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Doc. 54.-evacuation of Fort Pillow.

Colonel Ellett's report.

opposite Randolph, below Fort Pillow, June 5.
Hon. E. M. Stanton:
To my mortification the enemy evacuated Fort Pillow last night. They carried away or destroyed every thing valuable. Early this morning Lieut.-Col. Ellett and a few men in a yawl went ashore, followed immediately by Col. Fitch and a party of his command. The gunboats then came down and anchored across the channel.

I proceeded with three rams twelve miles below the fort to a point opposite Randolph, and sent Lieut.-Col. Ellett ashore with a flag of truce to demand the surrender of the place. Their forces had all left in two of their gunboats only an hour or two before we approached. The people seemed to respect the flag which Lieut.-Col. Ellett planted. The guns had been dismantled and some piles of cotton were burning

I shall leave Lieut.-Col. Ellett here in the advance, and return immediately to Fort Pillow to bring on my entire force. The people attribute the suddenness of the evacuation to the attempt made night before last to sink one of their gun-boats at Fort Pillow. Randolph, like Pillow, is weak, and could not have held out long against a vigorous attack. The people express a desire [164] for the restoration of the old order of things, though still professing to be secessionists.

Charles Ellett, Jr., Colonel Commanding Ram Flotilla.

A National account.

Fort Pillow, Wednesday Night, June 4.
Fort Pillow is fallen. The last rebel strong-hold on the Mississippi is ours, and the way lies open to Memphis. The fortifications before which we have lain so long and into which we have poured so many thousands of ponderous shells, is at our mercy. Eight weeks have we besieged it with gunboats and mortars, and it now falls without the loss of a life.

The enemy is gone, quit, scampered, run away, unable to withstand the closing jaws of our fleets and armies ; he is panic-stricken and demoralized. While I write, the flaming bonfires of his stores, his quarters, are lighting the heavens, and the flashes of his guns bespeak his haste. Victory!

The immediate occasion of this desperate and ruinous step on the part of the subjects of King Cotton is no doubt the fate of Corinth, but the real victory was gained on that dread day at Shiloh, when the few stout and loyal hearts and the active brains of our freemen held back the tide of rebellion by their determined and self-sacrificing spirit. Neither Corinth, nor Pillow, nor Memphis was safe after that crowning Sunday night. It became a question who should bring up the most men and resources for the next battle. We did it and the victory becomes bloodless in consequence. The exultation, the jubilee which this auspicious day will send to the hearts of thousands of our fellow-countrymen is the first fruit of the great restoration of peace and prosperity which is to flow in upon us from this hour. We have not only applied the tourniquet to this rebellion, but changed the current of the artery which is henceforth to throb with loyal and national — life-sustaining national blood.

Flag-Officer Davis must have had some intimation of the rebel purpose in abandoning and destroying the place some day or two since. There have been an unusual number and variety of reconnoissances during this week, in tugs, in rams, in yawls, in gunboats, and by overland scouting. Reports certainly reached us two days ago of the evacuation, but when our mortars were fired they met with very ready responses. This morning the mortars opened at an unusually early hour. The firing was continued with great spirit during the morning, the rebels firing a shot in return at long intervals. Probably twenty shots were received from them during the morning, all of which, however, fell short. Our tremendous shells could be seen very distinctly exploding over the bluff on which their works were situated, the white, expanding, fleecy cloud drifting slowly across the horizon long after the ponderous missiles had reached the earth. The day was cool, with a refreshing north wind blowing, and the spectacle of the mortar bombardment was witnessed with great interest until about three o'clock, when the firing ceased, the rebels having ceased an hour before.

reconnoissance — accounts of A deserter.

The cessation of the mortar-firing was probably to allow a reconnoissance to be made across Craighead Point. Col. Fitch sent a lieutenant and eight men over, who reported, on their return, that there were still men to be seen about the guns, but that the general appearance of the place was deserted.

A more satisfactory exploration was made, however, by Pilot Bixby, of the Benton, who took a cutter, with boat's crew, and went down to the point, where he landed. A deserter made his way to the cutter across the point, and informed us that the rebels had gone from Fort Pillow, that the fort was abandoned, except by a garrison of twenty men, who had been left behind with ten rounds of ammunition for each of the few guns still left in position. So earnest and positive in his asseverations, that he offered to lead the party to the works, and if they did not find things as he described them, he offered his life as the forfeit. The deserter was brought to the flag-ship, where he repeated his story with greater detail. A pause of some three hours occurred, in which there was comparative silence on both sides.

It was about six o'clock as we had just risen from supper, when a cloud of white smoke was announced as appearing over the tops of the trees. An instant more, and a jet of water splashed up fifty feet high from the surface of the river right abreast of the point. A minute had elapsed when another, and after a while a third and fourth struck nearly in the same place. These seemed to confront the report of the deserter which had just been brought in, and while we were discussing the truth of the report, a number of guns were fired from the fort, the shots from which could nowhere be discovered.

Not a gunboat was within range, the mortarboats had been already towed up from their position, not a skiff nor a human being could be seen, and it was finally concluded the enemy was probably firing at some of our scouting-party in the woods. Not until later did we discover that these were the parting salutes of the fugacious rebels — a vindictive leave-taking after so long and harmless a siege. So free were they with their ammunition, that they plied their guns with double and triple charges, and then left them to explode.

By half-past 6 or near seven we could perceive also an unusual quantity of light smoke coming as it were from the river opposite the fort, which we took at first for the flotilla. The sun was setting gloriously at our backs as we gazed at the dark bluffs. Soon the smoke grew more dense and expanded. In half an hour it burst out further to the right, and in half an hour the tops of the woods were crowned with the light reflection of fires. The principal seat of the burning material seemed to be on the river's bank, nearly at the lower turn of the [165] river. By half-past 7 the clouds had obscured the dipping sun; the illumination from the burning fort was grand. A grand and spreading column of smoke towered above the bluffs, while the leaping flames could be seen above the woods in two and sometimes three places. Several slight explosions took place during the fire. The conflagration lasted an hour and a half, when all relapsed into the original gloom. It was clear enough to see that the enemy were evacuating the fort. Capt. Phelps meanwhile went down to the foot of Flour Island in a tug and watched the operation at the distance of a mile and a half. He was, of course, satisfied of the evacuation, and determined upon landing early in the morning.

Thursday, June 5.
Early this morning the fleet got under way, and by sunrise our flag was waving from the heights of Fort Pillow. The rams under Col. Ellet, anxious, probably, to secure an equivocal notoriety in being the first to land in an abandoned fortress, proceeded with all speed down the bend, followed by the Benton and her gallant followers — Mound City, Cairo, Carondelet, Cincinnati, St. Louis and the transports and mortarfleet — until we had rounded the Craighead Point, so long the slice which separated us from the rebels.

The approach is by a long and complete curve, in which the river runs, as at Columbus, right into the Chickasaw bluff, where the stream suddenly narrows until it becomes from two miles wide to nearly half a mile at the Fulton landing, just below the forts. The yellow sand bluff rises to the height of a hundred and fifty feet, and in general appearance is remarkably like the situation of Columbus, with the exception that the fortifications are placed lower down in the bend.

It is impossible for any one who is at all acquainted with military engineering to pass over the works without arriving at the impression that, both by natural configuration and scientific aid, they are the most formidable works of their kind in the country. Never before, probably, was any place containing so many natural advantages for purposes of defence. The difficulties of storming the place are absolutely incredible. Nothing but the most reckless and thoughtless bravery could ever have made entry into these lines if defended by five thousand determined men.

The capabilities of the works facing the river are enormous — not only mounting the most formidable guns, but also subjecting the enemy to the most conical fire in approaching the place. Stronger than Columbus by nature, it was equally well fortified by art. Twice stronger than Island No.10, for the reason that the approach was barred, we could not even see the enemy, while he could look down upon our decks from his high bluff. The evacuation of so strong a place is evidence that the attempt to hold the river is relinquished.

The fact that the rebels had held us here so long, and that we had taken no extraordinary measures to reduce the fort, seemed rather like reasons for holding it at all hazards rather than abandon it.

The two regiments of Cols. Fitch and McLean--Forty-third and Forty-sixth Indiana--tired of the weary guard-duty on the Arkansas shore, among the mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, conceived the dangers of the rebel guns would hardly be more formidable than the common enemy of mankind.

A large picket force was landed on the Tennessee shore, under Capt. Schermerhorn, who made a detour round, so as to come in the rear of the fort. A bridge was constructed across Cole Creek. The rebels, discovering this, fancied that our force was much larger than it was, and in conjunction with the movements of Gen. Halleck, left them no alternative but to abandon the position.

The mortars, as we discovered, had thrown shells into the works, and far beyond them into the woods, but could not learn whether they killed any one. The presumption is against it, as the garrison was quite small, and the places of shelter abundant.

The works at Pillow may be described most easily, as first an irregular line of earthworks running along the base of the bluffs for the distance of half a mile continuous, with but one slight intermission, at a height of twenty-five feet from the river at this stage. The embankment, part of which appears to be old, is calculated for forty-one guns, though it is doubtful if more than eighteen have been mounted there at any time.

Above this, and on plateaux not quite even with the top of the range of bluffs, are two long batteries calculated for about twenty guns of various calibres. These works are of more recent construction. Besides this, there are on the heights, and in isolated positions near the top, excavations, behind which a single gun was mounted, or, more correctly speaking, dismounted. The plan of the rebels has evidently been to remove most of their best guns, and to shatter the rest by over-charges. A few of them have stood the test, and may be considered amply safe hereafter.

Fort Pillow, named after the celebrated Gideon J. Pillow, of Mexican ditch and Fort Donelson notoriety, is an immense system of earthworks, situated on the first Chickasaw bluffs, sixty-five miles above Memphis, and one hundred and seventy-five below Cairo. The first fortifications were, as I learned from a native, commenced about a year ago, early in June, 1861, at the time when Memphis was in a ferment, and the secession of Tennessee was eagerly canvassed. The original design has been greatly enlarged, so that little or no trace of the original can be found in the numerous additions which have been made from time to time, up to within a month ago. At first, only a few companies of confederate soldiers were kept here ; but at the time of the [166] surrender of Island No.10, the garrison was increased to five thousand, which has been drained down to about two hundred and fifty by the army of Beauregard at Corinth. The length of the bluff is about four miles, three of which are skirted by the river, Cole Creek running inland along its base. It is at the debouch of this creek that the fortifications commence.

Commencing at Cole Creek, we find first in the list of works a series of charred and smoking gun-carriages and platforms, eleven in number, the guns of which have all been removed, with two exceptions--thirty-two-pounders — which have recoiled by the shock, so as to throw them from their carriages.

Continuing nearly in line with this work, we come upon a huge one hundred and twenty-eight-pounder columbiad, cast at the Tredegar Works in Richmond, careened over so as to rest its breech upon the ground, pointing up to the heavens at an acute angle, several piles of shell, solid shot, and two or three small ovens for heating shot, more smoldering carriages, and then a blank space in the middle, which appears to have been overflown, and the guns, if ever mounted, have been displaced long ago. Toward the lower end, the tier of batteries rises so as to present a large, roomy and elaborate system of bombproofs, traverses and parapets in front of the steep bank, of the most formidable kind. Some five burst guns and two spiked remain of the twenty originally placed there. The magazines, large and commodious, with rat-holes under the embrasures, were well constructed,

At the extreme lower end of this tier were two monster mortars rent into massive fragments, which by the rusty fractures indicated they had been burst long before. These were evidently intended as imitations and offsets for the terrible engines with which we were assailing them daily. They had been cast at Memphis, and from the marks of the metal, cast from bad iron. They were only fifteen inches of rim, while those of ours have seventeen, and were cast with a chamber in which the powder is inserted. Unlike ours in all other respects, they were intended to be like our mortars. The shells were exact copies, probably obtained from some of ours which had failed to explode.

Two of these mortars were found three quarters of a mile further down the bank, spiked. These are the mortars which they have been firing at us of late; but either through inferior powder or want of skill in their use, they have not been able to reach us, although placed at a great elevation over our own.

The principal battery of interest, placed nearly at the top of the bluff is the casemated battery overlooking the entrance of Cole Creek, as it is the only casemated battery in the place. The rebels had burned the roof and supports of the roof, and the earth had fallen in so as to cover up gun-carriage and all, and the description of the gun must be omitted until it is exhumed. It is supposed to be a rifled eight-inch gun of superior model, from the character of the shot surrounding it.

Next in order comes a battery of six guns, all thirty-two pounders. Three of them have been removed, two burst, and one dismounted. A large number of Read balls and shells are left behind, significant of their worthlessness. Further down-stream we come upon a single gun, also a mammoth one hundred and twenty-eight pounder,. completely reversed by the recoil, so as to be pitched back over, vent down. A compact and admirable magazine is constructed in the bank close behind it. Further down we come upon two separate excavations, evidently designed for a single gun each, but bear no appearance of having any mounted.

Here also we met with those immense piles of dirt to which we have become so accustomed, the invariable earthworks and rifle-pits. The trenches and breastworks back from the river, of which there are in some places two lines, and in others detached pieces, are of the most stupendous kind. Deep and wide rifle-trenches have been dug around the brows of every commanding hill, backed by a stout line of earthworks, behind which field-pieces are intended to be placed.

The line of intrenchments running from one end to the other is estimated at six miles long, which, on account of the broken and abrupt face of the country, renders an attack in the rear almost suicidal. Ravines, spurs, ridges, and jutting points are intermingled in the most fanciful order.

On the extreme east of the Fort, and above Cole Creek, we found the remains of the camp all charred and in ruins. Here was the usual assortment of bottles, biscuits, playing-cards, Bibles, utensils, and letters, a few coarse tents and some coarser clothing. The remains showed the soldiers to have been living in great discomfort.

Strange to say, no shells had been directed to this spot, lying as it did too far to the left of us for our attention. Accommodations were there for perhaps two thousand men.

In a ravine at the lower end we found the commissary storehouses burnt to the ground. An immense pile of smouldering pork on one side of the road, and an immense pile of corn and beans and peas on the other, told us the secret of the illumination of the previous night. Some twenty or thirty barrels of molasses were left, which our forces quickly appropriated to their use. All the barracks, houses, and stores in the place had been consumed previous to our departure. The quantity of shot and shell left behind was unusually small, and the magazines were entirely empty. The evacuation was complete, clean and entire, nothing worth the carriage was left behind.

From a farmer, living three miles from the Fort, we learned that our land force had moved the day previous to our arrival to Mason's station, on the Memphis and Nashville road, where they would take the train to Corinth, as they said, not knowing that Corinth was in our hands. Before leaving they had assigned their stores to [167] the residents as perquisites. A detachment of Fitch's men, finding them with large quantities of molasses, sugar, and provisions in their possession, ordered them to haul it to the Fort so soon as they discovered its origin, which the owner did.

He professed to be a Union man, and had been in Memphis only three days previously. The evacuation of Corinth was not then known publicly, and our flotilla was still at Vicksburgh. Memphis he described as being deserted; gave some account of the history of the Fort from its commencement, in which he described the actions of the rebel commanders as exceedingly tyrannical. “An intelligent contraband” also backed up the asseverations of his master by various statements. He was anxious to get North, and declared himself fully persuaded of the superiority of the Lincoln cause.

As the clear result of this masterly operation we have secured ten uninjured guns of various calibres. The enemy has destroyed at least an equal number and has removed a larger number. He has sacrificed an immense amount of stores. He has abandoned a magnificent position, from which we could hardly ever have driven him with the fleet alone, and has shrunk from a contest with his flotillas.

The State of Tennessee is abandoned. In less than a week we shall have no enemy in the State. All the labor expended upon the works becomes useless. For the hundredth time the rebels have fallen back as a matter of pure strategy, abandoning guns, ammunition, and stores. The gain is not much to us, but the loss is great to the rebels. Most of the guns they have left behind they can never replace. All the guns which they took away are supposed to have been put on board the gunboats; those which burst are, of, course, a dead loss to the enemy.

Cincinnati Gazette account.

National Flotilla, Mississippi River, in sight of Memphis, Thursday Night, June 5.
Fort Pillow has fallen I The only remaining stronghold of the enemy on the river — the much talked of “last ditch,” named after the celebrated ditch-digger himself, where the rebels have so long promised the world they would die — has at last been abandoned.

Early last evening it became apparent that the enemy were evacuating Fort Pillow. Between six and seven o'clock dense volumes of smoke were seen rising in the direction of the Fort, and as the shadows of the coming night began to thicken, they were succeeded by fierce flames which shot up from a hundred different points, above the tops of the highest trees, brilliantly illuminating the scene in the immediate vicinity, and leaving no doubt in the minds of those on the flotilla that the immense barracks of the enemy had been fired and abandoned. During the conflagration, some twelve or fifteen heavy discharges of artillery were heard, and before the evening was too far advanced, some of the shot and shell from these could be seen plunging into the river a short distance below the gunboats, and sending their huge columns of spray high in the air. It needed no unusual power of divination to comprehend at a glance that before abandoning their works, the enemy had loaded their guns, pointed them up-stream, and then applied the torch to their carriages. The design of this was to keep the flotilla at a respectable distance until they could make good their escape.

The night wore away slowly. All were anxious to advance, but the order to do so was not given till five o'clock this morning. At that hour the flag-ship Benton weighed anchor and started in the direction of the Fort, signalling the remaining gunboats to follow. On turning Craighead's Point, they were not a little surprised at seeing the Stars and Stripes already waving over the deserted rebel works. It was afterwards learned that during the night, Col. Ellet, of the ram-fleet — who, it will be remembered, acts independently of the Flag-Officer--had moved down the stream with two or three of his boats, and finding no enemy to dispute his passage, had landed at the Fort, and hoisted the banner of beauty on the flagstaff where the rebel ensign had so recently waved. The act was thought to be rather discourteous to the flotilla, some of the officers of which manifested a little ill-feeling, but this soon wore away in the general joy of the occasion.

By eight o'clock every vessel, directly or indirectly connected with the flotilla, was either at the Fort or in motion toward it. The gunboats were huddled together in the stream; the tugs were screaming and bustling about as if they had never before had quite so much business to attend to; the ammunition-boats — the Great Western, black as night, and the Judge Torrence, exactly the reverse — were lazily drifting down; the tow-boats, puffing along slowly with two or three mortars apiece lashed to them, were doing their utmost not to be behind the rest, and the rams and transports were scudding along at their highest rate of speed. The scene was most inspiriting, and every pulse on the flotilla beat quicker at the sight. No wonder the hospitals of our land forces were almost entirely cleared. No wonder that pale faces grew flushed. No wonder that each vied with the other who should be first within the deserted rebel stronghold. The long, long canker of inaction was over, and something toward closing the account of the rebellion on the Mississippi was about to be done.

When the transport having on board a brigade of newspaper correspondents reached the Fort, we found its intrenchments thronged with our men, Col. Fitch of the Forty-sixth Indiana, having been on the ground some time with his regiment.

Our transport had hardly touched her landing before we were on shore, leaping ditches, scaling escarpments, peering into magazines, looking down the muzzles of huge guns, creeping into casemates, looking through embrasures, threading zigzag paths, climbing almost perpendicular heights, walking seemingly interminable lines of breastworks, and kicking around the charred remains [168] of the desolate-looking place. All were astonished at the strength of the works and the vast amount of labor that had been expended upon them.

Fort Pillow is naturally the strongest place on the Lower Mississippi. The Chickasaw Bluff, on which it stands, is from seventy-five to one hundred feet high, and is cut up by ravines in a most remarkable manner. Those who have only seen it from the river have no idea how broken, rough, rolling and rugged its surface is. Before the evacuation of the Fort, ten thousand determined men could have successfully held it against ten times their number. As a defensible point it is even preferable to Columbus, and although more guns were mounted at Island No.10 than at Pillow, the former place will not compare with the latter either in commanding position or strength.

The work on Fort Pillow was begun on the thirteenth of April, 1861, and was prosecuted with great vigor during most of the summer of that year. From three to five thousand negroes, so I am informed by one of the natives, were employed upon it at one time. Its intrenchments in the rear are miles in length, and have been constructed under the superintendence of able engineers. Their counterscarps are lined with plank, and the whole works surrounded with ditches of the most impassable character.

The bluff presents a bold and almost perpendicular front to the river. From its base to the water's edge, there is a kind of plateau, two or three hundred feet wide, and generally elevated above high water-mark. Here were located the principal batteries of the enemy. Embrasures have been made for about forty guns, but appearances do not indicate that more than twenty-five have at any time been mounted. In the construction of the batteries, sand-bags, railroadiron, and heavy timber have been used without stint.

I cannot give your readers a better idea of the armament of the Fort than by making the following transcript from my memorandum — book. Passing along the line of water-batteries, about half a mile in extent, beginning at the upper end, I made the annexed entry:

1 128-pounder, rifled, casemated.

1 heavy 10-inch gun.

1 8-inch Parrott.

1 24-pounder, dismounted.

1 32-pounder, burst.

1 24-pounder, burst.

1 32-pounder, burst.

1 64-pounder, (Dahlgren,) burst.

1 32-pounder, dismounted.

1 heavy 8-inch columbiad, burst.

1 heavy 10-inch columbiad, burst.

1 13-inch mortar, burst.

1 128-pounder, dismounted.

On the bluff but eight guns and two mortars had been mounted, of which six only remained, as follows:

2 32-pounders, dismounted.

1 64-pounder, (rifled,) burst.

1 10-inch Parrott, dismounted.

2 10-inch mortars, spiked.

All these guns, except the mortars, had been heavily loaded, and fires were built around them, which burned their carriages and caused them to explode or dismount themselves when discharged.

The two ten-inch mortars are located a short distance back of the brow of the bluff, below the lower end of the water-batteries. They are old-fashioned but very good guns. The thirteen-inch mortar is split directly through the centre. Portions of one half of it are embedded in the surrounding works, and the other half is lying where it fell. The metal is porous, hard, and altogether unsuited for the use to which it was in this instance put. This confirms the statement I made some weeks ago relative to the bursting of this gun.

It appears from the statements of some of the natives, that after the surrender of Island No.10 the garrison of Fort Pillow was about twenty thousand men. All of them but about one thousand five hundred were withdrawn some six weeks ago to reenforce Beauregard at Corinth. A week ago the garrison was further weakened by the withdrawal of the Twelfth Louisiana, the only full regiment in the Fort, and during the last two or three days not more than seventy-five men remained--barely enough to make sure the work of destruction. These, we were informed, retreated into the interior, but not before performing the duty assigned them in a manner that must have been highly satisfactory to the rebel authorities; for a place more barren of trophies than Fort Pillow it would be difficult to find.

An attack upon Fort Pillow was contemplated by Col. Fitch yesterday morning, but was not made, owing to the non-fulfilment of some plans. All things were ready, however, this morning, when an assault would have been made had not the evacuation in the mean time taken place. A bridge of cypress logs had been thrown over a “sloo” between Flower Island and the Tennessee shore, on which our forces would have crossed, landing near the head of the upper battery, and in such a position as to have enfiladed the enemy's guns, without their being able to reply from any of them. Col. Fitch is satisfied his plan would have succeeded. Perhaps so, as there were only seventy-five men in the Fort; but if there had been two or three thousand instead, I am inclined to think his plan would not have worked entirely as he anticipated.

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