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  1. Ozzy

    Rebel Intelligence

    While reading through the Reports of the Union and Confederate Navies, I happened upon a Letter dated December 9, 1861, sent from Memphis by D. M. Frost to the Honorable E. C. Cabell. The letter details Mr. Frost's observations during his recent stay in St. Louis; and while in transit south down the Mississippi River from that Federal Headquarters: http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=ofre0022&q1=Pittsburg+Landing&view=image&seq=838&size=100 Contained in the letter: estimation of 35,000 Union troops available in Missouri for an 'expedition into the Confederacy' assessment of Halleck's intentions: to advance upon Fort Columbus from Cairo, latter part of December/early January; strength of force would be 75,000 men; 20-30 Federal gunboats, some with 2 1/2 inch armour plate would assist the Federal army; 30 mortar rafts (each one carrying a 13-inch mortar) would be towed into the area of operation; ultimate analysis: Halleck intended to 'take Fort Columbus at any cost' (even if it meant 20,000 casualties). The writer assesses the strength of Fort Columbus: 'tolerably well fortified' with the usual field works to the east (landward side) and a steep bluff to the west (river side) providing sufficient protection. Fort Columbus was positioned so as to hurl plunging fire against armored gunboats... But the Union mortars 'will play havoc, and may demoralize green troops.' Also, Mr. Frost acknowledges that there are 'few experienced officers in the Columbus garrison.' Fort Pillow was also visited; and Frost pronounces it 'a greater natural strength than Fort Columbus,' with sixty guns able to cover the whole of the river with their arc and range. Fort Pillow promises to be 'a great fall-back position (if that eventuality should arise.)' Concerning the state of affairs in Missouri: 'General Price has called for an additional 50,000 troops; and he should get them.' Once 50,000 troops are available, they should move on St. Louis (to hold Halleck at that place, and prevent his Southern Expedition.) Afterwards, Frost advises: 'take Fort Leavenworth and the $8 million worth of military stores there... and cripple the Hannibal & St. Joseph RR on the way to Leavenworth.' As a final bit of advise, D. M. Frost states: 'We must keep Fort Columbus and Fort Pillow strong, in order to protect Memphis [Memphis is too important to lose.] And we must assist the fight in Missouri.' The reasons I found this letter of value: the awareness (by Confederate operatives) in December 1861, that 'mortars were coming' the belief that Halleck would assault Columbus head-on, once the mortars arrived; acute awareness of the physical defenses of St. Louis (initiated by Lyon and Fremont; halted by Halleck) acknowledgement of the importance of the Hannibal & St. Joe RR This letter expresses the Confederate belief in the state of affairs, as they existed in the west at that time: Fort Columbus was the target that Halleck was determined to bring down. But General Halleck found another way to turn Columbus... without mortars... without a head-on assault... Fort Henry.