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rebels were ready to make the attack, when a council of war was held, and it was voted to be impracticable to make the attack. Still we are as well prepared, night and day, as our means will allow us to be, and our oflicers and men are in good heart.
“The deserters paid me the compliment to say that my name was as much among them as Beauregard’s—but we know deserters are not to be depended upon in their statements. I only report this in a private letter, as you kindly alluded to the prestige of my name; but I am now but a comparatively weak oflicer. I am not what I have been even; still I know that I possess the confidence of the flotilla. You will excuse my egotism. '
“ I seriously thought of running the blockade last night, and attacking the rebels’ gun-boats and rams; but now it is well we did not. A disaster would have exposed the upper rivers. Our means render our position very embarrassing; but I look to Him who reigns in all worlds for wisdom and strength to do my duty. Excuse my hasty letter.
“ With great respect and esteem, your obliged friend and servant,
“A. H. FoO’I‘E. “The Hon. Gideon Welles.”
“Fort Pillow, afterward Fort Wright, was on the first Chickasaw bluff, about eighty miles above Memphis, and was in command of General Villepique, a creole of New Orleans, who was educated at West Point as an engineer, and was regarded as second only to Beauregard. The fort was a very strong one, and the entire works occupied a line of seven miles in circumference. Jeff. Thompson was there with about three thousand troops, and Hollins had collected there a considerable flotilla of gun-boats.”* Such was the problem, after he had driven the boastful Hollins under the guns of the fort, that F oote was left, alone and unaided, to solve. But he was not to have that satisfaction, for the problem solved itself, after the flight of Beauregard from Corinth, when the garrison, on the night of the 4th of June, evacuated this strong position. In the mean time, on the 22d of April, Captain C. II. Davis, who
* Lossing’s “ Civil War in America,” vol. ii., p. 296.
had done good service with Dupont at Port Royal, was, at Foote’s own request, appointed to assist him. Although Foote retained the command of the flotilla until June 17—so that Fort Pillow was actually captured while he was still in command—he left the fleet in Davis’s hands as early as the 9th of May. His letter to Davis was as follows:
“FLAG-sHIP ‘BENTON,’ OFF FoR'r PILLOw,
“SIR,—In consequence of the state of my health, the Secretary of the Navy has directed youto report to me for the purpose of performing such duties as the circumstancesIof the flotilla require.
“ By authority of the Secretary of the Navy, and the advice of a board of surgeons, I leave the flotilla this day temporarily, for the purpose of recruiting my health at Cleveland, Ohio; and you will be pleased, during my absence, to perform all the duties of the flag-officer; and as such, and being hereby invested with flag-oflicer’s authority, all oflicers and others attached to and connected with this flotilla will obey your orders and act under your instructions.
“ I am, respectfully, your obedient servant, “(Signed) A. H. FoOTE, Flag-Oflicer. “Commodore Charles H. Davis, U. S. N., commanding pro tem. U. S. Naval Forces, Western Waters.’’ i
Soon after this date, Hollins’s flotilla came out to challenge combat, and after a brilliant fight, in which Commodore Davis showed great skill as a commander, the rebel boats were Sig-nally defeated with heavy loss, although on our side the brave Captain Stembel, of the Cincinnati, was severely wounded, and his vessel sunk. For three weeks more the two fleets lay watching each other at Fort Pillow, momentarily awaiting an encounter, when suddenly the fort was abandoned and the rebel gun-boats left. Reinforced by Ellet’s “ram fleet,” the National vessels followed down the river, and Memphis was attacked by them on the 6th of June, and another desperate engagement with the enemy took place, in which the powerful Benton distinguished herself, giving the finishing blow to the
fight. In this purely naval combat the rebel fleet was badly cut up, there being but one sole survivor, the Van Dorn, which escaped; and Memphis, at the demand of Davis, was forced to surrender to the gun-boats. This battle brought to an end the naval power of the rebels on the Mississippi. We now return to him who, in feebleness and pain, had been compelled to forego these triumphs, which his foresight and patient skill had prepared, and which, as far as human prescience went, he had fully anticipated for himself. Notwithstanding all he had done, the disproportion between his aspirations and his achievements, to so generously ambitious a nature, could not but be a source of keen disappointment. But he was a thoroughly Christian man, and no loss of this kind could trouble him overmuch.