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
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 2 .-fight at Port Royal, S. C. January 1 , 1862 .
Doc . 82 .-fight in Hampton roads , Va. , March 8th and 9th , 1862 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.