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I think their success under Porter will shame the Army people for their great crime in neglecting these boats. Halleck seems to take no interest in your part of the expedition, but I advise him to obey orders about furnishing you with men. Your daily telegraph to Wise goes to the President, who very wisely has taken this matter into his own hands."
Quartermaster H. A. Wise also writes (January 31st):
“With respect to the mortar-rafts, and the amount of shells required, the President remarked that he thought it would be expedient to receive all the mortars and shells sent to Cairo, so as to be able to meet any probable amount of work that may be demanded; that he wished you to be sure, when you opened fire on Columbus, 'to rain the rebels out,' as he desired to treat them to a refreshing shower of sulphur and brimstone.' The President added his commendation of the energy you have displayed in the matters intrusted to your charge. He is evidently a practical man, understands precisely what he wants, and is not turned aside by any one when he has his work before him. He knows and appreciates your past and present ardent services, and is firmly resolved to afford you every aid in the work in hand."
The question of the use of mortar-boats on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers was practically decided by Foote's attacking the forts without waiting for their assistance.
When all was ready, the following dispatch was sent, the proposition contained in it having come from Foote to Grant:
“CAIRO, January 28, 1862. “General Grant and myself are of the opinion that Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, can be carried with four iron-clad gun-boats and troops, and be permanently occupied. Have we your authority to move for that purpose when ready?
(Signed) A. H. Foote, Flag-Officer. “Major-General Halleck.”
Information had come that there were five thousand men at Fort Henry, it having been reinforced; add to these the force at Dover, and there would be about six thousand men. Evidently there was an expectation of an attack, although many movements on the Mississippi and the other rivers had served to confuse and blind the enemy. They did not know
where the blow would be struck; but they felt that it must come soon and come heavily, and great anxiety was manifested to be ready for it.
Fort Henry* was situated on low, marshy land on the eastern or right bank of the Tennessee River, in Stewart County, Tennessee, about sixty miles above Paducah. It lay in a bend of the stream, and was at times almost surrounded by water; its guns commanded a reach of the river below, toward “Panther Island,” for about two miles. It was a strong earth-work, constructed with much scientific skill, covering ten acres, with five bastions from four to six feet high, the embrasures knitted together firmly with sand-bags; and its armament consisted of seventeen heavy guns, one of them a 10-inch columbiad (120-pounder), one 24-pounder rifle, twelve 32-pounders, one 24-pounder siege-gun, and two 12-pounders.t The fort had accommodations for an army of fifteen thousand men, but at the time of its capture was defended by probably about three thousand troops, including those that were encamped outside of the main works, who, during the battle, retreated precipitately to Fort Donelson. It was commanded by Brigadier-General Lloyd Tilghman, a Marylander, and a graduate of West Point.
On the 30th, an order came from General Halleck to the combined forces to proceed to the attack of Fort Henry. Active operations were immediately commenced, and on the inorning of Sunday, 2d of February, Foote left Cairo with a small fleet of seven vessels, four armored and three wooden. The fleet moved up the Ohio to Paducah, and that evening was in the Tennessee River.
Grant's army, composed of the divisions of Generals
* For map of Fort Henry, see p. 200.
† Authorities differ in some particulars in their description of the fort. I have mainly followed Lossing's account of the fort and the battle, together with the official reports issued by the Secretary of the Navy.
McClernand and C. F. Smith, were embarked in transports, and proceeded to Paducah, whence they were convoyed the next day by the gun-boats to a point a few miles below the fortification, out of range of its guns, where they were landed. From Paducah, Foote wrote to the Secretary of the Navy a letter which gives some idea of his own view of his state of preparation for the contest :
“U. S. GON-BOAT TAYLOR, PADUCAH, February 3, 1862. “SIR, I have the honor to inform you that I left Cairo yesterday with this vessel, having ordered the armored gun-boats Essex, Carondelet, Cincinnati, and St. Louis to precede me to Paducah, and arrived here last evening.
“To-day I propose ascending the Tennessee River with the four new armored boats, and the old gun-boats Taylor, Conestoga, and Lexington, in convoy of the troops under General Grant, for the purpose of conjointly attacking and occupying Fort Henry and the railroad bridge connecting Bowling Green with Columbus. The transports have not yet arrived, although expected last night from Cairo, which causes detention; while, in the mean time, unfortunately, the river is falling. I am ready with the seven gun-boats to act offensively whenever the Army is in condition to advance; and have every confidence, under God, that we shall be able to silence the guns of Fort Henry and its surroundings, notwithstanding I have been obliged, for want of men, to take from the five boats remaining at Cairo all their men, except a sufficient number to man one gunboat for the protection of that important point.
"I have left Commander Kilty as senior officer in charge of the gun and mortar boats at Cairo, ordering him, with the assistance of FleetCaptain Pennock, to use every effort in obtaining more men and forwarding the early equipment of the mortar-boats. It is peculiarly unfortunate that we have not been able to obtain men for the flotilla, as they only are wanting to enable me to have at this moment eleven fullmanned, instead of seven partially manned gun-boats, ready for efficient operations at any point. The volunteers from the Army to go in the gun-boats exceed the number of men required; but the derangement of companies and regiments, in permitting them to leave, is the reason assigned for not more than fifty of the number having been thus far transferred to the flotilla.
“I inclose a copy of my orders to the commanders of the gun-boats, in anticipation of the attack on Fort Henry; also a copy of orders to Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps, who will have more especial charge of the old gun-boats, and operate in a less exposed condition than the armored boats. I have the honor to be, etc.,
“A. H. FOOTE, Flag-Officer. The Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy."
The orders referred to are the following, which, as they were strictly carried out, form, as it were, Foote's plan of operations :
(Order No. 1.) “U. S. GUN-BOAT “TAYLOR,' OHIO RIVER, February 2, 1862. “The captains of the gun-boats, before going into action, will always see that the hoods covering the gratings of the hatches at the bows and sterns, and elsewhere, are taken off; otherwise great injury will result from the concussion of the guns in firing. The anchors also must be un'stocked if they interfere with the range of the bow guns.
"In attacking the fort, the first order of steaming will be observed, as by the vessels being parallel they will be much less exposed to the enemy's range than if not in a parallel line; and by moving ahead or astern, which all the vessels will do by following the motions of the flag-ship, it will be difficult for the enemy to get an accurate range of the gun-boats.
“Equal distances from one another must be observed by all the vessels in action. The flag-ship will, of course, open the fire first, and then others will follow when good sight of the enemy's guns in the fort can be obtained. There must be no firing until correct sights can be obtained, as this would be not only throwing away ammunition, but it would encourage the enemy to see us firing wildly. The captains will enforce upon their men the absolute necessity of observing this order; and let it be also impressed upon every man firing a gun that, while the first shot may be either of too much elevation or too little, there is no excuse for a second wild fire, as the first will indicate the inaccuracy of the aim of the gun. Let it be reiterated that random firing is not a mere waste of ammunition, but it encourages the enemy when he sees shot and shell falling harmlessly.
“The great object is to dismount the guns in the fort by the accuracy of our fire, although a shell in the mean time may occasionally be thrown in among a body of the enemy's troops.
“When the flag-ship ceases firing, it will be a signal for the other vessels also to cease. As the vessels will be all so near one another, verbal communication will be held with the commander-in-chief when it is wanted. The commander-in-chief has every confidence in the spirit and valor of the officers and men under his command, and his only solicitude arises lest the firing should be too rapid for precision, and that coolness and order, so essential to complete success, should not be observed; and hence he has, in this general order, expressed his views, which must be observed by all under his command.
A. H. FOOTE, “Flag-Officer Commanding Naval Forces on Western Waters."
(Order No. 2.) “U. S. GUN-BOAT “TAYLOR,' OHIO RIVER, February 2, 1862. “The division of the three gun-boats not armored, and, consequently, not prepared to encounter at so short a range the batteries of the fort as the four armored boats, will take a position astern, and, if practicable, inshore of the right of the main division. Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps, in charge of this division, from his great experience and successful charge of our interest for most of the time on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, will, I trust, be enabled to throw shells into Fort Henry, with no greater exposure of his division, comparatively, than to that of the armored boats, while the main division, more directly in the face of the fort, attempts to dismount its guns in close range. The captains of this division will also see that no gun is fired without accurate aim, as we have no ammunition to throw away. “Great care must be observed lest our troops should be mistaken for
When the main division ceases firing, it will be an indication that the fort is ready to surrender.
A. H. FOOTE.”
(Order No. 3.) “U. S. GUN-BOAT ‘Taylor,' PADUCAH, February 2, 1862. “Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps will, as soon as the fort shall have surrendered, and upon signal from the flag-ship, proceed with the Conestoga, Taylor, and Lexington up the river to where the railroad bridge crosses, and if the Army shall not already have got possession, he will destroy so much of the track as will entirely prevent its use by the rebels.
“He will then proceed as far up the river as the stage of water will admit, and capture the enemy's gun-boats, and other vessels which might prove available to the enemy.
A. H, FOOTE."