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Ozzy

Food for thought...

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It makes logical sense, when you pause to think about it. But as a rule, it is a factor involving naval operations on the Western rivers that we "land-lubbers" do not fully appreciate...

As we know, the U.S. Navy attempted to operate, or did actively engage, in water-borne campaigns against Forts Henry, Donelson and Columbus; and Island No.10. Of those four naval targets, Fort Columbus and Island No.10 were considered (by Flag-Officer Foote) to be of especial danger to Federal gunboat operations.  

Why? 

Ozzy

 

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If the vessel is disabled during combat, it will drift downstream, possibly falling into enemy hands.

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Chains, torpedoes, sandbars.

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Transylvania has the correct answer (with Honorable Mention given to Roger.) The unfavorable direction of the current is what concerned Flag-Officer Foote most in sending his gunboats against Fort Columbus and Island No.10, and can best be illustrated by the naval action that took place against Fort Donelson on February 14th 1862 (several Federal gunboats were disabled, but the north-flowing current carried the damaged boats away from danger, around a bend and downstream.)

As Roger indicates, the "additional dangers" at Fort Columbus were the mighty chain, and its co-located torpedoes (proven to work in exploding a coal barge, late 1861.) The south-flowing current would have pulled any disabled craft against the barrier chain, where it would be blown up by a torpedo; or held in place to be blasted to pieces by the 140 guns mounted atop the bluff.

Island No.10 had no barrier chain or torpedoes. But more than seventy pieces of artillery were positioned along the seven-mile S-bend -- upstream and downstream of the heavily defended Island and its Floating New Orleans Battery -- and a disabled Federal gunboat would have drifted towards danger with the 3mph current, allowing hours of aimed shots. Which is why the "run past the batteries" of USS Carondelet (Henry Walke, Commanding) on the night of April 4th 1862 was so remarkable. Knowing that his craft had every likelihood of being disabled during the attempt, Commander Walke had small arms and pikes within easy reach of his crew; and intended to blow up the Carondelet if the vessel was in danger of capture by the enemy. Towers of flame shot from the stacks of the ironclad as she raced into range of the first Confederate battery (which had been disabled by Federal Special Forces a day or two earlier) but soon the second and third batteries opened, followed by all the guns on Island No.10 itself. In reply, Carondelet fired no guns; Walke maneuvred his vessel at speed through the darkness, catching glimpses of the channel thanks to muzzle flashes of enemy cannon... which continued to blaze away at the fleeting spectre (racing downstream at 9mph). After an hour of being the target of every available Confederate gun, the Carondelet finally powered out-of-range; and CDR Walke beached his vessel adjacent to Federal-controlled New Madrid... to the cheers of Pope's Army of the Mississippi. (As far as could be determined, the Carondelet was not hit a single time.) Four days later, the Confederate position surrendered.

Thanks again to Transylvania and Roger

Ozzy

 

References:   http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=yale.39002073452741;view=1up;seq=291 Life of Andrew Hull Foote at hathitrust (especially pages 226; and 256- 268).

http://americancivilwar.com/tcwn/civil_war/Navy_Ships/USS_Corondelet.html  Run of USS Carondelet

 

 

 

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Jim

Thanks for providing the Summary of Civil War Special OPS. The raid conducted by Colonel George W. Roberts (42nd Illinois) with fifty soldiers and fifty sailors on the night of April 1st 1862 was an essential "next step" in the program of Foote and Pope towards conquest of Island No.10. Towed into position just before midnight, the five boats rowed the remaining distance... but as they neared Rucker's Battery (Fort No.1), Confederate sentinels fired their guns as signal, then ran off to get help to repel the raiders. Colonel Robert's party raced from their boats through knee-deep water; a squad of twenty men was sent just beyond Rucker's Battery to warn of enemy approach; the rest went to work spiking the six guns (including a monster 10-inch Columbiad that bore directly up the five-miles of straight northern approach to New Madrid Bend.) Job done, the soldiers and sailors rushed back to their boats with the calls and shouts of approaching Rebels in their ears, and began the two-mile row, upstream, to safety. Halfway there, a faint light... growing brighter, and smell of smoke from the southwest indicated approach of CSS Grampus, powering towards them, attempting to cut off escape. But the sailors worked their oars, and were soon within range of friendly guns. And Grampus turned away. 

Robert's Raid was significant because it permitted approach of USS Carondelet, three nights later, along that five miles of straight watercourse from Island No.8... which had previously been guarded by the Columbiad. Once inside "the gauntlet," Carondelet became a true "moving target" -- a difficult chance in the darkness -- as she followed the twists and turns of the channel through New Madrid Bend.

Ozzy

 

References:  http://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/fs/042-fs.html  Col. Roberts of 42nd Illinois Infantry

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10589398  Colonel Roberts at find-a-grave

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=yale.39002073452741;view=1up;seq=291  Life of AH Foote, pages 267 (map) and 278-280.

OR 8 (Island No.10) pages 119-124

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Island_Number_Ten  Operations against Island No.10

 

 

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