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Chapter 25: capture of Fort Hindman or Arkansas Post.

  • Arrival of the expedition.
  • -- the Army in the rear of Arkansas post. -- plan of the fort. -- the gun-boats in position. -- the fort opens fire. -- the guns of the fort silenced by the gun-boats. -- sad havoc. -- the Rattler's hot reception. -- the battle renewed at daylight. -- the guns of the fort again silenced. -- Sherman storms the fort in the rear. -- the Army meets with an unexpected reception. -- the fort surrenders. -- the honor of the defenders of the fort dimmed. -- Harrowing scenes. -- terrible loss of life. -- McClernand on hand. -- expedition up the White River. -- St. Charles deserted. -- munitions of war captured. -- Grant assumes command of all the forces.

The expedition against Arkansas Post arrived at a point four miles below the enemy's works, January 10th, 1863.

The Army landed without delay at 10 A. M., and proceeded on their march to get in the rear of the enemy's works; but they had bad roads on which to travel and thick undergrowth to make their way through. Fifteen miles had to be marched over before the back of Arkansas Post could be reached, and the major part of the night was occupied in achieving their purpose. There were some extensive rifle-pits and works thrown up from which to operate with field pieces. These, as the Army started on their march, were manned and prepared to contest the advance, but the flag-ship Black Hawk, Lieutenant-Commander Breese, and the Rattler, Lieutenant-Commander Watson Smith, closed up on the enemy's works and drove them into the woods, so that the Army had no impediment in its way.

General McClernand had accompanied the expedition, it was supposed merely as a spectator, but about 3 o'clock, he rode up to the bank near which the gun-boats laid and informed Admiral Porter that Sherman was in position in the rear of the work, and waiting for the gun-boats to begin the attack on the fort. This could not very well be the case, but the gun-boats Louisville, Lieutenant-Commander Owen, the De Kalb, Lieutenant-Commander Walker, and the Cincinnati, Lieutenant-Commander George Bache, were ordered to go up within 400 yards, while the smaller vessels were to follow and use their howitzers as circumstances would admit.

Arkansas Post was a large, well constructed fort built with the best engineering skill. It mounted thirteen guns: two teninch Columbiads, one nine-inch Dahlgren, and ten rifled guns of various calibres. The Columbiads were mounted in casemates covered in with four layers of heavy railroad iron, neatly fitted together to offer a smooth surface, and slanting iron roof to make the shot glance off. These were simply after the plan of the iron-clads afloat and were formidable structures.

The nine-inch gun was mounted in an embrasure protected by sand-bags, as were the ten rifled guns. All the guns except one bore down the river and on the vessels coming abreast of the forts. The fort itself was built close to the river; the front not being more than twenty yards from the bank.

There was nothing known to the military art that had been neglected in constructing these works, and to look at them one would suppose they could defy a naval force three times as strong as that now about to be brought against them.

As was afterwards learned, the Confederates supposed the gun-boats would attack [290] the works from a distance of. 1200 yards, and range buoys had been placed at that distance by which to regulate the enemy's fire, and they had been practicing at that distance on targets so that the gunners would become expert. But all these calculations were upset by the DeKalb leading, and the Cincinnati and Louisville close behind her, running up and taking position close to the fort where the current was slack

Lieut.-Commander John G. Walker (now Captain) U. S. Navy.

and the iron-clads could maintain their places without any difficulty; while the other vessels could take such positions in the river as best suited and throw in shrapnel from their small shell guns.

The fort opened on the iron-clads as soon as they reached the range buoys — made some good shots, and then lost their range, during which time the gun-boats were within 150 yards of them and firing accurately and steadily through their iron casemates, and committing sad havoc in the rear amongst the soldiers. It was evident from the first that this fort was doomed to fall, under the fire of the gun-boats. The superiority of their fire over that of the guns in the fort was such that the latter were silenced in the space of an hour, and the gun-boats ceased firing. As darkness was coming on and the smoke hung densely over the river, the gun-boats dropped down and tied up to the bank.

Just before the gun boats dropped down the tin-clad Rattler was ordered to run past the fort and try to reach a point seven miles up the river, and cut off the enemy's troops in case they should attempt to escape by that way, the only road open to retreat by.

Lieutenant-Commander Smith performed this duty handsomely as far as he could, but after passing the fort he became entangled in some piles the enemy had driven down, and which were just awash, the enemy opened on him while in this condition, and raked him very effectually fore and aft, knocking his cabins to pieces and doing a good deal of damage to his hull, but as the iron-clads opened their batteries again the firing from the forts ceased, and the Rattler drifted back out of the enemy's range.

In this attack, all the gun-boats were beautifully handled and not much injured; the success of the-afternoon gave good promise for the morrow. The Lexington, Lieutenant Commander Shirk, held a position 400 yards below the forts, and although pretty well cut up had no casualties.

General McClernand's report that General Sherman had arrived in the rear of the works with his troops, might have led to ill results, for the enemy might have escaped that night with all his forces across the ferry; but fortunately General Churchill, the Confederate commander-in-chief, was

Plan of Fort Hindman or Arkansas Post.

five miles away from the fort, waiting to anticipate Sherman and attack him at a disadvantage, and knew not how roughly the forts were being handled by the gunboats; and Colonel Dunnington, the commander of the fort, (who had formerly been a lieutenant in the U. S. Navy) being a brave man and having a brave set of naval officers with him, did not consider himself as worsted by a great deal.

For many hours the garrison worked with great zeal to repair damages, and the heavy [291] strokes of their hammers on the iron covering could be heard all through the night.

At daylight, the enemy seemed prepared for action again, and this time General Sherman having sent a messenger to inform the admiral that he was in position and was gradually encircling the Confederate Army, the gun-boats were ordered to take position again not further than 50 yards from the fort and begin to fire as soon as they pleased.

The battle commenced and soon became very hot; when the tin-clads Glide, Lieutenant-Commander Woodworth, and Rattler, Lieutenant-Commander Smith, and the rain Monarch, Colonel Ellet, were ordered by the admiral to force their way through the obstructions above the forts, reach the ferry and cut off the enemy's retreat.

In a short time all the guns in the works were silenced and the flag-ship Black Hawk was run to the bank alongside the fort to board it with her crew; at the same

Appearance of Ix-inch gun silenced by the Cincinnati.

time a messenger was sent to General Sherman informing him of the condition of affairs, and that if he would send a storming party from the rear, the Navy would board from the water side.

While waiting for Sherman's troops the Black Hawk laid alongside the fort, her high upper works on a level with the embrasures, while three boat-guns on wheels, on the upper deck, completely commanded the inside of the works, which presented a dreadful scene of killed and wounded. A large number of artillery horses had been kept in the fort for some reason, and the shells and shrapnel had made sad havoc with the dead and dying men, mixed up with the killed and wounded animals. It was a scene ever to be remembered.

In the meantime, while waiting for Sherman's assaulting party, all firing had ceased on both sides and the victorious sailors were quietly looking on at the dreadful havoc that had been made inside the works, not anticipating that the enemy would make any more resistance. Their colors had been shot away and had not been hoisted again.

At one time the admiral determined to assault without waiting for the Army, but courtesy to the general required that the Navy should wait until the Army assaulting party should appear, which they did in a few minutes, then there was a simultaneous movement from all parts of the fort by the Confederates (who had been concealed behind or underneath the buildings that had been knocked down), and with muskets in their hands they rushed to the rear parapet and crouched down behind the works.

It was not known what this movement signified, the boat-guns on the flag-ship's upper deck (the flag-ship was a large river steamer unaltered), could have cut them to pieces, but there had been so much slaughter, the admiral would not fire on them, thinking they would throw down their arms as soon as Sherman's men got within twenty yards of them; but not so, for when our troops got within thirty or forty yards the Confederates rose together and poured in a withering volley from about 450 muskets, and nearly every bullet told.

Our soldiers staggered at this unexpected reception, stopped, and then retreated, while at the same moment there appeared a white handkerchief or white cloth held up by every one of the Confederate shooters.

The officers and men from the Black Hawk boarded the fort as the enemy fired their volley, when the latter all laid down their arms and surrendered; the commander and officers handing their swords to the admiral.

It was an embarrassing moment when the Federal troops were moving to the assault, and the enemy were waiting to receive them with bullets. The Navy could not fire without hitting the Federal troops, and the whole thing was so sudden and unexpected that the guns were not fired from the Black Hawk.

It seems that the garrison of the fort belonged to the Confederate Navy and determined to surrender only to the U. S. Navy; yet they wanted to have a last blow at the soldiers, which they did; but it dimmed the honor they had won in so gallantly defending the fort; for there could be nothing gained by this act, their capture was too certain. They could not run away from the forts, for Sherman's army surrounded the entire Confederate force on the outside, including General Churchill and 6,000 troops, and the ferry was blockaded by the light gun-boats above — but these were some of the things the Confederates did which might properly have prevented them from receiving any quarter. [292]

Besides the 6,000 men that surrendered to General Sherman, there were 500 left alive in the forts, and it was curious in looking over the list of prisoners to see added to the names, “Seaman,” “Ordinary Seaman,” “Coal-heaver,” Fireman, etc. These men were part of the crew and officers of the Confederate ram “Ponchartrain,” built at Little Rock, Ark., and the guns in the fort had been intended to form the battery of that vessel, which was destroyed by the enemy on hearing of the capture of Fort Hindman (Arkansas Post).

General McClernand assumed all the direction of affairs on the surrender of the fort and the Confederate troops, and wrote the report of this affair, in which he gave fair credit to the Navy; but he actually

Casemate no. 1 destroyed by the U. S. Gun-boat Baron deKalb.

Appearance of casemates before the attack (covered with railroad iron).

had nothing to do with the management of the Army, and was down four miles below the forts during all the operations. Sherman was virtually the military commander. But from this time the Army was under McClernand's command, and after the prisoners were received and sent off in transports and the forts and guns demolished as far as could be done by the Army, the fleet and transports retraced their steps towards Vicksburg, and landed at Milliken's Bend or Young's Point about seven miles above Vicksburg.

The fight at Fort Hindman was one of the prettiest little affairs of the war, not so little either, for a very important post fell into our hands with 6,500 prisoners, and the destruction of a powerful ram at Little Rock, which could have caused the Federal Navy in the West a great deal of trouble, was ensured.

In the battle, everything went on so smoothly, there were no mistakes made, and the officers and seamen gained confidence in the gun-boats which they lacked before. But these had been much strengthened and improved since the battles of Forts Donelson and Henry, and had entire new guns on them instead of the inferior batteries they started out with; moreover, the officers had learned that the way to fight these batteries was at close quarters.

Lieutenant-Commanders Walker, Owen, Bache, Shirk, Watson, Smith, Woodworth, Breese, and the commander of the Monarch were all handsomely mentioned by

Casemate no. 2 destroyed by the U. S. Gun-boat Louisville.

Rear view of casemate no. 2.

the admiral in his report to the Navy Department.

This battle gave general satisfaction to the public. It was unexpected and few knew where Fort Hindman was situated.

Directly after the capture of Fort Hindman, Lieutenant-Commander Walker in the De Kalb, and Lieutenant-Commander George Bache in the Cincinnati, were sent up the White River to capture the forts erected there by the Confederates, and General Gorman, U. S. A., accompanied the expedition with troops in the transports

On the arrival of the expedition at St. Charles, the fort under construction was evacuated and the guns carried off in the steamer “Blue wing,” but these were recaptured [293] at Duvall's Bluff, shipped in cars ready to be transported to Little Rock, the Confederates deserting the place. The railroad depot was destroyed by fire, all the rolling stock burned, and all the munitions of war placed on board the transports.

This was the last expedition necessary to send up the White River for some time. It remained open during the war excepting on several occasions when guerillas infested its banks. The Arkansas River also remained open; its difficult navigation offered no inducement for any one to seek adventures in its treacherous waters.

To show how carelessly the history of the war of the Rebellion has been written as regards the Navy, the following quotation from a military historian is inserted here:

McClernand immediately acquiesced in Sherman's proposition and moved his force up the Arkansas, the fleet under Porter accompanying. A naval bombardment lasting several days occurred, and on the 11th the troops assaulted the works, when the Post surrendered after a fight of three hours, in which the squadron bore a conspicious part. McClernand [Sherman it should be] lost about 1,000 men in killed, wounded and missing. The guns of the fort were silenced by the fleet, and Admiral Porter received the sword of its commander.

General Grant did not approve of this movement on Arkansas Post when he first heard of it, as he thought it improper to divert the army from the original design to capture Vicksburg. He supposed the idea originated with General McClernand; but when he knew all the circumstances connected with the movement, and that the Army left Vicksburg because no longer able to operate owing to the floods, and that the troops wanted a success after their late discouraging defeat, he became reconciled to the attack on Arkansas Post, though it was a side movement and could in no way contribute to the final overthrow of Vicksburg.

Certain it is, the success at Arkansas Post had a most exhilarating effect on the troops, and they were a different set of men when they arrived at Milliken's Bend than they were when they left the Yazoo River.

After the troops were settled in their tents opposite Vicksburg, it became apparent that there could be no harmonious cooperation while McClernand remained in command of all the military forces. His peculiarities unfitted him for such a command, and these peculiarities became so offensive to Generals Sherman and McPherson, and to Admiral Porter, that they urged General Grant to take command himself as the only chance for the success of the enterprise, and in consequence, the latter hastened to Milliken's Bend or Young's Point and assumed the command of all the forces, which he was entitled to do, being military commander of the department.

Mississippi Squadron, January 1, 1863. (excepting some of the vessels engaged at Vicksburg.)

Acting Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commander-in-Chief.

Receiving-ship Clara Dolson. (Cairo.)

Lieutenant-Commander, Thomas Pattison, Acting-Assistant Surgeon, Emile Gavarret; Paymaster, Edward May; Acting-Master, John C. Bunner; Acting-Ensigns, E. C. Van Pelt and D. W. Tainter; Acting-Master's Mates, H. G. Masters and John D. Holmes; Acting-Engineer, Geo. W. Fulton; Acting-Carpenter, G. W. Armstrong.

Steamer Eastport.

Lieutenant-Commander, S. L. Whelps; Assistant Surgeon, Adrian Hudson; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, W. H. Gilman; Acting-Master, J. L. Avery; Acting-Ensign, R. M. Williams; Acting-Master's Mates, J. W. Litherbury and E. A. Decamp; Engineers: Acting-Chief, Henry Hartwig; Acting-Assistants, T. F. Ackerman, James Vanzant, G. W. Heisel and G. W. Aiken; Acting-Gunner, Reuben Applegate; Acting-Carpenter, James Kirkland.

Steamer Lexington.

Lieutenant-Commander, James W. Shirk; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, Martin Dunn; Acting-Assistant Surgeon, L. M. Reese; Assistant Paymaster, Geo. A. Lyon; Acting-Master, James Fitzpatrick; Acting-Ensigns, Sylvester Pool and James Marshall; Acting-Master's Mates, J. G. Magler, W. E. Anderson, F. O. Blake and S. S. Willett; Engineers: Acting-Chief, Wm. H. Meredith; Acting-Assistants, Michael Kelly, J. H. Hilliard, Wm. Bishop and Job Cummins.

Iron-clad steamer Baron deKalb.

Lieutenant-Commander, John G. Walker; Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, J. V. Johnston; Acting-Assistant Surgeon, John Wise; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, Wm. A. Mann; Acting-Masters, Chas. Kendrick and R. H. Medill; Acting-Ensign, Charles Hunter; Acting-Masters' Mates, H. H. Gorringe, E. D. Breed, F. E. Davis and J. M. Meacham; Engineers: Acting-Chief, Thomas Hebron; Acting-Assistants, J. L. Smith, J. S. Wilcoxen and Geo. Britton.

Steamer Conestoga.

Lieutenant-Commander, Thomas O. Selfridge; Assistant-Surgeon, J. Otis Burt; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, E. D. Ellsley; Acting-Master, George Hentig; Acting-Ensigns, Benj. Sebastian, James Kearney, Charles Pease and John Swaney; Acting-Master's Mates, S. J. Dewight, Henry Haskins, Thomas Devine and J. C. Petterson; Engineers: Acting-Chief, Thomas Cook, Alex. McGee, Michael Norton, James O'Neil and Andrew Lusk; Acting-Gunner, Gilbert Morton; Acting-Carpenter, J. J. Hays.

Steamer Fairplay.

Lieutenant-Commander, Le Roy Fitch; Acting-Assistant Surgeon, S. D. Bolton; Acting-Master, Geo. J. Groves; Acting-Ensigns, J. C. Coyle and Thad. Conant; Acting-Master's Mates, W. C. Coulson, John Reville and Isaac Summons; Acting-Engineers, Robert Mahatha, G. S. Collins, Chas. Egster and Wm. Bell; Acting-Carpenter, Thomas Manning.


Steamer Taylor.

Lieutenant, James M. Prichett; Acting-Assistant Surgeon, G. W. Ballentine; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, C. A. Gardiner; Acting-Master, V. H. Minor; Acting-Ensigns, Eliphalet Loring, C. T. Stanton, J. F. Holmes and S. E. Brown; Acting-Master's Mates, Charles Ackley, H. S. Wetmore and Ira Athearn; Engineers: Acting-Chief, James Fleming; Acting Assistants, J R. Ramsey, Wm. Furch and E. M. Bumpus; Acting-Carpenter, A. B. Chapman.

Steamer Robb.

Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, Jason Goudy; Acting-Ensigns, Robert Wilkinson, W. Stoneall and E. C. Roe; Acting-Master's Mates, Lloyd Thomas and E. F. Rowe; Acting-Engineers, Benj. Emerson and John Miller.

Steamer St. Clair.

Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, J. S. Hurd; Acting-Assistant Surgeon, D. D. Winslow; Acting-Master, G. V. Fontly; Acting-Ensign, Jos. Watson; Acting-Master's Mates, H. A. Proctor, Jos. Hurd and E. C. Williams; Acting-Engineers, Wm. McLain, Edward Lozier and C. C. Hamilton.

Steamer brilliant.

Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, Chas. G. Perkins; Acting Assistant Surgeon, W. W. Howard; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, Horace Talcott; Acting-Ensigns, J. B. Dales, George Munday and G. D. Little; Acting-Master's Mate, J. J. Perkins; Acting-Engineers, W. A. Willey, Salmuel Ecoff and James Cutter.

Ram little rebel.

Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, Thomas B. Gregory; Acting-Ensign, N. T. Rennell; Acting-Master's Mate, J. S. Flint; Acting-Engineers, A. E. Giles, A. M. Smith and Robert Russell.

Steamer great Western.

Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, Wm. F. Hamilton; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, J. S. Harvey; Acting Master, J. C. Little; Acting-Ensign, Richard Ellis; Acting-Master's Mates, L. F. Knapp and Richard Mitchell: Acting-Chief Engineer, Chas. Christopher; Engineers, Jos. Goodwin, B. A. Farmer and G. S. Baker; Acting-Gunner, Robert Sherman; Acting-Carpenter, Jos. Morton.

Steamer judge Torrence.

Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant, J. F. Richardson; Acting-Ensign, Jeremiah Irwin; Acting-Master's Mate, James Ross; Acting-Chief Engineer, P. R. Hartwig; Engineers, J. Stough, J. C. Barr and W. Y. Sedman.

Steamer New Era.

Acting-Master, F. W. Flammer; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, Wm. B. Purdy: Acting-Ensigns, Wm. C. Hanford and Geo. L. Smith; Acting-Master's Mates, G. E. Cheever, W. C. Renner, W. B. Shillits and Wm. Wharry; Acting-Engineers, Israel Marsh, John Darragh and Richard Fengler; Acting-Gunner, Louis Fredericks.

Receiving ship New national.

Acting-Masters, Alex. M. Grant and O. H. Pratt; Acting-Ensign, John Hill; Acting-Master's Mate, Wm. C. Herron; Acting-Engineers, W. H. Price, James Wilkins and C. C. Rensford.

Storeship sovereign.

Acting-Master, Thomas Baldwin; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, Geo. L. Meade; Acting-Ensign, A. M. Rowland; Acting-Master's Mates, C. H. Gulick, T. J. Sheets and G. V. Meade; Acting-Engineers, T. W. Blair, A. L. Mann, Patrick Scanlon and Benj. Cainda.

Medical staff.

Fleet Surgeon, Ninian Pinkney; Acting-Assistant Surgeons, G. H. Bixby and Geo. Hopkins.

Steamer General Pillow.

Acting-Ensign, Joseph Moyer; Acting-Master's Mates, J. H. Rives and E. M. Woods; Acting-Engineers, Peter Wagner and Jos. J. Wagner.

Inspection ship Abraham.

Acting-Ensign Wm. Wagner; 1st Assistant-Engineer, E. Hozier,

Steam-tug Pansy.

Acting-Ensign, Amos Bolander; Acting-Master's Mate, Anthony McCarthy: Acting-Engineers, John Gilliss and A. F. Gardiner.

Steam-tug Fern.

Acting-Ensign Alpheus Selmms; Acting-Master's Mate, John M. Kelly; Acting-Engineer, John Reed.

Steam-tug Mistletoe.

Acting-Ensign, W. H. H. Ford; Acting-Master's Mate, Hamilton Bateman; Acting-Engineers, W. F. Sandford and Silas Hasky.

Steam-tug Samson.

Acting-Ensign, James D. Buckley; Acting-Master's Mate, Wilmot Duley; Acting-Engineers, Geo. Kimber and C. F. Yager.

Steam-tug Lilly.

Acting-Ensign, Richard H. Smith; Acting Engineers, James Miller and J. C. Jones.

Steam-tug Myrtle.

Acting-Engineer, Thomas Guernsey.

Naval station at Cairo, ill.

Commander, Alex. M. Pennock, Fleet-Captain; Paymaster, A. E. Watson, Inspector-in-charge; W. Brenton Boggs, Purchasing Paymaster and Navy Agent; E. W. Dunn, Paymaster attached to Squadron; A. H. Gilman, Paymaster attached to Station; Acting-Lieutenant, J. P. Sandford, Ordnance Officer; Acting-Chief-Engineer, W. D. Faulkner, Superintendent; Acting-Chief-Engineer, Samuel Bickerstaff, Superintendent of light draughts; Acting-Master John W. Atkinson, Superintendent of tugs; Acting-Ensign, Peter O'Kell, Executive-Officer; Acting-Ensign, A. H. Edson, and Gunner, John T. Ritter on Ordnance Duty.

Marine officers.

Captain, Mathew R. Kintzing; 1st Lieutenants, Frank Munroe and S. H. Mathews; 2nd Lieutenant, Frank L. Church.

Officer at naval rendezvous, Cincinnati.

Acting-Master, A. S. Brown.

Officers at naval station, Memphis.

Acting-Master, John R. Neild; Acting-Assistant Surgeon, Wm. P. Baird; Acting-Assistant Paymaster, J. H. Benton.

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