140 men, and landed on the Missouri shore at Commerce, 30 miles above. Commerce is the lowest point where the bluffs impinge upon the river between Saint Louis and Helena, in Arkansas, and was on that account selected as a base of operations against New Madrid, from which place it is distant by land-miles. The bluffs, however, retreat directly to the west from Commerce, leaving an alluvial, swampy bottom land, at least 30 miles wide, along the river below that place. A dismal and almost impassable swamp, know as the Great Mingo Swamp, extends all the way from Commerce to New Madrid. At that season of the year the banks of the Mississippi were overflowed, and the river spread out for miles on both sides beyond its bed. The whole country for 30 miles west of the river was under water. At many places the water was 8 or 10 feet deep and everywhere from 1 to 5 feet deep. An old embankment, upon which a corduroy road had been built, extended part of the way to New Madrid, but the road had not been repaired for years, and was in a weather was cold and wet. A drizzling snow and rain was falling upon us, and adding to our almost insuperable difficulties from the time we marched from Commerce until we reached New Madrid. I can only account for the fact that the enemy attempted no opposition to our march by their belief that the country at that season of overflow was entirely impracticable.
I landed at Commerce on the night of the 21st of February, 1862, with the small escort I have mentioned. Regiments were sent me rapidly from Saint Louis, from Cincinnati, and from Cairo; most of them entirely raw, having had their arms first placed in their hands when they embarked on the steamer to join me. Few of them had ever served at all, and as they had never served together or been even brigaded, I was forced to make a complete organization of them at Commerce. In this difficult task I was so ably assisted by General Schuyler Hamilton, Stanley, Palmer, and Granger that within one week of the day I landed almost alone at Commerce we began our march to New Madrid. This organization was the nucleus of the corps afterwards designated the Army of the Mississippi, widely known and greatly distinguished in the West for its discipline, its gallantry, and its effectiveness, and for the soldierly and cordial good feeling which characterized both officers and men.
It is not only proper, but it is my duty, to say here that during my whole experience in this war I have never seen troops which would compare with this little army. Of the mobility and esprit de corps, of courage in battle and patience and fortitude under exposure, labor, and privation, and of the cordial harmony which existed among the officer and men, from the highest to the lowest, the services and the reputation of this little army, from the beginning to the end of the war, whether acting together or separated and serving in other organizations, are sufficient evidence. I cannot at this day think of them and recall my association with them as their commander without emotions which could not be expressed in such a paper as this. As long as I liver I shall never cease to remember them, nor fail to acknowledge the deep and lasting gratitude I owe them for the cordial support they gave me while I served with them, and for their earnest sympathy and unfaltering confidence during the most trying and darkest period of my life. I esteem it the highest honor to have belonged to this little army, and regard every officer and soldier connected with it as a person friend, from whom neither time nor circumstances can never estrange me.