Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Capture of Island No. 10

Marker ID:  
Location: the intersection of New Markham Road and Tennessee Route 22, Tiptonville, TN
County: Lake
Coordinates: N 36° 26.608    W 089° 28.663
  36.44346666    -89.47771666
Style: Mounted **
Waymark: None


An incident in the systematic process of opening the great rivers which served the heart of the Confederacy to Federal control, this was performed by Pope's Army of the Mississippi, assisted by a naval task force under Commo. Andrew H. Foote.

Federal troops present in reduction of Island No. 10 were over 20,000, all arms being represented including the "flotilla brigade," attached to the naval task force.

Naval units present were six gunboats, mounting 15 guns each, except the flagship, 16 guns; 11 mortar boats, each mounting a 13-inch cohorn, or mortar, but without their own power, and several tenders and transports.

Confederate forces in the area were originally commanded by Maj. Gen. John P. McCown and numbered about 7500. Later changes reduced this number to about 4000, all arms being represented. Confederate naval units present under Commo. G. N. Hollins included his flagship, the yacht, McRae, and six gunboats, several steamboats and tenders, and a naval floating battery of 14 guns under Lt. S. W. Averett, CSN.

Following the taking of Forts Henry and Donelson, on the Tennessee River, by Grant, Lt. Gen. Polk, Confederate area commander, evacuated his base at Columbus, Ky., and commenced fortifying New Madrid, Mo., and Island No. 10. Grant moved his army to Pittsburg Landing, later to fight the battle of Shiloh; Pope with the mission of clearing the upper Mississippi, marched from New Commerce, Mos., to invest New Madrid.

On March 15, McCown evacuated New Madrid after some skirmishing. The bulk of his force went to Fort Pillow, about 50 miles downriver; a number of guns and artillery personnel went to Island No. 10.

Pope now had units above and below the island. To capture it, he needed water transportation for ferrying his troops into Tennessee. Accordingly, his engineers cut a passage through the trees at the head of Bayou St. John to the river, thus making a passage for light-draft vessels. This passage was in use by Apr. 1.

The Confederate defenses of the island, still incomplete by the time of the attack, are shown on the map. Troops not quartered directly in the various batteries were camped on the island itself, and round-the-clock reliefs detailed from infantry regiments. There was considerable sickness among the garrison.

On March 16, Brig. Gen. L.M. Walker succeeded Gen. McCown in command. The latter returned on March 22, but left again for Ft. Pillow on March 31, leaving Brig. Gen. William W. Mackall in command.

About March 15, Federal naval units commenced daily bombardment of Island No. 10 and the Tennessee shore, but without too much effect. Attempts to pass westward through a chute to the north of the island were thwarted by the sinking of the CSS Winchester there. The Confederate defenders suffered more from high water, particularly in the area around Battery No. 1. Magazine storage of ammunition was almost impossible, due to water. Some effective force came from Federal batteries along the west bank of the river south of New Madrid.

The Confederate defenses received heavy bombardment on March 18 and 19, but effective counter-battery fire caused a slackening of this fire by March 20. But, by Apr. 2, flood waters had forced the virtual abandonment of Battery No. 1. That night, a Federal landing party from USS Benton rushed the position and spiked the guns.

On Apr. 5, USS Benton, Cincinnati and Pittsburg each with a mortar boat in tow, shelled Confederate positions on both sides of the river, cutting adrift the floating battery.

On the night of Apr. 4-5, Commander Henry Walke took the Carondelet downstream past the island, anchoring at New Madrid at dawn. The Pittsburg duplicated the maneuver the following night.

On Apr. 7, these two vessels steamed downstream and attacked and silenced Confederate batteries along the river as far south as Tiptonville.

Gen. Mackall, foreseeing Pope's crossing, began assembling about 2500 of his troops in a central position west of the island. Pope, ferrying his troops to Watson's Landing, fanned them out south and east. His 4th Division leading, marched directly on Tiptonville to cut off Mackall, then withdrawing southward. The two forces met north of Tiptonville at daylight Apr. 8. Here Mackall, after some fighting, reported by Pope in a dispatch on that day to be "about 2000."

The remaining defenders on the island, finding themselves about to be overrun, attempted escape by boat across the then flooded river, in a snowstorm. Upward of 500 go away; they were mostly members of the 12th Arkansas Infantry. The floating battery was scuttled, but drifted to the Missouri shore, where it was captured. About 500 were captured when the island was overrun by the Federal naval task force.
Federal Operations

At New Madrid Pope's Army of the Mississippi. On river, above Island No. 10 - Federal fleet, USS Benton, flagship, Carondelet, Cincinnati, Mound City, Pittsburg, St. Louis, USAT Silver Wave, USS Conestoga, (armed steamer), ferryboat Rob Roy & towboats W.I. Wilson, Wisconsin No. 2 & Rike.

Confederate Operations

Confederate naval units present were a task force, which included the yacht McRae, six gunboats, including the Grampus, General Polk, Ivy & Manassas, several steamboats & tenders, & a naval floating battery of 14 guns.

On Island No. 10

Btry. No. 1 Belmont Battery

Capt. William Y. C. Humes, who was also designated as artillery commander for the island - two 8 in. Columbiads, four smooth-bore 32-pounders, one of these replaced the "Belmont Gun," 32-pounder rifle, which blew up during the siege.

Bty. No. 2 Capt. Humes. One 32-pounder rifle, three smooth-bore 32-pounders.

Bty. No. 3 Capt. Fisher. Two rifled 24-pounder Dahlgrens, one 8-in. Columbiad, 2 smooth-bore 32-pounders, Btry. No. 4 Capt. Johnston - three 24-pounder siege guns, one 12-pounder, four 64-pounder howitzers.

Btry. No. 5 The floating battery - Lt. S.W. Averett, CSN - nine 8 in. Columbiads, one 32-pounder rifle mounted in a converted drydock which could be towed into position.

On Tennessee Shore

Btry. No.1 Capt. Edmund W. Rucker - three 8-in. Columbiads, three smooth-bore 32-pounders.

Btry. No. 2 Capt. Robert Sterling - three rifled 32-pounders, one smooth-bore 32-pounder.

Btry. No. 3 Capt. J.W. Noadley - three rifled 32-pounders.

Btry. No. 4 Capt. Andrew Jackson, Jr. - one 8-in, Columbiad, three rifled 32-pounders.

Btry. No. 5 Capts. Jones, Caruthers, & Dismukes - three 8-in. Columbiads, one rifled 32-pounder, three smoothbore 32-pounders.

Redoubt - four smooth-bore 32-pounders.