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New Madrid & Island No. 10

​Confederate Commander

​Maj. Gen. John P. McCown

Forces Engaged: 7,432



Captured or Missing:


Confederate Officers

Brig. Gen. William W. Mackall

Brig. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart

Brig. Gen. E. W. Gantt




Confederate Order of Battle


Confederate Naval Force


Confederate Official Records


Naval Official Records

February 28 - April 8, 1862

New Madrid, Missouri & Lake County, Tennessee

Union Victory

Joint Operations on the Middle Mississippi River (1862)

​Union Commander

​Maj. Gen. John Pope

Forces Engaged: 26,153

Killed: 17

Wounded: 34

Captured or Missing: 3

Total: 54

Union Officers

Flag Officer A. H. Foote

Brig. Gen. David S. Stanley

Brig. Gen. Schuyler Hamilton

Brig. Gen. John M. Palmer

Brig. Gen. E. A. Paine

Brig. Gen. Joseph Plummer


Union Order of Battle


Union Naval Force


Union Official Records


Naval Official Records

As Fort Henry and Fort Donelson surrendered to General Grant and then with the evacuation of Columbus, Kentucky, General Beauregard selected to defend Island #10 on the east side of the Mississippi River. The area was strongly fortified with 150 guns and 9,000 men. 1

          During the same time and part of the reason for the fall of Fort Henry, was the rivers flooding and eroding and overflowing the banks. The river was taking everything with it down river, from houses, trees and fences. 2 For 30 miles west, it was flooded, and in some places from eight to ten feet. 3

          On February 18th, General Pope received orders from General Halleck to reduce the fortifications at New Madrid and Island #10. Pope evaluated the area and found the best area to attack first was New Madrid. He left Commerce, Missouri on February 21st for the 40 mile march to New Madrid. As his troops approached New Madrid on March 3rd, they drove in the pickets and outposts of the army. 4

          What Pope found was five regiments of infantry and several companies of artillery. There were strong earthworks with 14 heavy guns, about half a mile below the town. At the upper end of town were seven mounted pieces of artillery with lines of entrenchments between the artillery consisting of the defensive works. 5

          Pope tried to draw the enemy out of their entrenchments, but the Confederate troops refused to charge the Union troops. As the Confederates refused to move, Pope ordered heavy guns shipped to his position. In the meantime, he decided he needed to block the river downriver at Point Pleasant, Missouri. He ordered Colonel Plummer with the 11th Missouri comprising of three regiments of infantry, three companies of cavalry and a field battery. 6  Plummer’s orders were simple; create a small target for the Confederate gunboats. He was very successful in constructing his batteries and rifle pits. Plummer occupied the area with sufficient force against any open opponent. 7

          The siege guns arrived in Cairo, Illinois on March 11th, reaching Pope the next day at sunset. Working all night, the battery was placed 800 yards from enemy lines. The placement of four guns were completed by 3am on the 13th. At dawn, the guns opened fire, but due to limited amounts of ammunition, they only fired at the land targets occasionally. The guns concentrated their fire on the Confederate gunboats with ferocity from both sides. 8

          New Madrid fell at daybreak the next morning. A flag of truce approached the Union lines with the flag bearer stating the Confederates had evacuated their position during the night. The Union troops entered the evacuated town finding the enemy had not buried their dead. All evidence pointed to a hurried evacuation. In fact, the enemy had evacuated so fast they did not even signal their comrades on Island #10. 9

          Pope’s description of Island #10 can be found on the maps page.

          The Union fleet left Cairo on March 14th with seven ironclads and ten mortar boats. They joined with Colonel Buford at Columbus with nearly 1,200 troops. 10 On arriving at Island #10, they were surprised by what they saw. There were a chain of forts extending four miles along the crescent shaped island. Along with artillery lining the opposite shore, almost every aspect of the river was covered. 11

          On the morning of the 17th, the Union fleet was ready to fire. The USS Benton, the flagship, was lashed between the USS Cincinnati and the USS St. Louis. They were located about 2,000 yards upriver near the east back. On the west side were the USS Mound City, Carondelet, and Pittsburgh. However, before the attack started, the USS Pittsburgh moved to the east bank. 12, 13

          The ships opened fire about 1:20 that afternoon. They fired one gun every minute with the Confederate forces returning fire immediately. Some of the Confederate shells struck the Benton, but at that range did very little damage. More damage was done when one of the St. Louis’ rifled guns exploded, killing and wounding several artillerymen. 14

          Sometime around March 19th, Colonel Bissell, an engineer, was asked about building a road across the peninsula formed by the Mississippi River. He stated a road was impractical. He did feel a route could be found to build a canal sufficient for small steamers. Bissell was directed to start immediately. Pope wanted the canal to be deep enough for gunboats, but his could not be done in a reasonable time. The building of the canal tool longer than Pope expected. The canal was twelve miles long and average of 50 feet wide through heavy timber. Trees were sawed off four and a half feet below the water line. Building the canal took nineteen days completing on April 4th. 15 The canal started approximately eight and a half miles upriver of the island cutting through Wilson’s Bayou. It reenters the Mississippi River approximately eight miles downriver near New Madrid.

          Between March 17th and April 4th, little progress was made reducing the Confederate guns. Union gunboats would fire occasional shots, but at that distance, they were not very effective. The mortar boats were effective throwing 13-inch shells driving the Confederates into hiding. 16

          As time went on, Pope wanted a gunboat south of Island #10, but Flag-Officer Foote felt it was too dangerous and could not justify the destruction of a gunboat. In a meeting with his commanding officers, only Commander Walke though it could be achieved. Finally on March 28th and 29th, Foote called a war council and he received the same response from his officers. When Walke was asked for his advice, he felt it could be done. Walke volunteered for the mission relieving Foote from asking for volunteers. 17

          After receiving permission, Walke started preparing the USS Carondelet for the mission. All loose material found was laid on the deck. Vulnerable areas on the ship were protected. A large barge loaded with hay and coal was attached to the port side to help protect the magazine area. On April 4th, Captain Hottenstein, 42nd Illinois, with 23 sharpshooters who had volunteered their services, boarded the USS Carondelet. The night of the 4th appeared it was a clear moonlight and the decision was made to sail after the moon had set at 10pm. 18

          As the moon set, the gunship was in total darkness, except for the brilliant flashes of lightning. As they traveled downriver, the smoke stacks flared up, but the fires were quickly subdued. As there was no chance of escaping detection due to the thunderstorms, the only hope of the men on the USS Carondelet was the enemy’s artillerymen could not aim their guns accurately. When the smoke stacks flared again, the enemy on the mainland batteries began to fire. 19

          Pope ordered the USS Carondelet to attack the batteries at Watson’s Landing. The guns were nearly silenced when the USS Pittsburgh arrived after making the trip past the island the previous night. With the help of the USS Pittsburgh, the enemy’s guns were soon silenced. 20

          On April 7th, the Confederate forces at Island #10 surrendered to Foote as they were cutoff from supplies and reinforcements. The enemy troops who were retreating were overtaken and captured early on the 8th. Over 50,000 men, 20 pieces of artillery, 7,000 stand of arms, and a large quantity of ammunition and provisions were captured. 21


  1. John Pope. Detailed report of Major-General Pope, U. S. Army, regarding the operations. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. OR Series 1 Volume XXII Part 1. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1908. Courtesy of Cornell University Library, Making of America Digital Collection.

  2. Henry Walke. The Western Flotilla at Fort Donelson, Island Number Ten, Fort Pillow and Memphis. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: The Opening Battles. Eds. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel. rpt Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books, 1983. p 439.

  3. Pope OR.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid.

  10. A. H. Foote. Report of Flag-Officer Foote, U. S. Navy, regarding attack upon batteries by mortar and gunboats. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. OR Series 1 Volume XXII Part 1. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1908. Courtesy of Cornell University Library, Making of America Digital Collection.

  11. Walke, 439.

  12. Foote OR, Attack.

  13. Walke, 439.

  14. Walke, 439.

  15. John Pope. Reports of Brigadier-General Pope, U. S. Army, regarding the evacuation by the Confederate forces of New Madrid, Mo. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. OR Series 1 Volume XXII Part 1. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1908. Courtesy of Cornell University Library, Making of America Digital Collection.

  16. Walke, 349.

  17. Walke, 441-442.

  18. Walke, 442-443.

  19. Walke, 444.

  20. Walke, 445.

  21. Walke, 445-446.

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