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704 Series I Volume III- Serial 3 - Wilson's Creek

Page 704 OPERATIONS IN MO., ARK., KANS., AND IND. T. Chapter X.

would receive an irreparable injury. A concentrated cross-fire from the three batteries I proposed would be irresistible by the boats of the enemy, and our entrenchments from the river to the lake could not be taken by a force five times superior in numbers. We cannot be out-flanked, owing to the proximity of the bayou and lake to the river, and it would be equally impossible to invest us. The general character of the ground is the most inviting to an attack and certain defeat of the enemy.

To an ordinary observer the absence of any impressively strong features in the topography might create an unfavorable opinion as to its strength, but I am satisfied that a close study of the ground by a military man would develop elements of power that to another might seem objects of weakness.

The work I am now constructing is the advance position on the left bank of the river, 1 1/2 miles above the head of Island Numbers 10. It was necessary to occupy this site during the season of low water and until the highest spring rise, to prevent the enemy landing and flanking the island battery as well as the mainland battery. It is also our strongest point of defense should the descent of the river be attempted by the enemy in the next eight or nine months and heavy force be landed for a flank movement. The distance from this point (the redan) to the bayou, which has 5 feet permanent water in it and increasing in depth, to the lake, 2 miles farther, is only 1,100 yards. The bayou, with comparatively little labor, can be rendered impassable to an enemy. Upon the highest rise of the river next spring or summer nature will then accomplish for us what we are artificially endeavoring to do, that of forming a barrier over which the enemy cannot pass; for the Mississippi and the lake will then be united, and if a landing is attempted, it must be within short range of our other two batteries.

"Reelsfoot Lake," as it is called, is some 40 miles long, lying nearly north and south, and making a junction with the Mississippi at high water above us, and below us also by way of the Obion Branch, renders our position just here, with comparatively little trouble, evidently a very formidable one. The lake is in many places very deep, and the dead cypress timber scattered about it makes it difficult to navigate. Even if boats could be had and a crossing effected by an enemy, a small body of our troops could prevent a landing. It is 11 miles wide in places, and field with very fine fish and wild game.

We have now only four 32-pounders at this post; we had six pieces in position, but you are aware that the two 24-pounder siege guns were taken to Columbus. Ten heavy pieces could be placed in position at once in the redan if we had them. The redan covers the channel of the river 500 to 1,000 yards off. It is our left flank of the line of entrenchments connecting the river Mississippi and Reelsfoot Lake, and two or three of the barbette guns can be made to rake the entire fronto f our line to the bayou. Our parapet in the redan is much weakened by embrasures, made necessary by the 32-pounders being mounted upon naval carriages or trucks. I would recommend mounting these guns upon siege carriages similar to the 24-pounders. The weight of the guns is about the same.

Our entrenchments are not completed at this point and unless we have the assistance I have asked for, and which, I supposed could be easily supplied from Memphis and Fort Pillow, I fear this all-important work will not be accomplished in time to be of use.

In a very short time now it will be necessary to gather in the corps, and our farmers in the Bend must need their hands. We have not had

Page 704 OPERATIONS IN MO., ARK., KANS., AND IND. T. Chapter X.