previous next

[78] of death flew along the ship, through the bulkheads which were to protect the machinery of the boat, and crashed into the middle boiler. Immediately, with a rushing sound, the scalding steam filled every part of the vessel. The two pilots, both well known in St. Louis, who were standing nobly at their work, so absorbed, as it seemed, in their duties, that they had neglected to close the trap-door which leads from below to their house, were enveloped by the blistering vapor and almost immediately scalded to death. They made a desperate struggle to get out of the pilot-house, running their arms through the look-out holes, which were not large enough to pass their bodies, and vainly striving to get their heads through for fresh air. The tars who had stood so gallantly to their guns, were appalled at this new and terrible enemy, and many of them were seen to throw themselves out of the port-holes into the river. Capt. Porter was badly scalded on the face and hands. At this writing, however, his wounds are said not to be so bad as was first anticipated. The large number of wounded and missing by this untoward event, 1 have already sent you. At this disaster the Essex was disabled, and began to fall back, which Commodore Foote observing, was for the moment perplexed. He thought first of falling back with her, and by fastening to her, to bring her again into line, but the second thought decided him to let her go; and pressing more eagerly forward with the Cincinnati, urged on by the plain necessity of close and desperate fighting, bore down upon the Fort, with a fiercer front than ever, hurling his messengers of death and destruction so rapidly upon the enemy, that all resistance was useless, and they were compelled to capitulate.

The St. Louis and Carondelet did splendid work, but did not seem to receive so much attention from the enemy. They are marked in several places, but did not lose a man.

Commodore Foote informs me that but eleven of the guns of the four boats were used, and the rebel officers represent that, out of the seventeen guns with which the Fort was armed, but eleven were brought to bear upon the boats β€” so that no advantage can be claimed by either side. The guns of the Fort were all of heavy calibre, the largest being a one hundred and twenty-eight-pounder β€” a beautifully finished piece from the Tredegar Works at Richmond. They had one rifled cannon, a thirty-two-pounder, which burst during the engagement, and became useless. Their guns were most skilfully handled, and all our officers give them the credit of a most gallant and determined defence of their fort.

The rebels report but five killed and eight or ten wounded. The number of prisoners is now stated to be fifty-four. The disposition of Gen. Tilghman and staff I have already sent you. They will probably be sent to this place to-day or to-morrow.

When the flag of the Fort was lowered, it was not quite taken out of sight of the boats, and Commodore Foote did not know but some trick was about to be played upon him, so he remained quiet for a few minutes, waiting further demonstrations. Soon a small white yawl put out from the Fort, containing two officers, and on approaching the Cincinnati was hailed by Master Hoel. The officers said they wanted a conference with the Flag-Officer, which was at once grapted them. One of our boats then put out for the Fort, containing Captain Stembel of the Cincinnati, and Captain Phelps of the Conestoga, which boat had now come up to the scene of the action. Entering the Fort, they immediately reared the American flag and brought off the rebel flag. Gen. Tilghman and staff then came on board the Cincinnati, and asked to be shown to Commodore Foote. At the interview, the General desired to know the terms of the surrender, to which the Commodore replied: β€œAn unconditional surrender.” And so it was accepted.

The amount of army plunder which fell into our hands is represented as very large, consisting of cannon, ammunition, tents, baggage, and muskets.

The rebel infantry forces encamped outside of the Fort, whose numbers are variously estimated from three to ten thousand, quit their position before and during the fight, getting off in such a hurry that much valuable property was left.

General Grant, with an advance guard, took possession of the Fort about an hour after the surrender, Commodore Foote turning every thing over to him. Whether Gen. Grant pursued the enemy that night or the next day, I cannot positively learn. The gunboats Tyler, Conestoga, and Lexington passed up the river toward the railroad bridge, and have not been heard from at this writing. The steamer Golden State is just in from Paducah, and brings no later news than that brought by the gunboats, though a boat was hourly expected down the Tennessee.

The general comment on the fight at this place is marked by much complaint of General Grant, though how justly or unjustly such complaint may be made cannot now be ascertained. It is known that Commodore Foote desired a brigade of infantry to go along the bank of the river with his boats, but this was not granted. Gen. Grant, it is thought, is much to blame for his inadequate transportation. He might have had boats enough to have landed all his force at once, and to have surrounded the enemy instantly. As it is, they have all escaped but those left in the Fort to man the guns. It is hoped that the rebel army has been vigorously pursued.


G. W. F.

Results of the victory.

Cairo, Friday Night, Feb. 7, 1862.
The reduction of Fort Henry and the capture of General Tilghman, staff and men, though they may be justly regarded as comprising one of the most brilliant feats of the war, are not more gratifying in themselves than important in their results. It is not very difficult to imagine the effect which the affair will have upon the rebel leaders generally, and upon the camp at Columbus

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
A. H. Foote (6)
U. S. Grant (4)
Lloyd Tilghman (3)
R. N. Stembel (1)
W. D. Porter (1)
S. L. Phelps (1)
Carondelet (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February 7th, 1862 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: