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[122] of iron plating, evidently intended for the Eastport, was found here also.

A deputation of the citizens of Florence waited upon Capt. Phelps, desiring that they might be made able to quiet the fears of their wives and daughters with assurance that they would not be molested; also, praying that the Captain would not destroy the railroad bridge. As for the first proposition, the anxious fathers and husbands were assured that the Federals were neither ruffians nor savages, and that they were on an errand of protection to loyalty and enforcement of law. As to the second proposition, Capt. Phelps said that if the bridge were away, he could ascend no higher, and that it could possess, so far as he saw, no military importance, as it simply connected Florence with the railroad on the south bank of the river.

Our brave command had seized three rebel steamboats, one of them a half-finished gunboat, and had forced the rebels to burn six others loaded with supplies. This was a heavy blow to the enemy.

Two rebel boats are still known to be in the Tennessee River, and are doubtless hidden in some of the creeks, where they will be found when there is time for the search.

On the night of the eighth, the flotilla returned to where the Eastport lay. The crews of the different boats secured two hundred and fifty thousand feet of the best quality of ship and building lumber, all the iron, machinery, spikes, etc., intended to be used in the completion of the gunboat. The saw-mill used in preparing the lumber was destroyed.

In the absence of the Conestoga and Lexington, Lieut. Gwin enlisted twenty-five Tennesseeans, who gave information of the encampment of Col. Drew's rebel regiment, near Savannah, Tenn. A portion of the six hundred or seven hundred men composing the regiment were known to have been “pressed” into the service, and all were badly armed. Captain Phelps determined to make a land attack on this encampment. Lieut Shirk, with thirty riflemen, went on board the Conestoga, leaving his vessel to guard the Eastport. The Conestoga and Tyler went up toward the encampment, but after landing one hundred and thirty riflemen, and a twelve-pound howitzer, it was discovered that the rebels had left. A large quantity of stores, shoes, etc., were found on the ground, the fugitives having been greatly alarmed when they departed. A mail-bag, containing letters full of military information, was found, and is now in possession of Commodore Foote. Proceeding a few miles down the river, to a point where the rebels had a small armory, our men captured seventy rifles and fowling-pieces.

Returning to Cerro Gordo, our men took the Eastport, Sallie Wood and Muscle in tow, and came down the river to the railroad-crossing. The Muscle sprung a leak, and all efforts failed to prevent her from sinking. She was abandoned, and with her a quantity of fine lumber. In the official report of this important expedition, Capt. Phelps says that he met with the most gratifying proofs of loyalty everywhere across Tennessee and in the portions of Mississippi and Alabama visited by him. Most affecting instances greeted him hourly. Men, women, and children several times gathered in crowds of hundreds, shouted his welcome, and hailed the National flag with an enthusiasm not to be mistaken. It was genuine and heartfelt. The loyal people braved everything to get to the river bank to see the old flag once more. Their tales of persecution and suffering were heart-rending. Tears flowed freely down the cheeks of men as well as women, as they spoke of the fondly cherished hope of again living under the Stars and Stripes.

At Savannah, Tenn., Capt. Phelps was assured that, of the several hundred troops of which I have already spoken, more than one half would have hailed their capture by our men as a deliverance from bondage. In Mississippi the people spoke with less freedom about the Union cause. They said they were actually afraid of their own shadows, so great was the reign of terror in their midst.

The selection of Captain Phelps for this important expedition, has proven one of the best that could have been made. In a man who, like him, unites with the loyalty of a patriotic American citizen the coolness and intrepidity of an experienced commander, there can be little wanting to make him equal to any emergency that the service of our country, in her hour of peril, may present. He has done much, and will do more to establish the high character of the calling in which he is engaged.

Commodore Foote has just cause for self-congratulation in devising the expedition, and placing at its head a man who has so nobly acquitted himself. Of this valiant officer, however, more anon.

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