May 19-23, 1862.--expedition down the Mississippi River to Fort Pillow, Tenn.
Report of Brig. Gen. Isaac F. Quinby, U. S. Army, commanding District of the Mississippi.
headquarters District of the Mississippi, Columbus, Ky., May 24, 1862.Captain: I have the honor to submit for the information of the major-general commanding the following report: On the 19th instant I proceeded to the flotilla above Fort Pillow with such troops as could safely be withdrawn for a short time from the several posts within this district. I was induced to do this on representations made me that there was a very small rebel force in and about Fort Pillow, and that our troops already there, under the command of Colonel Fitch, needed to be only slightly re-enforced to enable us to make a demonstration by land, which, in connection with an attack by our gun and mortar boats, would insure a speedy surrender of the rebel works. The force I took with me consisted of eight companies Forty-seventh Indiana Volunteers, Colonel Slack; four companies Thirty-fourth Indiana Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Cameron; two companies Fiftyfourth Illinois Volunteers; four companies Second Illinois cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Hogg; a section from each of the two companies of the Second Illinois Artillery at this post; three pieces of Captain De Golyer's Michigan battery, from lew Madrid, and one-half of the Missouri company of Volunteer Sappers and Miners stationed at this post. These, together with the troops under Colonel Fitch, made an aggregate of about 2,500 effective men. On reaching the flotilla, I began to inform myself of the position and character of the enemy's works and of the number and disposition of his troops. A personal reconnaissance satisfied me that his position was very strong, and that a land approach with my small command was impracticable. Spies, deserters, and refugees all concurred in stating that there were in and about the fort three old and well-filled regiments, averaging at least 1,000 effective men; that there was besides near by a battery of six 6-pounder pieces, and on the Chickasaw Bluff, about 6 miles from the fort, another battery of four 12-pounders. During my stay at the flotilla I had frequent and free consultations with Captain Davis, commanding the fleet, and at all times found him ready and anxious to co-operate with me in any plan that might seem to give reasonable promise of success; but he was unwilling to attempt running by Fort Pillow with part of his gunboats and place them between it and Fort Randolph unless we had shore batteries on the Arkansas side of the river, under which the boats could take refuge in the event of their being crippled either by the guns of the fort or the rebel gunboats. There was no possible means of establishing a battery on the side of the river opposite to and below the fort in the present condition of the ground, except by carrying the guns and ammunition along a levee for a distance of 3 miles, the whole of which is conipletely commanded by the rebel batteries. This, hazardous as it was, we were about to undertake, and had already repaired the breaks il the levee at those points where the brush and timber concealed the workmen from observation on the other side. The success of the undertaking  required that the battery should be constructed in a single night, and that all should be in readiness before daylight the following morning. On Thursday, the 22d, the repairs of the levee were made as far as it could prudently be done, and a strong picket was thrown out to prevent the landing of the enemy and the discovery of our work, and consequently of our intentions. During the night one of the men, who, without the knowledge of the rest went in front of the line, refused on his return to answer the challenge, and was shot dead by two of our pickets firing on him at the same instant. The noise alarmed the enemy, and a strong detachment was immediately sent over the river, which attacked and drove in our pickets. Our work must have been discovered by them, and it would be charging them with gross stupidity not to suppose our plan betrayed; besides, on Friday morning a heavy rain set in, which of itself would have rendered a delay of at least two days necessary in the prosecution of our work. In the mean time rumors were reaching me of the concentration of a strong rebel force in the vicinity of Trenton, for the object, it was reported, of attacking Hickman and Columbus. As these rumors were confirmed by the refugees from the conscription, and as I saw no good that could be accomplished by remaining longer at the flotilla, I started back with my command on Friday afternoon, and the troops are now distributed in the district as they were before the expedition sailed. In conclusion, permit me to express the opinion that with a properlyorganized force of 5,000 men I doubt not the easy, and perhaps bloodless, capture of Forts Pillow and Randolph so soon as the roads leading from the river, by which the rear of their works can be gained, become practicable for artillery; but in the present condition of the country about here it would be unwise to withdraw from the different posts within this district troops enough to constitute an expedition sufficient for such an undertaking. I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,