A Concert on So Grand A Scale- The Tennessee River Expedition of March 1862

Recently while indexing the Woodsfield Spirit of Democracy from Monroe Co., Ohio, I came across the following account of the Tennessee River expedition that took place in mid-March 1862 where a flotilla of nearly 75 steamships carried 30,000 Union troops from Paducah, Kentucky to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. The expedition was under the command of Major General Charles F. Smith, a legendary Regular soldier that was fast gaining a reputation for bravery and competence based on his performance at Fort Donelson. Smith's expedition included two Federal divisions, one under Major General John A. McClernand, and the second a new division led by William Tecumseh Sherman.
Major General C.F. Smith

This account, written by a civilian aboard the flagship of the expedition, the Leonora, provides the most complete listing of vessels I've yet seen. Given this blog's deep interest in Ohio troops, I have noted the vessels on which Ohio troops sailed to the best of my ability, relying on regimental histories, letters, and even ol' Cump's memoir for guidance. 

The author G.L. Tyler also makes some interesting observations of the denizens of Savannah, Tennessee and provided this little nugget about how whiskey was smuggled to the front lines. "Whiskey, being contraband, is bottled in Cincinnati, packed in barrels, and marked ‘eggs.’ Altogether an enlightening letter and a fun read.

Paducah, Kentucky at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers in 1862

Woodsfield Spirit of Democracy, March 26, 1862, pg. 2

Headquarters, on board Leonora, Savannah, Tennessee
March 12, 1862

          Having been permitted to witness the sailing progress and arrival at its destination of this expedition, which in number and capacity of steam vessels, amount of equipment, and means of land transportation, field artillery, and numerical strength of land forces, was never equaled by any river expedition in any age or country; I thought some account of it from an eye witness would be acceptable to you and your readers. The fleet left Mineral Point (a plantation belonging to John Bell four miles above Fort Henry) at 10:30 a.m. March 10, 1862. The sun (the sun of Austerlitz we hope) put on its brightest face as the fog raised from the Tennessee and the stars and stripes went up to many a peak as the Leonora, with the commanding general on board, swept past to take her place in the van of the fleet. ‘Yankee Doodle’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ executed by numerous regimental bands and calliopes resounded through the hills, to which they have been for some months strangers, and if the natives love the notes of ‘Dixie’ they ought to thank Uncle Sam for a concert on so grand a scale.
U.S.S. Tyler (formerly A.O. Tyler)

The fleet consisted of the following boats:
          Gunboat A.O. Tyler as convoy escort
          Gunboat Lexington as convoy escort

Leonora, flagship with Major General C.F. Smith and staff
          Alexander Scott
Fanny Bullitt
Marengo [part of 70th Ohio was aboard this vessel]
 Poland [troops from Third Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
D.A. Jannery
Champion No. 3
Goody Friends
Baltic [editor note: the 72nd Ohio was aboard this vessel]
John Raine
Empress [troops from Fourth Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
Bostona No. 2
Diamond Westmoreland
Patun Gladiator with General McClernand and staff,
Ohio No. 2
Silver Moon
Bay City
Uncle Sam
T.L. McGill
Cricket No. 2
Lady Pike
Clara Poe
Hannibal [troops from Second Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
Fort Wayne
Lancaster No. 3 [troops from First Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
Shenango [part of 70th Ohio was aboard this vessel]
Sunny South
Telegraph No. 3
Rose Hambleton
Hazel Dell [part of the 71st Ohio was aboard this vessel]
Empire City
John H. Dickey
Anglo Saxon [the 53rd Ohio was aboard this vessel]
Edward Walsh
B.J. Adams [troops from First Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
Ohio No. 3 [the 77th Ohio was aboard this vessel]
J.B. Ford
Jim K. Bell
Continental [the 57th Ohio and part of the 20th Ohio were aboard this vessel along with General William Tecumseh Sherman and staff]
E.H. Fairchild
Ocean [part of the 71st Ohio was aboard this vessel]
Universe [troops from Second Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
St. Louis
Daulieth (used as dispatch boat)
Sallie List [troops from First Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
R.W. Cheeseman [troops from Second Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
Prairie Rose [troops from Second Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
Key West
Golden State [also listed as Golden Gate, troops from First Brigade, Sherman’s Division]
J.J. Roe
Rocket (towing barge with battery)
St. Louis
(a total of 69 vessels including the Tyler).
U.S.S. Lexington

The force on board is not far from 30,000, with a fair complement of artillery and cavalry, and such an amount of ordnance and commissary stores, camp equipage and land transportation, as shows that the ‘vandals’ have come to stay. We saw some cheering demonstrations of Union sentiment at one point where we landed. The few people gathered, fairly danced with joy; one lady shouted in true camp meeting style ‘Thank God! The deliverance for which I have prayed during ten long months has come at last!’ Several refugees joined us at different points. One man, who took refuge on the gunboat Tyler on her former trip, learned yesterday as he passed his home (where the boat landed to allow him to see his family) that his nephew was taken prisoner by the Rebels a few days ago and was last seen by his friends being led by a rope around his neck.
          At this place (Savannah, the county seat of Hardin County) the citizens who remain and undoubtedly sincerely loyal. Upwards of 80 men enlisted here yesterday. I can testify to the fact for I saw them on drill. They, as well as all of the citizens here, can be distinguished by their butternut colored linsey clothing. (Coloring matter appears to be scarce except among the ‘people of African persuasion’ as Artemus Ward would say). Hundreds of the country people have been in town today to see the Yankees. They are very ready to give any information they possess, but are woefully ignorant as to what is going on among ‘outside barbarians.’ A man requested me yesterday to tell him truly which party gained the battle at Fort Donelson.

General William Tecumseh Sherman
          They report a large Rebel force at Corinth, Mississippi 30 miles from here; some say 6,000, some 150,000. Such estimates show what prodigious swallows these people have come to have since the chivalry took to lying for a living. There is a probability that General Smith will pay his respects to any such assemblage as that at Corinth within a few days if they will stay to see it.
          The gunboat Tyler, with General Smith on board, went up the river this morning to reconnoiter. They found a battery at Chickasaw Bluff, 20 miles from here, and after exchanging a few shots with the Rebels, returned to this point. A squad of Rebel cavalry was captured last night on the opposite side of the river. Prisoners are brought in hourly by our scouts which have now scoured the country for several miles. There will probably be warm work and somebody hurt in this part of Secessia pretty soon. It is generally though that this expedition aims to open at certain cotton port in West Tennessee, but those in command keep their own counsel.
          The men appear to be ‘spilin’ for a fight,’ are proud of their leaders, and have especial confidence in General Smith. He is every inch a soldier, of commanding presence, thorough business habits, decisive and reticent, and he led his men into Fort Donelson. He likes good grub and good wine, banishes women from the camp, and swears like a trooper, the army in Flanders, or any other man. The natives here, his army, and the rest of mankind look for glorious results from this expedition. The health of the army is reported to be excellent.
          Spring is fairly set in here. Early flowers are in blossom and peaches and apricots are ready to bloom. The country around is as fine as anyone need to see nature and kind heaven have blessed this happy land and scattered blessings with a wasteful hand out the people and the peculiar institution have done but little to develop it. They appear to be satisfied with their linsey and hog and hominy and don’t care whether school keeps or not. Everything and everybody appear to be lying around loose and everybody letting that kind of well enough alone. The fair sex take to grandily flowered and brightly colored calico and judging from what I have seen today they have not conceived such a mortal terror of the ruthless Northern invaders as might have been expected if they have read General Beauregard’s or Governor Harris’ proclamation. Wonder if such old fogies don’t know that such paper blockades are of no account against brass buttons and shoulder straps, when backed by good looks and good manners.

In less than a month, these same Federal troops would play a large role in the Battle of Shiloh. 
    The 77th Ohio is here and I had the pleasure of meeting with Company A (Captain Stevens) composed mainly of citizens of Clarington and vicinity. They are all well, and in fine spirits, having received their arms and a visit from the paymaster a few days ago.
          This place is just now a perfect paradise for sutlers. Whiskey is worth $1 a pint; stoga cigars 10 cents, cheese 10 cents a fistful, cider (water in which dried apples have been soaked) 10 cents a spoonful, and other groceries in proportion. Whiskey, being contraband, is bottled in Cincinnati, packed in barrels, and marked ‘eggs.’
          I never saw so many people who would ‘suck eggs’ in all my life as I have seen during the last week. It is the worst habit that our men have fallen into since they have gone to the wars. They are also taking to confiscating Rebel property, in a way which bids fair to cause a short crop of real eggs in this vicinity for some time to come. It was noticed that turkeys and chickens took to the higher branches tonight, mindful of the aforesaid Proclamation of Governor Harris, and the experiences of last night. They may well sigh for deliverance from their friends and you for deliverance from further continuance of this incoherent and hastily written letter.


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