Sun May 24 1863|
RADM Samuel P Lee, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron writes SECNAV"My No. 370 of April 3, 383 of April 7, 388 of April 9, 397 of April 11, 399 of April 12, 402 of April 12, 429 of April 18, and 453 of April 23, contained information as it was received by me from time to time regarding the operations of the gunboats in the recent demonstrations of the enemy against Washington, N. C., on the Pamlico River.
I beg leave to present herewith the official reports from commanding officers engaged in those operations, as follows:
A. Commander H. K. Davenport, commanding U. S. S. Heizel, dated April 28.
B. Commander R. T. Renshaw, commanding U. S. S. Louisiana, dated April 18 and April 27.
C. Lieutenant-Commander W. P. McCann, commanding U. S. S. Hunchback, dated April 18.
D. Acting Volnnteer Lientenant J. MacDiarmid, commanding U. S. S. Ceres, dated April 18.
E. Acting Volunteer Lieutenant G. W. Graves, commanding U. S. S. Lockwood.
F. Actimig Master William G. Saltonstall, commanding U. S. S. Commnodore Hull, dated April 20.
G. Acting Master E. Boomer, commanding U. S. sloop Granite, dated April 27.
It appears from the official reports that the investment of Washington, N. C., by the enemy lasted eighteen days.
He appeared before our intrenchments on the 30th of March and retired on the 15th of April.
The Louisiana and Commodore Hull were at the time stationed at Washington, and on the appearance of the enemy opened fire on him. On the morning of the 31st of March the rebels reoccupied their old works about 7 miles below the town, to cut off the water communications.
At 5:45 a. m. of April 1, the enemy, from Rodman's Point, about a mile and three-quarters below the town on the right bank of the river, and from a cornfield a short distance above, opened fire on the Commodore Hull, which had been stationed there to prevent the occupation of the point, if possible, by the enemy. The fire was returned with spirit from the gunboats.
After a sharp action of an hour and a half, in endeavoring to change her position, the Commodore Hull grounded, and so remained till 8 p. m., exposed to a continued and accurate fire, which she gallantly returned till her ammunition was exhausted. Fortunately, though much cut up, the Commodore Hull received no vital injury.
Meanwhile the Ceres, Lockwood, and sloop Granite, and subsequently the Hunchback, were dispatched from New Berne by Commander Davenport to the relief of the besieged force at Washington, but were stopped below Hill's Point by the reestablishment of the enemy's batteries there, and by his removal of the buoys at the old obstructions.
During the siege, however, hazardous communications were opened by boats between the vessels below and the vessels above the enemy's batteries, thus conveying ammunition and dispatches. On the 3d of April the flotilla below Hill's Point was reenforced by the Southfield, Whitehead, and Seymour from Plymouth.
The Louisiana, Commodore Hull, and an armed transport called the Eagle, under charge of Second Assistant Engineer Lay and Paymaster W. W. Williams, of the Louisiana, as volunteers, were almost constantly engaged with the enemy's batteries opposite Washington till the morning of the 4th, when the Ceres, under command of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant MacDiarmid, made a gallant dash by the batteries with a supply of ammunition and joined the besieged force at Washington.
On the 6th a small naval battery of two light guns was established on shore, commanding the channel from above, to repel any attempt on the part of the enemy to attack the gunboats from that quarter by water.
On the 7th instant 112, on the 8th 107, and on the 9th 55 shot and shell were fired by the enemy on the gunboats and town without inflicting serious damage.
At midnight after the 10th, when the firing had been particularly severe, Acting Ensign Da Camara, of the Commodore Hull, arrived from the lower fleet with a schooner loaded with naval ammunition.
On the 12th the gunboats silenced and destroyed by their fire a bat- tery which the enemy had erected, with sand bags and cotton bales, abreast the town, and which for several days previous had maintained an active and dangerous fire on the gunboats.
On the 13th the rebel boats, filled with infantry as pickets on the river between the forts, were driven ashore by Acting Volunteer Lieutenant MacDiarmid with a howitzer on a small schooner. On the same night the army transport steamer Escort gallantly ran the blockade with reenforcements for Washington, having safely passed Hill's Point under cover of the gunboats below.
On the 14th and 15th the frequent and heavy fire from the enemy's batteries was occasionally returned by the gunboats.
Meanwhile the gunboats below Hill's Point held themselves in readiness, under command of Lieutenant-Commander McCann, of the Hunchback, to cooperate with the troops who were there in transports, either to cover their attempt to run the batteries, to reenforce the garrison at Washington, or to land and capture the Hill's Point works; neither of which operations was attempted.
This battery, which I hear is a strong natural bank or earthwork, perforated with embrasures, was engaged six times by the gunboats without apparent effect. In view of the necessity of their presence below Hill's Point to cooperate with the proposed movements of the troops afloat and with those of the troops which started overland from New Berne with the ultimate purpose of reducing this battery, it was not considered expedient to run the blockade of the river with these gunboats.
On the morning of the 15th the steamer Escort returned with Major- General Foster on board, passing the Hill's Point battery under cover of our fire. Blount's Creek was watched by the gunboats and the rebel earthworks there were shelled on the 15th, causing the enemy to withdraw his guns.
The next day the enemy suddenly disappeared from his intrenchmments before Washington and from his works on the river and the siege was raised.
I am proud to be able to assure the Department that the credit of the Navy has been well sustained in these operations by both officers and men.
Commander Renshaw, at Washington, and Lieutenant-Commander McCann, below in the river, conducted affairs with prudence and judgment, the former in his position of severe trial exhibited energy and resource, meeting the various emergencies of the siege with promptness and decision.
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant MacDiarmid strengthened the confidence of his superior officers in his well-known zeal by repeated acts of enterprise. This gallant officer I commend to the especial notice of the Department. I hope soon to be enabled to give him a better command.
The Department has promptly and generously recognized by promotion the steady and faithful gallantry with which Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Saltonstall fought his disabled vessel for nearly an entire day against heavy odds, and his good conduct during the progress of the siege. I will be glad to have him in command of an efficient light-draft on the outside blockade, where, I think, he would render good service.
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Graves and Acting Master [F. S.] Wells (since promoted for gallantry) are both commended for their activity and efficient services.
In conveying ammunition, supplies, and dispatches in boats under the rebel fire, Acting Ensign Da Camara, of the Commodore Hull; Acting Masters Mate McKeever, of the Louisiana, and Acting Masters Mates A. H. Hicks and Edward Austin, of the Lockwood, displayed excellent spirit.
Acting Master Francis Josselyn, Acting Ensigns J. 0. Johnson and J. B. Da Camara, and Acting Masters Mate A. F. Haradon, of the Commodore Hull; Acting Masters Mate Henry W. Wells, Acting Second Assistant Engineer H. Rafferty, Acting Third Assistant Engineer John S. Harper, and Paymasters Steward John C. Cross, of the Ceres, are recommended to especial notice for their good conduct and bravery in battle.
I cordially unite with their several commanding officers in recommending Acting Ensigns J. B. Da Camara and J. 0. Johnson, of the Commodore Hull; Acting Masters Mates H. W. Wells, of the Ceres, and A. H. Hicks, of the Lockwood, for promotion.
The accompanying reports represent the casualties, as follows:
Acting Third Assistant Engineer Thomas Mallahan, of the Ceres, killed. One man of the Ceres mortally wounded, and three men of the Commodore Hull slightly wounded."
RADM Samuel P Lee, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron writes SECNAV"Lieutenant-Commander Flusser, commanding U. S. S. Commodore Perry, under date of April 17, reporting to me that he was on his return from Washington to Plymouth, expresses his opinion that the rebels had retired from before Washington after a fifteen days fight (in which, as he states, our loss was ridiculously small), on account of the want of provisions; but their object may have been to forage in the fertile district between the Neuse and Pamlico rivers and Albemarle Sound, and also to make a diversion.
Commander Davenport, under date of the 21st, informs me that General Foster returned from Washington to New Berne overland, having met with no resistance."
RADM Lee writes SECNAV "Enclosed herewith I forward the report of Acting Master Thomas Poynton Ives, commanding U. S. S. Yankee, regarding the recent naval operations in the Nansemond River and the part taken in them by that vessel, whose draft of water and length were such as to prevent her ascending to the upper Nansemond.-
Mr. Ives, so far as his opportunities would allow, rendered efficient and gallant service, and I commend him to the approbation of the Department and for promotion."
CAPT W M Walker, USS De Soto, writes SECNAV "I have the honor to inform you that on the 19th instant I seized, for violation of the blockade, proclaimed and instituted by the President of the United States, the schooner Mississippian of Biloxi, laden with 187 bales of cotton and 4 barrels of turpentine, from Mobile, bound to Havana.
On boarding her, I found in all, six persons, not one of whom would acknowledge himself to be her master or supercargo, nor one among them who at first would admit that he spoke or comprehended English.
Her colors and papers had no doubt been thrown overboard. The only paper of importance that I found was a permit to sail, signed by F. Buchanan, admiral. I supplied her with provisions, gave her a boat, placed a prize master and crew on board of her, and ordered her to Key West for adjudication.
On the 20th, at 5:45 p. m., being about 61 miles southeast of Pensacola light, we descried the smoke of a steamer, gave chase, and soon got sight of the vessel and gained on her so rapidly that she threw overboard portions of her cargo, but she finally escaped by favor of the night. There is reason to believe that this steamer was the Matagorda, well known as a blockade runner at Havana and Mobile."
CMDR James S Palmer signals RADM David Glasgow Farragut, West Gulf Blockading Squadron, "I have now in the Mississippi the Albatross, Arizona, and Sachem, the two latter at Bayou Sara. I have the Estrella on the Atchafalaya. The Pittsburg I sent yesterday to report to Captain Walke to assist in blockade of Red River. General Grant has been everywhere successful. We hope Vicksburg by this time has fallen. I have received about 120 tons of coal for all of us. Hope to get 100 more from the army. I have sent over an officer with a communication for you."
MGEN C C Auger signals RADM Farragut "General Banks wishes to inform you that our forces are in possession of the point opposite Port Hudson. Our troops are somewhat above and retired, but they command the point. They captured a signal officer and 6 men last night. I am a mile from the fortifications. Grover is on his way to the same. Sherman is close at hand."
RADM David D Porter, Mississippi Squadron, writes SECNAV "I have the honor to inform you that the expedition I sent up Yazoo River the day after I took possession of the forts on Snyders Bluff has returned, having met with perfect success.
As the steamers approached Yazoo City the rebel property was fired by Lieutenant Brown (of the ram Arkansas), and what he had begun our forces finished. Three powerful rams were burned.
The Mobile, a screw vessel, ready for her plating; the Republic, being fitted for a ram with railroad iron plating; and a vessel on the stocks (a monster), 310 feet long and 70 feet beam. This vessel was to have been covered with 4½-inch iron plating, was to have had 6 engines, 4 side wheels, and two propellers; she would have given us much trouble.
The rebels had under construction a fine navy yard, containing fine sawing and planing machines, an extensive machine shop, carpenter and blacksmith shops, and all the necessary appliances for a large building and repairing yard.
Lieutenant-Commander Walker burned all these, with a large quantity of valuable building lumber; he also burned a large sawmill that had been used in constructing the monster ram. The material destroyed, at a moderate estimate, cost more than $2,000,000.
We had 1 man killed and 7 wounded by fieldpieces from the enemy's batteries, going up the river, but the wounded are doing well. I enclose you Lieutenant-Commander Walkers report in relation to this affair.
He deserves much credit for the handsome manner in which he performed the duty assigned him. If he could have obtained pilots he would have succeeded in getting possession of all the rebel rams instead of having them burned."
RADM Porter,telegrams SECNAV "I have the honor to inform you that the expedition I sent up the Yazoo under command of Lieutenant-Commander Walker, after taking possession of the forts at Haynes Bluff, was perfectly succesful. Three powerful steamers, rams, were destroyed at Yazoo City, one a monster, 310 feet long, 70 feet beam, to be covered with 4- inch iron plates. A fine navy yard, with machine shops of all kinds sawmills, blacksmith shops, etc., were burned up.
The property destroyed and captured amounted to over $2,000,000. had the monster ram been finished she would have given us some trouble. One battery was destroyed at Dreyr's Bluff. Our loss on the expedition was 1 killed and 7 wounded."