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[222] Island, and just as we came out of the channel at its head, bang! went a rebel cannon, and a twenty-four-pound shot came plunging toward us from the rebel battery situated less than half a mile in our advance. It was followed by two other shots from smaller guns, before our big guns responded. We steamed right on toward them, and opened at about six hundred yards, with shell. Their battery consisted of one twenty-four-pounder rifled gun and three twelve-pound howitzers. The twenty-four-pounder fired only six shots, when it was silenced, either by our fire or from some other cause. The three smaller guns blazed away for about twenty minutes, when they also ceased firing, not a single one of their shots from the beginning having touched either of our boats. Our gunboats kept up their fire for half an hour longer, shelling the woods in all directions.

When the firing commenced, a small body of rebel infantry was also discovered, who under-took to put in practice the plan which some Memphis newspaper editors proposed, namely, to conceal themselves on the bank and pick off the pilots of our gunboats. They soon found they might as well attempt to swallow an oyster without opening the shell. A few discharges of grape sent them helter-skelter over the brow of the hill.

After the woods had been shelled pretty thoroughly, and nothing more been seen or heard of the enemy, about forty soldiers and marines, under command of a lieutenant, were sent ashore to reconnoitre the neighborhood. They proceeded up the long slope of the hill to the distance of a thousand yards or more from the landing, when they suddenly found themselves face to face with two or three regiments of rebel infantry, who immediately shot at them. Our men returned the compliment, and immediately retired to the shelter of a log house, some five hundred yards from the shore, where they made a stand, and peppered away at the rebels as vigorously as if they expected to drive back the rebel ten or fifteen hundred.

The gunboats hesitated to reopen on the rebels, lest they should kill some of our own men, but waited in the momentary expectation that they would return to the boats. They did not do so, however, until the lieutenant commanding, (whose name I cannot learn) discovered that the rebels were flanking him on both sides, for the purpose of making prisoners of his little command. He then ordered a retreat, and the gallant forty made the best time they could to the boats, which they reached, with the loss of three men killed and seven or eight wounded. The rebels pursued hotly, and getting behind trees, fired both at our men in the boats and at the gunboats, perforating the latter with a good many musket-balls, but injuring no one except the officer in command of the boat-howitzer on the upper-deck, one of whose legs was shattered by a Minie-ball, rendering amputation necessary.

The gunboats reopened their batteries with grape, which caused the rebels to retreat with most undignified rapidity over the hill again. Seeing and hearing no more of them, the gunboats moved down the stream a short distance, and lay at anchor. Having none but fifteen-second fuse shells, the gunboats were unable to do the execution at short range which they could have done with shorter fire. Accordingly the Lexington was despatched to Cairo for a supply of the desired ammunition, while the Tyler remained to look after the new rebel battery. The place where it was found is a sort of natural fortification, the hill furnishing a hollow just over the first ridge, in which the rebel infantry took shelter from our fire. In this particular it resembles Fort Donelson.

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Fort Donelson (Tennessee, United States) (1)
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