Though rising from a sick-bed to go upon the expedition, I could not resist landing to examine the works, which are of immense strength, consisting of tiers upon tiers of batteries on the riverfront, and a strong parapet and ditch, crossed by a thick abattis, on the land side. The fortifications appear to have been evacuated hastily, considering the quantities of ordnance and ordnance stores, and number of anchors, and the remnant of the chain which was once stretched over the river, and a large supply of torpedoes remaining. Desolation was visible everywhere, huts, tents and barricades presenting but their blackened remains, though the town was spared. I discovered what appeared a large magazine, smoking from both extremities. I ordered the train to be immediately cut. A garrison was left in the work of nearly two thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry, which I will strengthen immediately.
George W. Cullum, Brigadier-General, Chief of Staff.
Flag-office Foote's report.
Columbus, Ky., Tuesday, March 4, 1862.sir: Columbus is in our possession. My armed reconnoissance on the second instant caused a hasty evacuation, the rebels leaving quite a number of guns and carriages, ammunition and stores, a large quantity of shot and shell, a considerable number of anchors, and the remnant of chain lately stretched across the river, with a large number of torpedoes. Most of the huts, tents and quarters, were destroyed. The works are of very great strength, consisting of formidable tiers of batteries on the north side, surrounded by a ditch and abattis. Gen. Sherman, with Lieut. Commanding Phelps, not knowing that they were last evening occupied by four hundred and six of the Second Illinois cavalry, a scouting party sent by General Sherman from Paducah, made a bold dash to the shore, under the batteries, hoisting the American flag on the bluffs. It was greeted by the hearty cheers of our brave tars and soldiers. The force consisted of six gunboats, four mortar-boats, and three transports, having on board three regiments and two battalions of infantry, under command of Col. Buford. Gen. Cullom and General Sherman being in command of the troops. The former leaving a sick-bed to go ashore, discovered what was evidently a magazine on fire, at both extremities, and immediately ordered the train to be cut, and thus saved the lives of the garrison. While I cannot express too strongly my admiration of the gallantry and wise counsels of the distinguished aid and engineer of General halleck, Gen. Collum, I must add, that Commanders Davis, Walke and Stemble, and Lieuts. Commanding Paulding, Thompson, Shirk and Phelps — the latter being in command of the mortar division, assisted by Lieut. Luford, of the Ordnance corps of the United States Army--nobly performed their duty. I have my flag on board the Cincinnati, commanded by the gallant Commander Stemble. Gen. Sherman remains temporarily in command at Columbus. [Signed]
A. H. Foote, Flag-Officer.
Cincinnati Gazette account.
Columbus, Ky., March 4.In my letter of the second instant, I stated that Columbus had been evacuated and burned by the rebels. This assertion was based upon observations made by the officers of the gunboats Cincinnati and Pittsburgh--the two vessels engaged in the reconnoissances of Sunday last. Since Monday all sorts of rumors have obtained circulation in Cairo. It has been said by different parties that Columbus was evacuated; that Columbus was reenforced; that Columbus was burned, and that Columbus was neither reenforced, evacuated, or burned. I see by the telegraphic despatches of the associated press that Com. Foote informed the authorities of Washington on Sunday that the evacuation had taken place. His actions to-day hardly warrant the belief that he knew this to be the case. It is not likely that the Commodore would require a fleet of six gunboats and four mortars, and an “army” of four thousand men, to take possession of a town which he knew to be empty. However, I will not discuss this point, but will merely narrate the occupation, by the Federal troops, of the Gibraltar of America, as our Southern brethren have been prone to style what will be better known as Columbus, Ky., with such details connected therewith as have come under my observation after a residence of six hours. The steamboat Lexington arrived at Cairo on Monday morning from the Tennessee River, where she had been engaging the enemy to a small extent. It was rumored that she came down for reenforcements, and that several iron-clad gunboats would be sent back with her. In the afternoon the St. Louis, Carondelet, and Pittsburgh “got up steam,” and toward evening anchored in the river. The belief up to this time was that the destination of the fleet was Florence, Alabama. At ten o'clock at night, however, it leaked out, despite the efforts at secrecy on the part of military officers, that Columbus was to be attacked in the morning. Before twelve o'clock Cairo was alive with excitement on the subject, and the old rumors of evacuation, reenforcement, conflagration and occupation were again in circulation. At about two o'clock this morning the embarkation of troops in three transport steamers commenced. This strengthened the belief that Columbus was the point to be visited, because it was known that troops would not be sent from Cairo for the Tennessee expedition. At four o'clock this morning an order was sent by Commodore Foote to the captains of the gunboats St. Louis, Carondelet, Pittsburgh, and Louisville, desiring them to get under way as soon as possible. In less than half an hour these vessels had their anchors up and were headed down stream. The Cincinnati preceded them as the flag-ship. The stern-wheel steamers Ike Hammet and J. F. Wilson followed, each towing two mortar-boats.