1862 LETTER - MINES AND TORPEDOES AT COLUMBUS, MISSISSIPPI

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This is a pen & ink report written by an unnamed correspondent for the Chicago Times. The letter is dated “Columbus, Sunday, March 9” [1862]. The correspondent describes in great detail about the search for mines and torpedoes near the Confederate defenses and in the river following the Union occupation of that city. The majority of the report describes a network of “infernal machines” connected by batteries and wires to central detonation points. As many as “75 or 100 of these infernal machines are thus buried in the earth some distance from the enemy’s works”. Each of these “machines” consisted of “a large iron cask, about three feet high, and a foot and a half through, in shape as near as can be described of a well-formed pear with an iron cap….Taking off the cap we found grape, canister, and four eight-pound shells, surrounded by about two bushels of course powder.” The reporter goes on to estimate the damage these would have done to attacking regiments. The end of the report mentions torpedoes in the river, but that “the very high water level has prevented any damage to either gunboat or transport.” The report also specifically mentions a Captain William A. Schmitt of the 27th Illinois Infantry who lead the search.

Schmitt enlisted as a 1st Sgt. at age 21 in April 1861. He was mustered in Co. E, 10th IL Infantry. Mustered out 7/29/61. Re-enlisted and was commissioned Captain of Co. A, 27th Illinois Infantry. He would rise through the ranks to become Colonel on 4/28/64, and was brevetted Brig. General on 3/13/65.

Accompanied by brief amount of research material and transcription of the document.  [jet]

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