By this time, the war frontand public attentionhad moved deep into southern territory, taking most of the Union troops with it. Thus, the Union positions along the major rivers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi were left thinly garrisoned. It was not long before bands of guerillas and small, isolated Confederate units began to harass Federal shipping in the region and the gunboats were kept busy steaming from place to place in pursuit of these elusive bands.
March 12, 1864
Cannon fire from PEOSTA disperses Confederate guerillas at Pittsburg Landing, TN.
March 19, 1864
Crewmen from PEOSTA and TAHWAH destroy a cache of Confederate supplies at Saltillo, TN.
March 25, 1864
PEOSTA and PAW PAW are actively involved in repelling General Nathan Bedford Forrest's attack on Paducah.
May 23, 1864
Sixteen armed sailors from PEOSTA capture several horses belonging to the "Hayes Guerrillas" at Hamburg Landing, TN.
June 19, 1864
Following the Federal victory at Chickamauga, it became important to control the upper Tennessee River. Since none of the Union gunboats could cross the rapids at Muscle Shoals near Florence, AL, General Sherman had four vessels built in eastern Tennessee at Bridgeport (ed. note: Above the Shoals, the Tennessee River runs easterly across the entire width of northern Alabama before turning northward into Tennessee again near Chattanooga and the northwest corner of Georgia). The GENERAL GRANT, GENERAL BURNSIDE, GENERAL THOMAS and GENERAL SHERMAN were manned by the Army but their officers were assigned by the Navy. Along with the re-fitted STONE RIVER the "Four Generals" began service in mid-summer and would spend their entire careers in the upper Tennessee.
October 10, 1864
As General Sherman advanced toward Atlanta, leaving Confederate General J. B. Hood's forces to his rear, the Union gunboats began a period of stepped-up patrols of the Tennessee River.
On this date, KEY WEST and UNDINE convoyed three transports carrying 1,200 troops to Eastport, MS. As the infantry were disembarking, a Confederate masked battery opened fire from a nearby hill. The two gunboats returned the accurate southern fire but were soon forced to retire with the transports and troops. This proved to be the first indication that General Hood was moving toward Nashville, TN.
October 28, 1864
An attempt by Confederate units under General Hood to cross the Tennessee river at Decatur, AL was thwarted when GENERAL GRANT and STONE RIVER dispersed an 8-gun battery in a heated exchange from a distance of 500 yards. Hood was then forced to march eastward to Tuscumbia before finding a safe crossing on his way to attack Nashville.
October 30 1864
In another effort to divert men and materiel from the Union Army's advance through Georgia, Major-General Forrest led a 23-day raid culminating in an attack on the Union supply base at Johnsonville, TN. Swinging north from Corinth, MS, toward the Kentucky border and temporarily blockading the Tennessee River at Fort Heiman, Forrest then moved southward along the Tennessee River's west bank, capturing the transports Cheeseman, Maizeppa and Venus and the gunboat, UNDINE. Two 20-pound Parrot guns were then mounted on the stern of the Venus.
November 4, 1864
Forrest began positioning his artillery just below a narrow slot across the river from the Federal supply base and landing at Johnsonville, TN. Union troops discovered the Confederates finishing their entrenchments and battery emplacements in the afternoon. The KEY WEST, TAHWAH and ELFIN arrived and forced Forrest to abandon his captured gunboats, following which, with the land batteries across the river, they engaged the Confederates in an artillery duel. The Confederate guns, however, were so well positioned that the the Federals were unable to hinder them. In fact, the Confederate artillery fire disabled the gunboats.
Commander Leroy Fitch had sent six gunboats up from Paducah, KY, which attemped to join the fight but were unable to pass through the slot and eventually retired.
Fearing that the Confederates might cross the river and capture the transports at the supply depot, the Federals set fire to them. At the time the boats were torched, the wind spread the fire to the piles of stores on the levee and to a warehouse loaded with supplies. Seeing the fire, the Confederates began firing on the steamboats, barges, and warehouses to prevent the Federals from putting it out. Although Forrest withdrew to Corinth, MS, that night, control of the lower Tennessee river was effectively returned to the Confederates.
December 12, 1864
GENERAL GRANT and GENERAL BURNSIDE engaged a Confederate shore battery above Decatur, AL.
December 22, 1864
Following the Union victory at Nashville, GENERAL THOMAS and the other gunboats on the upper Tennessee supported the Federal re-occupation of Decatur, AL, then steamed downriver to the upper Mussel Shoals while Admiral Lee in CINCINNATI rushed upriver to the lower shoals to cut off Hood's retreat. Most of the Confederate troops, however, were able to cross the river between the two rapids and the scattered remnants were later incorporated into other southern armies.
The defeat of General Hood's army would prove to be the last major action along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The Union gunboats in this area would spend the remainder of the war transporting men and materiel for operations further south and occaisionally returning fire of small Confederate units and scattered bands of guerillas.
January 6, 1865
GENERAL GRANT silenced a Confederate shore battery at Beard's Bluff above Guntersville, AL.
January 9, 1865
GENERAL GRANT returned to destroy the town of Guntersville, AL, as punishment for hostile actions against the Union.
January 27, 1865
The transport Elipse exploded at Johnsonville, TN, killing 30 of the 70 Union soldiers aboard.