previous next

Doc. 65.-capture of the Calypso.

United States steamer Florida, stationed off Wilmington, N. C., at 7 P. M., 40 miles South of Cape Fear, June 11, 1863.
This afternoon we gained permission from the flag-ship Sacramento, to go off fishing a few miles outside the blockaders that lay huddled together some four miles off Fort Caswell and the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The result of which was some fine fishing and finer catching; for, by getting well out from the land, we were enabled to spy a rebel steamer which we saw as a faint speck on the distant horizon, where she lay waiting for nightfall to screen her as she ran in. We signalled to the fleet that we saw a suspicious sail, and immediately got under way and gave chase. For the first half-hour we gained upon her fast, but then she espied us making for her, a line of black smoke streamed up into the sky and she took to her heels; but our steamer is fast, and continued to gain upon her; the first hour of the chase is nearly over now, and we can distinguish a faint line almost as delicate as a hair standing up against the southern horizon — and we know it to be the smokestack of a steamer, for above it curls a hazy column of smoke which, too, is barely distinguishable; she must be some twelve miles off, and already we have gained some two or three upon her; but now there comes up a wild thunder gust — the rain powers down in sheets almost, and soon we can only see a few ship's lengths ahead, and we hardly know whether to keep straight on, or whether to take a more easterly course, in anticipation of her turning on her track under cover of the storm, and like a hunted hare seek to elude and baffle us. Our captain knows all this coast, has surveyed, and sounded, and measured it out, till he knows it like a book; he knows, too, there is a reef to the eastward of us, and fears this steamer will try to cut across it, and thus escape us, for we draw too much water to cross it, and most of the rebel steamers are light draught enough to do so; accordingly we head so as to cut her off from that resort, if possible, and still keep as directly toward her as we can. After half an hour's anxious waiting, the storm clears up, and the man at the masthead can see her hull. We are overhauling her fast. Another half-hour brings us within eight or nine miles of her — and we are fast overhauling her, when our western sky grows fairly black — with another thunder-storm that sweeps upon us like mad. The storm throws up against our bows long rolls of waves, and beats right against us, making us lose a number of knots. The tempest did not reach the blockade-runner, and when the clouds lifted she had left us far behind, and was almost out of sight. Only a few more hours and it would be dark. The wind that helped her on put us back dreadfully, and we began to despair of catching her; but we raised all the steam we could, used a little oil and wood to brighten up, and make a quick fire. Now we have a little wind and spread all the sail we can to advantage; hauled our guns from one side of the deck to the other, to keep the vessel in the best of trim; even spread hammock covers and table cloths to catch all the wind we could get. All these things told, and the staunch, good old Florida, catching the spirit of the chase, like some high-blood horse in a race, fairly flew through the water; every minute we gained upon the flying rebel, and in one short hour we regained all we had lost, and some good long miles besides, for her masts and hull and smoke-stack all show quite plainly; she is within six miles of us, and though she knows a stern chase is a long one, yet she sees it is useless for her to try to keep us at it longer, and as a last resource heads in for shore. We make for a point across her bows, and the race from that time on is one steady and rapid gain upon her, and the captain said she would hardly get on too shoal water for us to follow, ere we overhauled her. At seven P. M., we were within three or four miles of her, and Captain Bankhead orders the fifty-pound rifle to be fired to bring her to. It was done, but she paid no attention to it — he orders a solid shot to be fired across her bows. It was fired, and struck the water about a hundred yards ahead of her. Still she don't seem to heave to, and another shot is fired, which struck the water within twenty yards of her, so we have since been told. This brought her to, and she showed the white flag. A few minutes later brought us near enough to see her boats filled and shoving off from her, and a sickening fear came over us that they had scuttled her, or touched a slow match to her and we should lose her after all, and have nothing but her crew to take back. Captain B. threatened, as soon as she got within hail, to blow her out of the water, if they made a single further attempt to scuttle her, or blow her up, or even throw her cargo overboard. Thus warned, the few that seemed to be left on board to do that work hesitated. Meanwhile, our boat, with officers and men, pushed off to the steamer, when lo and behold! we saw some half-dozen women in one boat, being pulled toward us. They were a good deal frightened, but a few words from us, and our manners, convinced them they would be treated with the gentlemanly, chivalric courtesy that the American officer and sailor and patriot knows how to do better than any other class of men on the face of the globe. The men on the rebel steamer had indeed begun to scuttle her, [295] but dared not run the risk of blowing her up after what the Captain had threatened, for they knew they would not deserve to be picked up by us, after our warning. Our First Lieutenant, engineer, carpenter, and a picked crew boarded her at once, found four feet of water in her, plugged the holes and leaks, put the pump in action, and the water in her hold lowered, and hopes were entertained that she might float and be saved.

The vessel is the iron steamer Calypso, of about six hundred or seven hundred tons. The steamer will probably bring sixty thousand dollars, and her cargo has been variously estimated at from forty thousand dollars to sixty thousand dollars. She has not yet, (while I write this,) however, been fully examined, and her cargo may be found to be worth more. Rum, molasses and medicines is what I have heard reported as being the principal part of what they have found so far. To-morrow (if the mail don't go before I have a chance) I will give more particulars about the matter. The Captain has just sent out to know if she is sinking, for our men on board of her are halloaing out to us, and we fear we shall lose her after all. Lieutenant Green answers back, but whether he says she'll sink or swim, I can't make out. Will hear by morning.

P. S.--Later--June 12.--Our prize steamer looms up splendidly this morning, all right; and we have learned from the prisoners and list of cargo that she is even more valuable than was at first estimated. The English, I am told, sold the vessel alone (which is quite new) to her owners for forty-five thousand pounds--about two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in American currency; and her cargo they say is worth one hundred thousand dollars-she is estimated by some of them to be worth at least two hundred thousand dollars.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Cape Fear (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Wilmington, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)
United States (United States) (1)
Fort Caswell (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Florida (Florida, United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
O. D. Green (1)
Doc (1)
Bankhead (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 11th, 1863 AD (1)
June 12th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: