When the refusal of Col. Hicks was communicated to Gen. Forrest, a general charge was ordered, and away the whole line dashed upon the works. The fort is a small, low earth-work, surrounded by a shallow ditch. The fierce onslaught was met by a sheet of flame from the fort, which made many of the assailants bite the dust, but it stayed them not–on they came, yelling like demons, many of them crossing the ditch, and were killed upon the walls of the fort, before, broken and repulsed, the thinned ranks of the enemy sullenly retired.
The sharpshooters in the houses which commanded the fort kept up an incessant fire upon the garrison, while the volleys from the main body were almost continual. Four or five times during the afternoon and evening was the attack renewed, and each time successfully repulsed, until the whole ground between the fort and the town was covered with the slain and wounded. The artillery of the fort was by no means idle during this time, but was dividing its attention between the attacking party and the houses which contained the sharpshooters, whom they finally dislodged, and destroyed the buildings to prevent their again being made hiding-places for rebel soldiers. The final charge was made at seven o’clock, after which Forrest retired beyond gun-shot, and took refuge in the city among the buildings.
A number of citizens went into the fort, and fought bravely during the whole engagement. One took his family to a place of safety, when he took his place with the soldiers behind the ramparts. In the early part of the action, a ball severely wounded him in the arm, but he refused to give up so long as a rebel was in sight, and continued to fight until the enemy retired. After the second repulse, one of the Kentucky cavalry-men rushed out of the fort, and found the body of his brother, who had been killed in the first charge.
Many of the citizens could not cross the river before the battle commenced. Of these, several ladies sought refuge under the bluff, out of range of shot. A rebel sharpshooter, knowing that the Federals would not harm the ladies, sought refuge in the crowd, and from behind his new-fashioned breastwork, opened fire upon one of the gun-boats. This was borne as long as possible, until a shot was sent into the bank a few feet above their heads, when the women ran shrieking for other shelter, and Mr. Reb. did the tallest running on record.
In Broadway, a crowd of women collected; behind them stood a rank of rebels, who kept up an incessant fire upon the boats. Several shells were sent over their heads, but the women stood their ground, protecting the scoundrels behind them. Finally a shot fell in their midst, killing one young woman, and wounding several rebels.
Little respect was paid to a man’s sentiments–sympathizers’ stores suffered about equally with Union men’s. Immense booty was obtained and carried off–the amount of loss can hardly be estimated. There is one instance, however, which occurred, in which they showed some little regard for a friend–nearly every horse and mule in the city was taken, except a few belonging to the Government–it was believed that those belonged to a strong rebel sympathizer, and on that account the horses were not taken.
Firing from the gun-boats and the fort and the rebel artillery continued at intervals until near midnight on Friday, after which all became quiet, and scarce a shot was heard till after the retreat of Forrest, which occurred on Saturday, between two and three o’clock in the afternoon. The enemy retired towards Mayfield, tearing up the railroad truck in his rear. A large number of houses were set on fire, both by shells and by the rebels,–others followed in quick succession, until probably fifteen or twenty houses of various descriptions were burned to the ground.
When the battle was over, it was found that the ammunition, both in the fort and on the gun-boats, was nearly expended. Little or no provision was in the fort, and the men sadly wanted food after their arduous labors. As soon as the news of the battle reached this city, reenforcements were despatched to Paducah, as well as ammunition and provisions. When the provisions arrived, Col. Hicks sent a full supply to the suffering citizens, and had it distributed among the hungry crowd of women and children on the Illinois shore.
The rebel Brig.-Gen. Thompson was shot through the head, while on his horse near the fort, during the fight. After falling to the ground, a shell struck him in the abdomen, and blew him to pieces. His spinal column was found several feet from his mangled body.
Towards evening the ammunition in the fort became well nigh exhausted. When this was discovered, Col. Hicks ordered that, should ammunition run our, the works should be defended with the bayonet as long as a man remained alive.
Originally posted 2008-11-07 18:06:01.