War of the Rebellion: Serial 007 Page 0146 OPERATIONS IN KY., TENN.,N.ALA., AND S.W.VA. Chapter XVII.

Search Civil War Official Records

ordered Heiman's regiment to take a position with the main body of our troops outside of the backwater, followed by Lieutenant Culbertson's light battery of six pieces; and men were detailed to throw up earth to keep the water out of the magazine and to repair or extend a temporary bridge across the backwater. While these orders were being rapidly carried out, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel R. W. MacGavock, I went around the fort, inspecting the condition of the guns, &c., accompanied by Captain Jesse Taylor, whose company garrisoned the fort and manned the batteries. I found everything in good condition except the 16-inch columbiad [the only one in the fort], which, from a defect in the construction of the chassis, could be managed only with difficulty and slowly. In the mean time the enemy's gunboats had been taking their position and were making dispositions for an advance, and advices received from scouts showed that General Grant's army was in motion for the purpose of investing the post.

At 11.30 o'clock seven gunboats took their position in line across the river, advancing upon us. Our officers and men were at their posts and our guns trained upon the advancing flotilla, but our fire was withheld till the enemy came within 1,600 yards. A signal gun from the flag-ship of the enemy was also our signal to open fire, which was done by both sides promptly.

The firing continued for nearly two hours without intermission, the enemy having about sixteen or twenty guns opposed to our nine, a part of theirs being of 10-inch caliber, and we having but one 10-inch columbiad, badly mounted. In the midst of the battle our 32-pounder rifled gun [the most effective in our battery] exploded, killing Sergeant Cubine and disabling every man at the piece, as well as others at the neighboring guns. The shells of the enemy soon set fire in and outside of the fort, which we had not the power to extinguish. Their heavy shot tore away the cheeks of several of our embrasures, throwing the sand bags upon the banquette, and exposing our gunners to the direct shot of the enemy. Near the close of the engagement, which continued for nearly two hours, two of the enemy's gunboats floated down the river in a disabled condition, and the remaining gunboats, being now within 200 or 300 yards of the fort, our 32-pounder shot pierced their sides, tearing holes plainly visible to the naked eye, but apparently some of these guns were silenced. Our men being now reduced by wounds and exhaustion, we had not enough effective men to act as gunners, General Tilhman and other officers being compelled to take their places at the guns. While I was then engaged in working the pan coupe battery, some one gave the command, "Cease firing," which order I instantly countermanded, and continued the firing. Soon afterwards, as i was pointing a gun and in the act of firing it, a gunner near no exclaimed, "Look, some one has raised a white flag!" I ordered him to go and tear it down and shoot the man who raised it. This order was given by me because I supposed the flag had been raised without authority, especially as such an order ought to have been given through me as chief of artillery. The man instantly returned, informing me that General Tilghman had ordered the flag to be raised. I ordered the men to stand by their guns, and went to General Tilghman, who was at the middle battery, and asked him if he was going to surrender. His reply was, "Yes, we cannot hold out five minutes longer; our men are disabled, and we have not enough to man two guns." My reply was, "Then, sir, I will not surrender, and you have no right to include me in the capitulation as an officer of this garrison, I being here only for consultation with you." We then shook hands and I left the fort, and passing down