company with Major Meriwether and others we were landed about 7 miles below Tiptonville, on the Tennessee shore of the Mississippi River. There were four gunboats lying at the same point, under the command of Commodore Hollins. On presenting myself to that officer and informing him of my mission, he courteously offered our party the use of a gunboat, which under cover of the night safely passed the enemy's battery at Riddle's Point, and was landed safely at Tiptonville before dawn.
Early in the morning I commenced an examination of the defenses in Madrid Bend and on Island Numbers 10. Rucker's battery (Numbers 1), about 2 miles above the settlements, composed of rifled 32-pounders, defends the right flank of the position; but, owing to the high water, it cannot be now manned, and is only accessible in boats. A guard, however, is always kept there to deceive the enemy as to utility. Two miles lower down are four fine batteries of 32 rifled 6-inch guns and howitzers. These, with a few isolated heavy guns, three batteries on Island Numbers 10, together with the floating battery there, constitute the defenses against the gunboats of the enemy, which would seem quite adequate for this purpose should he attempt to reduce the batteries before passing them. But it is not impossible that the frequent success which has attended our gunboats in their passage across his batteries may suggest to the enemy the propriety of a similar essay in front of our batteries in the obscurity of some stormy night.
Unless he can do this, the high water must prove a successful barrier against the enemy's efforts to obtain a foothold in the bend. On the east Reelfoot Lake is impassable to either flats or rafts. Between the batteries and the point marked A on the annexed map it is impossible for him to cross with steam power. Between A and B the country is submerged, and does not admit of a landing. Between B and Tiptonville flats may be landed; but a few batteries judiciously planted on the shore could effectually prevent a disembarkation. An iron-clad gunboat running between these points could answer the same purpose. The country below Tiptonville is under water, and no landing can be made there. It seems to be certain, then, that unless the enemy can put boats below the Madrid batteries the forces at Island Numbers 10 and Madrid Bend are secure against assault until the water falls at least 5 feet, and even then a few guns could prevent a landing.
The garrison was supplied with ammunition, although I regret to say the most of it was very much exposed, being kept in tents on the island, which was daily bombarded from the enemy's mortar boats above. The commanding officer had promised to have it magazined as soon as possible.
There were at the post about 2,000 effective men and about 1,557 on the sick report. These last were scattered over the bend and in private houses. The sickness was abating; the principal disease bowel complaint and fever, resulting from exposure.
There was at the post flour enough to last twenty-one days, bacon enough for thirty days, 18 sacks of coffee (165 pounds each), 100 bushels of rye, and about three months' supply of the small rations. In the bend could have been obtained about 50,000 pounds of bacon and about 250,000 bushels of corn. A grist-mill was employed, and furnished about 70 bushels of meal per day. Some of the commissary stores were without shelter.
My examination of the lake satisfied me that it was impossible to get a steamboat into it, and that it afforded no means of re-enforcing or retiring an army.