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Dispatches from the Front:  April 1862

By Bruce Weaver II

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Click for larger image in a new windowThe April 1862 Regimental Return for the 15th Wisconsin Infantry indicated that the detachment of troops left at Bird’s Point, (Missouri) on March 14, “Rejoined the Regiment on Transport Steamer G. W. Graham April 1st.” Concurrently, in their place, “On the same day Companies C, D and K left for Bird’s Point…where they performed garrison duty until April 14.” These three companies then left Bird’s Point, rejoining the Norwegian Regiment at Island No. 10 the next day.

“In the meantime, the balance of the (Regiment) was stationed on Steamer G. W. Graham near Island No. 10,” until April 8, when the Rebel force manning that Mississippi River blockade capitulated. At that time, the steamer Graham moved further down river and offloaded the 15th Wisconsin Infantry, “on the main shore on the Tennessee side. Five of the companies have been stationed on the Island working on the fortifications and performing garrison duty:” Companies A, F and H from the 11th; Co. I from the 16th and Co. K from April 17th.

Garrison duty was performed by the remaining five companies “on the main shore (TN side):” Companies B, E and G from the 8th of April and Companies C and D since the 15th of April.

 


Be sure to see the close up view of Island No. 10 after the surrender as displayed in the May 2012 Budstikken. In the same image you’ll see troop activity similar to what companies A, F, H, I and J of the 15th Wisconsin Infantry were doing in the month of April 1862.



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Members of the 15th Wisconsin Infantry would likely have witnessed a scene similar to that pictured here. A fleet of Union Gunboats were heading downriver to reconnoiter the status of Island # 10 and other Confederate batteries. (Harper’s Weekly April 5, 1862)

 

 

 

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Various steamers with mortar boats lashed to them, maneuvered into position to fire upon Island No. 10. Harper’s Weekly reported these mortar craft were made in St. Louis for this battle and had these basic dimensions: 60 feet in length, 25 feet in width and the perimeter of the boat surrounded by a bulwark of iron plate ranging from six to seven feet high. These mortars weighed some 17,000 pounds each and fired 13 inch shells weighing in excess of 200 pounds each. This island impediment for relentlessly shelled for three weeks. No doubt members of the 15th Wisconsin Infantry, at times, witnessed this sustained conflagration whether at close range or hearing and seeing the explosions from afar. (Harper’s Weekly April 5, 1862)

 

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Dramatic and sweeping “Bird’s Eye” view of the bombardment of Island No. 10 by Commodore Foote’s Flotilla. In the foreground is a fleet of at least seven Union gunboats with cannons blazing. Just left of center, seven mortar boats heave their shells toward that rebel impediment to boat traffic on the Mississippi River. Tracing the white, arcing mortar fire to its destination one will find Island # 10 billowing with smoke from the relentless pounding it would receive for three weeks. Just off shore of the island and to its right are rebel gunboats. At the right elbow of the Mighty Mississippi above the right edge of the engraving is New Madrid. To the left of New Madrid and where the river again makes another sharp turn is Point Pleasant. (Harper’s Weekly April 5, 1862)

 

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Wide angle view of Island Number 10 after surrender--surrounded by a litter of sunken vessels. From left to right are the Memphis Ferryboat Champion, steamer Yazoo, Rebel Gun boat Grampus, John Simods, Red Rover, Prince, Admiral, Ohio Belle (in right center foreground) De Soto, Kenawha Valley, remnants of the burned steamer Winchester and in the far distance at right center edge—steamer Mars.

 

 

 

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