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[172] Federal officers saw her condition when surrendered, they will admit that if was not likely that panic-stricken cannoniers could have carried her safely through such a furious bombardment, especially to have done the execution with which she is accredited. In his contribution to the Century, of December, 1884, doubtless by the cursory reading of Captain Bidwell's report, General Wallace is lead into the mistake of saying that each gunner selected his boat and stuck to her during the engagement. I am satisfied that the experienced officers who acted as gunners did not observe this rule. The Columbiad was rigidly impartial, and fired on the boats as chance or circumstances dictated, with the exception of the last few shots, which were directed at the Carondelet. This boat was hugging the eastern shore, and was a little in advance of the others. She offered her side to the Columbiad, which was on the left and the most advanced gun of the batteries. Several well-directed shots raked the side and tore away her armor, according to the report of Lieutenant Sparkman, who was on the lookout. Just as the other boats began to drift back, the Carondelet forged ahead for about a half length, as though she intended making the attempt to pass the battery, and it is presumable that she then received the combined fire of all the guns.

It is claimed that — if Hannibal had marched on Rome immediately after the battle of Cannae, he could have taken the city, and by the same retrospective reasoning, it is probable that if Admiral Foote had stood beyond the range of 32-pounders he could have concentrated his fire on two guns. If his boats had fired with the deliberation and accuracy of the Carondelet on the previous day, he could have dismounted those guns, demolished the 32-pounders at his leisure, and shelled the Fort to his heart's content. But flushed with his victory at Fort Henry, his success there paved the way for his defeat at Donelson, a defeat that might have proved more distrastrous could the Columbiad have used a full charge of powder and the rifle gun participated in the fight. After the battle three of the gunboats were seen drifting helplessly down the stream, and a shout of exultation leaped from the lips of every soldier in the fort. It was taken up by the men in the trenches, and for awhile a shout of victory, the sweetest strain to the ears of those who win, reverberated over the hills and hollows around the little village of Dover.

While the cannoniers were yet panting from their exertion, Lieutenant-Colonel Robb, of the Forty-ninth Tennessee, who fell mortally wounded the next day, ever mindful of the comfort of those around him, sent a grateful stimulant along the line of guns.


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