Wednesday, January 20, 2010

From Fort Pillow

Special to the Chicago Tribune.

CAIRO, April 19, 1862.

The Enemy’s gunboats have laid behind Criaghead Point for two or three nights past, fearing an attempt on our part to run the blockade.

The firing upon both sides on Thursday, was very heavy. The mortars opens at noon, four being in operation. The enemy replied immediately and briskly from the land batteries, throwing shell clear over us, and nearly across the river to the Tennessee shore.

Their firing was very accurate and from very heavy guns.

The St. Louis, Carondelet and Cairo, stationed as picket stops near the extremity of the point, where obliged to move up the river several times to get out of range.

A skiff attached to a mortar raft was hit by a shell and dashed to pieces. The shells flew thick and all about our gunboats, but none were hit.

On Thursday night the mortars commenced firing at 8 o’clock, the enemy replying immediately, and the fire was kept up until midnight.

A rebel shell exploded directly above the stern awnings of the St. Louis, slightly injuring one man in the wrist, another shell struck the broadside casemate of the Cairo, but did no damage. The firing ceased at midnight.

Yesterday but little was done except a few shots fired by the mortars. In the morning the mortars were shifted form the Arkansas to the Tennessee shore for the greater protection. In their past locality they have been in great danger from bands of rebel scouts prowling through the woods. These scouts have already cut the levee in two or three places, to embarrass the operations of the mortars.

Deserters are being rapidly taken both from the rebel gunboats and from their batteries. They say that nearly all of the crews of the gunboats have been impressed, and so great is the fear of the officers lest they desert that they frequently muster them every hour in the day.

The batteries now mount about forty very heavy guns. They have sixty more guns which they are rapidly putting in position. Within the past few days Bragg has arrived and succeeds Gen. Villipage, hitherto in command. There are about 6,000 troops there. Both troops and guns are from Pensacola.

There are but four gunboats in the river – the Mariposa [sic], Macray [sic], Ponchartrain and Livingston, mounting a total of twenty-four guns. The Ivy has gone to New Orleans with Hollins on board. The Gen. Polk is at Memphis repairing. Capt. Engee is acting Commodore in Hollin’s absence.

An independent company at Memphis has five boats below Fort Pillow, intended to grapple on our fleet and take it down to Dixie.

There are four rams at New Orleans, among them the Manassas. Active preparations are not expected at present.

Commodore Foot suffers severely from his wound received at Donelson.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Tuesday Morning, April 22, 1862, p. 1

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