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[355] morning, the flag-officer, Capt. Phelps, Col. Buford, Secretary Scott, and other officers, held a conference upon the flag-ship, at which it was decided to make a night reconnoissance of the upper battery, the details of which were left to Col. Buford. He selected Col. Roberts and forty picked men of his regiment to be the chosen few. Each gunboat furnished a yawl, manned by six of their hardiest seamen. At two o'clock, in the thickest of the storm, the little party embarked. The flag-officer and his subordinates, with Col. Buford, stood upon the deck of the Benton, giving the final orders. The yawls set out on their perilous journey, and they retired anxiously to await the result.

Col. Roberts had previously made several very close reconnoissances at night by pulling through the overflowed brush, and had ascertained the locality of the battery.

The boats were manned as follows:

St. Louis cutter, John V. Johnson, commander.

Cincinnati cutter, John Pierce, commander.

Benton cutter, Geo. P. Lord, commander.

Mound City cutter,----Scoville, commander.

Pittsburgh cutter,----, commander.

Each of the cutters also carried a coxswain, and was manned by ten men. The boats were all in charge of First Master Johnson, of the St. Louis. The soldiers were picked men of company A, each man armed with a five-shooter Colt rifle.

The following was the plan laid out: The boats were to approach the battery in line, pulling slowly till at the point of the bar, after which, when five hundred yards, the St. Louis, Benton, and Pittsburgh, should run abreast, the Cincinnati and Mound City in the rear as reserves; and this plan was carried out to the very letter.

With muffled oars, and under cover of the friendly darkness, the boats advanced cautiously along the edge of the bank. Owing to the furious violence of the storm, and the darkness, they passed the bend unperceived, until they were within a few rods of the battery. For one instant, a blinding flash of lightning glared across the water, revealing to the rebel sentinels dark objects approaching them. The next instant the impenetrable darkness closed in. The sentinels fired wildly three or four times, the shots passing over the boats without doing any damage, and then incontinently fled to their tents, which were pitched upon a high ridge some distance back from the battery, evidently impressed with the alarming idea that the whole Lincoln fleet was upon them, and that immediate annihilation stared them in the face. Our boats made no reply. Not a word was spoken. In two or three minutes they touched the slope of the earthworks. The boys swung over the parapet, sledges and files were busy, and a few vigorous strokes told the tale. In less than three minutes time all the guns in the battery were spiked completely and thoroughly. They were six in number, all of large calibre--two sixty-fours, three eighties, and one of them a spendid nine-inch pivot-gun with cushion-lock, which received the personal attention of Col. Roberts' brawny arm. It was undoubtedly the Lady Davis. In an inconceivably short time, the boats were on their way back, ploughing a path through the surging waves at the imminent risk of submersion, as the current was washing against them with fearful velocity. All arrived safely, however, at the gunboats, exultant over the glorious accomplishment of their important and dangerous mission.

The extreme darkness prevented learning the plan of defence. It was found, however, that the embankments were very high, affording good protection. There were no casemates, however, nor any protection against shell.


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