A correspondent gives the following account of this affair:
After the great victory of Roanoke Island
, and as soon as suitable preparations could be made, a portion of the fleet proceeded to Elizabeth City
, for the purpose of capturing the rebel navy, which, it was said, had made a stand at that point, with the intention of resisting our force to the last.
Orders were also given to burn what steamers the rebels were building at that place, but not to destroy or molest any other property belonging to the citizens.
The expedition, in command of Capt. S. C. Rowan
left Roanoke Island
on Sunday, February ninth, at three o'clock P. M. It was composed of the following steamers: Delaware
, Lieut. Com. Quackenbush
, the flag-ship; Underwriter
, Lieut. Corn
. W. N. Jeffers
, Lieut. Com. Murray
, Acting Master Graves
, Lieut. Corn
; Hetzell, Lieut. Com. Davenport
, Acting Master Woodruff
; Valley City
, Lieut. Corn
; General Putnam
, Acting Master Hotchkiss
; Commodore Perry
, Lieut. Corn
, Acting Master MacDiarmid
, Acting Master Hayes
, Acting Master French
, Acting Master Giddings
, making fourteen in all.
The distance to Elizabeth City
from Roanoke Island
, is some thirty-five or forty miles.
We came in sight of Elizabeth City
about three o'clock, and, as we approached, we discovered the enemy's steamers--seven in number — in line of battle, in front of the city, ready to receive us. A fort was also discovered on a point which projected out some considerable distance--one fourth of a mile, perhaps — in front of the rebel line of steamers; and directly opposite of this fort was a schooner, anchored, on which were two heavy rifle guns; the distance between the fort and this schooner being about half a mile.
Four large guns were mounted on the fort, and it was thought by the rebels that no fleet of ours could pass this narrow channel; consequently they considered themselves safe, with the assistance of their navy, drawn up between the city and the fort.
At the sight of the enemy, everything was in readiness for battle.
To describe the wild delight of our brave blue-jackets, when they first discovered the enemy, is more than pen can do.
The charge was short and desperate, and without any exception is one of the most brilliant ever made by the American
All eyes were on the Commander
, to see what the first order would be, as we were rapidly approaching the foe.
In due time he ran up the signal to engage the enemy in close action, hand to hand.
We were then about two miles from the enemy.
This was a signal for a test of speed as well as the signal for a deadly encounter with a desperate foe, whose all was staked upon this final engagement.
For a distance of two miles it was a race between our steamers in their eagerness to outstrip each other, and to be first to meet the enemy of the Republic
face to face.
The river began to narrow as we approached the city.
The point where the fort was situated necessarily brought our steamers nearer together, making them sure marks for the enemy's guns; indeed, it would be a miracle if a shot from one of the enemy's guns did not strike some one of our steamers.
Under the circumstances, most any other commander would have thought it advisable to first attack the fort and silence the guns on both sides of that narrow point, and then attack the rebel steamers; but not so with the brave and intrepid Rowan
, whose motto is to charge bayonets on the enemy, whenever and wherever he may be found.
In action the position of the commander's ship is in the centre of the squadron.
The Delaware, Capt. Rowan
's flag-ship, was at the head of the advancing column, and led the van. No attention was paid to the fort or armed schooner, as they dashed by them through a perfect torrent of shells and grape, boarded the rebel steamers, and engaged them at the point of the bayonet, as the panic-stricken rebels leaped into the water in every direction.
Many were killed by the bayonet and revolver in this hand-to-hand fight, and sank below the water.
Their real loss will, doubtless, never be known to us; the slaughter, however, was fearful, and the struggle short and desperate — not more than fifteen minutes in duration.
The fort and armed schooner were deserted quite as soon as were the rebel steamers, for it was made quite as hot work for those behind the guns as it was for their confederates on the gunboats.
Our loss is two killed and about a dozen wounded — all seamen.
The death-struggle was brief.
In less time than it would take to write a telegraphic dispatch the victory was ours.
The Commodore Perry
was in the advance, and made for the rebel steamer Sea Bird
, the flag-ship of the rebel navy, on which was Commodore Lynch
, and run her down, cutting her through.
ran straight into the rebel steamer Ellis
, and ran her down in like manner, boarding her at the same time.
The Under-writer took the Forrest
in the same style, while the Delaware
took the Fanny
in fine shape, she having received ten shots from our squadron, which made daylight through her in as many places.
The Morse, Shawsheen
, Hetzell, Valley City
, and Seymour
also covered themselves with glory.
Every officer and man in our entire squadron behaved like a hero, one as brave as the other, all through this desperate charge.
The terrified rebels, as they forsook their gunboats, fired them, and thus all but the Ellis
were burned, including a new one on the stocks.
Four were burned, one captured, and two made their escape — the Raleigh
They are in the canal which leads to Norfolk
, but are not able to go through, on account of the locks having been destroyed; consequently they will be captured before this reaches you, as they can go only some few miles toward Norfolk
The log-books of the steamers, together with the signal-book of the rebel navy, and all their navy signal-colors, fell into our hands, with many other records and papers, which places us in possession of much that is valuable.
The following are the names of the seven steamers which we encountered to-day, with their commanders: Ellis
, Capt. C. W. Cooke
, Capt. Alexander
, Capt. Taylor
, Capt. Parker
, Capt. Sands
, Capt. Hoover
; Sea Bird, (the rebel flag-ship,) Com. Lynch
All of these commanders were educated in the United States
Naval Academy. Capt. Cooke
is taken prisoner by our forces.
As I have already said, the Raleigh
When it became evident that nothing but disaster awaited them, the rebels, after firing their gunboats, fled to the village, and commenced firing the principal buildings.
It is said that Col. Martin
, of Hatteras
memory, fired considerable of his own property before fleeing.
An officer of the Wise Legion
was caught mounted, riding through the village, pointing out buildings to be burnt.
The village had been deserted by most of the population.
Those who remained were in great fright, under the delusion that the object of our visitation was to burn the town, and that they would be cruelly treated.
availed himself of the first moment to disabuse them of this idea, and assured them that he came to give them protection, and be-sought them to cease inflicting injury on them-selves by setting fire to their beautiful village.
A prominent physician came to the dock, and sought a conversation with Capt. Rowan
, who repeated these assurances, which had the effect to cause them to stay the further application of the torch.
But several of the best buildings were already in flames, among them the court-house.
An application was made to Capt. Worden
to assist in putting out the flames, but as his fleet embraced but a limited number of men, and as his own boats might in, their absence be fired; and in addition to this, there being but little prospect, since the insane rebels had rendered worthless the hose by cutting it, of accomplishing more than drawing upon him the lie that he had fired the village, he properly declined to allow his men to go ashore.
He was visited by several Union men, one of whom assured him that there were three thousand others in the county, but who dared not avow themselves as such.
Negroes flocked in large numbers to the landing-place, and indulged in demonstrations of welcome, and brought poultry, eggs, and other things, to sell, and received a greater price than they asked.
The news of the capture of Roanoke Island
was not generally known; and the assurance that it was really so, and that nearly three thousand had been taken prisoners, created great surprise, as the people had been told by the rebels that their position was impregnable.
Though the village was much deserted, it was believed that many were in the suburbs and would return.
Hundreds had left during the last week or two, and on the return of the rebel steamers from the action of Friday, in a crippled condition, many more fled.
of the Curlew
had left for Norfolk
the evening previous, and the belief was general that that city would next be visited by our troops.