Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bombardment of Island No. 10

The Confederate position at Island No. 10 was critical to their defense of the Mississippi River. The town of New Madrid was at an S curve in the river on the Kentucky, Tennessee border. Three forts at the town covered one bend, while Island No. 10 covered the other. P. G. T. Beauregard wrote, "The fall of Columbus and of Island No. 10, must necessarily be followed immediately by the loss of the whole Mississippi Valley to the mouth of the Mississippi River." After the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson the attention of the North turned to Island Number 10. An army under John Pope laid siege to New Madrid, and captured the place after one day of bombardment.

The naval flotilla under Foote attempted to reduce the batteries on Island Number 10 with a bombardment starting 150 years ago today, March 17th, 1862. He had seven gunboats and and 11 mortar boats, carrying one 13 inch mortar each. High hopes were placed in these boats, but they were failures. Their long range fire inflicted no casualties and caused no damage to the fort. Foote declared that he would not risk running the powerful batteries of the fort, as he was convinced they would blow his ships to shreds. Another way would have to be found to bypass Island Number 10.


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