Monday, February 4, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 1862

Feel like shootin a rebel”

Pvt. Andrew Altman, a 19-year-old from northwest Ohio, loves army life. Coming from a lean, hard-working existence on a hardscrabble farm, he delights in army food, uniforms, and soldiering. He belongs to Company D of the 68th Ohio.

“If I should come home now, I would feel lost,” he writes his father. “The day I left I felt bad, but now I are all well of that….If you was here and drild with us a while and heard the band and the drums sound, [it] would make you feel like shootin a rebel…

Young Altman is ready for action. “If I get sight of a rebel, he is my meat, for my gun is calculated to shoot 900 yards.” It will take some time, but Altman’s enthusiasm will dwindle.

AND NEAR FORT HENRY: Grant continues landing troops in preparation for an attack on Fort Henry. From inside the Confederate fort, Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman repeatedly telegraphs pleas for reinforcements. The pleas are futile, leaving Tilghman with about 2,600 poorly equipped men. They are caught inside a fortification that a rising Tennessee River has partly flooded. Growing increasingly pessimistic as his estimate of the number of Union troops rises, Tilghman makes a decision late in the day: Tomorrow he will evacuate most of his troops, leaving only a token force of artillerists to delay any pursuit. Meanwhile, Grant is planning to attack tomorrow as well.

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