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.