First regiment dispatched in pursuit of Thompson ~ Nov. 1, 1861
Orders from HQ ~ Wallace to reinforce Oglesby ~ Nov. 5, 1861
Motion of the troops alerted everyone. The wildlife; the water fowl, the Rebels encamped at Belmont.
Scouts and spies had already relayed the sketchy information to Col. Tappan outside his tent at Camp Johnston.
He knew there weren’t any troops passing thru here on the way to reinforce anyone. It was a ruse to mask the offensive movement Grant had been planning since his occupation of Paducah. There was nothing in the hinterlands of Southeast Missouri – then, a total vast swampland – to warrant protecting.
New Madrid was fortified and protected by Island 10’s weaponry.
Polk had made Columbus into the Gibraltar of the West with the cannon and defensive positions on the chalk bluffs and beyond the Mississippi as far as practicable.
But, Grant would not be held in check for long.
His quick moves to secure Smithland and Paducah gave the Union forces the open path to the Heart of the Confederacy. It was there for the taking. First, there would be fighting and that meant killing Americans by Americans.
The 31st Illinois left Birds Point inland to serve as a decoy. Grant knew word of troop movement would reach the bluffs of Columbus as easy as the birds flew.
Although official orders to the contrary which detail the mission was to eliminate Jeff Thompson’s movements and a force wholly overestimated to be near 3,000 was more of a cover for Southern advance.
Oglesby’s couriers sent exaggerated word back of their predicament ensuring Grant would send help. And, he did. W.H.L. Wallace added another regiment on Missouri soil to probe Southward. Wallace would be dead less 5 months felled by a bullet at Shiloh.
Yanks had occupied the plain at Belmont across the river from Columbus until the main force of Rebs commanded the river and Polk sent Tappan’s Arkansas troops to occupy the raw outpost. They know of a way through ole Niger Wool Swamp that would leave an escape route for Rebs caught without a way back across the river.
It was long and dangerous but a way into the interior of Arkansas – and only passable way to New Madrid – lay just to the west of Belmont.
Yankee leaders gave this avenue of troops movements credibility in the press. Confederate officers on the ground new better.
There was no way for large movements of troops to be sent through that corridor. In fact, the escape factor was largely dismissed as the path was too rugged to be taken on a whim.
Polk knew this, too. And, went about fortifying Columbus from attack from ground forces in front.
…’see them now.’
Wil asked knowing the answer. The gleaming light off the barrel’s of the emplacements was scary in its glory. And, they were all the way up the Bluff.