Tag Archives: U.S.S. Carondelet

The Fall of Island No. 10

April 8, 1862 – Federal army and navy forces captured a key stronghold on the Mississippi River.

Major General John Pope, whose Army of the Mississippi surrounded the Confederates at Island No. 10 on three sides, wanted to cross the Mississippi River to the Tennessee shore and capture the island from the rear, or its fourth side. To do this, Pope needed support from Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s gunboat fleet.

The ironclads U.S.S. Carondelet and Pittsburgh had already run past the island’s batteries to join the Federals at New Madrid, with the Pittsburgh bringing artillery and providing transportation for the Federal troops below the island. Pope was now ready to carry out his plan.

On the morning of April 7, both the Pittsburgh and the Carondelet exchanged fire with Confederate gunners at Watson’s Landing, below New Madrid, which protected the Confederates’ escape route from Island No. 10. This was where Pope wanted to land his army. After about an hour, the Confederates fled into the woods or fell back to Tiptonville on the Tennessee side of the river.

The Engagement at Island No. 10 | Image Credit: ThisGameOfGames.com

The Engagement at Island No. 10 | Image Credit: ThisGameOfGames.com

Pope loaded four steamers with about 3,000 troops, crossed the Mississippi, and landed on the island’s eastern shore around noon. Foote’s gunboats protected the landing, with the Federals cutting communications to the mainland and blocking the only escape route.

Brigadier General William W. Mackall, commanding Confederate forces in the area, was now surrounded on all sides. He surrendered to Foote that night. Many of the Confederates who escaped before the Federals landed tried fleeing to Tiptonville, which was already occupied by a Federal detachment. The Federals blocked the narrow path between the Mississippi and Reelfoot Lake, forcing these Confederates to surrender as well.

The Federal roundup continued into the 8th, as Federals seized stragglers around Tiptonville and secured the so-called impenetrable island. Nearly 6,000 Confederates, including three generals and seven colonels, were taken prisoner. About 7,000 small arms and huge amounts of ammunition and supplies were also seized.

The Federals lost 28 men (seven killed, 14 wounded, and seven missing), most of whom were naval personnel. Federal gunboat crews took 109 cannon abandoned on the Tennessee side of the river, as well as four steamers. One Confederate transport, the Red Rover, was taken to Cairo and converted into the navy’s first hospital ship.

Mackall surrendered Island No. 10 in a formal ceremony at Tiptonville on the 8th. Southerners were dismayed to learn that such a key position had been given up so easily. The loss of so many men and supplies demoralized the Confederacy, more so than any other battlefield loss up to that time.

The Federal capture of Island No. 10 was another in a series of Federal victories on the western rivers. In fact, Major General Henry W. Halleck, commanding the Department of the Mississippi, considered this victory more important than Ulysses S. Grant’s capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in February. As such, Pope became a new northern hero.

Federal Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles declared that “the triumph was not the less appreciated, because it was protracted, and finally bloodless.” Foote later received a vote of thanks from Congress for his role in the operation, but he received no praise from Pope. In his official report, Pope lauded the “prompt, gallant, and cheerful” Commander Henry Walke of the U.S.S. Carondelet. Foote, who had resisted running his ships past the Confederate batteries, was not mentioned.

Nevertheless, Pope planned to continue his joint expedition with Foote to capture Memphis, a key city connected to the rest of the South by railroad. With Island No. 10 in Federal hands, the only obstacle in front of Memphis was Fort Pillow, 40 miles downriver. However, Pope’s month-long campaign on the Mississippi ended when Halleck summoned him and his army to join in the grand advance on Corinth.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 78; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (7 Apr 1862); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 156, 158; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 134-35; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 3252; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 527; Jensen, Les D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 587-88; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 195-96; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 415; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition), p. 81; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155, 166-69; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 298, 300; Sword, Wiley, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 386; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 124

Preparing to Attack Island No. 10

April 4, 1862 – Major General John Pope prepared his Federal Army of the Mississippi to capture strategic Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River with naval support.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Capturing Island No. 10 had been Pope’s prime objective when he formed his army the previous month, as Confederate defenders there blocked Federal shipping on the Mississippi. Pope had seized nearby New Madrid, Missouri, which positioned his Federals within striking distance of the island. He then surrounded the stronghold on three sides and opened an artillery bombardment.

Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard reported to the War Department that the Federals had fired 3,000 rounds over the past two weeks in the largest cannonade of the war thus far. Beauregard also noted that the Confederate batteries remained relatively undamaged. To capture the island, Pope needed the Federal navy.

Pope wanted Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s gunboat fleet to run past the Confederates and close the fourth side, which the Confederates used to get supplies from Tennessee. Federal troops and contrabands had struggled to dig a 12-mile canal for the fleet to use in bypassing the island. However, Foote resisted using the canal because he feared that the Confederate batteries would destroy his vessels.

To soften the batteries, Colonel George W. Roberts of the 42nd Indiana led a 50-man raiding party to neutralize as many guns as possible. The men used muffled oars to row barges to Battery No. 1, one of five Confederate outposts guarding Island No. 10 on the Tennessee shore. Battery No. 1 consisted of six cannon about two miles upriver from the island.

It was a stormy night, and lightning revealed the Federals’ presence. The Confederate pickets fired at them and then ran back into their fortifications. Before the rest of the Confederates could mobilize, the Federals landed, spiked the guns, and escaped without loss. The operation took less than 30 minutes. The storm later produced a tornado that swept through New Madrid and killed soldiers on both sides.

Disabling Confederate guns | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Disabling Confederate guns | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Over the next few days, Federals prepared Commander Henry Walke’s ironclad U.S.S. Carondelet to run the remaining batteries. They fitted the ship with cordwood around the boilers and an anchor chain for armor. The Carondelet entered the canal at full steam around 10 p.m. on April 4, covered by darkness and a heavy thunderstorm.

The Confederates saw flames shooting from the Carondelet’s smokestacks, and lightning revealed her exact location. They opened fire and hit the ship once in the coal barge and once in a hay bale. Most shots missed because the guns could not be depressed low enough to fire down the steep banks.

The Carondelet successfully passed both Island No. 10 and a floating Confederate battery, arriving at New Madrid amid the cheers of Federal troops awaiting her arrival. The ship’s passage posed an immediate threat to the island’s defenders because she could transport troops to the Tennessee side of the river below them and attack the island from the rear.

Two days later, the Carondelet began clearing the Tennessee shore of Confederate batteries by destroying two cannon opposite Point Pleasant. She then moved further downriver to Tiptonville, Tennessee, where Federal troops landed and spiked a battery. Brigadier General William W. Mackall, who had replaced Brigadier General John P. McCown as commander of Confederate forces in the area, transferred his infantry and one battery from Island No. 10 to the Tennessee shore to protect against a Federal landing.

Pope made plans to attack the Confederates at Tiptonville, but he needed more naval support. Foote initially refused Pope’s request to run another ironclad past Island No. 10. Foote wrote, “There is so much hazard in running the blockade, and the rebels being so much on the alert, I consider it injudicious to hazard another boat.”

But Foote finally relented, and late on April 6, during a heavy thunderstorm, the U.S.S. Pittsburgh successfully ran past the batteries without damage. Pope was now ready to carry out his grand strategy to capture Island No. 10 and its adjoining defenses.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (1 Apr 1862); Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 796; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 147, 150, 154; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 130-31, 134; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 527; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 193; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 415; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition), p. 81; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 163-64, 166; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 299; Sword, Wiley, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 386