While at Cairo
I had frequent opportunities of meeting the rebel officers of the Columbus
They seemed to be very fond of coming up on steamers under flags of truce.
On two or three occasions I went down in like manner.
When one of their boats were seen coming up carrying a white flag, a gun would be fired from the lower battery at Fort Holt
, throwing a shot across the bow as a signal to come no farther.
I would then take a steamer and, with my staff and occasionally a few other officers, go down to receive the party.
were several officers among them whom I had known before, both at West Point
and in Mexico
Seeing these officers who had been educated for the profession of arms, both at school and in actual war, which is a far more efficient training, impressed me with the great advantage the South
possessed over the North
at the beginning of the rebellion, They had from thirty to forty per cent of the educated soldiers of the Nation.
They had no standing army and, consequently, these trained soldiers had to find employment with the troops from their own States.
In this way what there was of military education and training was distributed throughout their whole army.
The whole loaf was leavened.
had a greater number of educated and trained soldiers, but the bulk of them were still in the army and were retained, generally with their old commands and rank, until the war had lasted many months.
In the Army of the Potomac there was what was known as the “regular brigade,” in which, from the commanding officer down to the youngest second lieutenant, every one was educated to his profession.
So, too, with many of the batteries; all the officers, generally four in number to each, were men educated for their profession.
Some of these went into battle at the beginning under division commanders who were entirely without military training.
This state of affairs gave me an idea which I expressed while at Cairo
; that the government ought to disband the regular army, with the exception of the staff corps, and notify the disbanded officers that they would receive no compensation while the war lasted except as volunteers.
The register should be kept up, but the names of all officers who were not in the volunteer service at the close, should be stricken from it.
On the 9th of November, two days after the battle of Belmont
, Major-General H. W. Halleck
superseded General Fremont
in command of the Department of the Missouri.
The limits of his command took in Arkansas
and west Kentucky
east to the Cumberland River
From the battle of Belmont
until early in February, 1862, the troops under my command did little except prepare for the long struggle which proved to be before them.
The enemy at this time occupied a line running from the Mississippi River
to Bowling Green
and Mill Springs, Kentucky
Each of these positions was strongly fortified, as were also points on the Tennessee
and Cumberland rivers
near the Tennessee
The works on the Tennessee
were called Fort Heiman
and Fort Henry
, and that on the Cumberland
was Fort Donelson
points the two rivers approached within eleven miles of each other.
The lines of rifle pits at each place extended back from the water at least two miles, so that the garrisons were in reality only seven miles apart.
These positions were of immense importance to the enemy; and of course correspondingly important for us to possess ourselves of. With Fort Henry
in our hands we had a navigable stream open to us up to Muscle Shoals, in Alabama
The Memphis and Charleston Railroad strikes the Tennessee
at Eastport, Mississippi
, and follows close to the banks of the river up to the shoals.
This road, of vast importance to the enemy, would cease to be of use to them for through traffic the moment Fort Henry
was the gate to Nashville
— a place of great military and political importance-and to a rich country extending far east in Kentucky
These two points in our possession, the enemy would necessarily be thrown back to the Memphis
road, or to the boundary of the cotton states, and, as before stated, that road would be lost to them for through communication.
The designation of my command had been changed after Halleck
's arrival, from the District of Southeast Missouri to the District of Cairo, and the small district commanded by General C. F. Smith
, embracing the mouths of the Tennessee
and Cumberland rivers
, had been added to my jurisdiction.
Early in January, 1862, I was directed by General McClellan
, through my department commander, to make a reconnaissance in favor of Brigadier-General Don Carlos Buell
, who commanded the Department of the Ohio, with headquarters at Louisville
, and who was confronting General S. B. Buckner
with a larger Confederate force at Bowling Green
It was supposed that Buell
was about to make some move against the enemy, and my demonstration was intended to prevent the sending of troops from Columbus
, Fort Henry
I at once ordered General Smith
to send a force up the west bank of the Tennessee
to threaten forts Heiman
at the same time with a force of 6,000 men was sent out into west Kentucky
, threatening Columbus
with one column and the Tennessee River
I went with McClernand
The weather was very bad; snow and rain fell; the roads, never good in that section, were intolerable.
We were out more than a week splashing through the mud, snow and rain, the men suffering very much.
The object of the expedition was accomplished.
The enemy did not send reinforcements to Bowling Green
, and General George H. Thomas
fought and won the battle of Mill Springs
before we returned.
As a result of this expedition General Smith
reported that he thought it practicable to capture Fort Heiman
This fort stood on high ground, completely commanding Fort Henry
on the opposite side of the river, and its possession by us, with the aid of our gunboats, would insure the capture of Fort Henry
This report of Smith
's confirmed views I had previously held, that the true line of operations for us was up the Tennessee
and Cumberland rivers
With us there, the enemy would be compelled to fall back on the east and west entirely out of the State of Kentucky
On the 6th of January, before receiving orders for this expedition, I had asked permission of the general commanding the department to go to see him at St. Louis
My object was to lay this plan of campaign before him. Now that my views had been confirmed by so able a general as Smith
, I renewed my request to go to St. Louis
on what I deemed important military business.
The leave was granted, but not graciously.
I had known General Halleck
but very slightly in the old army, not having met him either at West Point
or during the Mexican
war. I was received with so little cordiality that I perhaps stated the object of my visit with less clearness than I might have done, and I had not uttered many sentences before I was cut short as if my plan was preposterous.
I returned to Cairo
very much crestfallen.
[Andrew H.] Foote
commanded the little fleet of gunboats then in the neighborhood of Cairo
and, though in another branch of the service, was subject to the command of General Halleck
He and I consulted freely upon military matters and he agreed with me perfectly as to the feasibility of the campaign up the Tennessee
Notwithstanding the rebuff I had received from my immediate chief, I therefore, on the 28th of January, renewed the suggestion by telegraph that “if permitted, I could take and hold Fort Henry
on the Tennessee
This time I was backed by flag-officer Foote
, who sent a similar dispatch.
On the 29th I wrote fully in support of the proposition.
On the 1st of February I received full instructions from department headquarters to move upon Fort Henry
On the 2d the expedition started.
In February, 1862, there were quite a good many steamers laid up at Cairo
for want of employment, the Mississippi River
closed against navigation below that point.
There were also many men in the town whose occupation had been following the river in various capacities, from captain down to deck hand.
But there were not enough of either boats or men to move at one time the 17,000 men I proposed to take with me up the Tennessee
I loaded the boats with more than half the force, however, and sent General McClernand
I followed with one of the later boats and found McClernand
had stopped, very properly, nine miles below Fort Henry
. Seven gunboats under Flag-officer Foote
had accompanied the advance.
The transports we had with us had to return to Paducah
to bring up a division from there, with General C. F. Smith
Before sending the boats back I wanted to get the troops as near to the enemy as I could without coming within range of their guns.
There was a stream emptying [sic
] into the Tennessee
on the east side, apparently at about long range distance below the fort.
On account of the narrow water-shed separating the Tennessee
and Cumberland rivers
at that point, the stream must be insignificant at ordinary stages, but when we were there, in February, it was a torrent.
It would facilitate the investment of Fort Henry
materially if the troops could be landed south of that stream.
To test whether this could be done I boarded the gunboat Essex
and requested Captain Wm. Porter
commanding it, to approach the fort to draw its fire.
After we had gone some distance past the mouth of the stream we drew the fire of the fort, which fell much short of us. In consequence I had made up my mind to return and bring the troops to the upper side of the creek, when the enemy opened upon us with a rifled gun that sent shot far beyond us and beyond the stream.
One shot passed very near where Captain Porter
and I were standing, struck the deck near the stern, penetrated and passed through the cabin and so out into the river.
We immediately turned back, and the troops were debarked below the mouth of the creek.
When the landing was completed I returned with the transports to Paducah
to hasten up the balance of the troops.
I got back on the 5th with the advance, the remainder following as rapidly as the steamers could carry them.
At ten o'clock at night, on the 5th, the whole command was not yet up. Being anxious to commence operations as soon as possible before the enemy could reinforce heavily, I issued my
orders for an advance at 11 A. M. on the 6th.
I felt sure that all the troops would be up by that time.
occupies a bend in the river which gave the guns in the water battery a direct fire down the stream.
The camp outside the fort was intrenched, with rifle pits and outworks two miles back on the road to Donelson
The garrison of the fort and camp was about 2,800, with strong reinforcements from Donelson
halted some miles out. There were seventeen heavy guns in the fort.
The river was very high, the banks being overflowed except where the bluffs come to the water's edge.
A portion of the ground on which Fort Henry
stood was two feet deep in water.
Below, the water extended into the woods several hundred yards back from the bank on the east side.
On the west bank Fort Heiman
stood on high ground, completely commanding Fort Henry
The distance from Fort Henry
is but eleven miles. The two positions were so important to the enemy, as he saw his interest
, that it was natural to suppose that reinforcements would come from every quarter from which they could be got. Prompt action on our part was imperative.
The plan was for the troops and gunboats to start at the same moment.
The troops were to invest the garrison and the gunboats to attack the fort at close quarters.
was to land a brigade of his division on the west bank during the night of the 5th and get it in rear of Heiman
At the hour designated the troops and gunboats started.
found Fort Heiman
had been evacuated before his men arrived.
The gunboats soon engaged the water batteries at very close quarters, but the troops which were to invest Fort Henry
were delayed for want of roads, as well as by the dense forest and the high water in what would in dry weather have been unimportant beds of streams.
This delay made no difference in the result.
On our first appearance [General Lloyd
had sent his entire command, with the exception of about one hundred men left to man the guns in the fort, to the outworks on the road to Dover
, so as to have them out of range of the guns of our navy; and before any attack on the 6th he had ordered them to retreat on Donelson
He stated in his subsequent report that the defence was intended solely to give his troops time to make their escape.
was captured with his staff and ninety men, as well as the armament of the fort, the ammunition and whatever stores were there.
Our cavalry pursued the retreating column towards Donelson
and picked up two guns and a few stragglers; but the enemy had so much the start, that the pursuing force did not get in sight of any except the stragglers.
All the gunboats engaged were hit many times.
The damage, however, beyond what could be repaired by small expenditure of money, was slight, except to the Essex
. A shell penetrated the boiler of that vessel and exploded it, killing and wounding forty-eight men, nineteen of whom were soldiers who had been detailed to act with the navy.
On several occasions during the war such details were made when the complement of men with the navy was insufficient for the duty before them.
After the fall of Fort Henry Captain [Commander Henry
, commanding the iron-clad Carondelet
, at my request ascended the Tennessee River
and thoroughly destroyed the bridge of the Memphis and Ohio Railroad.