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[77]

St. Louis Democrat account.

Cairo, February 7, 1862.
Three of the gunboats, the Cincinnati, the Essex and the St. Louis, having returned from the capture of Fort Henry, and having obtained all the particulars from officers and men, I hasten to write you the details which I was unable to transmit by telegraph.

how the attack was conducted.

The attack was begun yesterday noon, the first gun fired from the Federal fleet, just after twelve o'clock. Only four of the gunboats were engaged — the Cincinnati, (the flag-ship,) the Essex, the Carondelet, and the St. Louis. These moving up towards the Fort abreast — the Conestoga, Tyler and Lexington remaining behind, but within easy hail. The order of the approach was, the Essex on the right; next to her the Cincinnati, then the St. Louis, and the Carondelet on the left. This disposition of the boats commends itself at once as an admirable stroke of Commodore Foote's undoubted naval genius. The object was to bring to bear the best guns of the fleet, and, at the same time, to prevent the exposure of the broadside of any of the boats to any of the enemy's guns. Had there been such exposure, it is easy to imagine the destruction and probable failure which would have occurred, for the boats are extremely vulnerable in their after-parts.

This order of approach having been assumed at the beginning, was preserved throughout the engagement, the fire opening at the distance of about one mile, and continuing with terrible effect until the surrender, when the fleet was not more than five or six hundred yards from the Fort.

Commodore Foote, it seems, pursued the same tactics that rendered him so famous in his attack upon the China forts a few years since, the English firing at a long distance and suffering severely, while he ran immediately under the guns of the Chinamen, and poured such a hot and effective fire into their wooden walls, that they inflicted but little damage to the boats, and were quickly and completely disabled and beaten.

Gen. Tilghman, the rebel commander of Fort Henry, upon his capture, promptly testified to the splendid manner in which the attack was conducted, saying that when he discovered the purpose of the Commodore, his chief object was to disable the flag-ship, and by getting the flag-officer out of the way, to disconcert the other boats, and enable him to pursue his firing with better effect. This accounts for the hearty manner in which his compliments were paid to the Cincinnati, she having received thirty-one shots out of about fifty, of which the whole fleet bear the marks. The Commodore complimented Gen. Tilghman upon his gallant defence of the Fort, at the same time assuring him that he would have pursued the purpose of his attack, even to the landing of his boat at the very bank under the Fort, and that the Cincinnati, had the fight continued, should have kept head on until she was sunk. Another reason given by the rebel general for the concentration of fire upon the flag-ship, was the fact that she seemed to have got a better range than any of the other boats, and that her fire, just before the surrender, was most terrific. The Cincinnati bears many honorable scars. Several shots have left their marks upon her iron-plated sides, showing in each case a shallow and raking dent. One of her largest guns was struck on the right side of its muzzle, the shot chipping out a piece of the metal as large as a man's two hands, and actually splitting the muzzle eighteen inches down from the mouth. This will disable the gun entirely. Another gun, a thirty — two-pounder, I believe, bears a deep dent on its side, about eighteen inches from the mouth. Just behind the forward port gun, and where the sides of the boat are not covered with iron, several shots have gone entirely through the bulwarks. One of these completely decapitated one of the gunners; another passed through the bulwarks, scattering the splinters right and left, glancing along the timbers over the machinery, and passing into the wheel, but not doing much damage. The most terrible effect of the enemy's fire upon the Cincinnati, is seen on her upper works, the deck seeming to have been swept with the destructive missiles, the smoke-stacks pierced in several places, and the small boats riddled and almost destroyed. One large shot struck the iron-plated pilot-house, leaving an ugly mark, but doing no damage. The concussion was violent, and is described by the pilots as surprising the Commodore and them into a very decided grunt. But one man was killed outright on the Cincinnati. A few were wounded with splinters, whose name I have sent you. Capt. Pratt was badly hurt by a spent ball striking his leg. The men describe the crash of the balls through the timbers of the vessel as a terrible sound, but none of them flinched, say their officers, but the party manning the gun at which one of their number was beheaded. At the ghastly sight they scattered and fell back for a moment, but immediately rallied and stood their ground. The Cincinnati came into port with the large rebel flag flying under the Stars and Stripes, her appearance being greeted with many cheers and congratulations among the persons on the Cairo levee.

The Essex, which has always seemed an unfortunate boat, notwithstanding the pains taken with her and the admirable naval and fighting qualities of her commander, Capt. W. D. Porter, and his manly crew, was very unlucky in this engagement. For half an hour she bore her part in the contest most gallantly, her magnificent armament playing with fearful effect upon the Fort, when she received a most fearful shot immediately over the forward port-gun. Capt. Porter, at the moment was peering out the port-hole, watching the effect of his firing, and a young man named Brittain, son of the celebrated Dr. Brittain, of New York City, was standing by his side, his hand on the Captain's shoulder. The ball divided his head, completely carrying away its crown, and scattering his brains upon the person of a paymaster who was standing by his side. This terrible messenger


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Fort Henry (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Cairo, Ill. (Illinois, United States) (1)

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Lloyd Tilghman (2)
A. H. Foote (2)
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E. B. Tyler (1)
N. Minor Pratt (1)
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