Doc. 136.-capture of Island no.10.
General Pope's official detailed report.
headquarters army of the Mississippi, five miles from Corinth, Miss., April 30th, 1862.General: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations which resulted in the capture of Island No.10, and the batteries on the main shore, together with the whole of the land-forces of the enemy in that vicinity. A brief sketch of the topography of the immediate neighborhood seems essential to a full understanding of the operations of the army. Island No.10 lies at the bottom of a great bend of the Mississippi, immediately north of it being a long, narrow promontory on the Missouri shore. The river from Island No.10 flows north-west to New-Madrid, where it again makes a great bend to the south as far as Tiptonville, otherwise called Merriweather's Landing, so that opposite New-Madrid also is a long, narrow promontory. From Island No.8, about four miles above Island No.10 the distance across the land to New-Madrid is six miles, while by river it is fifteen. So likewise the distance over land from Island No.10 to Tiptonville is five miles, while by water it is twenty-seven. Commencing at Hickman, a great swamp, which afterward becomes Reelfoot Lake, extends along the left bank of the Mississippi and discharges its waters into the river forty miles below Tiptonville, leaving the whole peninsula opposite New-Madrid between it and the river. This peninsula, therefore, is itself an island, having the Mississippi on three sides, and Reelfoot Lake and the great swamps which border it on the other. A good road leads from Island No.10 along the west bank of Reelfoot Lake to Tiptonville. The only means of supply, therefore, for the forces at and around Island No.10, on this peninsula, was by the river. When the river was blockaded at New-Madrid, supplies and reenforcements were landed at Tiptonville, and conveyed across the neck of the peninsula by land. There was no communication with the interior, except by a small flatboat, which plied across Reelfoot Lake, a distance of two miles, and that through an opening cut through cypress-swamps for the purpose. Supplies and reinforcements, or escape, to any considerable extent, were therefore impracticable on the land-side. One mile below Tiptonville begin the great swamps along the Mississippi, on both sides, and no dry ground is to be found, except in occasional spots, for about sixty miles below. By intercepting the navigation of the river below Tiptonville, and commanding by heavy artillery the lowest point of dry ground near that place, the enemy would be at once cut off from his resources, and prevented from escaping. Immediately after the reduction of New-Madrid, this subject engaged my attention. The roads along the river, in the direction of Point Pleasant, followed a narrow strip of dry land between the swamps and the river, and were very miry and difficult. With much labor the heavy guns captured from the enemy at New-Madrid were dragged by hand and established in battery at several prominent points along the river, the low er battery being placed immediately opposite the lowest point of dry ground below Tiptonville. This extended my lines seventeen miles along the river. A week was thus passed in severe labor. The enemy perceiving the consequence of establishing these batteries, attempted in every way by his gunboats to prevent their construction. They were, therefore, in every case established in the night. As soon as daylight unmasked our lowest battery, the enemy paw at once that we must either be dislodged or all reliable communication with his forces would be cut off. Five gunboats, therefore, at once advanced against the battery, which consisted of two twenty-four pound siege-guns and two ten-pound Parrotts, manned by a detachment of the First U. S. infantry, under Lieut. Bates, and sup-ported by Gen. Palmer's division, encamped one and a half miles in the rear. Rifle-pits for five hundred sharpshooters were dug on the flanks  of the battery close to the river-bank, and were constantly occupied. The gunboats ran up within three hundred yards, and a furious cannonade was kept up for an hour and a half, when they were repulsed, with the loss of one gunboat sunk, several badly damaged, and many men shot down at their guns by our sharpshooters from the rifle-pits. Our loss was one man killed. From that time no attempt against the battery was made, and all communication from below with the forces near Island No.10 was cut off. One of the gunboats would occasionally, during a dark night, steal up close along the opposite shore to Tiptonville, but always at such great risk that it was seldom undertaken. Neither supplies nor men could be taken up or carried off in this way. Such was the condition of affairs on the six-teenth of March. The object for which the land-forces had been moved on New — Madrid was accomplished in the capture of that place and the blockade of the river to any supplies and reeforcements for the enemy at and around Island No.10. Meantime the flotilla had been firing at long range, both from the gun and mortar-boats, at the batteries of the enemy in and opposite the Island, for seven consecutive days, without any apparent effect, and without any advance whatever toward their reduction. This result was doubtless due to the defective construction of the boats. On the sixteenth of March I received your despatch directing me, if possible, to construct a road through the swamps to a point on the Missouri shore opposite Island No.10, and transfer a portion of my force, sufficient to erect batteries at that point, to assist in the artillery practice on the enemy's batteries. I accordingly despatched Col. J. W. Bissell's Engineer regiment to examine the country with this view, directing him at the same time, if he found it impracticable to build a road through the swamps and overflow of the river, to ascertain whether it were possible to dig or cut a canal across the peninsula from some point above Island No.10 to New-Madrid, in order that steam-transports might be brought to me, which would enable my command to cross the river. The idea of the canal was suggested to me by Gen. Schuyler Hamilton, in a conversation upon the necessity of crossing the river and assailing the enemy's batteries, near Island No.10, in the rear. On the seventeenth of March I suggested to Com. Foote, by letter, that he should run the enemy's batteries with one of his gunboats, and thus enable me to cross the river with my command — assuring him that by this means I could throw into the rear of the enemy men enough to deal with any force he might have. This request the Commodore declined, on the ground of impracticability. Col. Bissell having reported a road impracticable, but that a route could be found for a channel sufficient for small steamers, I immediately directed him to commence the canal, with the whole regiment, and to call on Col. Buford, commanding the land — forces temporarily on duty with the flotilla, (which had been placed under my command,) for any assistance in men or material necessary for the work. Supplies of such articles as were needed, and four steamers of light draught, were sent for to Cairo, and the work begun. It was my purpose to make the canal deep enough for the gunboats ; but it was not found practicable to do so within any reasonable period. The work performed by Col. Bissell and his regiment of Engineers was, beyond measure, difficult; and its completion was delayed much beyond my expectations. The canal is twelve miles long, six miles of which are through very heavy timber. An avenue fifty feet wide was made through it, by sawing off trees of large size four and a half feet under water. For nine-teen days the work was prosecuted with untiring energy and determination, under exposures and privations very unusual, even in the history of warfare. It was completed on the fourth of April, and will long remain a monument of enterprise and skill. During all this time the flotilla had kept up its fire upon the batteries of the enemy, but without making any progress toward their reduction. It had by this time become very apparent that the capture of Island No.10 could not be made unless the land-forces could be thrown across the river, and their works carried from the rear ; but during this long delay the enemy, anticipating such a movement, had erected batteries along the shore from Island No.10 entirely round to Tiptonville, at every point where troops could be landed. The difficulty of crossing the river in force had, therefore, been greatly increased; and what would have been a comparatively safe undertaking three weeks before had become one full of peril. It is not necessary to state to you that the passage of a great river lined with batteries, and in the face of the enemy, is one of the most difficult and hazardous operations of war, and cannot be justified except in a case of urgent necessity. Such a case seemed presented for my action. Without this movement operations against Island No.10 must have been abandoned, and the land-forces at least withdrawn. It is but bare justice to say, that although the full peril of the moment was, thoroughly understood by my whole command, there was not an officer or a man who was not anxious to be placed in the advance. There seemed little hope of any assistance from the gunboats. I therefore had several heavy coalbarges brought into the upper end of the canal, which, during the progress of the work, were made into floating batteries. Each battery consisted of three heavy barges lashed together, and bolted with iron. The middle barge was bulkheaded all around, so as to give four feet of thickness of solid timber both at the sides and on the ends. The heavy guns, three in number, were mounted on it, and protected by traverses of sand-bags. It also carried  eighty sharpshooters. The barges outside of it had a first layer in the bottom of empty watertight barrels, securely lashed, then layers of dry cotton-wood rails and cotton bales packed close. They were then floored over at the top, to keep everything in its place, so that a shot penetrating the outer barges must pass through twenty feet of rails and cotton before reaching the middle one, which carried the men and the guns. The arrangement of water-barrels and cotton-bales was made in order that even if penetrated frequently by the enemy's shot, and filled with water, the outer barges could not sink. It was my purpose when all was ready, to tow one or two of these batteries over the river to a point opposite New-Madrid, where swamps prevented any access to the river, and where the enemy, therefore, had been unable to establish his batteries. When near the shore, the floating batteries with their crews were to be cut loose from the steamer, and allowed to float down the river to the point selected for landing the troops. As soon as they arrived within a short range of it, they were to cast out their anchors so as to hold the barges firmly, and open fire upon the enemy's batteries. I think that these batteries would have accomplished their purpose, and my whole force volunteered to man them. They were well provided with small boats, to be kept out of danger, and even if the worst happened, and the batteries were sunk by the enemy's fire, the men would meet with no worse fate than capture. On the fifth of April the steamers and barges were brought near to the mouth of the bayou which discharges into the Mississippi at New-Madrid, but were kept carefully out of sight of the river, whilst our floating batteries were being completed. The enemy, as we afterwards learned, had received positive advices of the construction of the canal, but were unable to believe that such a work was practicable. The first assurance they had of its completion was the appearance of the four steamers loaded with troops, on the morning of the seventh of April. On the fourth, Commodore Foote allowed one of the gunboats to run the batteries at Island No.10, and Capt. Walke, U. S.N., who had volunteered — as appears from the Commodore's order to him — came through that night with the gunboat Carondelet. Although many shots were fired at him as he passed the batteries, his boat was not once struck. He informed me of his arrival early on the fifth. On the morning of the sixth, I sent Gen. Granger, Col. Smith of the Forty-third Ohio, and Capt. L. B. Marshall of my staff, to make a reconnoissance of the river below, and requested Captain Walke to take them on board the Carondelet, and run down the river to ascertain precisely the character of the banks and the position and number of the enemy's batteries. The whole day was spent in this reconnoissance, the Carondelet steaming down the river in the midst of a heavy fire from the enemy's batteries along the shore. The whole bank, for fifteen miles, was lined with heavy guns at intervals; in no case, I think, exceeding one mile. Entrenchments for infantry were also thrown up along the shore, between the batteries. On his return up the river, Captain Walke silenced the enemy's battery opposite Point Pleasant, and a small infantry force, under Capt. L. H. Marshall, landed and spiked the guns. On the night of the sixth, at my urgent request, Commodore Foote ordered the Pittsburgh also to run down to New-Madrid. She arrived at daylight, having, like the Carondelet, come through without being touched. I directed Capt. Walke to proceed down the river at daylight on the seventh, with the two gunboats, and if possible, silence the batteries near Watson's Landing, the point which had been selected to land the troops, and at the same time, I brought the four steamers into the river and embarked Paine's division, which consisted of the Tenth, Sixteenth, Twenty-second, and Fifty-first Illinois regiments, with Houghtaling's battery of artillery. The land-batteries of thirty-two pounders, under Capt. Williams, First U. S. infantry, which I had established some days before, opposite the point where the troops were to land, were ordered to open their fire upon the enemy's batteries opposite as soon as it was possible to see them. A heavy storm commenced on the night of the sixth, and continued, with short intermissions, for several days. The morning of the seventh was very dark, and the rain fell heavily until midday. As soon as it was fairly light, our heavy batteries on the land opened their fire vigorously upon the batteries of the enemy, and the two gunboats ran down the river and joined in the action. I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of Capt. Walke during the whole of these operations. Prompt, gallant, and cheerful, he performed the hazardous service assigned him with signal skill and success. About twelve o'clock M. he signalled me that the batteries near our place of landing were silenced, and the steamers containing Paine's division moved out from the landing and began to cross the river, preceded by the gunboats. The whole force designed to cross had been drawn up along the river-bank, and saluted the passing steamers with shouts of exultation. As soon as we began to cross the river, the enemy commenced to vacate his positions along the banks and the batteries on the Tennessee shore, opposite Island No.10. His whole force was in motion toward Tiptonville, with the exception of the few artillerists on the island, who, in the haste of the retreat, had been abandoned. As Paine's division was passing opposite the point I occupied on the shore, one of my spies, who had crossed on the gunboats from the silenced battery, informed me of this hurried retreat of the enemy. I signalled Gen. Paine to stop his boats, and sent him the information, with orders to land as rapidly as possible on the opposite shore and push forward to Tiptonville, to which point the enemy's forces were tending from every direction. I sent  no force to occupy the deserted batteries opposite Island No.10, as it was my first purpose to capture the whole army of the enemy. At eight or nine o'clock that night, (the seventh,) the small party abandoned on the island, finding themselves deserted, and fearing an attack in the rear from our land-forces, which they knew had crossed the river in the morning, sent a message to Com. Foote, surrendering to him. The divisions were pushed forward to Tiptonville as fast as they were landed, Paine leading. The enemy attempted to make a stand several times near that place, but Paine did not once deploy his columns. By midnight all our forces were across the river and pushing forward rapidly to Tiptonville. The enemy retreating before Paine, and from Island No.10, met at Tiptonville during the night in great confusion, and were driven back into the swamps by the advance of our forces, until at four o'clock A. M. on the eighth, finding themselves completely cut off, and being apparently unable to resist, they laid down their arms and surrendered at discretion. They were so scattered and confused that it was several days before anything like an accurate account of their number could be made. Meantime I had directed Col. W. L. Elliott, of the Second Iowa cavalry, who had crossed the river after dark, to proceed as soon as day dawned to take possession of the enemy's abandoned works on the Tennessee shore, opposite Island No.10, and to save the steamers if he possibly could. He reached there before sunrise that morning, (the eighth,) and took possession of the encampments, the immense quantity of stores and supplies, and of all the enemy's batteries on the main land. He also brought in almost two hundred prisoners. After posting his guards and taking possession of the steamers not sunk or injured, he remained until the forces landed. As Col. Buford was in command of these forces, Col. Elliott turned over to his infantry force the prisoners, batteries, and captured property for safe keeping, and proceeded to cross the country in the direction of Tiptonville, along Reelfoot Lake, as directed. It is almost impossible to give a correct account of the immense quantity of artillery, ammunition, and supplies of every description which fell into our hands. Three generals, two hundred and seventy-three field and company officers, six thousand seven hundred prisoners, one hundred and twenty-three pieces of heavy artillery, all of the very best character and of the latest patterns, seven thousand stand of small arms, several wharf-boat loads of provisions, an immense quantity of ammunition of all kinds, many hundred horses and mules, with wagons and harness, etc., etc., are among the spoils. Very few if any of the enemy escaped, and only by wading and swimming through the swamps. The conduct of the troops was splendid throughout, as the results of this operation and its whole progress very plainly exhibit. We have crossed the great river, the banks of which were lined with batteries and defended by seven thousand men; we have pursued and captured the whole force of the enemy and all his supplies and material of war, and have again recrossed and occupied the camp at New-Madrid, without losing a man or meeting with an accident. Such results bespeak efficiency, good conduct, high discipline, and soldierly deportment of the best character, far better than they can be exhibited in pitched battles or the storming of fortified places. Patience, willing labor, endurance of hardship and privation for long periods, cheerful and prompt obedience, order and discipline, bravery and spirit, are the qualities which these operations have developed in the forces under my command, and which assure for them a brilliant and successful career in arms. It is difficult to express the feeling which such conduct has occasioned me, fortunate enough to be the commander of such troops. There are few material obstacles within the range of warfare which a man of courage and spirit would hesitate to encounter with such a force. To the division and brigade commanders, whose reports I transmit, I have the grateful privilege of designating in detail the forces engaged in these operations. Gens. Paine, Stanley, Hamilton and Plummer crossed the river, together with a portion of General Granger's cavalry division, under Col. W. L. Elliott, Second Iowa cavalry. To all these officers I am deeply indebted for their efficient and cordial aid in every portion of our operations. They conducted their division with eminent skill and vigor, and to them I am largely indebted for the discipline and efficiency of this command. Gen. Paine, fortunate in having the advance, exhibited conspicuous gallantry and vigor, and had the satisfaction to receive the surrender of the enemy. Gen. Palmer was posted, two days before the final operations, in support and in charge of the battery below Tiptonville. Throughout he was prompt and active in the discharge of his duties. Of Col. Bissell, of the Engineer regiment, I can hardly say too much; untiring and determined, no difficulties discouraged them, and no labor was too much for their energy. They have conducted and completed a work which will be memorable in the history of this war. My own personal staff, Major Speed Butler, Assist. Adj.-General, Major C. A. Morgan, and Captain L. H. Marshall, Aids O. W. Nixon, Medical Director, and Major J. M. Case, Inspector-General, rendered an important service, and were, in all respects, zealous and efficient. Our success was complete and overwhelming, and it gives me profound satisfaction to report that it was accomplished without loss of life.
John Pope, Major-General Commanding.
Report of Commander Walke.
Gen. Pope, I received on board Gen. Granger and staff, on the morning of the sixth inst., and  proceeded down the Mississippi River, opposite to this place, making an extensive reconnoissance. On our way down we exchanged a few shots with some of the enemy's batteries on the Tennessee shore, and on our way back we attacked two siegeguns, twenty-four-pounders, which had engaged us. We disabled and spiked these guns without receiving any injury. The remainder of the enemy's batteries fired upon us on our way to New-Madrid as long as we were within range. After my return to New-Madrid, Gen. Pope informed me of your intention to send another gunboat, and requested that I should go down the river, and destroy the remaining rebel batteries above Point Pleasant. At dawn the following morning, and after a given signal, he informed me he would land his army, and attack that of the enemy at or near Island No.10. The Pittsburgh did not arrive till five o'clock A. M.; but as the transports, one at least, were under way with our troops on board, going down, I got under way at half-past 6 o'clock, having ordered Com. Thompson, verbally and by signal, to follow my motions, and proceeded down to the enemy's lower and heaviest battery, consisting of one sixty-four-pounder, and two sixty-four-pound siege-howitzers. We opened a constant, deliberate and well-directed fire upon it, for three fourths of an hour, feebly assisted by our own batteries on shore, when the enemy slackened his fire. Shot passed through our fourth cutter and starboard quarter, cutting away the sheave of our wheel-rope, striking our stern-gun, and bounding over our stern. About this time the Pittsburgh commenced firing at long range, as she came down. As soon as our steering-gear was repaired, I gradually closed on the enemy, firing a shot now and then — the Pittsburgh, at a distance astern, throwing shell in a dangerous position across our bow, until the fort was deserted by the enemy. I spiked and disabled the guns of this fort, and I then proceeded up three hundred yards further, and found a sixty — four--pound siege — howitzer, dismounted. Still further up, I spiked another sixty-four-pound howitzer, and yet further, we found a fine sixty-four-pound gun, on a pivot, spiked and deserted by the enemy, who had set fire to a private residence there, and upon whom we fired as they ran off. A large quantity of ammunition was left by them at each fort. I then made the required signal, crossed over to our army, received further instructions from Gen. Pope, and covered their disembarkation on the Tennessee shore, at the captured fort, above Point Pleasant. At evening, we steamed down to our camp, opposite the enemy's fort, at this place, headed the gunboats for the enemy's battery, until early this morning, when we got under way, and crossed over to Tiptonville, the enemy having disappeared. The officers and crew of this vessel, during the trials and dangers of the battle, conducted them-selves with admirable coolness and ability. To do justice to many of them, will require a more detailed letter. Most respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,