previous next

[304] speed of their horses through the mud, occasionally turning to discharge their shot-guns at their pursuers, who replied with carbines and revolvers. Every now and then squads or scattering individuals of the rebels would break into the woods on either hand, hiding behind trees to fire at our men as they passed, until barely one fourth the original force of the enemy were left together. The road was strewn with guns, blankets, hats, and coats, lost or thrown away by the rebels in their frantic flight. Among them was the famous hat of Jeff. Thompson himself, with its white plume, almost as well known in this region as was that of Henry of Navarre to his followers. His three pieces of artillery also were all run down and captured. Thus for nearly twenty miles the flight and pursuit swept on until they approached New-Madrid, and the remnant of the flying foe sought the shelter of its friendly guns. Beside the artillery and small arms, our men captured six prisoners, two of whom were officers, and killed and wounded several of the enemy, besides most effectually dispersing them. It was reported afterward by prisoners taken in the fort at the time of its capture, that Jeff. entered the town at a tearing gallop, his horse almost exhausted by the race, and immediately applied to Col. Gautt, commanding the post, for two regiments of infantry and a field-battery, to go out and give battle to the audacious Federals. On being refused, some high words ensued between him and Col. Gautt, when Jeff., in high dudgeon, called his men together and left the fort, nor has he been seen in the neighborhood since.

On the following day the main column arrived in the vicinity of New-Madrid, and not knowing exactly the position of the enemy, three regiments, with a battery of light artillery, pushed on toward the river to reconnoitre. On emerging from the woods into an open field, they were met by a volley of shells from the gunboats lying in the river, which, however, passed over their heads without doing any harm. The column immediately fell back out of range, and encamped. On the next day they took positions surrounding the town and the rebel fortifications.

Nothing of remarkable note took place for several days after the arrival of our troops at their respective positions. Several skirmishes occurred between pickets and reconnoitring parties on either side, but without serious loss to either. Gradually, however, our lines were advancing nearer, until every available spot not actually swept by the enemy's cannon, was occupied.

Several persistent attempts were made by our field-batteries to drive away the enemy's gunboats, but without effect. Fearing that the rebels might receive reenforcements from below, Gen. Pope despatched a force under Colonel (now Brigadier-General) J. B. Plummer, to plant a battery at Point Pleasant, some ten miles below, for the purpose of stopping reenforcements or supplies coming to the enemy from that direction, and also of cutting off their retreat by that route.

On Monday, the tenth, Gen. Pope, finding that our gunboats were not likely soon to arrive to his aid, and that the field-batteries which he had with him were unable to cope successfully with the heavy artillery of the enemy, despatched Col. Bissell, of the Engineer regiment, to Cairo, for some heavier guns, preferring, as he himself expressed it, to spend a little more time in reducing the place by siege than to sacrifice the lives of the men under his command, in an attempt to carry it by assault. Col. Bissell procured three thirty-two pound siege-guns and an eight-inch mortar. These were taken across the river to Bird's Point, thence by railroad to Sykestown, and then overland to their place of destination. Immediately on their arrival there, a force was sent out to drive in the enemy's pickets, and under cover of the darkness two parapets, eighteen feet in thickness and five feet high, were thrown up three hundred yards apart, with a curtain twelve feet thick connecting them, and flanked on each side by a breastwork and rifle-pits one hundred yards long. The platforms of hewn timber which had been previously fitted were laid down, the guns placed in position, and ere daylight they were in readiness to commence their work. It is an instructive illustration of what the efforts of one energetic man can accomplish, that in thirty-five hours from the time when the guns were loaded upon the cars at Bird's Point, they opened upon the enemy.

During this time they had been carried twenty miles by railroad, unloaded from the cars and placed upon carriages, drawn twenty miles more over a rough road, through mud in some places almost impassable for teams, the enemy's pickets had been driven in, these extensive earthworks thrown up, the gun-platforms placed and the guns put in position within twelve hundred yards of the enemy's entrenchments, and all so quietly that the enemy had no idea of what was going on; and when at daylight some of their pickets opened fire upon what they evidently supposed to be a simple breastwork for sheltering our infantry, they were answered by the boom of a thirty-two pounder, which sent them scurrying back to the fort in the wildest alarm.

No sooner did the enemy discover the presence of these new batteries, than, evidently fearing their effect, they opened upon them from the gunboats and the fort. Our gunners replied briskly, directing their fire chiefly at the boats. The air seemed filled with smoke and fragments of bursting shells. Some of our field-pieces were also brought into requisition, and for a time probably not less than sixty guns were being worked to their fullest capacity. After a time, the fire on our side was slackened to allow the guns to cool, and for a while the rebels seemed equally willing to allow a cessation of hostilities; but ere long it was renewed with all its original fury, and thus it continued, with occasional intervals, during the entire day. The gunboats would run down the river until they were hidden by trees from the sight of our gunners, and there re-loading, would steam back to a good position, and hurl their broadsides in quick succession at our batteries.

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 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.
John Pope (2)
Gautt (2)
J. W. Bissell (2)
Jefferson Thompson (1)
J. B. Plummer (1)
Jeff (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.
10th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: