Illinois Regiments in the Campaign against New Madrid and Island No. 10
(Mississippi River near the Kentucky-Tennessee Border)
(February 28 - April 8, 1862)


At the start of the war, the Confederates blocked movement on the Mississippi through a series of strong points on the river. One of these strong points was the fortified Island No. 10. It was so named as it was the tenth island downstream from the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The island was located at the southern end of a bend in the river where the river turned back north. Island No. 10 was garrisoned with 4000 troops and had over 100 cannons that commanded the northern approach to the island.

Twelve miles downstream from Island No. 10 (approximately northwest) was the town of New Madrid. It was also fortified and surrounded by swampy land. At New Madrid, the river again made a sharp bend and turned back south.

These two strongpoints on the Mississippi River were the targets of Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of the Mississippi. Accompanying Pope's army was also a flotilla of river gunboats and transport ships. The fortifications at Island No. 10 were formidable, but was vulnerable to capture if a sufficient number of troops could be landed downstream from the island. Supplies to Island No. 10 came either up the river or from the south in a path along the river. Pope knew if he could capture New Madrid, he could cut off the bulk of supplies to the island and it would only be a matter of time until they would be forced to surrender.

On March 14, 1862, his troops captured New Madrid. This cut off river supplies to the island and gave him control of the west bank of the river. Next, his troops cut a canal through the swamps across the bend in the river to New Madrid. The canal was 12 miles long and 50 feet wide, 6 miles of it through heavy timber. The trees were cut off 4 feet below the water level. The canal allowed his transports to bypass the guns on the island. This gave Pope the means to get his forces from the west bank to the east bank of the river. However, the Confederates had fortified the east bank, so that gunboats would be necessary to allow the troops to cross the river.

On the evening of April 4, 1862, the gunboat Cardonolet successfully drifted past the guns of Island No. 10 without being hit. The operation was risky as the engines of the gunboats were only powerful enough to allow them to move slowly against the current making them extremely vulnerable to fire from the islands guns. So once they got past the island, they could not get back to their base until after the island's defenses had been destroyed. Two nights later, the gunboat Pittsburgh also ran the gauntlet without being hit.

The two gunboats then silenced Confederate cannons opposite the landing sites, and Pope moved his troops over to the eastern shore of the Mississippi. As the area around Island No. 10 contained very little dry land, the garrison was completely cut off and surrendered on April 8. Pope's army captured over 7000 men, 123 heavy pieces of artillery, and vast quantities of ammunition and supplies. The capture and reduction of Island No. 10 opened the Mississippi River south all the way to the last Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The Illinois regiments which took part in the campaign against New Madrid and Island No. 10 are listed below. The links will take you to the regimental pages.

Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Dyer's Compendium

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