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Doc. 116.-the trip of the Carondelet.

St. Louis Democrat account.

on board the gunboat Carondelet, off New-Madrid, April 5.
on the thirtieth of March Com. Foote addressed to Capt. Henry Walke, commanding the gunboat Carondelet, the following order:

U. S. Flag-steamer Benton, Off Island No.10, March 30, 1862.
sir: You will avail yourself of the first fog or rainy night, and drift your steamer down past the batteries on the Tennessee shore and Island No.10, until you reach New-Madrid. I assign you this service, as it is vitally important to the capture of this place that a gunboat should be at New-Madrid, for the purpose of covering Gen. Pope's army while he crosses that point to the opposite or Tennessee side of the river, that he may move his army up to Island No.10, and attack the rebels in rear while we attack them in front. Should you succeed in reaching Gen. Pope, you will confer with him and adopt his suggestions so far as your superior knowledge of what your boat will perform will enable you to do, for the purpose of protecting his force while crossing the river. You will also, if you have coal, and the current of the river will permit, steam up the river when the army moves, for the purpose of attacking their fortifications. Still, you will act cautiously here, as your own will be the only boat below. You will capture or destroy the rebel steamer Grampus and the transports, if possible, between this place and Island No.10, at such time as will not embarrass you in placing yourself in communication with Gen. Pope at the earliest possible time after leaving this place. On this delicate and somewhat hazardous service I assign you. I must enjoin on you the importance of keeping your light secreted in the hold or put out; keeping your officers and men from speaking at all when passing the forts above a whisper, and then only on duty, and of using every other precaution to prevent the rebels suspecting that you are dropping below their batteries. If you successfully perform this duty assigned you, which you so willingly undertake, it will reflect the highest credit upon you and all belonging to your vessel; and I doubt not but the Government will fully appreciate and reward you for a service which, I trust, will enable the army to cross the river and make a successful attack in the rear while we storm the [427] batteries in front of this stronghold of the rebels. Commending you and all who compose your command to the care and protection of God, who rules the world and commands all things, I am, very respectfully,

A. H. Foote, Flag-Officer. Commander H. Walke, Commanding Carondelet.
P. S.--Should you meet with disaster, you will, as a last resort, destroy the steam machinery and, if possible, escape, set fire to your gunboat or sink her, and prevent her falling into the hands of the rebels.

A. H. F.

Last night was appointed by Capt. Walke for the performance of the above order. Yesterday morning preparations began on the Carondelet. Planks from the wreck of an old barge were brought aboard, with which the deck of the boat was covered to resist plunging shot; all surplus chains were coiled over the most vulnerable parts of the boat; an eleven-inch hawser was wound around the pilot-house as high up as the windows, the hammock-nettings were well packed with hammocks; gun-carriages were taken apart and cord-wood was brought up from the hold for the purpose of constructing barriers about the boilers, and many other minor preparations were made during the day to fit the vessel, so far as possible, for the ordeal through which she was to pass.

The condition of the weather was anxiously looked forward to, and every perceptible change in the atmosphere or wind observed, and the consequences carefully calculated, as they were to bear upon the success or defeat of the enterprise. Late in the day there was every prospect of a clear, moonlight night, something very undesirable, as may be inferred from the foregoing order, and that which would have given the enemy timely notice of our approach, and enable him to serve his guns with as much accuracy as in daylight. Under these circumstances, it was concluded to wait until the moon had gone down, and then, be the auspices what they might, attempt the execution of a project, the abandonment of which would have been a great disappointment after the preliminaries had attained such a degree of maturity.

At sundown, the indications grew more favorable; the atmosphere became suddenly hazy, the wind veered to the north-west, and a set of black clouds, rapidly increasing in width, bordering the horizon from north to west, strongly evidenced an approaching storm.

The way the batteries were to be passed was as follows: Com. Foote's injunctions concerning quietness and suppression of all lights aboard to run were to be strictly observed, the guns were run back, ports closed, the sailors armed cap-a-pie with pistols, cutlasses, boarding-pikes, and muskets. Hand-grenades had been provided and the hot-water hose were connected with the boilers, and held in readiness to drench with scalding water those who might attempt to board the boat and overcome the crew. The engineer had orders to cut the cold water supply and the injector-pipes, and sink the boat if it became liable to fall into the enemy's hands. This, in case of necessity, would have been resorted to instead of burning the vessel, for it would not only have given to those aboard better means of escape, but averted the terrible loss of life that inevitably would have resulted from the firing of the boat and the explosion of her magazines.

At dusk twenty sharpshooters, company H, Forty--second Illinois, commanded by Captain Hollensteine, dropped down in cutters from the transports, came aboard of the Carondelet, were mustered on deck, inspected, received their orders — which were to cooperate with the crew in repelling boarders — and then taken to the gun-deck, there to remain until called upon, observing the strictest silence in the mean time.

At eight o'clock the boat left her anchorage, and passed up the shore for a mile, where, partly concealed between some of our transports, was a barge containing coal and baled hay. This was immediately made fast to the port side — it being the part to be chiefly exposed to the enemy's batteries. The hay had been placed in layers upon the wrong side of the barge — the outer one--and the crew was soon employed shifting it where it would afford greater protection, and at the same time enable the gunboat to control it much easier. One course of bales was laid over the casemates astern, as they were to be presented to the enemy for a long time after passing the batteries, and liable to receive all the shots sent after us, without being iron-plated or able to resist heavy cannon-balls. The barge and the hay came up to the top of the broadside port-holes, and would have been of much service, had the batteries to be passed been on a parallel with the gunboat, but such was not the case here, for both on the mainland and head of the Island they stand upon a bank twenty or thirty feet high, and in firing into a passing boat it becomes necessary, as was subsequently demonstrated, for them to depress their guns, in which event the barge alongside was an imperfect shield.

William R. Hoel, First Master of the Cincinnati, a gentleman of twenty-one years experience on the Mississippi, and whom, we may parenthetically state, is now making his one hundred and ninety-fourth trip to New-Orleans, came aboard of the Carondelet at nine A. M., and relieved Richard M. Wade, the first master of the boat. A consultation was immediately held with the pilots, in which the course of the channel and the location of bars were taken into consideration. It had been previously determined down on the Missouri side of the island; and to add to the practicability of this, last Thursday afternoon the fleet shelled the rebel floating battery, for the purpose of driving it from the command it held over that channel.

At ten o'clock the moon had gone down; the storm which had been thickening and gathering for several hours now about to burst upon us, and greatly encouraged by so opportune a period [428] for starting, the captain passed the word, “All ready!” and sailors were sent ashore to loosen the lines,. In a few minutes we were under way, and after a little difficulty in rounding with the cumbersome barges, fairly stood out for New-Madrid.

The machinery was so adjusted as to permit the escape of the steam through the wheel-house, and thus avoid the puffing which results from its passage through the pipes. So silently did we proceed, that it was scarcely known aboard that the boat was under way, and we thought some of the officers were almost unbelievers, when they asked the engineer, through the speaking-pipes, if he was “going ahead on her.”

For the first half-mile everything went still and smooth beyond even the most sanguine anticipation, and the probability of getting by the batteries unobserved was being remarked by some, when the soot in the chimneys caught fire, and a blaze five feet high leaped out from their tops, lighting brightly the upper deck of the vessel and everything around. The word was hastily passed to the engineer to open the flue-caps, after which the flames subsided, but not until the rebels had the fairest opportunity to discover our approach and prepare a reception. This was a serious mishap, because no signal, even by appointment, could so perfectly reveal our intentions, and what contributed to the misfortune, was the time of its happening, was before any of their batteries had been passed, giving them ample time to communicate from one point to another before we came within range. Notwithstanding all this, as strange as it may seem, no alarm among the rebels was discovered to follow, and we were consoling ourselves over the remissness of rebel sentries, when to our great astonishment the chimneys were again fired, and our design lighted up, as if a treacherous deity were presiding over the fortunes of our boat.

This repetition of what had seemed before an untoward event, was on deck thought to proceed from the mismanagement of the engineer, and it was with no little emphasis that the executive officer demanded: “Why in h — l the flue-caps were not kept open?” A subsequent examination proved, however, that it was a matter over which the engineer had no control, further than to suppress the fire when it occurred. The escape through the wheel-house of the steam, which, when passing through the smoke-stacks, moistened the soot, and left it to be rapidly dried and ignited by the fire in the furnaces.

The boat now presented a broadside to the upper fort, and the sentries there had not failed to discover the boat by this last accident, and alarmed the guards of the fort below by discharging their muskets. Immediately afterward five rockets were sent up from the mainland and the island, and were followed by a cannon-shot from Fort No. 2. The stillness at the upper fort satisfied all those aboard that its guns had been most effectually disabled by the spiking party. Had it not been so, the rebels would have first opened upon us with cannon from that point, since it was the first alarmed, and afforded an easy range.

But one course remained to be pursued by the officers of the Carondelet. That was to let on a full head of steam, and make the greatest possible haste by the rebel batteries, which were now momentarily expected to open fire from all of their guns. To this end orders were hurriedly passed below to the engineer, and the speed of the boat was soon much accelerated. Mr. Wilson, one of the boatswain's mates, was stationed on the forecastle with lead and line, to give the soundings. Mr. Gilmers, one of the master's mates, was placed forward on the upper deck to repeat them to Capt. Hoel, who also stood upon deck to direct the pilots how to steer the boat.

Just at this juncture, while vivid flashes of lightning lit up the hurried preparations of the rebels, as they charged and trained their guns; while peal after peal of thunder reverberated along the river, and the rain poured down in torrents, came on the crisis. Now was the time for coolness and heroism. Capt. Walke was in the pilot-house deliberately giving orders. Capt. Hoel stood firmly on deck, in a perfect shower of cannon and musket-balls which were now launched upon us, and as he discovered the out-lines of the banks, or the course of the channel by the aid of the flashing lightning, his clear voice rang out his commands to the pilots who steadily held the wheel. But once, we believe, during the perilous passage, did the watchful eyes of the Captain suffer the boat to gain a precarious position, and then it was when a lengthy intermission between the flashes of lightning completely obscured our course, and the current striking the cumbersome barge, sheered the vessel, and carried it toward a neighboring bar. The first glare of light, however, disclosed our situation, and the current, and rapid commands, “Hard-a-port, Hard-a-port,” admonished us of danger. The boat nevertheless soon regained the channel, and our fears were dispelled by remarks on deck that all was “going well,” and the anxiously awaited reports as they came from the forecastle: “No bottom.”

Just at this time the Benton, Pittsburgh, and several mortars, opened upon the rebels, who were so industriously storming the Carondelet, and it gave us great satisfaction to know that our friends were returning a fire which we could not.

When we got well out of range of the enemy's main land batteries, past the first shock which greeted us from the head of the Island, and were, gliding down the north bank, the exultation began, and the most disparaging comments were made upon the enemy's wild firing.

This, though, we think was accurate, when the circumstances under which it was made are taken into consideration; and we doubt whether our own gunners could have excelled it during such a furious hurricane as was then raging, and [429] with an impenetrable darkness precluding a knowledge of our position, which every turn of the wheel changed.

Our boat was not very fleet, and the barge in tow impeded a speed which might otherwise have been made with the current in our favor. The consequence was an exposure for thirty minutes to an uninterrupted fire from four batteries on the Kentucky shore, and one at the head of the Island.

The judgment which we were enabled to form from the shrieking of their shot, was that they flew from five to thirty yards over our heads. A few were heard to plunge in the water. One cause of their wild shooting was in over-estimating the distance of our boat. It was close along the bank under their guns, and had this been fully understood the rebels would have found it difficult to depress their guns to such a degree as to bear upon us without having them dismounted by an angular recoil.

After passing the foot of the Island without finding the battery there which, for several days, had been reported as mounting a number of long-range guns, a feeling of security came over our officers, and they would have been glad to make it known to the crew, and afford them relief from a long and patient suspense, but all was not over yet.

A reconnoissance made on the preceding day discovered the locality of the floating battery, three miles below the island, on the Tennessee shore, and this remained to be passed. A light was seen burning on it as we approached, and being in no wise prepared to engage it — though a feeling of this kind was exhibited, after having thus far successfully accomplished the mission — the Carondelet bore over to the Missouri shore and ran by, being fired at only six or eight times from the battery. It was said that our shooting last Thursday, when it was lying along-side the island, cut its fastenings, when it floated down to the place we found it in last night, and where it was overhauled and made fast by a rebel transport.

It evidently evinced a disinclination to fight last night, by not firing at our boat while approaching, and reserving its fire until we had passed by out of range, and even then the shooting was exceedingly stinted, as if through fear of provoking our return.

Being out of all danger from the enemy, the fact was made known to the sailors, who were relieved from a rigid silence, and permitted to join in the jubilant congratulations that passed around the boat.

A little danger, however, was still to be encountered — that of approaching our own batteries at New-Madrid, and making known the colors under which we sailed, before being mistaken and fired upon as rebels. Signal-guns, according to prearrangement, were to be fired in case of success, as the boat rounded New-Madrid Bend; but the incessant thunder rendered it highly probable that our guns might be mistaken for it, and a little delay was occasioned to avoid this error. Our friends at the fleet, it was known, were anxiously awaiting to hear the result of the hazardous enterprise, and it was feared that every moment's delay would contribute to dishearten and lead them to suspect disaster.

Orders were given to get the guns in readiness, and fire three times at intervals of one minute, and after a lapse of five minutes to fire three more guns. This was accordingly done, and the fact of the echo having borne the glad tidings back to the fleet, was made certain by a response from the flag-ship.

At the fort above New-Madrid the signal was also understood, though a misapprehension had induced them to look for three perpendicular lights — red, white and blue, with a blue centre. The non-appearance of those, however, was not thought a sufficient cause for shooting at the boat, and in a few minutes she was in the stream off New-Madrid, where Capt. Walke informed those ashore, with a speaking-trumpet, that she was the United States gunboat Carondelet. A fire was soon kindled on the banks, and the best landing-place made known by the men at the fort.

In rounding to, a misunderstanding occurred between the pilot and the engineer, by which a “stray turn ahead,” when it should have been a “turn back,” was made, resulting in getting the boat hard aground fifty yards out in the stream.

The cannon forward were all shifted to the stern; the crew withdrew also, and with the bow thus lightened, the boat backed off, and was made secure to the bank at one o'clock A. M., having been two hours in the passage, and one hour aground.

Purser Nixson, desiring to add to the joy of the gallant tars of the Carondelet, asked and obtained permission of the Captain to let them “splice the main brace.” This, though partially forbidden by regulations, was on this occasion accorded, because of the unrestricted enjoyment which should be allowed to follow all such happy issues, and when the boatswain's mate sounded, “Grog, oh!” there never was a ship's crew merrier than the one aboard the Carondelet.

Early this morning, Col. Bissell came aboard the boat, and suggested that she be run into a slough close by, and secreted from the sight of the enemy, thinking that thereby she might hereafter operate with greater effect, and derive some advantages by surprising the enemy. This suggestion was made, however, at the instance of Gen. Pope, who at the time was under the impression that the boats had passed the rebel batteries unobserved. When he was better informed, the proposed movement was abandoned.

At eight o'clock this morning, Assistant Secretary of War, Scott, and Gen. Pope came aboard to congratulate Capt. Walke.

The boats arrival has been heralded all over the camps hereabouts, and army officers have been flocking aboard all day expressing their gratification [430] at her presence and promise of future cooperation.

The following names are those of the officers of the Carondolet, all of whom deserve great praise for the manner in which they conducted themselves last night under the trying circumstances attending the daring exploit of that boat:

Henry Walke, U. S.N.

R. M. Wade, First Master.1

Richard H. Cutter, Second Master.

Edward C. Brenard, Third Master.

O. Donelson, Fourth Master.

Daniel Weaver, John Deming, Pilots.

Joseph S. McNeely, Surgeon.

Geo. J. W. Nixson, Paymaster.

W. H. Faulkner, Chief-Engineer.

Chas. H. Caven, First Assistant.

Samuel Brooks, Second Assistant.

A. T. Crowel, Third Assistant.

Francis Buford, Gunner.

T. S. Gillmore, Master's Mate.

J. S. Gilpson, Master's Mate.

Oliver Donelson, Carpenter.

R. J. Van Ness, Paymaster's Clerk.


the letter of thanks.

The following letter of thanks was issued from the Navy Department, addressed to Flag-Officer Foote:

Navy Department, April 12, 1862.
Sir: The Department desires to convey to the commander, Henry Walke, and the officers and men of the Carondelet, also to Acting First Master Hoel, of the Cincinnati, who volunteered for the occasion, its thanks for the gallant and successful service rendered in running the Carondelet past the rebel batteries on the night of the fourth inst. It was a daring and heroic act, well executed, and deserving of special recognition. Commendation is also to be extended to the officers and crew of the Pittsburgh, who, in like manner, on the night of the seventh inst., performed a similar service.

These fearless acts dismayed the enemy, enabled the army under General Pope to cross the Mississippi, and eventuated in the surrender to yourself of Island No.10, and finally to the capture by Gen. Pope of the fort on the Tennessee shore and the retreating rebels under Gen. Makall. I would also in this connection tender the acknowledgments which are justly due the officers and crews of the several boats, who, in conjunction with a detachment of the Forty-second Illinois regiment under Col. Roberts, captured the first rebel battery and spiked the guns on Island No.10, on the night of the first inst. Such services are duly appreciated by the Department, which extends to all who participated in the achievement.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

1 Relieved by Wm. R. Hoel, First Master of U. S. gunboat Cincinnati

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