|Date(s):||March 23, 1862 to April 8, 1862|
|Location(s):||Lake County, Tennessee | NEW MADRID, Missouri|
|Tag(s):||Health/Death, Crime/Violence, War|
|Course:||“The Civil War and Reconstruction,” Juniata College|
|Rating:||5 (2 votes)|
After conquering New Madrid, Union General, John Pope formulated a plan to secure the fortified Island No. 10 in order break Confederate control of the Mississippi River in Missouri. Pope’s bold design to evade the Confederate held Island No. 10 involved bypassing it by cutting a canal along the base of the northern “S” meander and directly connect the river areas between Island No. 8 and Island No. 9, along with New Madrid.
Engineers and an infantry regiment from Wisconsin devised ingenious tools to saw down trees below the level of the spring floodwaters. Some 600 soldiers eventually cleared a fifty-foot wide, eighty- mile long canal, taking about three weeks. With the Mississippi River being as unpredictable as it was, floodwaters would soon subside several inches a day after April 1, 1862, meaning that the tress that were cut at a higher mark would have to be cut again so the ships could pass. As Pope recalled, “To do this a cross-cut saw was attached, or rather was made the lower side of a triangle, the upper angle of which was fastened to the tree just at the water-line, and the depth from this point to the lower side of the triangle (the cross-cut saw) was about five feet.” With the canal completed on April 3, 1862, it was fully operable for ships and other vessels to use with the existing water levels of the Mississippi.
With the completion of the canal, on the stormy night of April 4, Captain Walke ran his gun boat, the Carondolet, past the battery of enemy troops on Island No. 10 untouched. Two nights later, Walke ordered his other ship, the Pittsburg, past the battery for Pope’s use. With these two ships, Pope intended to silence the battery on the bank called Watson’s Landing, in order to land troops for battle. On the morning of April 7, Pope ordered his men to open fire on the enemy using their ground battery and gunships to silence their weapons so he could land troops. According to Pope, “I at once communicated the fact to Paine and ordered him as soon as he effected a landing to leave a guard and push on himself with his command as rapidly to Tiptonville, to which point all the forces of the enemy were tending, assuring him that the rest of the troops would cross rapidly and be up with him soon.”
At about four o’clock in the morning on April 8, the Confederates evacuated Island No. 10 and were driven back to Reelfoot Swamp on the Tennessee side, unable to resist the Federals anymore. With 200 prisoners captured, along with their steamers, batteries, and encampments, the Union Army of the Mississippi achieved a complete victory using ingenious methods.