of Brig. Gen. William W. Mackall, C. S. Army,
Commanding at Madrid Bend
with Letter from General Beauregard.
FEBRUARY 28--APRIL 8, 1862
Operations at New Madrid, Mo., and Island No. 10, and descent upon Union City, Tenn.
August 21, 1862
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of my late command of Madrid Bend:
In obedience to the order of General Beauregard, given at Corinth, I proceeded to Madrid Bend by the first opportunity, and reached the headquarters of Major-General McCown on the morning of March 31, and assumed command on the afternoon of the same day. On that day Major-General McCown, General Trudeau, chief of artillery, an officer in the service of the State of Virginia, the chief quartermaster, and chief commissary left the command, and every record of the post was carried away with General McCown, except six or seven letters from the headquarters of Generals Beauregard and Polk and two partial returns of troops of different dates. The information given to me by General McCown was to the effect that the gunboats could do no injury; that the enemy had 30,000 troops opposite to me, and that their batteries extended on the opposite side of the river from New Madrid to a point several miles below our lowest battery, which was planted immediately above Tiptonville; that they were endeavoring to cut a canal across the opposite peninsula for the passage of transports, in order to land below the bend; that they would fail, and that the position was safe until the river fell and no longer.
The concurring testimony of the commanders of regiments was to the effect that their men were broken down by hard labor, dispirited by two recent evacuations, and impressed with the idea that the post was untenable and its defense hopeless. Examination by Captain Sheliha, my engineer, on April 1 and 2, showed that the works of defense consisted of a naval floating battery, and of water batteries mounting about fifty guns, on a coast of 25 miles in extent, without a single magazine, and the guns of far less range than those of the enemy. Satisfied that the post was only tenable so long as the forces of the enemy could not cross, and that with the troops at my disposal I could not secure the batteries from a land force, I devoted myself to increasing my batteries and establishing order among the troops and system in the staff department.
On the night of April 1 the enemy stormed our upper batteries, defended by a guard of the First Alabama Regiment, and spiked the guns.
On April 3 the fire from the enemy's rifled cannon forced the floating battery from its moorings.
On the 4th, a note, signed "One of Jeff. Thompson's men," and dated April 1, gave notice that the canal would be completed the next day, the 2d. On the same night, during a violent storm, the first gunboat ran past all the batteries above New Madrid unharmed; it was early discovered, and every gun was opened on it.
On the 6th, this boat engaged the lower batteries and silenced some. Supposing that an attempt to land would be made the next morning, I left the artillery to man the forts on and near the island and a regiment of infantry to guard the island. I moved at night with Stewart's light battery and the infantry stationed in that part of the bend, in all about 1,000 men, to a central point of the peninsula, 6 miles distant, ordering the remaining infantry, about 1,500 men, of whom 400 were unarmed, to join me at that point, with the intention of attacking the enemy, should an opportunity present itself on his landing. The storm of this night enabled a second gunboat to pass uninjured, and before the detachments of infantry had assembled from the different posts in the wide circuit of the bend the enemy were landing under the protection of the heavy batteries of their boats. I now determined to save, if possible, my infantry and light artillery by a retreat. But one way was open, through Tiptonville (distance 6 miles), a sluice, which here emptied into the river, and then by the bank of the river, under the fire of the enemy's battery on the opposite side of the river, the overflow covering this bank, and by its depth forbidding any movement farther inland. This was practicable, if the gunboats did not interfere. I accordingly put my command in motion, first sending my engineer to superintend the destruction of everything at the forts. He was intercepted by the enemy and forced to return, My arrival at Tiptonville was preceded by the gunboats, and the infantry, artillery, and cavalry of the enemy were on me. In my judgment resistance and escape were alike hopeless, and the next morning I surrendered the column under my immediate command.
I make this report entirely from memory. Copies of all letters to the commanding general were destroyed, to prevent their falling into the enemy's hands. I make the report now, because on yesterday I received information that the President expected it. I did not make it earlier because I did not know that it was expected. I had reported the condition of the command and each movement of the enemy fully to the commanding general, and had assured him that the result would be as it proved, the fall of the place twelve hours after the enemy crossed. I hope you will do me the justice, with His Excellency the President, to inform him that when I asked when I might expect order, you told me that you could give me no information; that you suggested that there was no objection to my leaving the city of Richmond in the mean time; and, above all, that there was no suggestion made of any report or other act of mine as necessary or proper before leaving, or requisite as an antecedent to my return to the field.
I hope to reach Richmond the day after the reception of this report, that I may more promptly and conveniently give any further information which you may require,.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. W. MACKALL,
Bladen, Ala., August 22, 1862.
Brig. Gen. W. W. MACKALL, Macon, Ga.:
MY DEAR GENERAL: I have just received your kind favor of the 8th instant. I am happy to hear of your safe return to the Confederacy, and hope you will soon receive a command commensurate with your merit. I hope you are aware that immediately after the battle of Shiloh I made an effort to have you and the whole force under your orders at Madrid Bend exchanged for a like number of prisoners taken from the enemy, but "Proclamation Pope" refused to do so. I always intended, as soon as practicable, to renew again my application, but I found Halleck not more disposed to make an exchange of prisoners than his worthy lieutenant. I am delighted that at last you are out of their hands.
I can see no necessity for a court of inquiry relative to the loss of Madrid Bend, for, if you recollect, when I sent you there General Bragg and myself told you that we considered matters there in a most desperate condition, and that you were going, as it were, on a forlorn hope, so that we were not at all surprised to hear of its fall. I only regretted that I had been unable to send you there several weeks earlier, to enable you to make your own preparations for its prolonged defense. Should you, however, at any time desire a court of inquiry to relieve you from any blame for the surrender of that position, which was considered by me only as an outpost to Fort Pillow (not then entirely completed), I will gladly give you any assistance in my power to obtain one.
I hope to report for duty on or about the 1st proximo, when I would be most happy to have you under my orders, should you desire to serve under me again.
Sincerely, your friend,
G. T. BEAUREGARD
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