War of the Rebellion: Serial 008 Page 0087 Chapter XVIII. NEW MADRID, MO., AND ISLAND Numbers 10, ETC.

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material necessary for the work. Supplies of such articles as were needed and four steamers of light draught were sent for to Cairo, and the work begun. It was my purpose to make the canal deep enough for the gunboats, but it was not found practicable to do so within any reasonable period. The work performed by Colonel Bissell and his regiment of engineers was beyond measures difficult, and its completion was delayed much beyond my expectations. The canal is 12 miles long, 6 miles of which are through very heavy timber. An avenue 50 feet wide was made through it by sawing off trees of large size 4 1/2 feet under water. For nineteen days the work was prosecuted with untiring energy and determination, under exposures and privations very unusual even in the history of warfare. It was completed on the 4th of April, and will long remain a monument of enterprise and skill.

During the this period the flotilla had kept up its fire upon the batteries of the enemy, but without making any progress toward their reduction. It had by this time become very apparent that the capture of Island Numbers 10 could not be made unless the land forces could be thrown across the river and their works carried by the rear; but during this long delay, the enemy, anticipating such a movement, had erected batteries along the shore from Island Numbers 10 must have been abandoned and the land forces at least withdrawn. It is but bare justice to say that although the full peril of the movement was thoroughly understood by my whole command, there was not an officer or man who was not anxious to be placed in the advance.

There seemed little hope of any assistance from the gunboats. I therefore had several heavy coal-barges brought into the upper end of the canal, which during the progress of the work were made into floating batteries. Each battery consisted of three heavy barges, lashed together and bolted with iron. The middle barge was bulkheaded all around, so as to give 4 feet of thickness of solid timber both at the sides and on the ends. The heavy guns, three in number, were mounted on it, and protected by traverses of sand bags. It also carried 80 sharpshooters. The barges outside of it had a first layer in the bottom of empty water-tight barrels, securely lashed, then layers of dry cottonwood rails and cotton bales packed close. They were then floored over at top to keep everything in its place, so that a short penetrating the outer barges must pass through 20 feet of rails and cotton before reaching the middle one, which carried the men and guns. The arrangements of water barrels and cotton bales was made in order that, even if penetrated frequently by the enemy's shot and filled with water, the outer barges could not sink. It was my purpose, when all was ready, to tow one or two of these batteries over the river to a point exactly opposite New Madrid, where swamps prevented any access to the river, and where the enemy, therefore, had been unable to establish his batteries. When near the shore the floating batteries, with their crews, were to be cut loose from the steamers and allowed to float down the river to the point selected for landing the troops. As