Doc. 89. the attack on the Seminole.
U. S. Steam sloop Seminole, off Fortress Monroe, Oct. 16, 1861.We arrived here this morning at seven o'clock, having left Washington yesterday morning. Nothing very remarkable occurred on the way down to Quantico Creek. At that point the steamer Pocahontas, which was some miles ahead of us, threw three or four shells into the bushes at Evansport, or Shipping Point, Va. The fire was not returned, and she proceeded on her way. As we neared the Point. at half-past 10 A. M., our decks were cleared for action, all hands at quarters, hatches closed, and every thing ready. At forty-five minutes past ten they opened on us, with rifled shot and shell, from three batteries--two on the bank and one about four hundred yards inland, at Evansport. These shot fell twenty rods short. The Seminole returned  the fire briskly, and with effect, from her pivot gun and two medium thirty-two-pounders. We kept on our course, returning their fire during thirty-five minutes, and receiving theirs during forty-five. We were a fine target for them — a slow steamer clear against the horizon, while they were hid in earth and bushes. We ceased firing at twenty-five minutes past eleven A. M., after which they sent several ricocheting shots — and all hand — some ones — at our water line, which luckily fell short. We expended twenty-three shells, several — particularly those planted by Captain Gillis in person — with good effect. They sent us at least thirty rifled balls and shells, all splendidly aimed, their guns being evidently well manned. Some of their shot and shell went over us, about eight or nine feet clear of the deck, and only a few feet above my head. These fell or burst from twenty to forty rods beyond, on our port side. Some burst just outside, before reaching us, and some just over our heads. Fragments of shells flew about the deck, and splinters in thousands. We were struck eleven times. One ball cut away the main stays, scattering bits of iron chain down on the deck. One shot through and shivered the mizzen mast. Several banged clear through the ship, in at one side and out at the other. One rifled ball came through in that way, struck and carried away the brass handrail guard around the engine hatch, and went out through the opposite side of the ship. This ball went within five feet of me, and sent a piece of brass, bent double like a boomerang, whizzing over my head. How the balls do hiss, and the shells sing aloud; a perfectly distinct, fascinating, locust-like song, but growing louder and faster as they come nearer, plunging, hissing, and bursting through the air! I was never under fire before, but I never was cooler in my life. I stood by my capstan and took my notes of the time and the effect of the balls both ways, jumping out of our own smoke to see where the balls lodged, &c., all just as a matter of course. But I thought of it afterward, and it was no joke. The fight was a severe one, and without knowing what the other side suffered, I do know that the Seminole suffered severely. So soon as we get rid of some expedition now on hand, we shall probably run in North somewhere for repairs. The officers and men behaved well. Had Captain Gillis stopped we should have been blown out of the water. Every one says that guns were never better handled than were those of the enemy yesterday. Every shot came true. The only wonder is that no lives were lost. A number were scratched by splinters. I was hit by them half a dozen times. * * * * * We expected a lively time passing Matthias Point; but either they have no battery there, or they allowed us to go by it unmolested. We were abreast of the Point at twenty-five minutes past two, having been called to quarters from dinner to prepare for an emergency. At this point the channel carries vessels of our draught within less than half a mile of the bluff shore. A good battery, well-manned, could command the river, and could have sunk us yesterday. After piping down, we were a second time called to action from dinner, and threw three shells at the Point, but without any return. So we were three times cleared for action during the day.