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The Gilbraltar of the West Fallen!


March/April 1862

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, March 5, 1862.



The Rebels Obliged to Evacuate or Surrender.

Last night Gen. Halleck transmitted the following dispatch to headquarters at Washington:

SAINT LOUIS, March 4, 1862.

Major General McClellan:

Our cavalry from Paducah marched into Columbus yesterday at 6 P. M., driving before them the enemy’s rear guard. The flag of the Union is flying over the boasted “Gibraltar of the West.” Finding himself completely turned on both sides of the Mississippi, the enemy was obliged to evacuate or surrender. Large quantities of artillery and stores were captured.

Major General.



COLUMBUS, KY., March 4.
VIA CAIRO, ILL., March 4, 1862.

Major General H. W. Halleck, St. Louis:

Columbus, the “Gibraltar of the West,” is ours, and Kentucky is free, thanks to the brilliant strategy of the campaign, by which the enemy’s center was pierced at Forts Henry and Donelson, his wings isolated from each other and turned, compelling thus the evacuation of his strongholds of Bowling Green first, and now Columbus.

At four o’clock this morning, the flotilla, under Flag Officer Foot[e], consisting of six gunboats, commanded by Captains Dove, Walker, Stemble, Paulding, Thomson, and Skirk, and four mortar boats, in charge of Capt. Phelps, U. S. N., assisted by Lieutenant Lyford, Ordnance Corps, U. S. A., and the transports conveying Colonel Buford’s Twenty-seventh Illinois regiment, battalion of the Fifty-fourth, the Seventy-fourth Ohio and Fifty-fifth Illinois regiments, commanded by Majors Andrews and Sanger, the whole brigade being under Brigadier General Sherman, who rendered the most invaluable and efficient assistance, proceeded to this place.

On arriving here it was difficult to say whether the fortifications were occupied by our own cavalry on a scout from Paducah, or by the enemy. Every preparation was made for opening fire and landing the infantry, when General Sherman and Captain Phelps, with thirty soldiers, made a desperate reconnaissance with a tug, steaming directly under the water batteries. Satisfied that our own troops had possession, they landed, ascended to the summit, and together planted the Stars and Stripes, amid the heartiest cheers of our brave tars and soldiers. Though rising from a sick bed to go upon the expedition, I could not resist landing to examine the works, which are of immense strength, consisting of tiers upon tiers of batteries on the river front, and a strong parapet and ditch covered by a thick abattis on the land side.

The fortifications appear to have been evacuated hastily. Considerable quantity of ordnance and ordnance stores, a number of anchors and the remnant of the chain which was once stretched across the river, and a large supply of torpedoes remaining. Desolation was visible everywhere. Huts, tents, and barracks presented nothing but their blackened remains, though the town was spared. I discovered what appeared a large magazine smoking from both extremities, and I caused the train to be immediately put out.

A garrison was left in the work of nearly 2,000 infantry and 400 cavalry, which I will strengthen immediately.

Brigadier General and Chief of Staff.



CAIRO, March 4.—Commodore Foot[e], Gen. Cullom and Gen. Sherman, with six gunboats, four mortar boats, the Twenty-seventh, Forty-second and Fifty-fourth Illinois and Seventy-first Ohio, left here this morning at daylight for Columbus, which place they reached at nine o’clock, and found it occupied by 250 of the Second Illinois cavalry, under command of Lieut. Col. Haas.

This officer left Paducah Sunday night and took possession of Columbus last evening at five o’clock, about two hours after the last of the enemy had left it.

From citizens of the place I learned the following particulars:

The evacuation began last Wednesday night, and continued until yesterday. The force there was 18,000 strong, a part of which went by land in the direction of Union City, while the other part with their stores were taken down the Mississippi by twenty transports, which had been sent up from below for this purpose.

Most of their stores and cannons were removed, and their barracks, extending over an area of a mile, were burned.

Some private property was fired, but not purposely.

The ten cannon which mounted their water battery were thrown into the river.

The 128-pounder, which bursted and wounded Gen. Polk last fall, was left.

The mammoth chain which Gen. Pillow had stretched across the river to obstruct its navigation, can be seen hanging from the bluffs into the water.

The business houses were closed, and all but six families had fled.

The printing material of the Confederate News had been thrown into the river.

A large quantity of bacon was poisoned, and left for our troops.

The railroad leading to Union City was torn up, the depot at Columbus burned, and a bridge over Albion creek destroyed.

The fortifications had been mounted by two hundred cannon.

A great quantity of shot from 64 down to 12-pounders, and a lot of torpedoes were left behind.

The bluff upon which they were fortified is 100 feet high, and a temporary railroad had been constructed to haul their cannon up to their works.

The citizens said the enemy at New Madrid were to be reinforced by the rebels who went down the river, and those who went into the interior would make a stand at Union City.

The Twenty-seventh, Forty-second and Fifty-fourth Illinois had marched from the transports up to the fortifications when I left.

Com. Foot[e], with the flag ship Cincinnati has just returned. The other gunboats are on their way up.



[Special Dispatch of the Missouri Democrat.]

COLUMBUS, Ky., March 4.

Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy:

SIR:—Columbus is in our possession, my armed reconnaissance on the 2d inst. caused a hasty evacuation, the rebels leaving quite a number of guns and carriages, ammunition, and a large quantity of shot and shell, a considerable number of anchors and the remnant of a chain lately stretched across the river, with a large number of torpedoes. Most of the huts, tents and quarters were destroyed.

The works are of very great strength, consisting of formidable tiers of batteries on the river side, and, on the land side, surrounded by a ditch and abattis.

General Sherman, with Lieutenant Commanding Phelps, not knowing that the works were last evening occupied by four hundred of the Second Illinois Cavalry, as a scouting party, sent by General Sherman from Paducah, made a bold dash to the shore and the water batteries.

The hoisting of the American flag on the summit of the bluffs was greeted by the hearty cheers of our brave tars and soldiers. The force consisted of six gunboats, four mortar boats and three transports, having on board two regiments and two battalions of infantry, under command of Col. Buford—Gen. Cullom and Gen. Sherman being in command of the troops, the former leaving a sick bed to go ashore.

Gen. Cullom discovered what was evidently a magazine on fire at both extremities, and immediately ordered the train to be cut off, and thus save the lives of the garrison.

While I cannot too strongly express my admiration of the gallantry and wise counsels of the distinguished aid and engineer of General Halleck, General Cullom, I must add that Commanders Dove, Walker, and Stembel and Lieuts. Commanding Paulding, Thompson, Skirk and Phelps, the latter being in command of the Mortar Divisions, assisted by Lieutenant Lyford, of the Ordnance Corps of the U. S. Army, fully performed their duty.

I have my flag aboard the Cincinnati, commanded by the gallant Commander Stembel.

Gen. Sherman remains temporarily in command at Columbus.

A. H. FOOT[E],
Flag Officer.



The Rebel Stronghold Taken.

At length we have the satisfaction of settling all doubt by the authentic and official announcement that our troops have entered Columbus and our flag waves over the “Gibraltar of the West.” Gen. Cullom’s official dispatch gives all the particulars in our possession, excepting the brief telegram of Gen. Halleck.

Though this result has been perceived to be inevitable ever since the fall of Donelson, and for a week the event in some form has been expected daily, and even prematurely announced, it is none the less glorious and gratifying news. All apprehensions of another bloody assault are at an end, and the fortress upon which so much labor had been expended, and which was boastfully pronounced by the rebel engineers to be impregnable to any force that could be brought against it, is surrendered without firing a hostile shot.

The rebels propose next to occupy Island No. 10, about forty-five miles below Columbus, and to fortify that. But if Columbus, with its tiers of batteries and full armament and works which have been in course of construction for months, could not cope with the forces about to be brought against it, there is small likelihood that any fortification can be established at Island No. 10, in the brief time allowed, which will be any considerable obstacle to our progress down the Mississippi.

We have no guarantee as to the time when the flotilla of Commodore Foot[e] will move down the river further, but every person can judge from the energy manifested in this Department since the preparations were completed that no long time will be wasted, but that all things needful expedited and no delay beyond what may be unavoidable will occur.

With the fall of Columbus the flag of treason may be said to be driven completely out of Kentucky.