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[511] Oneida, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo, Wissahickon; Flag-Officer Farragut leading the following, (second line:) Hartford, Brooklyn, Richmond; and Commander Bell leading the third division, composed of the following vessels: Scioto, Iroquois, Pinola, Winona, Itasca, and Kennebec.

The steamers belonging to the mortar flotilla, one of them towing the Portsmouth, were to enfilade the water-battery commanding the approaches. Mortar-steamers Harriet Lane, Westfield, Owasco, Clifton, and Marine--the Jackson towing the Portsmouth.

The vessels were rather late in getting under way and into line, and did not get fairly started until half-past 3 A. M., and the unusual bustle apprised the garrison that something was going on.

In an hour and ten minutes after the vessels had weighed anchor they had passed the forts under a most terrific fire, which they returned with interest.

The mortar-fleet rained down shells on Fort Jackson, to try and keep the men from the guns, whilst the steamers of the mortar-fleet poured in shrapnel upon the water-battery commanding the approach, at a short distance, keeping them comparatively quiet.

When the last vessel of ours could be seen among the fire and smoke to pass the battery, signal was made to the mortars to cease firing, and the flotilla steamers were directed to retire from a contest that would soon become unequal.

It was now daylight, and the fleet having passed along, the forts began to pay their attention to our little squadron of steamers, the Portsmouth, which was being towed up, and three of the gunboats which failed to pass through. These latter became entangled in some wrecks and chains placed in the river to obstruct, and which were only partially removed. One of these vessels (the Winona) got through as far as Fort St. Philip, but having all the guns bearing on her she sensibly retired. The Itasca was fairly riddled, and had a shot through her boiler, and the Kennebec escaped unhurt.

I am disposed to think that our squadron received but little damage, considering the unequal contest--one hundred and forty-two guns on board ship opposed to one hundred on shore, placed in a most commanding position. For twenty minutes after the ships passed the forts fired very feebly on the vessels that remained outside; so much so, that the Portsmouth was enabled to drop with the current out of gun-shot, though the shot fell pretty freely about her at last. I think the fire from the ships must have been very destructive of life.

The last we saw of our vessels they were standing up the river. Some explosion took place, which made us feel rather uneasy, but which may have been the rebel gunboats. We could see that our squadron had not destroyed all the enemy's vessels at the fort, for three or four of them were moving about in all directions, evidently in a state of excitement.

Before the fleet got out of sight it was reported to me that the celebrated ram Manassas was coming out to attack us; and sure enough there she was, apparently steaming along shore, ready to pounce upon the apparently defenceless mortarvessels. Two of our steamers and some of the mortar-vessels opened fire on her, but I soon discovered that the Manassas could harm no one again, and I ordered the vessels to save their shot. She was beginning to emit smoke from her ports or holes, and was discovered to be on fire and sinking. Her pipes were all twisted and riddled with shot, and her hull was also well cut up. She had evidently been used up by the squadron as they passed along. I tried to save her as a curiosity, by getting a hawser around her and securing her to the bank, but just after doing so she faintly exploded. Her only gun went off, and emitting flames through her bow-port, like some huge animal, she gave a plunge and disappeared under the water.

Next came a steamer on fire, which appeared to be a vessel of war belonging to the rebels, and after her two others, all burning and floating down the stream. Fires seemed to be raging all along the “up river,” and we supposed that our squadron were burning and destroying the vessels as they passed along. It appears, however, that the McRae, one or two river-boats, and their celebrated floating battery, (brought down the night before,) were left unhurt, and were still flying the confederate flag.

The matter of the floating battery becomes a very serious affair, as they are all hard at work at Fort Jackson mounting heavy rifled guns on it, which are no further use to them in the Fort. She mounts sixteen guns, is almost as formidable a vessel as the Merrimac, perfectly shot-proof, and has four powerful engines in her. I shall at all events take such steps as will prevent her from destroying anything, and we may still hold her in check with the steamers, though they are rather fragile for such a service. This is one of the ill effects of leaving an enemy in the rear. I suppose that the ships fired on her as they passed through, but that her mail resisted the shot. She had steam on this morning, and was moving about quite lively. I tried to put some mortarshell through her roof, but without effect, as she moved off.

The Forts are now cut off from all communication with New-Orleans, as I presume that Flag-Officer Farragut has cut the wires.

I have sent the Miami around with Gen. Butler to the back of Fort St. Philip to try and throw in troops at the quarantine, five miles along the Forts, and at the same time open communication that way with the Flag-Officer, and supply him with ammunition.

I am also going to send part of the mortar-fleet to the back of Fort Jackson to cut off the escape of the garrison by that way, and stop supplies. A deserter, who can be relied on, informs us that they have plenty of provisions for two months, plenty of ammunition, and plenty of discomforts. Our shell set the citadel on fire the first afternoon we opened. It burned fiercely for seven hours,

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D. G. Farragut (2)
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