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[225] detachment of the Second Illinois cavalry--about six hundred men — under command of Lieut.-Col. Hogg, had entered the place on Monday evening, finding it unoccupied, and were in joyful possession when we came in sight. The flag we saw was one which the cavalrymen had improvised for the occasion, manufactured out of colored calico — the object being to present to the gaze of Commodore Foote a banner of almost any description, provided it intimated that treason did — not rule supreme.

The nature of the ensign being discovered, Commodore Foote ordered a detachment of the Twenty-seventh Illinois, (Col. Beaufort,) to disembark in the vicinity of the upper batteries. Two tugs accompanying our fleet were brought into requisition to aid in this work. About fifty men were transferred to these “junior gunboats,” and with great puffing and steaming — infinitely more than comes from the Great Eastern--they started down the stream with their martial cargo. The officers in charge of this detail were not quite clear in the belief that there was no enemy ashore to meet or repulse them. The tugs approached within a mile of the Fort, then retired, and stood out like two small specks upon the river, nothing but the noise they made indicating to a person at a moderate distance that they were anything but two large saw-logs at the mercy of the current. Finally the spy-glass revealed the real character of the flag on the hill, and in a few moments Col. Beaufort's men were landed.

I do not believe a hill of the same altitude was ever clambered as rapidly as was the great bluff of Columbus to-day by the Illinois volunteers just named. In less than five minutes after the first men set foot on shore, the entire squadron was in the main fort, and had unfurled a beautiful silk flag. The appearance of this handsome edition of the Stars and Stripes, as they proudly floated where blatant Southrons have boasted of treason's impregnability, had a magical effect upon every one in our fleet, and cheer after cheer resounded through the surrounding woods and hills.

Shortly after this, all the transports came down, and the troops were landed at the wharf in front of the town.

I have now come to a point at which I should describe the fortifications of Columbus, about which the people in the North have heard so much, and of which many of our Generals have entertained so much horror. My own opinion is, that our Generals have been ignorant, from the first, of the real strength of the rebels at this point. They have taken at par the reports of the “Sessia scouts” --a parcel of men who never went within ten miles of the place, and whose chief office seems to be to lie and steal. I do not believe the fort has ever been properly reconnoitred, and I am borne out in this belief by the statements of those who are conversant with the past military operations of this department.

The fortifications at Columbus are erected on a bluff about one hundred and fifty feet high, immediately north of the town. The position is admirably adapted to defence. By cutting down a number of trees on the Belmont point nearly opposite, the rebels were enabled to command a perfect view of the river for a distance of four miles. The bluff faces north and projects slightly into the Mississippi beyond a ridge extending a mile above it. There are, or rather there were, three rows of batteries upon it: the first about fifteen feet above the river, the second about — feet above this, and the third on the top of the hill. It is difficult to say how many guns either of these mounted, as the rebels threw most of their heavy pieces into the river, or attempted to do so, though many of them failed to reach their destination, and stopped on the bank, where they are now visible. It is presumed that the three main batteries mounted fifty guns, and we have the evidence of citizens who frequently visited the camp to this effect. An attacking party would have had one great advantage. There was no shelter erected for the artillery-men, and those who worked the guns in the lower batteries would be exposed during the entire action to the fire of the gunboats. The water-battery was on a sort of table about fifty feet long and twenty feet deep. It formed an excellent mark for a good gunner, and if the gunboats could have held out against it for any length of time, it would have been silenced. The upper batteries were not quite so much exposed, but in none of them were the men sufficiently well sheltered from bursting shell, grapeshot or canister.

The entire works on the summit of the hill cover an area of about four miles. The fortifications are equally strong on all sides, and calculated to repulse an army attacking from the south as well as from the north. The fort can be reached from the town of Columbus by four different roads, cut through the high hills at an immense outlay of labor.

The quarters for the troops are small cabins or huts, about six feet square, built of clay, by digging three feet into the earth, for the body of the tenement, and making out of the soil thus evacuated a slanting roof, which in a majority of cases is well shingled. There are enough of these apartments to accommodate thirty thousand men. Regimental and company officers' quarters are constructed in the same manner, but a little more tastily finished.

Near the river, below the water-battery, is the principal magazine of the fort. It is a subterranean work, about twenty feet square, easy of access from all parts of the fortifications. About half way up the bluff--seventy-five feet about this — is another magazine, equal in size and similar in construction to the first.

The fort is supplied with water from the river, by means of a force pump, worked by an engine.

Among the objects which excited curiosity to-day was Pillow's great chain, designed to span the Mississippi, so as to prevent the downward passage of the Federal gunboats. It is a very strong and heavy-looking affair, stretching down the hill and into the river, where, I believe, it is broken.

The rebel forces at Columbus numbered over

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