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[277]

Doc. 132. expedition to Corrotowan Creek.


Official report of Commander Parker.

U. S. Steamer Cambridge, Rappahannock River, Nov. 9, 1861.
sir: I have the honor to report that on the 6th instant I ordered a detachment of thirty men from this vessel, under the command of Lieutenant Gwin, assisted by Acting Masters Eldridge and Strong, and Midshipman Cushing, to proceed in the United States steamer Rescue to the Corrotowan Creek and capture a schooner reported to me to be loaded with firewood; and, in the event of not succeeding in this, to burn her.

The schooner was found to be hard and fast ashore, and, as it was impossible to move her, she was burned in obedience to my orders to this effect, together with a large quantity of firewood piled upon shore. No resistance was met with till the Rescue began to return, when a body of rebel troops, armed with rifles, on both sides of the creek — supposed to be about one hundred and thirty in number — with a rifled cannon in a masked battery, attacked her, but without effecting much damage to our party. The rebels were concealed by thick underbrush and a house from which they fired.

Acting Master Strong was struck with a spent rifle ball, but not seriously hurt, and no other person was wounded.

The expedition was perfectly successful, and the duty performed in a spirited and brilliant manner.

The detachment returned to this vessel about five P. M., having been absent on this duty a little more than four hours.

I herewith forward Lieutenant Gwin's report of the affair:

I have also to report that, having been informed by a contraband that there were three companies of rebel troops encamped at the town of Urbana, near a large magazine of powder, I proceeded on the 8th instant to that place, and endeavored to dislodge them and blow up the magazine with our battery, assisted by the Rescue. After bombarding the encampment for an hour and a half, the magazine was perforated several times with our shot and shell, but we were unable to destroy it, the depth of water not allowing us to approach the enemy nearer than one mile and a half. The rebels did not reply, except by musketry, when a boat from the Rescue attempted to approach the shore. There were no casualties in this action on our side.

Since our arrival in this river, this vessel has been actively engaged in maintaining the blockade.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


A correspondent on board the steamer Cambridge, gives the following account of the expedition:

U. S. steamer Cambridge, Blockading Rappahannock River, Nov. 6.
Having learned from the negroes that came on board this morning, that a large schooner was anchored about ten miles up the Corrotowan Creek, we immediately made arrangements to cut her out. At half-past 11 A. M., an expedition under command of Lieutenant William Gwin, assisted by Acting Masters R. D. Eldridge and F. W. Strong, and Midshipman W. B. Cushing, with thirty men, left the ship in the tugboat Rescue, Captain Haines, which is acting as a tender for us, and proceeded up the river. The Rescue carries a thirty-two-pound gun, and the whole force were armed with Sharpe's rifles. Mr. W. H. Seward, our pilot, accompanied the expedition, and to his skill and coolness much of our success was due.

We met with no opposition on our upward passage, though pickets were seen hastily retiring from several points on the river as we approached. Upon reaching the object of our search, we found her to be the Ada, of Baltimore, a new schooner of about one hundred and twenty tons' burden, and said to be the property of a well-known secessionist residing in the vicinity. She was loaded with wood and ready for sea — sails bent, &c. Her crew had evidently just left her upon our approach.

As the tide had left her hard and fast aground, we were obliged to abandon our original intention of taking her out, although we towed upon her until we parted all our hawsers. We accordingly made preparations to burn her, and after stripping her of sails and rigging, fired her fore and aft; also set fire to a large quantity of wood upon the shore, which, with the schooner, was soon enveloped in a sheet of flame. After remaining long enough to be certain of the success of our undertaking, we started down the river again.

But in the mean time our rebel friends had not been idle, and had prepared a warm reception for us. On reaching a high, wooden bluff on the western bank, about three miles from the entrance, and in a narrow part of the river, the smoke from a rifled gun flashed out from among the trees, and a shell came whizzing at us, passing through a boat on the house, and exploding, but fortunately injuring no one. At the same time a sharp fire of musketry opened on us from both sides of the river, showing the presence of a considerable force. We instantly replied with shell at the battery, and rifles at every cover, for we could not see a man of our assailants. We ran this gauntlet for half a mile, and had just cleared the range of the large gun, when firing commenced from a house on the right. We gave them a shell, which entered the second story and exploded, nearly ruining the building, and poured in a volley from our rifles, which soon stopped all hostile intentions [278] on the part of the enemy. After leaving this place, we met with no further annoyance, though we raked every suspicious point with canister as we approached.

I am happy to state that no injury was received by our men. The enemy's gun (a rifled twelve-pounder) was well served, and the Rescue was grazed three times by their shell, but without receiving any damage of consequence. Acting Master Strong was struck by a spent rifle ball, causing merely a slight bruise.

The men of both vessels acted with coolness and gallantry, paying more attention to their own shots than those of the enemy. We have since learned from contrabands that there was a force of eighty riflemen with the gun on the western bank, and a company of fifty cavalry on the eastern. We accomplished our object safely and successfully, and are wishing for further opportunities of annoying the secessionists.

We have been on the river ten days, and have picked up seventy-three runaway negroes. They report that the inhabitants are much incensed against us, and are about preparing batteries, at different points, to endeavor to drive us out of the river, though we have seen none of them as yet.

Nov. 8.--This morning we threw a number of shells upon Gray's Point, where we had reason to think the rebels are erecting a battery, and this afternoon have thrown about seventy-five shells into the village of Urbana. A contraband who came from there this morning, reports that the town is deserted, except by a garrison of two hundred and forty troops, and that they have a large quantity of ammunition stored there. We do not know, as yet, the full effect of our cannonade, though several buildings in the vicinity of the magazine are known to have been struck.

Yours, truly,


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