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The Battle of Paducah Redux

Posted: Wed Oct 14, 2020 10:48 pm
by Stauffenberg
In my current game playing the CSA Bedford Forrest is charging into Paducah in spring 1863. This reminded me of a previous battle where I had Jackson defending Paducah in October 1861 against Grant. My original "creative writing AAR" of that follows. Jpegs didn't make it through. If there is interest I might try to dig them up.


[An AAR by myself with the assistance of my able opponent wsatterwhite who supplied most of the details on Union officers. All other errors and omissions are my own.]

The Battle for Paducah: Grant vs. Jackson
When an Unstoppable Force Meets an Immovable Object

Part 1


In the evening of Thursday, October 24th 1861, Grant stood on the main dock at Cairo Illinois as the last of his troops boarded the steamships for what he hoped would be an unobserved night-time passage up the Ohio River and a surprise landing and assault of the rebel positions directly around Paducah at dawn the next day. After weeks of frustrating inactivity and conflicting orders from Fremont, Maj. General Henry Halleck took over the Department of the Missouri and things had gotten better organized. Grant knew he was risking his future in bending Halleck’s orders to “advance cautiously against rebel positions where success seems assured”, to boldly strike at the key town of Paducah with his newly formed 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions under John McClernand, Lewis Wallace and Stephen Hurlbut.

He was also uneasy about the three officers he was forced to work with. Inexperienced himself in command of so many men, Grant had hoped to at least have the assistance of some other professional soldier, someone who had at least studied at West Point. One such officer was at that time available—Brig General Charles Hamilton, fresh off a successful expedition to capture Pensacola, Florida, had recently been displaced in command of that post and was just then without a command. Grant knew of Hamilton from the old army and inquired as to his availability, only to be rebuffed by his superior Henry Halleck, commander of the Department of the Missouri. Little did Grant know at the time but Halleck actually had Hamilton in mind as a potential replacement, anticipating failure in the field on Grant’s part from the start. And neither Grant nor Halleck knew then, but General-in-Chief McClellan had his own plans for Hamilton and that officer was quickly on his way to Hilton Head, SC where other adventures awaited him.

Wallace and Hurlbut had been stationed in and around Cairo for months now with Wallace having recently led a successful expedition to capture Charleston in southern Missouri; McClernand however was new, only just recently having arrived from recruiting in northern Illinois. His presence was appreciated more for the reinforcements he brought with him than anything else. Hurlbut’s division had only three brigades, compared with the five in the other two divisions, one was a completely green Illinois militia brigade, and he had no artillery. Only Wallace’s division with Indiana and Iowa troops was trained up and in top form after their Charleston expedition. In addition to the infantry Grant had some eight regiments of cavalry and he intended to cut Paducah’s supply lines to the south with them. Naval Commander Foote had grave reservations about moving upriver past an enemy shore at night and wanted a better idea of what the rebels had in the way of big guns at Paducah but he was told they would make the landing at all cost, escorted by all his precious gunboats. All told, Grant had some 22,000 men, 7000 horses and 47 guns, backed up by the 16 Gunboats of Admiral Foot’s fleet.

Grant’s intelligence on the Confederate positions at Paducah was poor and he knew this was a big gamble. He had a lot of respect for Joe Johnston, but Joe was over in Bowling Green just now. The rebs had invaded Kentucky in late August and a small force under Thomas Jackson and had taken Paducah from the local pro-Union Kentucky militia there. Jackson’s presence out west was an unwelcome surprise given his reputation gained in Virginia, but Grant’s spies had indicated that even if Jackson was still in command over there, it was a smallish division he faced with around 5000 men or so. The rebs were clearly fortifying the Paducah location and so the sooner he struck the better to gain a critical foothold across the river before it froze up in the impending winter. If “Stonewall” was still there he would defend like the devil Grant knew, but he had decided on his plan and what the rebs did over there, with or without Jackson, he was no longer concerned with. He would take the town at all costs.

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Paducah Union OB.jpg


Davis had sent Jackson west in early August with Lee’s agreement, providing he was returned by the New Year, and he conferred with Joe Johnston in Nashville on Confederate strategy in the West. The other Johnston meanwhile, Albert Sydney, had gone to Missouri to take command of the newly formed Army of the West in Springfield. Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee was set to launch a surprise invasion of Kentucky shortly in order to entrench along an advanced line from Bowling Green west to the entire Jackson Purchase, a rather apt coincidence in the name given the Confederate general who was set to seize it.

Jackson was no naval man but he knew a key position for artillery when he saw it. He tapped Paducah on the map with a finger. Gen. Johnston nodded silently.
“Build a fort… and need heavy guns, as many as possible General…” Jackson said, in his odd offhand manner. Johnston agreed, and while Jackson’s force was destined to be small, and made smaller by the need to defend both Paducah and Columbus just to the south, plans were set in place to prepare a fort in Paducah as soon as practicable.

On the evening of October 24th Jackson looked upon the new entrenchments with a feeling of both satisfaction and unease. The forward facing embankments were good enough to handle a fair-sized assault, but time and labour had limited this to a flat C-shaped line of gun emplacements behind a 10-foot high fortified berm facing the river some 200 feet away to the north. The rear of the fort facing the town itself immediately to the south was completely unfinished outside of a communication trench dug from the town of Paducah itself north some 100 yards, forming a ‘Y’ as it approached the fort, each arm tying in with the unfinished fort wall on either side. But he slapped the side of the nearest Brookes Rifle and felt a keen satisfaction that his engineer Lieut. Boswell had managed to emplace all 24 of these 7” – 178mm 8-ton monsters. All had the “S” stamped on them from the foundry in Selma Alabama that had cast them recently and rushed them up to Kentucky by rail. In fact they had just conducted ranging fire that afternoon, as soon as the front wall and its emplacements had been finished. To add to this he also had the 1st Alabama Battery B in place able to move it’s 8 Columbiads to whatever sector was threatened and sweep either upstream or downstream. Behind the entire defence line he had six heavy siege mortars he had brought west with him from Virginia.

The number of troops concerned Jackson as he only had some 8000 men and 2000 horses on hand; that said however, he had his “Stonewall” Brigade and he knew they would hold that line until the enemy withdrew or they were overrun.

Paducah 1.jpg

October 25th – Day 1


Grant was with Foote on the Commander’s “timberclad” flagship USS Gun pushing slowly upstream in the darkness of the moonless night when both noticed signal fires being lit up along the southern bank of the river as they approached Paducah some 8 miles downstream from the town. The line of gunboats slowed to a crawl as the first steamboats behind them pulled up and slowly veered into the shore, the silent rebel fortifications limned against the faint growing light in the east. A heavy thump was followed by a roar as a geyser of water jetted into the air just ahead of the Gun. Foote lowered his spyglass and swore, “That’s over 2000 yards damn it, they have heavy guns emplaced.”
Grant, who was also sighting along what appeared to be an actual fort in place between Paducah and the River, nodded and simply said: “Carry on with the plan anyhow,” and jumped off to an adjacent boat which held back while the boats loaded with men sloughed in towards the low muddy shore.

The Battle

McClernand, Wallace and Hurlbut put ashore their three divisions in the half dark of dawn, their troops struggling to put out the gangplanks properly, and floundering off in the shallows, marsh and mud to form up inland under the fire of Columbiads and siege mortars from the looming mass of Fort Paducah appearing to the east.

Foote was concerned about the guns in the fort but signalled Commander Walke’s line of ships drawing up off the port quarter, indicating his fleet was to carry on as planned: to bombard the fort in passing and carry on up the Ohio escorting his steamships destined to construct a major Union depot at Louisville Ky. Walke’s fleet moved east up the river with a blinding rising sun starting to appear just off the port bow and was immediately bracketed by cannon fire, and the numbers of cannons heard booming kept increasing. Foote ordered full ahead as Walke’s steamships went by and his 8” Dahlgren’s began blasting at the fort.

He was abreast of the fort before he realized it wasn’t just a few heavy naval guns the rebels had, but a full complement of over 20 heavy guns. While his Dahlgrens and 32-lber shots knocked out a few guns, most of his fire was thudding into the earthen walls of the fort. Sighting ahead through the showering spume from rebel shots he saw that Walke’s fleet was in desperate straits. Three of his gunboats were completely smashed up and sinking, their 5” timber bulwarks no match for the heavy Confederate naval guns. All his steamers were on fire and sinking. Realising his terrible mistake Foote ordered a return downstream as two of his own gunboats took devastating hits as well.

Thirty-nine regiments, including artillery batteries, had somehow been put ashore under this fire, with other troops lost in blazing steamboats hit by the rebel naval guns and Columbiads. Most troops were without sufficient direction as command control broke down for the most part. Grant then came ashore and lined up the assault with the guns moving forward to within range behind the advancing brigades. The assaults are launched in the afternoon with three charges almost topping the fort west wall at one point before being driven off by massed point-blank musket and artillery fire, and the Union troops finally pulled back in tattered clumps and strands of men running for cover to the west. He had been repulsed, and would later find out he had lost over 8500 men. The long range Columbiads and mortars wreaked havoc amongst the advancing troops and most never got even near the fort itself. Worse than that, 3800 men from Hurlbut’s division who had attempted to sweep around to the south of the fort were isolated and captured when the last charge by the divisions of McClernand and Wallace pulled back late in the afternoon, and Jackson’s veterans counter-charged with bayonets cutting Hurlbut’s men off south of the fort.


“Heavy losses, heavy losses,” Grant said to himself, watching his officers directing his dispirited retreated men to dig trenches to get down out of the deafening long range fire, still blasting about in the darkness. At one point of the battle, amidst the explosions and whizzing shots, he watched Hurlbut’s division sweep around the south side of the fort, only to melt away under downward rushing blasts of smoke from the rebel lines. He then heard the warbling rebel yell come across the flat fields and then the sound of firing decreased. Not many of Hurlbut’s men made it back. All three brigade commanders were casualties with one killed and another mortally wounded. Hurlbut himself suffered a serious wound; he would survive but was knocked out of action for months. With his spyglass he watched some Confederate officer waving his flashing sword up above the curving golden wall of the fort, all lit by the setting sun. It was an unforgettable image.

Grant’s earlier unease about his inexperienced commanders here had proven to be well founded. Hurlbut had been ordered to simply conduct a diversionary attack against the south wall of the fort to draw attention away from the main assaults by McClernand and Wallace but seeing what appeared to be an open passage into the fort, he instead committed his entire division to a fully fledged offensive with disastrous results. Grant was not dismayed though, appreciating the spirit shown by his men and Hurlbut’s aggressive spirit in spite of the bungling. The rout of Hurlbut’s division helped to teach Grant a lesson that would serve him well in the future: volunteer soldiers were not afraid to die for their cause and could fight just as well any professional so long as they were properly led.

Grant smoked his cigar and looked down at a shattered and badly wounded general about to be carted to the field hospital, his division all but destroyed, “We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.”
Hurlbut’s sacrifice had given him one priceless bit of knowledge though: the hidden rear side of the fort facing the town was completely unfinished.


Jackson sat on his horse Sorrel, just behind the parapet gun emplacements, sucking on a lemon, watching the cannonade start up against the oncoming Union fleet. He didn’t like forts, it felt like a prison. He liked to manoeuvre and strike out of the blue. But Jackson had a superb eye for a defensive line, his eyes lighting up with pleasure the way most men’s would in eyeing a beautiful woman, or a fine horse. “Old Blue Lights” said one of his men to his comrades later in the thick of the battle, raising smiles, as they rammed charges down their muskets, grinning at Jack on his horse with his tattered forage cap pulled down low over those eerie eyes of his, and then recommencing firing at the ragged blue lines advancing below them. Jackson raised his left arm, held it skyward, palm facing forward.

Later in the afternoon Jackson saw his moment to strike approaching and ignored the constant entreaties of Preston to get down out of the humming line of fire. The frontal assaults were breaking up and falling back, just as a concerted rush of bluecoats were sweeping around the southern flank to the town. He signalled to General Dick Garnet to pull out all his regiments, massing his entire Brigade along the southern wall as well as the trench into town. Jackson, visibly excited, stood in his stirrups watching them pour fire into the advancing Yanks who faltered and dove for cover. At this point he had the bugle sound for fixed bayonets and ordered the charge: “Sweep the field!” he screeched, his voice lost in the white noise of battle.

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October 26th - Day 2


Grant was up most of the night with McClernand and Wallace, assigning the survivors of Hurlbut’s Division to their new regiments and making sure a fast pace was set digging a sap that angled SE towards Paducah just out of musket range past the fort. He knew it wouldn’t get far enough or deep enough, but he had to have something.

Grant also knew that if he had the men, not to mention patience, he would sweep well to the south and cut their supplies, then mount a prepared assault from that direction. But he didn’t have enough time or men to do that, as well as cover his boat landings for needed supplies. Besides, his men were wavering and only had a few more days of offensive fighting left in them he reckoned. He had to have the fort right away. He hadn’t decided when to launch the attack by 2 am, but when a thick fog rolled in shortly after, he immediately knew. He quickly scribbled a note for Foote and sent out for McClernand and Wallace. Against his better judgement he gave in to McClernand’s desire to lead the southern sweep. He was still new to his division, and Grant had seen Wallace perform better that day, but McClernand had been a prominent politician before the war and a close friend of Lincoln’s. He also had seniority over Wallace anyhow: Grant gave him the nod.


The Confederate general could easily have been mistaken for a lowly private, lying asleep in a shallow trench, battered kepi over his face and covered by a blanket. He might have been, were he not surrounded by his Virginia Brigade who knew all the startling visuals of the man at this point, and so they tiptoed exaggeratingly around him as he slept.

Jackson was not asleep, he was pondering what to do on the morrow, something heaven-guided and worthy, when Gen Felix L. Zollicoffer appeared out of the fog in the firelight, demanding he be given a task commensurate with his rank. Jackson got up slowly and stared at him goggle-eyed, as though looking at a calf with two heads, and finally ordered him to safeguard the supply cache and magazines, supervising the dwindling supply of ammo they had on hand carefully, and to get those bluebelly prisoners on a train south. He scribbled out a note for Hardee down in Columbus: ‘SEND SUPPLIES GETTING LOW—TJ’ He handed it to Zollicoffer. The man was a politician and a military dunderhead, but he could handle those tasks at least. He turned and stood in front of the fire warming himself. It was cold.

He called an aide over and sent for his Adjutant, Gen. Lieut.-Col. Preston and General Garnett. Garnet had been supervising frantic efforts to strengthen the communication pit into Paducah as well as set up a line of stakes in front of it. When Garnett appeared shortly, he told him to “git the sharpshooters from the 33rd” (his Light Infantry skirmishers who had first spotted Grant’s fleet approaching from down river the day before): position them in houses and barns to the south of the fort. He also called for his artillery major and told him what he wanted done with some smoothbores and McClung's horse artillery.

The Battle

Foote’s greatly diminished fleet opened up on the NW corner of the fort at 5:30 am, supported by some of Grant’s artillery. A cheer from Wallace’s troops in the fog as they staged their mock attack. At 6 am, just as the sun was starting to appear in the east, Grant’s main attack with McClernand’s entire reinforced 1st Division charged ahead into the gloom of the fog, out of the sap across the flat ground towards the south of the fort, towards the communication trench, and past the SE corner of the fort itself. A number of the fort’s cannons had exploded in their caissons and Foote had knocked out a few more.

Foote and his remaining four gunboats raked the fort with fire, circling in a large oval downstream from the fort. He dared not decrease the range, and even so lost two more gunboats—Marlin completely obliterated in an instant as its magazine and boilers were hit simultaneously, and Salem a burning wreck drifting downstream. “Get on with it Grant!” he muttered, furious he had been ordered into a death trap with most of his fleet sunk or incapacitated already.

As the bluecoats appeared in the U-shaped space of ground between the fort, the com. trench and the town of Paducah itself, the Confederate troops opened up at the dim hurtling shapes in the fog. Colonel Stephen’s Brigade of Tennessee and Kentucky regiments had been placed to the north, facing west from the river south to handle a possible diversionary attack, and it was entirely the veterans of the Stonewall Brigade lead by Richard B. Garnet that McClernand was up against. Grant’s artillery was blindly crashing along the SE corner of the fort and into the town and over the com. trench, while Foote’s gunboats to the northwest fired blind broadsides into the fog-shrouded fort. McClernand’s troops formed lines and fired, advancing almost to the line of stakes in front of the com. trench and were wavering. It was at that point that the 33rd Virginia Light infantry let loose with volleys from the town to the south, supported by 8 unlimbered horse artillery and some smoothbores, opening up with cannister. The fog moved in ever thicker and amidst the shrieks and screams across the obscured ground, along with diminishing return musket fire, and it was clear the Yanks were in retreat leaving scores of blue-clad figures on the ground.

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Re: The Battle of Paducah Redux

Posted: Wed Oct 14, 2020 11:04 pm
by Stauffenberg

The Battle of Paducah Redux Pt. 2

The Battle for Paducah: Grant vs. Jackson
When an Unstoppable Force Meets an Immovable Object

Part 2

October 27th – Day 3


After the initial repulse that morning Grant immediately dismissed all thoughts of attacking again that day, and set every man he could spare to deepen and extend the main sap in front of the fort heading SE into the town itself. He also ordered the crestfallen McClernand to create a strong line north-south off the river, just out of musket and smoothbore cannon range. The heavy guns the rebs had they had to live with. He gave the orders calmly, whittling a willow branch, then went off to sit by himself under a tree in the fog. He was in deep this time he knew, but he felt oddly calm, his aim unshaken. His cavalry under Captain Benjamin Grierson had defeated Ashby’s cavalry reconnoitring south of the town in the fog, and one of the Tennessee boys he captured had admitted to him that Jackson had not had time to lay in a large amount of supplies in the fort and might be running low.

He sent for Wallace. Grant had come to like his last political general, Lewis Wallace. He had performed coolly under fire and kept his brigades in line. When he appeared out of the fog, he stood in front of Grant watching him draw lines in the dirt. “This line is the river” Grant said without looking up, and then drew the front line perpendicular to that with a big upside-down U at the end of it representing the killing zone Hurlbut and McClernand had charged into. He looked up at Wallace: “You saw what happened: any ideas?”
Wallace looked at the lines in the dirt and after a few moments said, “I would sweep round through the town and knock the bottom out of that trap.”
Grant nodded: “Yep,” he said, “Thanks General you will do that tomorrow, get them ready and you can send Ransom over.”


Jackson knew of Grant from Mexico, and was quite sure the man was not going to pack it in. Yet. “Well,” he said out loud, “we’ll just have to kill ‘em all…”
“Sir?” Preston queried. Jackson didn’t hear him and strode off through the fog to examine the carnage left from the failed Union assault, Preston moving quickly to keep the dust-covered man in gray from disappearing in the fog in front of him.

Jackson stood lost in thought looking at the houses of the town just starting to appear in the thinning gloom to the south. He daren’t hope Grant would stick his head in the sac for a third time did he? ‘If he has enough troops he will surely take the town,’ he thought. Zollicoffer had sent the second trainload of Union prisoners south to Corinth and he had heard that the supply train from Hardee should arrive soon. Jackson extended his lines to the south.

The Battle

Grant had his entire force lie low for most of the day, his hunch about the rebs running low on artillery confirmed by the now desultory fire from the fort. Foote’s fleet was now down to USS Gun and the Toledo and they stood off guarding the steamships, some of which carried wounded men back to Cairo, returning with ammunition and supplies. The men would feel better with some extra rest and rations Grant knew.

He ordered the assault to go in at 3:30 pm, just as the sun was blazing in from the west into the rebel gunner’s eyes. While sending in another strong assault on the com. trench and south wall of the fort, three of Wallace’s brigades swept into Paducah itself, charging past the houses set on fire by the intense artillery fire from both sides. His cavalry also brushed aside reb cavalry and reached the SE of the town, numerous riders and infantry in the town picked off by rebel sharpshooters who fired and retreated slightly to take up new sniping points. Giving a loud hoot, Union cavalry Major Thomas G. Ransom spotted a train huffing up from the southeast and ordered a regiment to charge and capture it.

Suddenly Grant heard McClernand’s brigades near the river sounding the charge and saw the men rise up from their trenches and race towards the fort, dozens of them dropping as the rebels poured in their fire from atop the walls. Within moments the entire blue line was lost in the smoke. Grant was dumbfounded as he had clearly told McClernand to simply launch a probe and a diversion on that flank given the under strength brigades in his division at this point. With surprise Grant saw blue clad figures up upon the walls and leaping over and was momentarily elated; but, soon enough it was clear the entire attack had broken down and the survivors streamed back to their trenches.

As the sun set the sounds of battle died down, and it seemed most of the men still left alive were shading their eyes as they looked to the south at an immense cloud of smoke, sometimes black, then white or gray, but always shot through by the last orange-red rays of the sun. If there were a literary man amongst them, as there surely was, he would have said it looked “portentous.” For those wearing the gray it surely looked a bad omen.


He had paid a heavy price once again as the assault on the com. trench failed, McClernand’s troops were retreating from the failed assault and Grant was initially furious that his orders had been disobeyed. Still, he had to admire McClernand’s fighting spirit, and secretly admitted to himself that he might well have done the same in that man’s shoes. He resolved not to berate the already twice-unlucky general. He knew at that point from couriers that he had Wallace’s forward brigades in the town that had cleared much of it and formed a good defensive line for the morrow.

Yes another repulse, and yet he still felt composed. Every cloud it seemed contained some sort of silver lining: in this case cavalry Major Ransom, having swept the approaches to the town in the south clear of Ashby’s cavalry, captured an entire trainload of supplies sent up to Jackson from Hardee’s command in Columbus. Fearing the rebs would instantly try to attack and retake it he burned it all and wondered if Grant would upbraid him for it. Grant, noticing the Major’s nervousness, slapped him on the back when he told him the news. “You did the right thing!” he said with a smile. Grant would put Ransom’s name forward for promotion and command of an infantry brigade after the battle.

Later, after he finished a plate of beans with some bread by the fire his staff brought him, he smoked a cigar looking up at the stars, rolled up in his blanket and went to sleep.


Jackson had deployed Stephen’s Brigade along the west wall of the fort expecting a diversionary attack there, and had Garnett position his Virginians along the south wall, down along the com. trench and on a line south into the town a ways, with the 33rd sharpshooters manning a picket line right through the town with Ashby’s cavalry just to the south.

Grant attacked late in the day and it was immediately clear he was going for Paducah in force and Jackson got continuing reports of his men swinging back through the town like a door on a hinge with the sounds of intense fighting fast and furious. Then, just as this short sharp attack in the south ended came the massed yells of a bluecoat advance straight at his weakened west wall. Gambling, he ordered Garnett to leave the 33rd manning pickets in the town and com. trench. He then ordered him to mass his entire brigade along the south wall on the double, prepared to fire and charge north into the fort itself.

Stephen’s troops exacted a fearful toll before they were overrun and retreated, the blue clad troops cheering and plunging over the fort wall, many of them simply flying into space and landing with a thump. Most had a chance to look around the inside of the fort in wonderment before they were scythed down by Garnett’s men, professionally loading, kneeling and firing along the wall at these blue fish in a barrel. The Union brigade commanders, realizing their predicament, sounded the retreat with bugles, and the survivors of the charge who had found what cover they could in the fort from the relentless accurate fire of the Confederates, surely would have, were it not for a sudden rush of Garnet’s entire brigade, charging forward into the fort with bayonets out, screaming like banshees. Most of McClernand’s men surrendered, the rest retreated over the wall somehow dragging wounded comrades with them.

Later on at sunset Jackson could see Union steamboats with his glass, plying the water downriver, bringing supplies to a rough built jetty the Yanks had constructed. ‘No lack of supplies there,’ he thought, ‘maybe bring another whole division too,’ and he wondered when the supply train from General Hardee would finally get in. His artillery chief was now rationing shells and had to have Jackson’s nod for any sort of intense fire.

Just then Major Ashby rode up and reported he had been driven off from the south of the town by Union cavalry and the train had fallen to Union troops. Jackson looked to the south and above the smoking town lit in the last light of the setting sun he could see a large plume of smoke rising. He ordered preparations for a breakout to the SE before his command became trapped.

Paducah 4.jpg

October 28th – Day 4

The Battle

Ransom’s Union cavalry clashed at dawn with Ashby’s yet again around the burnt-out locomotive and freight cars on the RR line south to Tennessee, swirling around and firing off pistols, sawed-off shotguns and the odd carbine. Ransom’s cavalry got the better of their mounted foes in gray through sheer weight of numbers, driving them off finally but taking a heavy toll from the retreating enemy cavalry as well as a constant peppering of sharpshooter shots from the south of the town. When Confederate horse artillery unlimbered ahead they broke off their chase and beat a hasty retreat.

Sensing the rebel line thinned in front of him Wallace sent his skirmishers forward. Men began to drop here and there from enemy fire picket fire, but it was light and the enemy troops retreated. Following Grant’s orders from the night before, he ordered an immediate charge with Crocker and Tuttle’s brigades. They managed to push the rebel skirmish line rapidly back but finally came up against a determined Confederate rearguard just outside the town to the east. They launched one charge, took losses, and fell back exhausted.

From the north a swelling chorus of yells signaled the fall of the fort itself. The cautiously advancing troops of McClernand’s Division found it abandoned except for a Confederate medic and enemy wounded. Grant’s men then swirled in from all quarters, walked the upper rim of a fort that didn’t look like much at all up close, cheered as their flag went up, and then slumped to the ground. They didn’t need to seek any shade as the October sunlight warmed them through the cool air.

Foote anchored his fleet just offshore the new landing and took stock of things, conferring with his captains. In all he had lost 14 gunboats and 6 steamships, and the remainder of his decimated command was about to limp back to repair docks at Mound City and Cairo. The rebel gunners inflicted over 70 hits on his boats during the battle and it had been the nastiest surprise of his military career. He had decided to pen a letter of protest to Halleck about the reckless use of his precious resources; still, he admired what Grant had achieved finally.

12 miles to the south Jackson slouched forward on his horse, while beside him his Virginians slogged along the dusty road in a sombre but satisfied mood. They had given the bluebellies one hell of a licking, even though taking grievous casualties themselves, and they were glad to be leaving “Fort Doom” behind. They spiked all the big guns and left because old Jack knew best, and they all knew he liked marching fast best of all. And so they did, to the south.

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Major General Jackson was not promoted after the battle and at first the citizenry in the South were highly displeased that he had lost the fort. It was not long however, before they learned of the protracted defence he had put up, inflicting heavy losses upon a far superior force. “In the end no more a ‘defeat’ than those of the Spartans at Thermopylae,” opined Jennings Wise, editor of the Richmond Enquirer, “the difference in this case being that our Leonidas yet lives!”
Great things in future were expected of Stonewall Jackson.

In Washington the papers lauded Grant’s bold victory at first, but when the immense casualty lists came in, people were shocked. The Baltimore Sun headline on November 5th expressed the sentiment bluntly:

Butcher Grant’s Bloody Phyric Victory is Celebrated in Washington

The political wolves in Washington circled around Lincoln baying for Grant’s head. Lincoln was unperturbed; in fact he just nodded and smiled politely, careful as ever not to let his true sentiments show. When he had first heard the news he chortled with glee, and slammed his hand on the table so hard that his Secretary of War Cameron, who had brought him the telegram from Halleck, leapt to his feet.

Lincoln marked Grant as a man to be watched closely. This general would pursue a task single-mindedly, without flinching apparently, at all cost, even a bloody one. The man would fight.

Cameron was back again a week later about Grant’s casualties for the battle now totaling over 14,000 men. He was under pressure about this from all sides, including telegrams from Halleck requesting that Grant be removed. But Lincoln had heard the wolves many times before. “Let them howl,” he said, “The gate is locked.”

He stood looking out the White House window at the pale late autumn sunlight sparking upon the glass of the new greenhouse and smiled. “He stays,” he said without turning, in answer to the hovering unspoken question, as he continued to look out the window to the west.

The fort at Paducah was rebuilt, renamed and stayed in Union hands for the duration of the war. In March 1864, Forrest's Cavalry raiding from Tennessee captured the town. A Confederate native of Paducah, Colonel A.P. Thompson, was killed in a failed assault against the fort and its 665 Union defenders.

Fort Anderson.jpg

Fort Anderson 1864