Confederate Veteran - December, 1924

The following was sent by George B. Wilds, of Wickliffe, Ky., as his recollections of that battle, after a lapse of sixty-two years, he at that time being a boy of fifteen years, a member of Company C, 7th Kentucky Infantry, C.S.A. Charles Wickliffe, the colonel of the regiment, was then drilling it at Camp Burnett, eight miles east of Columbus, Ky.

"It was in the fall of 1861, and General Grant was commanding at Cairo, Ill., while General Polk was at Columbus, Ky., both on the Mississippi River, only twenty-five miles apart, and Tappn's Arkansas Regiment of Infantry was camped alone at Belmont on the river opposite Columbus. General Grant, a graduate of West Point and a veteran of the Mexican War, planned to surprise and capture Tappan's regiment and retire before General Polk could throw re-enforcements across the river to support Tappan. When Grant made his attack, Colonel Wickliffe, who was drilling his regiment at Camp Burnett, heard the boom of cannon and the rattle of musketry, and, being also a graduate of West Point, he knew a battle was on; so, without waiting for orders, he rushed his regiment at a quick step to Columbus, but arrived too late to engage in the battle, General Grant having been already ingloriously defeated and chased to his transports up the river toward Cairo, Ill., by Confederate re-enforcements under General Cheatham.
Just as our regiment arrived on top of the tall hill at Columbus, the "Lady Polk", the largest cannon in the Confederacy, opened up on the transports of General Grant's army, which were trying, in the utmost confusion and demoralization, to escape from the Confederates on shore in hot pursuit, firing upon them with musketry, while Grant's men rushed to the far side of the boats and lay down to escape the fire, the boats (the pilots also laying down) drifting downstream toward Columbus to certain capture or destruction, when lo! a providential interference, the "Lady Polk" burst, shaking the ground like an earthquake. It was followed by intense silence, during which the pilots arose and steered their boats away from the Confederates to the other side of the mile-wide river, beyond the range of the musketry, and thus General Grant and his army made their escape."