New Madrid in New Madrid County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Bissell's Submergible Saw
In mid-March 1862, Colonel Josiah Bissell, commanding the "Engineer Regiment of the West," surveyed the land north and east of New Madrid. Reporting to Pope, Bissell found swamps and bottomland inundated with the early spring floodwaters. Bissell suggested a canal to provide passage for steamboats. Bissell's plan called for a path through some 12 miles of swamp, using some of the natural bayous and sloughs, cut 50 feet wide and 4½ feet deep. The chosen course followed Wilson's Bayou into the
For nineteen days Bissell's men worked to clear the passage. Where open bayou allowed, the engineers used a submerged saw to clear the trees. In other cases, the only practical method to clear the way was by hand. When completed on April 4th, the canal, or more accurately a channel, allowed passage of four steamboats and several barges—but no gunboats. The gunboats ran on Island No. 10 and were able to success with help from the forces that came around through the channel and up behind the Confederates leading to a Union victory on April 9, 1862.
A great deal of imagination is required to visualize steamboats working through what was once a swamp. A visitor to the battlefield of Island No. 10 today will see a landscape vastly different than that of 1862. The site of the canal is not easy to find. In the decades after the Civil War, flood control measures and bottom land reclamation projects turned swamps into farmlands. As a result, the swamps around Wilson's Bayou became little more than a strip of trees.
Marker series. Missouriís Civil War marker series.
Location. 36° 35.024′ N, 89° 31.607′ W. Marker is in New Madrid, Missouri, in New Madrid County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and Levee Road, on the right when traveling south on Main Street. Touch for map. Located directly across from New Madrid Historical Museum. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 South Main Street, New Madrid MO 63869, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Fort Bankhead (here, next to this marker); New Madrid (a few steps from this marker); New Madrid & Island No. Ten (within shouting distance of this marker); Higgerson School (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Siege of New Madrid (approx. 1.6 miles away); Capture of Island No. 10 (approx. 10.1 miles away in Tennessee); Confederate Forts & Batteries (approx. 10.1 miles away in Tennessee); Confederate Burials (approx. 10.7 miles away in Tennessee). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New Madrid.
Also see . . . New Madrid Historical Museum. (Submitted on March 29, 2015.)
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 28, 2015, by William Bruce of Madison, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 248 times since then and 40 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on March 28, 2015, by William Bruce of Madison, Wisconsin. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.