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Doc. 153.-destruction of the Alexander Cooper.


Report of Lieutenant Cushing.

United States steamer Shockokon, off Wilmington, N. C., August 26, 1863.
sir: I have the honor to report that we have destroyed the blockade-running schooner Alexander Cooper, under the following circumstances: On the twelfth I made a reconnissance with boats in New-Topsail Inlet, and was driven out by four pieces of artillery stationed opposite the mouth, but not before I had discovered a schooner at a wharf some six miles up the sound. This schooner I determined to destroy, and as it was so well guarded, I concluded to use strategy.

On the evening of the twenty-second the Shockokon anchored close into the sea-beach, about five miles from the inlet, and I sent ashore two boats' crews, who shouldered the dingui, and carried it across the neck of land that divides the sea from the sound. This was about half a mile in width, and covered with a dense thicket. The crossing placed my men some miles in rear of the artillery force guarding the entrance.

The dingui being launched on the inside waters, six men under my Executive Officer, Acting Ensign Joseph S. Cony, started with orders to destroy or capture any thing that could be of use to the enemy.

Now, it seems that a twelve-pounder howitzer was stationed at the point for which we were aiming, and the smoke-stack of my steamer having been seen over the trees, the commandant of the post, Captain Adams, had come down from the main camp to insure a bright lookout.

While the rebels at the schooner's mast-heads were straining their eyes looking to the south, my boat was approaching in the other direction, and the men succeeded in landing about sixty yards from the wharf without being discovered. The Master-at-Arms, Robert Clifford, crept into the rebel camp and counted the men, and having returned to his shipmates, a charge was ordered, and our seven men bore down on them with a shout.

In a moment the enemy (who outnumbered us three to one) were routed, leaving in Mr. Cony's possession ten prisoners, including Captain Adams and Lieutenant Leatham, one twelvepounder army howitzer, eighteen horses, one schooner, and some extensive salt-works.

Mr. Cony then threw out two pickets, detached two men to guard the prisoners, and with the remaining two fired the vessel and salt-works. These were thoroughly consumed.

The object of the expedition being accomplished, my men returned to the vessel without loss, bringing with them three of the prisoners — all that the boat would contain. The rebel officers and privates dress alike, and Mr. Cony was at a loss to know what three to retain. He settled the matter, however, by picking out the three best. looking ones, who all turned out to be privates. [485] So the officers owed their safety to their lack of physique — a new feature in military strategy.

While this was going on at the mainland, my pickets on the beach side, under Acting Master's Mate Proudfit, engaged and repulsed the rebel picket force in that quarter without loss on our side . . . . . .

This schooner cleared from New-York for Port Royal, S. C., with an assorted cargo, and was towed once outside the line of the blockade by a gunboat.

I shall try to learn the names of the patriotic citizens of my State who entered into this little speculation.

W. B. Cushing, Lieutenant Commanding. To Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee, Commanding N. A. B. Squadron.

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Joseph S. Cony (4)
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Robert Clifford (1)
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