Island No. 10

Updated 11/11/05

Western ACW Books


Island No. 10: Struggle for the Mississippi Valley

Larry J. Daniel and Lynn N. Bock

Updated 11/11/05 The book weighs in at 202 pages, and contains eight maps and three tables. The tables contain a lot of interesting statistics on the number and composition of the armies involved in the Campaign. The armament of the various batteries is especially useful to wargamers. The maps were okay, and since there was no real pitched battle I'm fine with how they looked. There were several strategic maps showing the Union approaches to the New Madrid and Island Number 10 area, and the maps showing the skirmishing in front of New Madrid was suitably detailed. Throughout the month of March, 1862, General John Pope was trying to figure out how best to remove Island No. 10 as an obstacle to the Union advance south down the Mississippi River. Although he captured New Madrid, Missouri fairly early on, it was the Navy and a canal through the bayous that eventually provided the winning strategy. Flag Officer Andrew Foote, commander of the Union fleet in front of Island No. 10, did not cooperate well with John Pope and the Army. He believed his "City Series" ironclads were all that prevented the Confederates from launching an offensive into the north. He thus refused to risk his boats in what he believed to be the risky operation of running the gauntlet between Island No. 10 and the Missouri shoreline. Pope, however, needed this to happen so that he could ferry men across the Mississippi without interference from the Confederate Fleet. Colonel Joshua Bissell (commander of the 25th Missouri, a large engineer regiment) decided to cut a canal through the narrow, tree-filled bayous bordering the Mississippi. His goal was to allow transports through for the ferrying operation I alluded to above. To make a long story short, he was ultimately successful, and Foote was also persuaded to allow two of his gunboats (the Carondelet and the Pittsburg) to run the batteries situated on Island No. 10. The gunboats made the run with hardly a scratch, and the required troops were ferried across the Mississippi River, cutting off the retreat of most of the Confederate forces. Thus, without a pitched battle and with the help of his engineers and the Navy, John Pope captured Island Number 10. The authors argue that this nearly bloodless campaign made Pope deserving of promotion. I can agree to that, but I cannot agree with what actually followed the promotion. Pope was placed in command of the Army of Virginia later in 1862, and he fared poorly in the Second Manassas Campaign. One thing I found interesting was that Pope exaggerated the number of prisoners and items he captured. This pattern of braggadocio would continue through Second Bull Run. All in all, this was a good account of a barely known campaign which featured interesting parallels to Grant's operations at Vicksburg in April 1863. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the war in the west or combined Army-Navy operations during the war.

202 pp., 8 maps, 3 tables