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Our loss was about eighty-four killed, one hundred and fifty wounded—many of them slightly—and about an equal number missing. Nearly all the missing were from the Iowa regiment, who behaved with great gallantry, and suffered more severely than any other of the troops. “I have not been able to put in the reports from sub-commands, but will forward them as soon as received. All the troops behaved with much gallantry, much of which is attributed to the coolness and presence of mind of the officers, particularly the colonels. General McClernand was in the midst of danger throughout the engagement, and displayed both coolness and judgment. His horse was three times shot. My horse was also shot under me. To my staff, Captains Rawlins, Logan, and Hillyer, volunteer aids, and to Captains Hatch and Graham, I am much indebted for the assistance they gave. Colonel Webster, acting chief engineer, also accompanied me, and displayed highly soldier-like qualities. Colonel Dougherty, of the Twentysecond Illinois Volunteers, was three times wounded and taken prisoner. “The Seventh Iowa regiment had their Lieutenant-Colonel killed, and the Colonel and Major were severely wounded. The reports to be forwarded will detail more fully the particulars of our loss. Surgeon Brinton was in the field during the entire engagement, and displayed great ability and efficiency in providing for the wounded and organizing the medical corps. “The gunboats Tyler and Lexington, Captains Walker and Stemble, U. S. N., commanding, convoyed the expedition and rendered most efficient service. Immediately upon our landing they engaged the enemy's batteries, and protected our transports throughout. “I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, “U. S. GRANT, “Brigadier-General Commanding.”
In a private letter written by General Grant to his father on the day after the battle, was the following interesting description of the fight :
“Day before yesterday I left Cairo with about three thousand men, in five steamers, convoyed by two gunboats, and proceeded down the river to within about twelve miles of Columbus. The next morning the boats were dropped down just out of range of the enemy's batteries, and the troops debarked. During this operation our gunboats exercised the rebels by throwing shells into their camps and batteries. When all ready, we proceeded about one mile toward Belmont, opposite to Columbus, when I formed the troops into line, and ordered two companies from each regiment to deploy as skirmishers, and push on through the woods and discover the position of the enemy. They had gone but a little way when they were fired upon, and the ball may be said to have fairly opened. “The whole command, with the exception of a small reserve, was then deployed in like manner and ordered forward. The order was obeyed with great alacrity, the men all showing great courage. I can say with great gratification that every colonel, without a single exception, set an example to their commands that inspired a confidence that will always insure victory when there is the slightest possibility of gaining one. I feel truly proud to command such men. “From here we fought our way from tree to tree through the woods to Belmont, about two and a half miles, the enemy contesting every foot of ground. Here the enemy had strengthened their position by felling the trees for two or #. hundred yards and sharpening their limbs, making a sort of abatis. Our men charged through, making the victory complete, giving us pos: session of their camp and garrison equipage, artillery, and every thing else. “We got a great many prisoners. The majority, however, succeeded in getting aboard their steamers and pushing across the river. We burned every thing possible and started back, having accomplished all that we went for, and even more. Belmont is entirely covered by the batteries from Columbus, and is worth nothing as a military position—cannot be held without Columbus. “The object of the expedition was to prevent the enemy from sending a force into Missouri to cut off troops I had sent there for a special purpose, and to prevent reinforcing Price. “Besides being well fortified at Columbus, their numbers far exceeded ours, and it would have been folly to have attacked them. We found the Confederates well armed and brave. On our return, stragglers, that had been left in our rear (now front) fired into us, and more recrossed the river and gave us battle for a full mile, and afterward at the boats when we were embarking. “There was no hasty retreating or running away. Taking into account the object of the expedition, the victory was complete, 1t has given us confidence in the officers and men of this command, that will enable us to lead them in any future engagement without fear of the result. General McClernand (who, by the way, acted with great coolness and courage throughout, and proved that he is a soldier as well as a statesman) and myself, each had our horses shot under us. Most of the field officers met with the same loss, besides nearly one-third of them being themselves killed or wounded. As near as I can ascertain, our loss was about two hundred and fifty killed, wounded and missing.”
General McClernand, who accompanied the expedition, and was subsequently complimented for his valuable services, in his official report, after referring to an important disposition which had been made of a portion of the troops, says:
“We again opened a deadly fire from both infantry and artillery, and after a desperate resistance drove the enemy back a third time, forcing them to seek cover among thick woods and brush, protected by the heavy guns at Columbus.
“In this struggle, while leading the charge, I received a ball in one of my holsters, which failed of harm by striking a pistol. Here Colonels Fouke and Logan urged on their men by the most energetic appeals ; here Captain Dresser's horse was shot under him, while Captain Schwartz's horse was twice wounded; here the projectiles from the enemy's heavy guns at Columbus, and their artillery at Belmont crashed through the woods over and among us; here, again, all my staff who were with me displayed the greatest intrepidity and activity; and here, too, many of our officers were killed or wounded; nor shall I omit to add that this gallant conduct was stimulated by your presence and inspired by your example. Here your horse was killed under you.”
And yet amid all these scenes of danger and carnage the noble commander rode from point to point, placing his troops in the most advisable positions and cheering them on to the assault, with as much coolness and self-possession as if not a single deadly missile was ploughing the earth within a hundred miles of his horse's feet. And when the apparent success was suddenly changed into actual disaster he, by his example, nerved his men to deeds which have been rarely exceeded even in the hour of victory.
Returning to Cairo, the following order was read to thé troops :
“HeAD-QUARTERs, DISTRICT S. E. Mo.
“The General commanding this military district returns his thanks to the troops under his command at the battle of Belmont on yesterday.
“It has been his fortune to have been in all the battles fought in Mexico by Generals Scott and Taylor save Buena Vista, and he never saw one more hotly contested or where troops behaved with more gallantry.
“Such courage will insure victory wherever our flag may be
borne and protected by such a class of men.
“To the brave who fell the sympathy of the country is due, and will be manifested in a manner unmistakable. - “U. S. GRANT, “Brigadier-General Commanding.”
On the same day, a flag of truce was sent to Columbus, Ky., under charge of Major Webster, Chief of the Engineer Corps, to make arrangements respecting the wounded. The following is the correspondence which passed on the occasion :
GENERAL GRANT TO GENERAL POLK.
“HEAD-QUARTERs, DISTRICT S. E. MISsouri, “CAIRo, November 8th, 1861. “General Commanding Forces, Columbus, Ky. : “SIR:-–In the skirmish of yesterday, in which both parties behaved with so much gallantry, many unfortunate men were left upon the field of battle whom it was impossible to provide for. I now send, in the interest of humanity, to have these unfortunates collected and medical attendance secured them. Major Webster, Chief of Engineers, district Southeast Missouri, goes bearer of this, and will express to you my views upon the course that should be pursued under the circumstances such as those of yesterday. “I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, “U. S. GRANT, “Brigadier-General Commanding.”
GENERAL POLK TO GENERAL GRANT.
“HEAD-QUARTERs, FIRST DIvision, WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
“BRIGADIER-GENERAL U. S. GRANT, U. S. A.:
“I have received your note in regard to your wounded and killed on the battle-field after yesterday's engagement. The lateness of the hour at which my troops returned to the principal scene of action prevented my bestowing the care upon your wounded which I desired.
“Such attentions as were practicable were shown them, and measures were taken at an early hour this morning to have them all brought into my hospitals. Provision also was made for taking care of your dead. The permission you desire under your flag of truce to aid in attention to your wounded, is granted with pleasure, under such restrictions as the exigencies of our service may require. In your note you say nothing of an exchange of prisoners, though you send me a private message as to your willingness to release certain wounded men and some invalids taken from our list of sick in camps, and expect in return a corresponding number of your wounded prisoners. My own feelings would prompt me to waive again the unimportant affectation of declining to recognize these States as belligerents, in the interests of humanity, but my Government requires all prisoners to be placed at the disposal of the Secretary of War I have despatched him to know if the case of the severely wounded held by me would form an exception. “I have the honor to be your obedient servant, “L. Polk, “Major-General C. S. A.”
ASSUMES COMMAND OF THE DISTRICT OF CAIRO–IMPORTANT RECONNOISSANCE.
On the twentieth of December, 1861, General Grant having been appointed by General Halleck, who had been placed in charge of the Department of the Missouri, to take command of the District of Cairo, which was at the same time greatly extended, the following order was issued :
“HEAD-QUARTERs, District of CAIRo,
“In pursuance of Special Order No. 78, from Head-Quarters, Department of the Missouri, the name of this Military District will be known as the ‘District of Cairo,' and will include all the southern part of Illinois, that part of Kentucky west of the Cumberland river, and the southern counties of Missouri, south of Cape Girardeau. “The force at Shawneetown will be under the immediate command of Colonel T. H. Cavenaugh, Sixth Illinois Cavalry, who will consolidate the reports of his command weekly, and forward to these head-quarters. “All troops that are, or may be, stationed along the banks of the Ohio, on both sides of the river, east of Caledonia, and to the mouth of the Cumberland, will be included in the command, having head-quarters at Paducah, Ky. “Brigadier-General E. A. Paine is assigned to the command of the forces at Bird's Point, Missouri. “All supplies of ordnance, Quarter-Master and Commissary stores, will be obtained through the chiefs of each of these departments, at district head-quarters, where not otherwise provided for. “For the information of that portion of this command, newly attached, the following list of Staff Officers is published : “Captain John A. Rawlings, Assistant Adjutant-General. “Captain Clark B. Lagow, Aide-de-Camp.