I'ecatur, Ala., March 13.
To the Editors of the Dispatch:
Please public the subjoined, article from the Knoxville Register
, in reference to the fall of Fort Henry
It is full of facts, as every officer at the post can certify, and will go far to remove the many false and unjust reports that have been in circulation concerning General Tilgeman
was a well-built pentagonal, bastioned earthwork, on the secondary bottom of the river, and the whole plateau forming the terreplein,
or foundation of the fort, had been several times, in thirty years past, seven or eight feet under water, and was partially overflowed every winter.
It was located in June last, by B. R. Johnson
of Engineers in the Tennessee
provisional army, and was not finished until september — the water in the river then being thirty-five or forty feet lower than the fort.
This seems to have been an oversight in the engineer.
In August and September last officers and engineers and artillery men on duty there reported Fort Henry
tenable until winter freshens only, and urged the construction of another fort on a better position.
Steps were immediately taken to build a new fort on the Kentucky
side, on a bluff above Fort Henry
, which was finished on the 6th of February. This work ought to have been done by the 1st of December. and such was the intention of the military authorities; but the difficulty of procuring labor, and the want of a proper head of military affairs on the Tennessee
and Cumberland rivers
, caused the work to progress slowly — so slowly, that the work was hardly staked out by that time.
, on the 20th of November, called for 5,000 troops for sixty days, expressly to expedite this work; but the organization of this force proceeded slowly, and 3,000 of them were sent to Camp Beauregard
and Union City
to guard the railroad to Columbus
, who raised the first regiment of Kentucky volunteers, was made a Brigadier General
about the 1st of December and assigned to the command of the fourth division, including Forts Henry
He had been a resident of Paducah
— knew the country and the people — and having been an officer in the United States army, and commander of a light battery in the Mexican
war — a man of known chivalry, energy and intelligence — born in Maryland
, and several years a citizen of Tennessee
, as a civil engineer — his designation was helped by those who know him as a guaranty that the defences of the Cumberland
would be pushed with vigor.
He did avail himself, as we are informed by an officer who was on duty in that division, of all the resources at hand.
The new fort, elegantly located and strongly built, ready for the guns on the 1st of February; but the guns necessary did not time.
, previously only a river of five or six guns, was being rapidly converted into an enclosed fort, and guns of heavy metal were mounted on the bluff, so as to command the river.
Yet, on the 15th of January, there were scarcely 1,500 effective men at Fort Henry
, with twelve guns of various calibres — the largest were 32-pounders.
There were about 1,200 effective men, (new raised volunteers) at Fort Donelson
, and six or seven 32 pound guns, about 800 yards of breastwork; one side of the fort yet open.
On the night of the 11th of January, Gen. Tilgeman
received positive information that the enemy, ten to twelve thousand strong, with a flotilla of gunboats, would start from Paducah
in three days, against Fort Henry
. Gen. T. Immediately
dispatched to General Johnson
, Gen. Polk
, and to Gov Harris
, advising them of the danger, and calling for assistance.
On the 15th, the winter rains set in, and Gen. Grant
's army found itself out off by the freshens, and Clark
's river and Blood creek
. Gen. Tilghman
promptly caused the bridges at Blood creek
to be destroyed, on the night of the 20th, when the enemy were at Murray
, within sixteen miles. These obstructions caused the enemy to fall back towards Paducah
, having destroyed part of their baggage train near Murray
In the meantime a brigade had advanced from Columbus
, to threaten the enemy.
Reinforcements, to the number of 300 infantry and 400 cavalry, (new levies,) were sent by Gov. Harris
A regiment of new troops were sent to the Tennessee River Bridge
Some heavy columbiads, &c., were sent to Forts Donelson
, and rapidly mounted.
From that time till the 8th of February Gen. Tilghman
was everywhere at his post.
All the defences were pushed with vigor, and repeated appeal, made for assistance. --Before the reinforcements intended for Gen. Tilghman
had arrived, the enemy had already landed 10,000 troops, and brought up ten gunboats near the mouth of Panther Creek
, three miles below Fort Henry
And the river was now at full tide, overflowing its banks — entirely surrounding Fort Henry
, and on the point of overflowing the fort.
On the morning of the 6th, Fort Henry
was no longer tenable, and the time had come, (previously foretold by the engineers,) when the fort must fall.
Seeing, from the dispositions of the enemy, that they would attack him that day, Gen.
T. caused his whole force (2,000 in all) to retreat towards Fort Donelson
by a circuitous route, which evaded the army of Gen. Grant
, (10 000 strong.) already drawn up on the heights towards Dover
To cover this retreat, he remained in the fort with less than 60 men, (officers and all not 70) to receive the attack of the gunboats.
The Northern accounts of this fight do not do full justice to the gallant General and the officers and men who were under his command in this engagement, although they speak of it an a gallant and manly defence.
It was more than that.
It was a desperate one, made to save our retreating army.
The fort was, of necessity, already lost.
We give these particulars, as we have learned them, from persons who served in that army, and we are certain they are substantially correct.
We have seen a private letter, from an officer who was at Fort Henry
and Fort Donelson
, and in both battles, from which we make only the following extract:
"Of our disaster at Fort Henry
, I will say nothing further, except that Gen. Tilghman
's cool and daring courage, exhibited in the terrible cannonade, won the admiration of all who were in the fort.
None doubted his loyalty, his courage, nor his intense desire to serve his country.
The surrender was inevitable, the garrison could not have escaped, nor the little army' outside, if the fort had not opposed the gunboats.
"It is true, three or four officers and men did effect their escape — the whole could not have done so. Col. M. A. Haynes
, of the artillery, though wounded in the leg by a fragment of a shell, made his escape on a horse, without saddle or bridle; but this was done by swimming the back water far above the Fort
Maj J. M. Gilmer
, of the engineers, made his escape on foot in the some way; so did Col. Helman
All the officers of Capt Jesse Taylor
's company of artillery behaved with the utmost gallantry.
, (last year a Lieutenant of the U. S. Navy,) displayed all the gallantry of an old tar, and his entire command deserve credit for their heroic conduct."