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place, the mortar-boats were hugging the shore to gain uninterruptedly a position a little lower; and from all appearance I expected in another instant to witness a repetition of the Fort Henry and Donelson tragedies. However, just as the guns seemed on the eve of belching their sulphureous thunders against Columbus, a rebel transport steamer rounded the point of the promontory with a flag flying from her jackstaff. She rounded the point close under the guns of the iron boats, and commenced whistling, as if asking permission to hold a conference. A whistle from the flag-boat gave the permission; a tug ran down to her, lay alongside a short time, ran back, and then the Cincinnati ran down, took position between her and the Columbus batteries, and dropped her anchor.
“A deputation was soon after seen to leave the rebel transport-the Red Ricer—and go aboard the National gun-boat. For three long hours the boats lay there, and many and wild were the conjectures as to what was going on. All agreed unanimously that a surrender was going on -none doubted that he would take dinner or supper in Columbus. Finally, a stir was observed in the gun-boat, and the tug put off, carrying back some officers to the transport. Now for Columbus,' said every body; and in imagination we had already penetrated the securities of that stronghold, and were rambling among its water batteries, its land batteries, rifle-pits, breastworks, redans, abatis, bastions, redoubts, palisades, lunettes, and the Lord only knows what else, when three flags glided up the staff on the flag-boat, and Master of the Carondelet, with the remark, “That's to close up, probably,' opened his signal-book, and, with a look of incredulity, read, 'Fall in line.'
“But there seemed to be no mistake. The Cincinnati bore straight up the river for Cairo-black, grim, and uncommunicative; and shortly after we had all taken our places, and were slowly following our leader. " Arriving at Cairo, a rush was made for the commodore.
No use. Never was a drum tighter than the hero of Henry and Donelson, and the sorrowing crowd departed."
The flag of truce, to all appearance, was simply an expedient to obtain knowledge of the strength of the National forces. Whether it were so or not, its result was favorable to our cause, as it was at once followed by the evacuation of Columbus. The reader can form his own judgment of the case from the facts and the correspondence. General Polk sent by the transport this letter:
A Flag of Truce.
“HEAD-QUARTERS, FIRST Division, WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
COLUMBUS, Ky., Feb. 22, 1862. Presuming you will be willing to reciprocate the courtesy shown to the families of officers of the United States Army, after the battle of Belmont, in allowing them to visit those officers who were prisoners within my lines, I take the liberty of sending up, under a flag of truce, the families of several of our officers who were captured at Donelson. These are the families of General Buckner and Colonels Hawson and Medeira. They are accompanied by Colonel Russel and Messrs. Vance and Stockdale as escorts; also by Mr. Mass.
“Hoping you may find it convenient to send these ladies forward to their husbands, I have the honor to remain, respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. POLK, Major-General, commanding. " To Commanding Officer U. S. Forces, Cairo, Ill."
This was answered as follows: “UNITED STATES FLAG-STEAMER “ CINCINNATI,' MISSISSIPPI
RIVER, NEAR COLUMBUS, Ky., Feb. 23, 1862. GENERAL, — Your letter of the 22d instant, received to-day by the hands of Captain Blake under a flag of truce, nearly within range of your guns and in the presence of our armed forces, at half-past twelve o'clock today, will be answered to-morrow by a flag of truce at the same point of the river at which this was received. “Very respectfully, your obedient servants,
“ ANDREW H. FOOTE, “Flag-Officer, commanding Naval Forces, Western Waters;
“GEORGE W. CULLUM, “ Chief of Staff and Engineers, Department of Missouri. “Major-General L. Polk, commanding at Columbus, Ky."
On the same day came this second letter from General Polk: “ HEAD-QUARTERS, FIRST DIVISION, WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
COLUMBUS, Ky, Feb. 23, 1862. “ To A. H. Foote, Flag-Officer, commanding Naval Forces, Western Wa
ters; Geo. W. CULLUM, Brig.-General, Chief of Staff and Engineers : “GENTLEMEN,—I have received your note of this date, acknowledging mine of yesterday asking permission for the wives of certain Confederate States officers to visit their husbands who had been made prisoners of war at Fort Donelson.
“The application was based on the fact that I had on a former occasion granted a similar request made of me in behalf of the wives of Colonels Dougherty and McClerkin, captured at Belmont, and the assurance of the commanding general at Cairo that he would reciprocate the courtesy if events should make it desirable.
“I note that you say my letter was received under a flag of truce, nearly within range of your (my) guns, and in the presence of our (your) armed forces.
“As to the flag appearing in the presence of your armed forces, and nearly within range of my guns, it was purely accidental. The ladies, whose safe conduct the flag was intended to secure, arrived at this post from Nashville on the evening of the 21st instant. Preparations were made to send them up under a flag on the 22d, and my letter was written and intrusted to Captain Blake. The departure of the flag was prevented by the heavy fall of rain. They left this morning, the boat taking its departure from a point considerably below my batteries, from whence your position in the river (five miles above) was not visible. It appears that several guns were fired from the fort prior to the departure of the boat; but as my artillery officers are constantly practicing, the firing attracted no particular attention; and the presence of your armed forces in the river, it seems, was not known to the officer in charge of the flag until after his boat had passed around the point.
“This statement of facts, I am informed, has already been made to you by Captain Blake; and it is repeated here only because of the remark above quoted, which you have taken pains to underline.
“Allow me to assure myself that officers of your rank and reputation could not impute any improper motive in sending a flag of truce. I would be unwilling to believe such a suspicion could be entertained by any mind except one conscious of its capacity to venture upon such an abuse. I have the honor to be, gentlemen, your obedient servant,
“L. POLK, "Major-General, commanding Confederate Forces."
The next day this dignified though sharp response was sent by a flag of truce from the National head-quarters :
“CAIRO, ILLINOIS, February 24, 1862. “ MAJOR-GENERAL L. POLK, commanding at Columbus, Ky. :
“ GENERAL,-In answer to your request 'to reciprocate the courtesy shown to the families and officers of the U. S. A., after the battle of Bel
A Flag of Truce.
mont, in allowing them to visit those officers who were prisoners,' by asking permission to have passed through our lines “the families of General Buckner and Colonels Hawson and Medeira,' captured at Fort Donelson, accompanied by certain gentlemen as escorts, we have to inform you that we will cheerfully comply with your request, subject to the approval of the President, but limited to the wives and children of those officers, and excluding their escorts; but to provide them with a protector, Colonel Thom, an aid-de-camp of Major-General Halleck, and one of the bearers of our flag of truce, has offered to take them in charge as far as St. Louis, where they will learn the destinations of the captured officers, which are unknown to us.
“The flag of truce will wait, if necessary, long enough to obtain your action on this proposition.
“Before concluding this note, we feel constrained to make some remarks upon your abuse yesterday of the sacred character of a flag of truce.
"Upon approaching the batteries of Columbus with armed forces, and when within supposed range of your artillery, you fired three heavy guns; and, to add to this hostile demonstration, one of your gun-boats rounded Belmont Point apparently to give battle; but immediately, upon discovering our strength and position, retired. Soon after there appeared an armed steamer, with Captain Blake bearing your flag of truce, accompanied by many officers and citizens, upon the frivolous pretext above stated, evidently with the intention of discovering our force and intentions. Under these circumstances, by the usages of war, the dispatchbearer and those with him were subject to be made prisoners and the steamer captured; and we felt it our duty to inform you that a repetition of such an unwarrantable abuse of a flag of truce will not again be tolerated.
“ Your letter, though dated the 22d, evidently was not dispatched till after the firing of your first gun, near eleven o'clock, more than an hour before your flag of truce was seen about two miles from your batteries, and certainly dispatched after the gun was discharged.
“Regretting that we have to animadvert on this flagrant departure from the established usages of flags of truce, “We are very respectfully, your obedient servants,
"ANDREW H. FOOTE, Flag-Officer, etc.;
"GEORGE W. CULLUM, Chief of Staff, etc." In a letter to his wife, dated the 23d, Commodore Foote
thus speaks of this “flag of truce” affair, which perhaps has already taken up too much space:
“We had been to Columbus, and had got the two mortars in position to open upon Belmont, when a flag of truce came out with several ladies, as you will see by General Polk's letter, and we hoped it was to surrender; but, instead, it was a mere artifice to discover our strength. We shall write a letter to the Right Rev. General to-morrow, charging him with violating all military rules of propriety by his remarkable act. We were glad it was done, however, as we ran within sight of his heavy batteries, and attained the object of our reconnoissance-still, we shall give the bishop a rub."
in this same letter: “I am still on crutches, but my foot is rapidly improving. I have no objection to the wound either in the foot or in the arm, as they are honorable wounds; but the last was a hard fight. I stood one side of a gun when five out of six men were knocked down, and I only escaped serious wounds. I was touching the pilot with my clothes when he was killed.”
The following dispatches tell the story of the speedy breaking up of the enemy's strong position at Columbus, which, together with Nashville and Bowling Green, was really conquered at forts Henry and Donelson :
“CAIRO, March 1, 1862. “SIR,-Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps, sent with a flag of truce today to Columbus, has this moment returned, and reports that Columbus is being evacuated. He saw the rebels burning their winter-quarters, and removing their heavy guns on the bluffs; but the guns in the water-batteries remain intact. He also saw a large force of cavalry drawn up ostentatiously on the bluffs, but no infantry were to be seen as heretofore; and the encampment seen in our armed reconnoissance a few days ago has been removed. Large fires were visible in the town of Columbus and upon the river banks below, indicating the destruction of the town, military stores, and equipments.
"I shall consult General Cullum, and we shall probably proceed to Columbus with the force we have already soon after daylight. General Polk informs us that he will send a flag of truce at meridian to-morrow to the point where the flags of truce met to-day, in reference to which