacle of fierce grandeur. Many of the cabins
. in and around the fort were in flames. Added to the scene were the smoke from the burning timber, and the curling but dense wreaths of smoke from the guns; the constantly recurring, spattering, and whizzing of fragments of crashing and bursting shells; the deafening roar of artillery; the black sides of five or six gun-boats, belching fire at every port-hole; the volumes of smoke settled in dense masses along the surrounding back-waters; and up and over that fog, on the heights, the army of General Grant (10,000), deploying around our small army, attempting to cut off its retreat.
i Report of Commander Foote to the Secretary of the Navy, February 6, 1862. Commander Stembel and Lieutenant-Commander Phelps were sent to hoist the Union flag over the fort, and to invite General Tilghman on board the commodore's flag-ship. When, an hour later, Grant arrived, the fort and all the spoils of victory were turned over to him. General Tilghman, and Captain Jesse Taylor of Tennessee, who was the commander of the fort, with ten other commissioned officers, with subordinates and privates in the fort, were made prisoners. It was said that the General and some of his othcers attempted to escape, but were confronted by sentinels who had been pressed into the service, and who now retaliated by doing their duty strictly. They refused to let them pass the line, such being their orders, and threatened to shoot the first man who should atteinpt it
9 The National loss was two killed and thirty-eight wounded, and the Confederates had five killed and ten wounded. Of the Nationals, twenty-nine were wounded and scalded on the gun-boat Esser, Captain W. D. Porter; some of them mortally. This calamity was caused by a 32-pound shot entering the boiler of the Essex. It had passed through the edge of a bow port, through a bulkhead, into the boiler, in which, fortunately, thero was only about sixty pounds of steam. In its passage it took off a portion of the head of Lieutenant S. B. Brittain, Jr., one of Porter's aids. He was a son of the Rev. S. B. Brittain, of New York, and a very promising youth, not quite seventeen years of age. He was standing very near Commander Porter at the time, with one hand on that officer's shoulder, and the other on his own cutlass. Captain Porter was badly scalded by the steam that escaped, but recovered. That officer was a son of Commodore David Porter, famous in American annals as the commander of the Essex in the war of 1812; and he inherited his father's bravery and patriotism. The gun-boat placed under his command was named Essex, in honor of his father's memory.
EFFECTS OF THE CAPTURE OF FORT HENRY.
midst of the storm of shot and shell, the small force outside of the fort had succeeded in gaining the upper road, the gun-boats having failed to notice their movements until they were out of reach. To give them further time, the gallant Tilghman, exhausted and begrimed with powder and smoke, stood erect at the middle battery, and pointed gun after gun. It was clear, however, that the fort could not hold out much longer. A white flag was raised by the order of General Tilghman, who remarked, “It is vain to fight longer. Our gunners are disabled—our guns dismounted; we can't hold out five minutes longer.' As soon as the token of submission was hoisted, the gun-boats came alongside the fort and took possession of it, their crews giving three cheers for the Union. General Tilghman and the small garrison of forty were taken prisoners.
The capture of Fort Henry was a naval victory of great importance, not only because of its immediate effect, but because it proved the efficiency of gun-boats on the narrow rivers of the West, in co-operating with land troops. On this account, and because of its promises of greater achievements near, the fall of Fort IIenry caused the most profound satisfaction among the loyal people. Halleck announced the fact to McClellan with the stirring words, “Fort Henry is ours! The flag of the Union is re-established on the soil of Tennessee. It will never be removed.” Foote's report, brief and clear, was received and read in both Houses of Congress, in open session; and the Secretary of the Navy wrote to him, “ The country appreciates your gallant deeds, and this Department desires to convey to you and your brave associates its profound thanks for the service you have rendered.”
The moral effect of the victory on the Confederates was dismal, and drew forth the most serious complaints against the authorities at Richmond, and especially against Mallory, the so-called "Secretary of the Navy." Painful apprehensions of future calamities were awakened; for it was felt that, if Fort Donelson should now fall, the Confederate cause in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri must be ruined. The first great step toward that event had been taken. The National troops were now firmly planted in the rear of Columbus, on the Mississippi, and were only about ten miles by land from the bridge over which was the railway connection between that post and Bowling Green. There was also nothing left to obstruct the passage of gunboats up the Tennessee to the fertile regions of Northern Alabama, and carrying the flag of the Republic far toward the heart of the Confederacy.
· First Year of the War, page 288.