At 11 o'clock a heavy rain-storm, that lasted all night, impeded the work. All the field guns were brought off; the heavy guns were spiked and some of the carriages injured; the ammunition all saved, except a few shot and the ammunition in caissons and limbers of Captain Bankhead's battery. No commissary stores were left that I am aware of. Several wagons were left at Fort Thompson. The remaining wagons and artillery horses were removed to Madrid Bend.
I send inclosed Colonel Gantt's report of the evacuation of Fort Thompson, and as soon as I can procure reports from Generals Stewart and Walker I shall forward them. The gunboat fleet and transports dropped down to Tiptonville, retaining only such as were necessary for water boats, transports, and hospitals. The bad weather and exposure had increased our sick to an alarming extent.
So harassing was the duty at New Madrid, that I on several occasions ordered Colonel Neely, Fourth Tennessee, and Colonel Scott's Twelfth Louisiana Regiments to that point for twenty-four hours to do guard and picket duty. Several men and one officer were left at Fort Thompson, having hid themselves to avoid work or to shelter themselves from rain.
Dr. W. S. Bell, medical director, Lieutenant Robinson, Captain West, provost-marshal, and one man lost their lives in defense of New Madrid. Captain Hallum, of the Fifth Tennessee Regiment, was dangerously wounded.
The principal object I had in holding New Madrid was to possess a landing for re-enforcements to fight the enemy, should I receive them.
March 14, disposed my force so as to prevent a crossing of the enemy.
March 15, the Federal fleet, gunboats, mortar floats, and transports appeared and opened fire upon us. Our batteries did not reply.
March 16, the Federal fleet advanced in line of battle and remained at long range.
March 17, this day the enemy lashed three of their iron-clad boats together and dropped down within range of Battery Numbers 1, and opened fire upon it at 11 a. m. The remainder of the enemy's gunboats and their mortar floats were placed in position and joined in the conflict. Their fire was principally directed at Battery Numbers 1, under command of Captain Rucker. The enemy's transports were near by, loaded with troops. Three guns from Captain Rucker's battery as would reach the enemy returned the fire. The conflict was terribly severe and long continued. The gallant Captain Rucker fired the last shot at 7 p. m.
I refer you to subordinate reports for a more detailed report of the conflict. I directed the battery to be repaired during the night. The enemy were repulsed.
In obedience to the inclosed instructions* I turned the command over to Brigadier General L. M. Walker, and left island Numbers 10 for Fort Pillow at 11 p. m., taking with me Colonel marks' Eleventh Louisiana Regiment; Colonel Scott's Twelfth Louisiana Regiment; Colonel Kennedy's "McCown" Louisiana Regiment;Colonel Neely's Fourth Tennessee Regiment; Colonel Bradford's Thirty-first Tennessee Regiment;Colonel Travis' Fifth Tennessee Regiment; Captain Bankhead's and six pieces of Captain Stewart's (Point Coupee) field batteries, and Captain Neely's of Captain Stewart's (Point Coupee) field batteries, and Captain Neely's and Haywood's cavalry, leaving at Madrid Bend five guns of Captain Stewart's field battery; Captains Hudson's and Wheeler's cavalry;
*No inclosure found, but see Jordan to Pickett, March 15, in "Correspondence, etc..," post.