Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Day’s Fight at Island No. 10

CAIRO, March 17, on board the Benton, Island No. 10, March 16. – Got under way at daylight this a.m. and dropped down to within range of the upper battery and commenced to arouse them with the rifles of the Benton, while the mortar boats were trying to wade into position.  Only a couple of shots were fired, when a white flag was seen to wave from the works and to continue waving until answered by a white flag from the flagship.

Of course firing ceased, as did also all operations, even the moving of the mortars, while a tug carried Lieut. Bishop down to see what was wanted.  On arriving at the work he was answered that they were signaling their works down the river and did not wish to communicate with us; a mere subterfuge to gain time, which was followed up by the Grampus, with a white flag, steaming towards the tug from the Island.  Lieut. Bishop was of the opinion that time enough was lost and did not wait for the Grampus, but steamed off for the Benton and the Grampus hauled down the white flag and ran back under cover again.

Up to this time no rebel colors had been shown from the battery, but now it went up and the preparations to get it down regularly in the approved method went on with renewed vigor.- Eight mortar boats were soon in position and engaged in throwing 13-inch shell.

Lieut. Bishop disgusted at the bad taste of the rebels who did not wish to communicate with so gallant and good-looking officer, by permission of the flag-officer and Capt. Phelps, he opened directions by guns of the [Benton’s] rifled 74; with such style that the rebels ran from the work and their flag was covered with dirt and mud.

The firing was kept up steadily though slow until 5 P. M.  The mortars exploding 210 shells and the Benton 41.  The heart of every man in the flagship was saddened by sympathy with the grief of our beloved flag officer Foote, who received by the dispatch boat at noon intelligence of the death of his second son, a lad of 13 years, of exceeding promise, of whose illness the Commodore had no previous intelligence. – To-morrow will see the reduction of one or more of the enemy’s works and the close investment of the whole.

The place is very strong – four our point of view we could see forty-four guns in position and negroes were busily at work on the battery out of our reach, on which to-morrow we shall probably find heavy guns mounted.  With all these notes of preparation and all these premonitions of a hard fight, some incredulous people will suspect that the troops marching across the woods from Island No. 10, to Maryweather’s landing on the Mississippi below Point Pleasant, a distance of only 5 miles from the Island over a practicable road, and that when they are embarked on the fleet of boats, the smoke of which has plainly been seen all day at Maryweather’s, we shall find the next empty and the river clear of rebels to Randolph of Fort Pillow.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 22, 1862, p. 4

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