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On the 22d January, Brigadier-General C. F. Smith, commanding the second division of General Grant's army, was at Crown Point, Ky., where he had arrived with 6,000 men after a fatiguing march of over 100 miles from Paducah. He proceeded thence on a personal reconnoissance, on the gunboat Lexington, in the direction of Fort Henry. The gunboat advanced up the west channel of the river to a point within one mile and a half from the fort. General Smith obtained an excellent view of the rebel fort, camp and garrison, and sent hia report to headquarters. He then marched his division back to Paducah.
The flotilla of gunboats, which had been so long in course of preparation on the Ohio and Mississippi, was now ready to take part in the impending battles of the nation, and to assume that prominence in the momentous events which were to follow to which they have proved themselves justly entitled.
Flag-officer Andrew H. Foote was appointed by the Government to command the naval forces on the Upper Mississippi and the Western waters, and now led forth his gallant fleet to attack the enemy, in conjunction with the land forces under General Ulysses S. Grant. The fleet consisted of
Fleet Officers.—Flag-Officer Andrew H. Foote; Fleet Captain, Commodore A. M. Pennock; Ordnance Officer, Lieutenant J. F. Sanford; Ordnance Lieutenant, Byron Wilson; Flag Lieutenant, James M. Prickett. Essex, 9 guns, Commander William D. Porter. St. Louig, 13 guns, Lieutenant-Commanding Leonard Paulding. Cincinnati, 13 guns, Commander R. N. Stembel. Carondelet, 13 guns, Commander
Henry Walke. Conestoga, 9 guns, Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps.
Tyler, 9 gunsx Lieutenant-Commanding W. Gwin.
For several days, at Paducah, the utmost vigilance was exercised at the headquarters of the Provost Marshal, in issuing passes, and on Sunday and Monday, the 3d February, no persons were allowed in or out of the lines. Half a dozen gunboats steamed leisurely into port and brought their black forms to anchor opposite the levee, in the centre of the river.
Monday afternoon, steamers commenced coming up from Cairo, laden with troops and stores, and by night the whole landing in front of the town was crowded with the arrivals. The fleet which came up brought General Grant and Staff, and the first division, under command of Brigadier-General McClernand. The steamers were under command of Commodore G. W. Graham, and consisted of the following boats: City of Memphis, Iatan, D. A. January, Chancellor, Alp, " W. H. B," New Undo Sam, Rob Roy, Alex. Scott, Minnehaha, Illinois, Emerald, and Fanny Bullett.
The first division, on these boats, was made up of two brigades. composed as follows, and commanded by General John A. MeClernand: —First Brigade, Colonel Oglesby, Ctmmanding.—Seventh Illinois, Colonel Cook: Eighth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Rhoades; Eighteenth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Lawler; Twenty-ninth Illinois, Colonel Reardon; Thirtieth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Dennis; Thirty-first Illinois, Colonel John A. Logan; Swartz's and Dresser's Batteries; Stewart's, Dollins', O. Harnett's and Carmichael's Cavalry.
Second Brigade, W. H. L. Wallace, Commanding.—Eleventh Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Hart; Twentieth Illinois, Colonel Marsh; Fortyfifth Illinois, Colonel Smith; Forty-eighth Illinois, Colonel Harney; Taylor's and McAllister's Batteries—in the latter four siege guns; Fourth Illinois Cavalry, Colonel Kellogg; Seventh Illinois Cavalry, Colonel Dickey.
Soon after arriving, General Grant and staflT paid a visit to General Smith, and had a conference, in which it was determined to forward the division of General MeClernand that night, and after landing them at some point below Fort Henry, out of range of its guns, send the boats back after General Smith's division at Paducah. It was nearly midnight before the boats took their departure.
The point at which the troops were landed is about four or five miles below Fort Henry, opposite a small town in Kentucky, called Buffalo. Immediately at the place is a clearing of about one hundred acres, surrounded on three sides by high bluffs densely timbered, and reaching down to the river. The troops, on landing, immediately took possession of these eminences, and planted batteries which commanded the country in every direetion, and then awaited the arrival of the remaining forces, under General Smith.
Tuesday afternoon, while the troops were disembarking, the Osband Cavalry, with Carson's and Carpenter's scouts thoroughly examined the country in every direction, even up to within two miles of Fort Henry. Tuesday night was beautiful; a thousand camp-fires flashed through the shadows that lay upon the amphitheatre of wooded hills. The sky was warm and serenely purple, as if brooding over the first sweet blossoms of May. The silver crescent of a new moon glittered in the western sky, shedding a faint radiance over the tree-tops and sloping hill sides. All at once the music of half a dozen bands broke through the stillness of this lovely scene, and the "Star-Spanglod Banner," " Red, White and Blue," and "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean," filled the night with bursts of patriotic music. Then some dreamy strain followed, hushing the soldier's heart with thoughts of " Home, Sweet Home."
On Wednesday, parties were out reconnoitering near the enemy's works, and in one case a squad of cavalry went within a mile of the fort and encountered two hundred rebel horsemen. Both sides fired, when the rebels ran, leaving one of their number dead, and carrying off three severely wounded. One man on the Union side was shot through the brain, and killed instantly. He was the first man who gave up his life in the vicinity of Fort Henry.
It had been noticed that a steamer belonging to the rebels was busily engaged in running from the fortifications to some point up or across the river, which was doubtless bringing in reinforcements. Two of the gunboats—the Taylor and Conestoga, ran up to nearly the centre of the island, and dropped a few shells in the direction of the fort and the steamer, with what result was not known. They effected a thorough reconnoissance on both sides, and discovered two ugly torpedoes sunk in the west channel, which they carefully hauled out and towed down to the shore below.
During the day and night the division of General Smith, from Paducah, arrived, and was landed on the west shore of the river, with a view of operating against batteries supposed to be on that side, and also to counteract a large body of troops, which scouts reported to be concentrating opposite the fort. •
Wednesday night was col4 and most disagreeable. About eight o'clock a heavy storm set in, which speedily quenched the camp-fires, and sent the troops wet and disconsolate under any shelter that could be found. All over the southern horizon, in the direction of Fort Henry, a tremendous thunder-storm swept its way, filling the hills with flashes of fiery blue lightning, and shaking the forests with loud reverberations of thunder. Hailing this burst of heaven's artillery, rolling southward toward the enemy, as a good omen, the Union soldiers pulled the wet blankets closer around them, turned drearily in the yielding mud, and fell asleep.
Thursday dawned cloudily, but towards nine o'clock it cleared up and the sun came out warm and gloriously. Nature nowhere seemed to anticipate the bloody event which gives the day prominence. A few more troops arrived, among whom were the Ohio Seventh, Colonel Lauman, and the Ohio Twelfth, Colonel Wood, both from Smithland, and which, together with the Seventh Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Bancock; Thirteenth Missouri, Colonel Wright; the Fifteenth Illinois, Colonel
, and Company D, First Missouri Artillery, made the Third
Brigade, Colonel John Cook commanding, assigned the right wing of the advance up the Tennessee shore.
About ten o'clock the gunboats started slowly up the river, four iron clad steamers leading abreast—the Essex, Captain Porter, on the right, and the Cincinnati, C< mmodore Foote, on the left. The three wooden gunboats ranged themselves abreast and followed, half a mile or so to the rear.
The iron-clad boats moved up abreast, keeping up the west or high
water channel. Almost immediately on passing the lower end of the island, the boats and the forts were in each others' range, but on both sides an ominons silence was preserved—a silence that betokened deadly intent on the part of the belligerents. On swept the boats, coming in full view of the long line of breastworks that broke the east shore—in full view of the black muzzles of the heavy guns which seemed watching the approach of the gallant little fleet in ominous silence—in full view of the flag' waving defiantly from a high staff in the centre of the works, until one could almost see down the huge bore of the guns, the bright straps of the shells, which seemed like leashes to prevent the deadly missiles from springing forth upon their work of destruction—and yet not a trigger was pulled on either side.
Less than a mile separated the fleet and the fort, and yet not a word was said. The insurgents appeared to be confidently anticipating the conflict; and grouped like statues around their guns, with lanyards stretched, they waited for the onset.
When about six hundred yards from the fort, the bow-guns of the flag-ship poured their contents* into it, and so close after, that the reports seemed almost one, the other three poured in their fire. 'Scarcely had the smoke cleared from the muzzles of the pieces, ere the whole ten guns of the rebels belched forth their contents, sending a terrific iron shower in, above and around the gunboats. Taking their cue from the others, the three wooden gunboats, which were about a mile below, opened from their bow-guns, and then the contest was fairly begun. For one hour the roar was so incessant that the successive reports of the guns could, not in many cases, be distinguished. Occasionally there would be a momentary lull—then a single reverberating roar would give the key-note, and an instant after all the voices would swell together in one tremendous chorus.
A thick cloud of smoke enveloped the boats, hiding them completely from view. Over them hovered a dense white vapor, from which quick flashes of flame leaped and quivered, incessantly followed by delicate balloon-like forms of smoke, which burst like ghostly shadows from the enemy's shells.
From the very first, the fire of the rebel guns seemed directed at the Essex. In their first volley two thirty-two pound shots struck the Essex on the starboard bow, indenting deeply the iron sheathing, and then glanced off, down the river, while a perfect storm of the iron missiles whistled over her decks, and plowed into the water on either side. She received in all eleven shots—one of which carried death through the whole length of the vessel. It entered a larboard port, carried off the head of the master's mate, and passing on, entered the boiler. The steam and water poured out, filling the whole space between decks, and causing more destruction than all the enemy's missiles put together—four men were instantly suffocated, and some twenty-five severely scalded, among whom was the gallant Commander Porter. The two pilots, who were in the pilot-house above, had no escape except through a passage from below, and up this the steam rushed, as if coming from a safety-valve, and of course with fatal effect. Both these poor men perished.
Of course the Essex was thenceforth unmanageable. She slowly drifted down the main channel, and was soon after met by a steamer, which towed her down to the place occupied by the boats before starting. Soon after the Essex became disabled, the pelting of the iron storm proved too hot for endurance, and the rebel Hag came rapidly down. The firing on the part of the gunboats immediately ceased, and messengers were sent off from the flag-boat, which found, upon landing, that the rebels were disposed to an unconditional surrender. In scarcely more than an hour after the first attack, the flag of Fort Henry was in the dust.
The fort was soon after taken possession of, and it was found that the sum total of rebel prisoners was between seventy and one hundred, the balance having left the night before on the steamer Dunbar.
Among those who surrendered were Brigadier-General Tilghman, Major Corrico, Colonel Carmichael, Captain Hayden, of the Engineers, and Captain Miller, with several other commissioned officers.
Ten of the rebels were found killed, and some twelve or fifteen wounded. Three hundred and six tents were found on the west side of the river, and about as many near the fort, all of which bore evi dences of the haste with which the rebels had evacuated their quarters. Several hundred stands of arms were found, chiefly squirrel rifles and double-barrelled shot-guns, also a large amount of clothing, forage, provisions, wagons, mules and horses.
There was a large supply of ammunition, and when the Union forces entered the fort there was beside each gun an abundance unexpended. The tents were new and of excellent make, sufficient to shelter five or six thousand men. The enemy had flour, corn, bacon and sugar in-large quantities, but no salt, and not a large supply of beef.
There were nineteen guns in position, of the following calibre: two 128-pounders, one 80-pounder, two 42-pounders, rifled, ten 32-pounders, two 24-pound howitzers, two 12-pound howitzers. Three 6-pound smooth bores, five 6-pound rifles, found outside the intrenchments.
A twenty-four-pound rifled gun exploded on the fourth round, and near the close of the fight a shell from one of the Union boats entered the eighty-pounder and burst, disabling it. Several caissons were captured in the redan upon the west side of the river, but no guns were in position.