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[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


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