boat to cast of the coal barges he had in tow, and take me on board with a section of a battery to go to Fort Pillow. While he was trying to disencumber his boat of the coal barges, another boat, better fitted for the purpose (the Cheeka), hove in sight. Finding that I could get her ready quicken than the other, I had her brought alongside and went aboard myself with Captain Thornton, of my staff, and Captain Williams, the ranking officer to the batteries. Before we could get the guns on board, a steamer with troops hove in sight coming down the river from Fort Pillow. We could not distinguish at first whether they were Union or rebel soldiers.
I asked Captain Pegram, of the Olive Branch, if the story of the women turned out to be true and the rebels had the steamed, could his boat sink her. Captain Pegram replied: "Yes, my boat can run right over her." I ordered him to swing out into the stream to be ready for her. When she approached we saw U. S. infantry soldiers on board that had just passed the fort. She kept on going rapidly down with the current, only hailing the Olive Branch: "All right up there; you can go by. The gun-boat is lying off the fort." This steamer was the Liberty.
We then proceeded up the river in the Olive Branch. Near Fort Pillow some stragglers or guerrillas fired from the shore with musketry, aiming at the pilot-house.
I was then in the pilot-house, and, as we kept on, I observed that one of the two other boats I have mentioned, which followed us at some distance, was compelled to put back. The Olive Branch kept on to report to the gun-boat on the station.
An officer came off from the gun-boat in a small boat, and said he did not want any boat to stop; ordered us to go on to Cairo, and tell captain (name not recollected) to send him immediately 400 rounds of ammunition. There was no firing at the fort at this time. The Union flag was flying, and after we had passed the fort we could see a "flag of truce" outside the fortifications.
No signal of any kind was made to the boat from the fort or from the shore.
No intimation was given us from the gun-boat, which had the right to order a steamer of this description, other than the order to proceed to Cairo to send down the ammunition.
From the fact that the Liberty had just passed down the river from the fort, with troops on board; from her hailing us to go by, and continuing her course down the river without stopping; that no signal was made the Olive Branch from the fort on the shore, and no attack was being made ont he fort at the time; that the officer of the gun-boat said he did not want any boats to stop, and ordered the captain of the Olive Branch to go on and have ammunition sent down to him by first boat, I considered, and now consider, that the captain of the Olive Branch was not only justified in going on, but bound to proceed. The Olive Branch was incapable of rendering any assistance, being entirely defenseless. If any guns could have been elevated to reach sharpshooters ont he high, steep bluff outside the fort. A very few sharpshooters from the shore near the fort could have prevented any landing, and have taken the boat. We supposed the object of the rebels was rather to seize a boat to effect a crossing into Arkansas that to captured the fort. We had no means of knowing or suspecting that so strong a position as Fort Pillow had not been properly garrisoned for defense, when it was in constant communication with General Hurlbut at Memphis.