Escape from the Island: An Arkansas Yankee and the Surrender of Island No. 10

Captain Frederic W. Hoadley, a native of Connecticut serving as an Arkansas officer on detached duty with the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery at Island No. 10, knew the end was near when a Yankee gunboat thundered by and dismounted his pieces. “We hit the boat but could do her no harm,” he stated. “That night another boat passed the Island batteries and at daybreak both showered their balls upon our dismounted batteries.” The next morning, Captain Hoadley was busy spiking his guns when he noticed that a Federal landing party was heading for his position. “We started on a run across an open cornfield under a severe fire from the Minie muskets, the bullets of which whistled uncomfortably near our heads. Some 30 of them started to head us off, loading and firing as they ran, all the time hallowing at us,” he reported.

A week later, Captain Hoadley recalled his near escape to the readers of the Arkansas True Democrat in Little Rock, Arkansas. A year later, then Major Hoadley wouldn’t escape another Yankee trap at Vicksburg, being killed in action June 9, 1863.


This flag belonging to the 11th Arkansas Infantry was discovered among the regiment's baggage when it was surrendered at Island No. 10 in April 1862. Captain Hoadley's original unit (4th Arkansas Battalion) was in General Edward W. Gantt's brigade along with the 11th and 12th Arkansas regiments, and the 55th Tennessee. Hoadley's company was placed on detached duty operating heavy artillery pieces during the siege.

Memphis, Tennessee

April 15, 1862

          I presume that you are anxious to learn somewhat of the officers and men of our company and of the misfortune which attended us at Island No. 10. On Friday the 4th about 1 o’clock in the morning during a terrific storm, one of the Yankee gunboats mounting 16 guns passed our batteries at New Madrid. Our men were up all night at the guns and at daybreak, wet, tired, and hungry, we were ordered to march without stopping for breakfast and without encumbering ourselves with blankets or any baggage and take charge of the batteries below New Madrid, a distance of 10 miles. We arrived at 2 p.m. and found that the company would be compelled to be separated, some of them being stationed at least two miles from the upper detachment.

The batteries at Island No. 10 prevented Union passage down the Mississippi River; but General John Pope's combined operation finally compelled the Confederates to abandon the position in April 1862.

          On Sunday, the boat [the U.S.S. Carondelet] steamed past our guns, firing at us as it went while six batteries on the Missouri shore joined in the contest. As the boat passed up again, we still continued to fire until our guns were dismounted. We hit the boat but could do her no harm. That night another boat [the U.S.S. Pittsburgh] passed the Island batteries and at daybreak in the morning both showered their balls upon our dismounted batteries while the guns from the land batteries poured a continual fire of shrapnel upon us. Our men acted bravely.

Lieutenant Baggett commanded the gun two miles below where I had stationed myself and nobly stood his post until it was folly to remain longer. The enemy landed and spiked his gun, and then passed up, shelling and spiking each battery above. I sent Lieutenant Osborn off with all of the men from the upper gun except Conway who remained with me to spike our gun and to set fire to the house containing our baggage. We remained almost too long at our post for when I came out of the house, the gunboats were lying in shore only 70 yards below and had landed about 70 men. We started on a run across an open cornfield under a severe fire from the Minie muskets, the bullets of which whistled uncomfortably near our heads. Some 30 of them started to head us off, loading and firing as they ran, all the time hallowing at us. They chased us a mile and a half.

Captain Daniel Turrentine of Co. G, 12th Arkansas Infantry

As soon as I got out into the road, I asked for Lieutenant Baggett and his detachment and was informed that he had gone to Tiptonville, and I received orders to do the same. Lieutenant Osborne and six or seven men got on a wagon and when we got to Tiptonville, got separated from me. When I got into the road after leaving the river, I found all of the infantry in full retreat for Tiptonville, a total of five regiments. I remained at Tiptonville with eight men until 9:30 p.m. waiting to pick up more of our men and only left when the Yankee pickets fired upon us. We then got on a raft and floated down the Mississippi River.

The ironclad U.S.S. Carondelet, a veteran of the bombardments of Forts Henry and Donelson, passed the batteries of Island No. 10 on the night of April 4-5th in the midst of a raging thunderstorm. The buildup of soot in her smokestacks caught fire and gave away her position when she was about halfway past the batteries. Confederate gunners, including Captain Hoadley's detachment, opened fire but to no effect.

Lieutenant Baggett instead of making his way to Tiptonville went back to our old camp on the Island. He arrived here yesterday with 16 men, having crossed the lake. All the heavy artillery companies except Hume’s, Angbird’s, and the Guerillas got off. Lieutenant Osborne I think must be a prisoner. We leave this morning for Fort Pillow. The Island was surrendered: we lost five regiments of infantry, all of our guns, and ten brass pieces. I learned that the Yankee gunboats are now at Fort Pillow and we go to pay them back. Colonel Gantt and his regiment [12th Arkansas] and Colonel [Jabez M.] Smith of Benton with his regiment [11th Arkansas] are among the prisoners. Lieutenant C. Watkins of Colonel Smith’s regiment is among those taken. Colonel Terry’s battalion [4th Arkansas] got away safe and are now at Fort Pillow. We lost 2,000 effective men.


Yours truly,

Frederic W. Hoadley, Captain of Co. H of the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery (formerly Co. D, 4th Battalion, Arkansas Infantry)



Letter from Captain Frederic William Hoadley, Arkansas True Democrat (Arkansas), April 24, 1862, pg. 2


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