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[302]

The day was delightful, the warm spring air, the first-fruits of mother earth in sweet spring flowers opening their buds amid the green grassblades. But as night approached the sun sank in the red horizon, and before midnight there came on a most terrific thunder-storm. The lightning blinded you by its brightness, and left you bewildered, while the thunder put to blush the puny columbiads that had all day jarred upon our ears. Amid this storm our men stood to their posts, and moved still nearer to their enemies. Amid the same storm, while Jupiter hurled his thunderbolts with such fury, the evacuation of fort and barracks took place; for lo! as daylight appeared, not an enemy was seen upon the works. Our flag was soon floating at both forts, and as I write the sound comes to me from a band, with “Hail Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle,” while the boys catch the song, and loud, prolonged cheering is taken up camp by camp.

Gen. Pope and staff rode over the ground this morning, and were astonished at the great strength of the works and the splendid prize of guns and ammunition left behind. Eighteen thirty-two pound guns were upon the walls spiked — so hastily was it done that Yankee ingenuity in a few hours removed sixteen of the spikes, and turned their grinning mouths to look for gunboats from Island No.10. There was a large stock of ammunition of every kind, sabres, guns, clothing, cooking-utensils, suppers on the table not eaten, whole baskets of champagne and claret unopened — wagons, three hundred horses and mules, and tents to accommodate six thousand men — left standing.

One side of the fort was filled in by sacks of shelled corn — enough to make mush for all Ireland for one year. Many fine pieces of light artillery were tumbled over the banks.

Derricks have been rigged, and we will raise most of them to-morrow. We got a large number of flags which belonged to the various regiments. But in the great haste in which I am compelled to write you this, I cannot enter into detail ; suffice it to say, it is a rich haul. They have suffered to the tune of five hundred thousand dollars, at a very low estimate. Beside, by their own hands the town, a very pretty one, has been laid in waste. Whenever a building interfered with their guns, it was forthwith burned. The shrubbery and forest-trees were cut for a like reason.

Two men were found asleep in the fort this morning, not knowing their friends had, during the night, left for Dixie. They, you may judge, were a couple of astonished individuals. A canoeload likewise came up to the wharf and landed, tied up their boat, and were dumbfounded that of all the gay chivalry they left the evening before, not a knight remained. The dwellings were all vacated — negroes and all, save and except the dogs. The last-named bristled up and barked, and snorted at you from under ruin of porch and from kennel where so lately they had been petted and fed. What ruin and desolation these men are bringing on their loveliest and most fertile spots. This is one of the wealthiest counties in the State.

The houses in the suburbs are, many of them, elegant, and splendidly fitted up. Their parlors, with fine pianos and rosewood and mahogany furniture, all left. The fireside around which so many fond recollections cluster, desolate. All these luxuries and comforts, and the multiplied blessings that have crowned their lives, were accumulated and enjoyed under the old flag; but they wished simply to wipe out some of the stars and a few of the bars, and possibly they have got wiped out instead. Well, they shot at me several times, and I am not much in a mood to pity them. Well, it is a great victory, and shows as much generalship as in any battle yet fought. Gen. Pope could have taken the fort the first day of his arrival; but he told his officers, “It would be at a sacrifice of one thousand of my men,” but, says he, “I will take it and lose but few. My conscience will not permit me to sacrifice uselessly the lives of the men entrusted to me.”

He sent messengers to Cairo for larger guns, and in thirty-four hours after they were loaded at Cairo, they were playing upon the forts at New-Madrid, behind safe breastworks, which the enemy never dreamed were built under their very noses. To a rash general, desirous of glory, this was a strong inducement to go in and win the laurels. The General's reply to some of the anxious officers, “Gentlemen, you shall have the fort; but my conscience will not permit me to uselessly sacrifice the lives of my men,” gives an insight into what I call true generalship, and really requires more bravery to carry it out than the man who, for fear of public opinion, or desirous to make a name, rushes headlong at the first sight of his adversary. But what puzzled many was, how four guns of twenty-four pounds could take two forts, with eighteen thirty-two pounders, and five or six gunboats in the bargain. But it has been done.

An order has just been issued that Gen. Stanley's division, consisting of the four Ohio regiments mentioned, together with the First Regular infantry and Bissell's engineers, “in view of the distinguished part” they took in gaining the recent victory, be allowed to march through the fortifications and over the field of battle to-morrow morning. Our boys will accept it as a mark of distinction and favor, as many of them have not yet had a near view of the implements that for ten days have ministered almost as much to their amusement as discomfort.

I have not spoken of regimental officers nor of division and brigade commanders. I can say Ohio need be ashamed of none of them. Of the men, I have spoken not half complimentary enough. They have proved soldiers in the truest and best acceptation of the term.

I will now give you as perfect a list as I can of the killed and wounded — my list of the wounded is full. The killed did not come under my observation, and will not be reported by name until to-morrow morning:


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