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Lewis Randolph Hamersly.

The records of living officers of the U. S. navy and Marine corps: with a history of naval operations during the rebellion of 1861-5, and a list of the ships and officers participating in the great battles online

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Online LibraryLewis Randolph HamerslyThe records of living officers of the U. S. navy and Marine corps: with a history of naval operations during the rebellion of 1861-5, and a list of the ships and officers participating in the great battles → online text (page 35 of 42)
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anchored a mile and a half above Memphis. The next morning, the rebel fleet
of eight gunboats and rams, was discovered opposite the city. The flotilla came
up and engaged them. The ram fleet pressed into action under full steam, the
gunboats in the meantime keeping up a well-directed fire. Two of the rebel
gunboats blew up, and the Queen of the West, commanded by Colonel Ellett
in person, encountered the General Lovell and sunk her. A running fight
followed, carrying the vessels several miles below the city, resulting in ihe
capture or destruction of the entire rebel fleet, except the Van Dorn, which
escaped. Flag-officer Davis returned to Memphis and demanded the surrender
of the city, which was complied withj Colonel Fitch arriving at 12 o'clock
from Fort Pillow, and taking military possession.

On the 29 th of June, Flag-officer Davis left Memphis with a part of his flotilla
and six mortar boats, and on the 20th of July following joined Eear Admiral
Farragut above Vicksburg, the latter officer with a portion of his squadron
having arrived there a few days previous. The mortar vessels of each squadron
bombarded the defences of Vicksburg for some days from both above and
below.

An expedition was sent, on the 18th of July, to procure information respect-
ing the obstructions and defences of the Yazoo ; but the river was scarcely
entered when the rebel iron-clad ram Arkansas was encountered coming down,
and notwithstanding a severe conflict with the gunboats Carondelet and Tyler,
succeeded in passing through the fleets of Farragut and Davis, and took refuge
under the batteries of Vicksburg. An attempt was made to destroy the Arkan-
sas under the guns of the battery, but it did not succeed.

Late in July, Flag-officer Davis withdrew his command to the mouth of the
Yazoo river, the reduction of Vicksburg being abandoned for want of a sufficient
military force to co-operate.

In August an expedition up the Yazoo, under joint command of Flag-officer
Davis and General Curtis, was entirely successful ; a battery of heavy guns and
large quantities of munitions of war were captured.

A detachment from the squadron, under the command of Commander H. H.
Kelty, with the 46th Indiana regiment under Colonel Fitch, lefc Memphis for
White river, on June 13th, their object being to form a junction with General
Curtis.

On the morning of the 17th they arrived at the rebel fortifications near St.
Charles, Arkansas, upon which an attack was commenced by the gunboats,
whilst Colonel Fitch landed for the purpose of assaulting the rear. The enemy's
front battery was carried by the gunboats, and Colonel Fitch gallantly charged
the second battery and carried it without the loss of a single man. A shot
entered and exploded the steam-drum of the Mound City, killin"- and woundin"-
a large portion of her officers and men.

The gunboats Tyler, Lieutenant-Commanding Gwin, and Lesino-ton, Lieu-
tenant-Commanding James W. Shirk, of the Western flotilla, preceded the
march of the army southward on the line of the Tennessee river, and rendered



MISSISSIPPI SQUADEON. 299

efficient service by convoying the transports, clearing the banks of rebel bat-
teries, frustrating attempts of the insurgents to fortify, and by their partiuipation
in the battle of Shiloh.

In September, 1862, Flag-offieer Davis was relieved of the commnnJ of the
Mississippi Squadron by Acting Rear Admiral David D. Porter, who at once
began active operations against tlie enemy.

In the month of November, Captain H. Walks, of the Carhndelet, received
orders to take command of an expedition of iron-olads and wooden guuboats, and
proceed down the Mississippi river to a point as near the mouth of (he Yazoo
as he could approach, and, if possible, to enter that river. The object of the
expedition was to prevent the erection of batteries at the mouth of the Y.izoo,
and to obtain control of a portion of the river, in order to afford good lauding-
plaoes for the troops under G-eneral McClernand, who was expected to arrive in
a few weeks. On the 11th of December, Captain Walke despatched the gun-
boats Marmora and Signal up the Yazoo on a reconnoissance. Having ascended
about twenty miles they were apprised of the presence of torpedoes by the explo-
sion of one near the Signal. Captains Getty, of the Marmora, and Soutt, of the
Signal, were confident they could clear the river of all obstruotioni, if their
vessels were protected from the rebel infantry and artillery by a force of iron-
clads. Captain Walke resolved to make the attempt, and on the 12th sent the
gunboats up the Yazoo on a second expedition, accompanied by the iron-elads
Baron de Kalb, Lieutenant-Commander Walker ; Cairo, Lieutonant-Commauder
Selfridge, and Pittsburg, Lieutenant-Commanding Hoel.

The expedition returned the same evening, reporting that a large number of
torpedoes had been destroyed; but, that in spite of every precaution, the iron-clad
Cairo had been sunk by one of them, fortunately without loss of life.

A few days after the loss of the Cairo, Acting Rear Admiral Porter arrived at
the mouth of the Yazoo, and led an expedition up the river to clear the channel of
torpedoes, and also, by the movement, to draw a portion of the rebel army From
Vicksburg to the defence of the river. Great numbers of torpedoes were taken
from the channel, the boats engaged in the undertaking being to some extent
annoyed by the rebel sharp-shooters that lined the banks.

By the 26fch of the month the river was cleared of all obstructions to the place
where the Cairo was sunk, and Acting Rear Admiral Porter had obtained control
of several good landing places.

On the 27th, the expedition arrived at a bend of the river where a line of
fortifications commenced, and a large raft across the channel, covered with heavy
railroail iron, seemed to forbid farther progress. Although much annoyed by
the fire from the batteries, the boats continued their work, and the iron-clad
Benton, flag-ship, moved up to cover them. It was blowing very hard at the
time, the current being checked by the wind, and the Benton, a vessel at all
times difficult to manage, had a tendency to turn head or broadside to
the wind, in consequence of which she had to be tied to the bank. The enemy
then directed their guns upon her, almost every shot taking effect. She was
struck some thirty times, and many of her crew were killed or wounded, among
the latter, Lieutenant-Commander Gwin, mortally. This officer refused to enter
the shot-proof pilot-house, saying that " the Captain's place was on the quarter-
deck."

The other vessels handsomely supported the flag-ship. Two of the guns in the
fort were silenced, and as the enemy's fire had slackened the boats dropped down
and round the point out of fire. The object of the bombardment was merely to
cover the boats that were engaged in removing the torpedoes, as the rebel works
could only have been captured by a strong landing party.



300 MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON.

On tte 4tli of January, 1863, General McClernand having concluded to move
up the Arkansas river and attack Arkansas Post, requested the co-operation of
Acting near Admiral Porter. Three iron-clads, the liaron de Kalb, Lieutenant-
Commander Walke ; Louisville, Lieutenant-Commander Owen, and CincinQati,
Lieutenant-Commanding Bache, with a number of light-draught vessels, were
detailed to act ia couoert with the army. Acting Rear Admiral Porter, in his flag-
ship, the Black Hawk, accompanied the expedition. Afrer a battle of two days
Arkansas Post was surrendered to the combined forces of the army and navy, Colo-
nel Dunnington, the commander of the fort, yielding his sword to Acting Rear
Admiral Porter in person. Seventeen heavy guns and a large number of troops
were captured.

On the day after the fall of Arkansas Post, Acting Rear Admiral Porter dis-
patched Lieutenant-Commander Walke with a force of gunboats up White river.
On the 14th he arrived at St. Charles, and found it evacuated. On the 16th he
reached Luvall's bluff, and meeting with no resistance, landed a party and
took possession of two fine 8-inch guns and carriages, about two hundred stand
of arms and accoutrements, several platform cars, etc.

At 4.30 A. M., February 2d, the ram Queen of the West, Colonel Charles R.
Ellet commanding, ran the Vicksburg batteries, with orders from Acting Rear
Admiral Porter to capture or destroy all rebel transports that might be found on
the Mississippi, between Vicksburg and Port Hudson. In passing the Vicksburg
batteries the Queen of the West was struck twelve times, but without serious
injury. Colonel Ellet arrived at the mouth of the Red river in safety, captur-
ing and destroying several fine transports on his way down. After a recon-
noissanoe of fifteen miles up the Red river, the Queen of the West returned to
the vicinity of Vicksburg. A few days later she again steamed down the JMLssis-
sippi and entered Red river. On the 13th of February, Lieutenant-Comman-
der George Brown, of the iron-clad Indianola, ran the batteries of Vicksburg,
with orders to join the Queen of the West. A few days later. Acting Rear Admiral
Porter received intelligence of the destruction of the Queen of the West in the
Red river, and soon after information that the Indianola had been sunk in the
Mississippi. These vessels had destroyed large amounts of rebel property.

In March, Acting Rear Admiral Porter, with the iron-clads Louisville, Lieu-
tenant-Commander Owen; Cincinnati, Lieutenant-Commanding Bache; Caronde-
let, Lieutenant-Commanding Murphy ; Mound City, Lieutenant-Commanding
Wilson, and Pittsburg, A. V. Lieutenant Hoel, accompanied by four mortars
and four tugs, started up Steele's bayou, which is nothing more than a ditch,
in the hope that by cutting a way through the woods and widening the channel,
he could find an entrance into the Yazoo river, and thus get into the rear of
Vicksburg. He ascended Steele's bayou for a distance of thirty miles,
until they reached Black bayou, a stream about four miles long leading into
Deer creek. Here the crews of the vessels were put to work to clear the stream,
pulling up trees by the roots, pushing them to one side, and cutting away the
branches above. Notwithstanding these dilEculties, in twenty-four hours they
succeeded in getting through these four miles, and entered Deer creek, but
only to encounter more and greater obstacles. The expedition penetrated into
the heart of the enemy's country before they were discovered. The agent of
the so-called Confederate government, on hearing of their approach, destroyed
all the cotton along the banks of the stream.

When Acting Rear Admiral Porter arrived within a short distance of Rolling
Fork he found the channel utterly impassable. At this point the enemy had cot
lected a force of eight hundred men and seven pieces of artillery, which opened
on the vessels, but were soon repulsed.



MISSISSIPPI sQUArmoN. 301

Acting Bear Admiral Porter tad received information that the rebels were cut-
ting down trees to prevent the return of his vessels, and as the military force
whict was promised did not come to his assistance he was forced to return to the
Yazoo. The Deer creek expedition was the most novel in oonceptioQ and exe-
cution on record.

During the absence of Acting Rear Admiral Porter, Lieutenant-Commander
Watson Smith, acting under orders previously received, entered Yazoo pass, with
a detachment of gunboats, for the purpose of obtaining control of the Cold water,
Tallahatchee, Yallabusha, and Yazoo rivers, which would have opened the way
to the capture of Vicksburg, as it was by these rivers that the rebels received
most of their supplies. Owing to the inability of the army to co-operate, the
expedition was not as successful as was hoped for, although several steamers
and five thousand bales of cotton were destroyed.

While Acting Rear Admiral Porter was on the Deer creek expedition, Briga-
dier-General H. W. Ellet ordered the rams Switzerland and Lancaster to attempt
the passage of the Vicksburg batteries, with the intention of reinforcing Rear
Admiral Farragut, who had successfully run the gauntlet of the Port Hudson
batteries with the Hartford and Albatross. In obedience to the order of Briga-
dier-General Ellet, the Switzerland and Lancaster attempted to pass the batteries
at Vicksburg, but unfortunately both vessels were sunk, and many of their
officers and crew killed and wounded.

Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge seeing the difficulty of defending the mouths
of the White and Arkansas rivers, while kept so far apart by a useless neck of
land, proposed to Acting Rear Admiral Porter to cut through it. Having
obtained permission, he cut the bend and passed through with his vessel twenty-
four hours afterward, thus saving a distance of ten miles.

On the 7th of April, 1863, Acting Rear Admiral Porter informed the Navy
Department that he was preparing to pass the batteries of Vicksburg with most
of the fleet. General Grant was marching his army below, and was endeavoring to
turn Vicksburg and get to Jackson by a very practicable route. On the 16th
of April the fleet, led by Acting Rear Admiral Porter, who had hoisted his flag on
the Benton, passed the batteries. The vessels started in the following order,
fifty yards apart: Benton, Lieutenant-Commander Greer; Lafayette, Captain
Walke, with the General Price lashed on the starboard side; Louisville, Lieu-
tenant-Commander Owen; Mound City, Lieutenant Wilson; Pittsburg, A. V.
Lieutenant Hoel ; Carondelet, Acting Lieutenant Murphy; and Tuscumbia,
Lieutenant-Commander Shirk. Nine army transports were in the rear of the
above-mentioned vessels, and the Tuscumbia was placed astern of all to see that
the transports did not turn back. Two of the transports, when the firing
became heavy, attempted to run up stream, but Lieutenant-Commander Shirk
drove them back and remained behind them until the Forest Queen was dis-
abled. He then took her in tow and placed her out of reach of the enemy's
shot. Nearly all the vessels took in tow barges, containing each ten thousand
bushels of coal, and all brought them safely past the batteries.

The vessels had some narrow escapes, but were saved in most instances by the
precautions taken to protect them. They were covered with heavy logs and
bales of wet hay, which were found to be an excellent defence. The fleet
passed Vicksburg without material damage, and within a half an hour after-
ward were ready for any service.

On the 29th of April, Acting Rear Admiral Porter, accompanied by most of the
vessels that had passed the batteries a few days previously, commenced the
attack on the formidable rebel works at Grand Gulf, and, after a bombardment
of six hours, withdrew to give his men rest. At 6 o'clock, P. M., on the same



302 MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON.

day, the attack was renewed, and the transports containing a detachment of
General Grant's command passed down under cover of the fire.

Oq the 3d of May, Acting Rear Admiral Porter, with the Lafayette, Caron-
delet, Mouud City and Pittsburg, proceeded up to the forts at Grand Gulf, for
the purpose of attacking them, but found that the enemy had retreated, first
blowing up their ammunition, spiking their large guns, and burying or taking
away their lighter ones. Grand Gulf was the strongest place on tlie Missis-
sippi, with the exception of Vioksburg, and its occupation greatly facilitated the
military operations for the reduction of Vioksburg.

On the 29th of April, a detachment of vessels of the Mississippi Squadron,
consistiug of the De Kalb, Choctaw and Tyler, with several light draught ves-
sels, all under cumiuaad of Lieutenant-Commander Breeze of the Black Hawk,
made a feigued attack, in co-operation with a division of the army under Major
General Blair, upon the batteries at Haines' Bluif, to prevent the enemy from
sending reiaiorcements to Grand Gulf. The plan succeeded admirably. Lieu-
tenant-Commanders Walker of the De Kalb, and Ramsay of the Choctaw, were
commended by Lieutenant-Commander Breeze in his official report for the gal-
lant and able manner in which they fought their vessels.

At noon, on the 3d of May, Acting Rear Admiral Porter left Grand Gulf
and proceeded to the mouth of Red river. He ascended as far as Alexandria,
which he took possession of and held until the arrival of Major-General Banks.
He then returned to Grand Gulf. On the 15th, Acting Rear Admiral Porter
crossed over to Yazoo river, to be ready to co-operate with General Grant. On
the 18th, at noon, firing was heard in the rear of Vioksburg, which indicated
that General Grant was approaching the city. The cannonading was kept up
furiously for some time, and by the aid of glasses, Acting Rear Admiral Porter
discovered a company of artillery advancing, taking position and driving the
rebels before them. He immediately saw that General Sherman's division
had come in to the left of Snyder's BlufiF, and that the rebels had been cut off
from joining the forces in the city. The De Kalb, Lieutenant-Commander
Walker ; Choctaw, Lieutenant-Commander Ramsay ; Linden, Romeo, Petro and
Forest Rose, all under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Breeze,
were dispatched up the Yazoo river to open communication with Generals
Grant and Sherman. This they succeeded in doing, and in three hours, Acting
Rear Admiral Porter received letters from Generals Grant, Sherman, and
Steele, informing him of their successes, and asking that provisions be sent up,
which was at once done. In the meantime, Lieutenant-Commander Walker, in
the De Kalb, pushed on to Haines' Bluff, which he found evacuated, and took
possession of the guns, tents, and equipage of all kinds, which were found in
good order. The crews of the gunboats burned the gun-carriages, blew up
the magazines and destroyed the works generally. The rebels were a year con-
structing them, and all were rendered useless in an hour.

As soon as the capture of Haines' Bluff was reported to Acting Rear Admiral
Porter, he sent up a force of gunboats from below Vicksburg to fire at the hill
batteries, which fire was kept up for two or three hours. At midnight they
moved up to the town and opened on it for an hour, and continued at intervals
during the night to annoy the garrison. On the 19th six mortars were placed
in position with orders to fire night and day as rapidly as they could. On the
evening of the 21st, Acting Rear Admiral Porter received a communication from
General Grant, stating that he intended to attack the whole of the rebel works
at 10 A. M., the next day, and asking the Admiral to shell the batteries from
9.30 P. M., until 10.30 A. M. The six mortars were playing rapidly on the
town and works all night, and the Benton, Mound City, and Carondelet. went



MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON. 303

up and shelled the water batteries and other places where troops might bo
rested during the night. At 7 A. M. the Mound City proceeded across the
river and made an attack on the hill batteries opposite the canal. At 8 o'clock
Acting Rear Admiral Porter joined her with the Benton, Tuscumbia and
Oarondelet.

All the vessels opened on the hill batteries and finally silenced them. The
Benton, Mound City and Carondelet then pushed up to the water batteries,
leaving the Tuscumbia, which vessel was out of repair, to keep the hill batte-
ries from firing on the vessels after they had passed by. The water batteries
opened furiously, supported by a hill battery on the starboard beam of the ves-
sels. The iron-clads advanced to within two hundred and eighty yards, and
returned the fire for three hours without cessation, the enemy's fire being very
accurate and incessant. The vessels had thus been engaged with the forts an
hour longer than General Grant had asked, and had all received severe shots under
water, which could not be stopped up while in motion, and not knowing what
might have delayed the movement of the army, Acting Rear Admiral Porter
ordered the vessels to drop out of fire, which they did in a cool and l^andsome
manner. This was the hottest fire the gunboats had ever been under ; but
owing to the water batteries being more on a level with them than usual, the
vessels threw in their shells so fast that the aim of the enemy was not very
accurate. After dropping back, it was found that the enemy had taken posses-
sion again of one of the lower hill batteries and was endeavoring to remove his
guns, and had mounted a 12-pounder field piece to fire at General McArthur's
troops, which had landed a short time before. The Mound City and Carondelet
were sent to drive them off, which they did in a few minutes.

On May 27th, Acting Reir Admiral Porter, at the urgent request of Generals
Grant and Sherman, being led to believe that the enemy had removed his guns
to the land side, fitted the Cincinnati for the occasion by packing her with logs
and hay, and sent her down to shell some works which retarded the progress
of the army. At 8.30 A. M., the Cincinnati left her anchorage and stood for
the position assigned her. The enemy fired rapidly, and from all their guns, in-
cluding those which were supposed to have been removed to the land side. The
enemy fired with great accuracy, hitting the Cincinnati almost every time, the
shots passing entirely through her protection — hay, wood and iron. Finding that
his vessel would sink, Lieut. Bache ran her up stream and as near the right-
hand shore asthe damaged steering apparatus would permit. About ten minutes
before she sunk they ran close in, got out a plank and put the wounded ashore.
The boat sunk in about three fathoms water and within range of the enemy's
batteries. Her fire, until her magazine was drowned, was effective.

For his conduct in this affair Lieutenant Bache was highly commended by
Acting Rear Admiral Porter, and received a letter of thanks from the Secretary
of the Navy.

On the night of the 19th of June, Acting Rear Admiral Porter was notified
by General Grant that he intended to open a general bombardment on the city
at 4 A. M., and continue it until 10 o'clock. Commander Woodworth, of the
General Price, received orders from Admiral Porter to move up with the Benton
and Mound City, and attack at the time specified. Lieutenant-Commander
Eamsay was given charge of a 100-pounder rifle, a 10-inch and a 9-inch gun,
fitted on scows, and placed them after midnight close to the point opposite
Vicksburg, protected by the bank. At the time appointed, all the shore batteries
opened, as did the guns on the scows and the mortars. A little later the gunboats
also opened and kept up a heavy fire, advancing all the time and throwing shells
into all batteries along the hills and near the city. There was no response



304 MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON.

whatever; the batteries were all deserted. At ten o'clock the vessels and
mortars ceased firing.

On the 4th of July, 1863, Vicksburg surrendered to the United States forces.

On the 7th of June, Acting Bear Admiral Porter received information that a
rebel force of four thousand men were threatening Milliken's Bend, where a
quantity of military stores were kept, guarded by two colored regiments and
part of the 29th Iowa. Lieutenant-Commander Francis M. Ramsay, having
under his command the Choctaw and Lexington, was sent to that place to pro-
tect them.

The troops had thrown up some extra entrenchments near the levee and pre-
pared to receive the rebels. The enemy made his attack before daylight ; the
colored troops met the onset manfully, and a company of the Iowa regiment stood
at their posts until they were slaughtered to a man, killing an equal number of
rebels. The fight was desperate, and the troops, overpowered, were compelled
to retreat behind the bank near the water's edge, followed closely by the rebels.
When the gunboats opened on the enemy with shell, grape and canister, they
fled in wild confusion, not knowing the gunboats were there or expecting such
a reception. Eighty dead rebels were left on the ground, and the entrench-
ments were packed with the dead bodies of the blacks who had fallen at their
posts.

Acting Rear Admiral Porter received the following letters of congratulation
on the fall of Vicksburg from General Sherman and the Navy Department :

Headquaeters, Expeditionary Army,
Black River, July ith, 1863.

Dear Admiral : — No event of my life could have given me more personal
pride or pleasure than to have met you to-day, on the wharf at Vicksburg — a
Fourth of July, so eloquent in events as to need no words or stimulants to
elevate its importance. I can appreciate the intense satisfaction you must feel
at lying before the very monster which has defied us with such deep and



Online LibraryLewis Randolph HamerslyThe records of living officers of the U. S. navy and Marine corps: with a history of naval operations during the rebellion of 1861-5, and a list of the ships and officers participating in the great battles → online text (page 35 of 42)