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Moving of Combined Forces on Fort Henry. 199 It was necessary to move cautiously up the Tennessee on account of torpedoes. After some delay from this source, under the skillful direction of Lieutenant Phelps, eight of these “floating mines” were successfully fished up in the channel off Panther Island. “They were cylinders of sheetiron, five feet and a half long, pointed at each end, each containing in a canvas bag seventy-five pounds of gunpowder, with a simple apparatus for exploding it by means of a percussion-cap, to be operated upon by means of a lever, extending to the outside, and moved by its striking a vessel. These were anchored in the river a little below the surface."*
As the vessels moved on, the woods were shelled to discover concealed batteries.
On the night of the 5th there was a severe storm, which put the troops who had been landed to great inconvenience and suffering, and also flooded the neighboring region, causing the river to rise rapidly.
But on the morning of the 6th all was in readiness for the attack of the combined forces.
McClernand's division moved first, up the eastern side of the Tennessee, to get into position between forts Henry and Donelson, and be in readiness to storm the former from the rear, or to intercept the retreat of the Confederates, while two brigades of Smith's division, that were to make the attack, marched up the west side of the river, to assist and capture half-finished Fort Hieman, situated upon a great hill, and from that commanding point to bring artillery to bear upon Fort Henry.t
The rain of the preceding night had swollen every little stream, so that it was necessary to build bridges to get the artillery over, and the roads were in such a condition that,
* Lossing's “Civil War in America," vol. ii., p. 202, note.
though the distance was but five miles, and never men worked harder, they were still some considerable distance from their destination when the battle had commenced. General Lewis Wallace, who was with Smith's division, wrote: “The guns of the fleet opened while we were yet quite a mile from our objective. Our line of march was nearly parallel with the line of fire to and from the gun-boats. Not more than seven
hundred yards separated Panther
us from the great shells, in their roaring, fiery passage. Without suffering from their effect, we had the full benefit of their indescribable and terrible noise. Several times I heard the shots of the fort crash against the iron sides of the boats. You can imagine the excitement and martial furor the circumstances were calculated to inspire our men with.”
At about ten o'clock on Thursday morning,
February 6th, the little FT.HENRY
flotilla started slowly and steadily up the river, along the west channel,
by Panther Island, the U Hospital Boat
four iron-clads leading abreast—the flag-ship in
the centre—and as they Soldiers' Barracks
drew near the fort firing