Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21 - Tennessee Civil War Notes

21, U. S. forces go up the Cumberland River. [newspaper map available]
Trip of the Conestoga to Clarksville.
U. S. Gunboat (Flagship) Conestoga,
Clarksville, Feb., 21, 1862.
Correspondent of the New York Times.
Yesterday morning, Com. Foote proceeded up the Cumberland in this boat; accompanied by the gunboat Cairo, carrying fifteen heavy pieces. At 10 A.M., we passed the Cumberland Iron Works, owned in part by Hon. John Bell. His two partners went down as prisoners on Tuesday [18th] on the St. Louis. The contracts for supplying guns and iron sheathing were found, the mills set on fire; and as we came up, nothing remained by the chimneys and machinery amid the dying embers. These fine works cost a quarter of a million dollars.
At 3 P. M. to-day, we reached "Linwood Landing," about two miles below the city of Clarksville, and as we rounded the point, we discovered a white flag flying on Fort Severe [sic], located on top of a high hill, at the junction of Red River with the Cumberland. Our men were ordered to the guns, and we proceeded slowly up to Red River landing. As we rounded the bend in the river under the fort, no flag appearing on the on the fort on the opposite side of Red River, one of the officers waved his handkerchief, and in less than ten seconds, one nearly covered with mud went up, having blown down in the storm. We now discovered smoke rolling up from the railroad bridges over the Cumberland and Red Rivers, which had been set on fire by the rebels as soon as we came in sight. A force of marines were taken to the for, the Stars and Stripes run up, and the place left in charge of Sergeant Chas. Wright, while the boats proceeded to Clarksville landing.
White flags were flying all through the town, and the boat was literally beset with people as soon as we reached the shore. As the Commodore's flag was wet with rain, it looked dark colored, and one of the frightened people exclaimed: "See there -- they have got the black flag [sic] up;" another, pointing to the Cairo, asked what that thing was; on being told it was a gunboat he said "he'd be dog-on-ed if they weren't the very devil." One man thought if they had their artillery there, they would clean out our craft in about five minutes. On being told that the flagship was the Conestoga, they said they had heard of the "Pirate" before, when she carried of their Government stores from Florence. Coffee is worth $1 a pound, and salt $15 a sack. Full two-thirds of the people had deserted the place. They have no money but Jeff Davis notes and shinplasters. The Bank of Tennessee is issuing notes of denominations of 5 cents upwards. They wanted to see a Treasury Note, and I passed out a $10 bill to them, which was examined with a great deal of curiosity. They inquired who the portrait was designed for, and on being told it was Mr. Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, the curiosity went up to fever heat, and one man who had seen him said it was the most correct likeness he had seen, and more than all, that it was a better job of engraving and printing than the Confederates had got, and finally offered to exchange with me for one of the Confederate bills, which favor I most respectfully declined. Fort Severe [sic] is a fine fortification, admirably located, but it is not finished, having but two 12-pound guns in position, and a 42-pounder ready to go to its place.
Fort Clarke is a low affair, mounting two 24-pounders and one 32, they are all smooth bores; the old fashioned guns from the Norfolk Navy-Yard. The powder we found was so poor that the commander said it would not pay to bring it away, so he ordered it pitched into the river. At noon we again headed down, probably for Fort Donelson, to get a force of mortar-boats and additional gunboats, and before this reaches you we shall be in possession of Nashville.
The following is an extract from a private letter from an officer in Gen. Grant's Army, to his father in St. Louis, it is dated: Fort Donelson, February 21, 1862
* * * *
I was up to Clarksville yesterday with the General. There are two little forts there which the enemy abandoned, leaving the guns, five in number, unhurt; also, a considerable amount of stores. Clarksville is a very pretty place, of about 6,000 inhabitants, when they are at home; but much less than one-half of the population had deserted the place. All the business houses and shops are closed. The people are in great fear that our army will plunder and destroy their property, although we have given them all assurances they would not be injured. The citizens themselves destroyed all the liquor of every kind they could find, fearing that our troops would get it, and, in consequence, become uncontrollable. We are very glad, of course, that they did; but some of them also destroyed considerable amounts of other property, preferring that to letting it fall into our hands, supposing that we would take it. Had they preserved it, it would not have been touched.
We could have speedily reduced the forts, but the citizens compelled the forces there (if they needed any compulsion) to evacuate them, and leave the public stores, knowing that if a battle was fought there the town would be greatly damaged, if not almost destroyed; besides the loss of large amounts of property by the [Confederate] troops, which they will avert by the course taken. We have had a gunboat lying in town for three days, and to-day sent up some regiments of troops. Gen. Grant and staff will remove therein a day or two. The citizens are all secesh. It was evident that they all smothered their real feelings; it could not have been expected that it would be otherwise, as that town raised a regiment for the war, which was taken by us at this place, and everybody had relations and friends among our prisoners.
New York Times, March 4, 1862.


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