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Doc. 53.-fight at Occoquan, Va.


New-York Herald account.

United States steamer Stepping Stones, Occoquan Bay, Potomac River, Feb. 20, 1862.
quite a brisk little action has just taken place in Occoquan Bay, between the Stepping Stones and a rebel field-battery of five guns.

This morning we ran alongside the Yankee, now the flag-ship, when a rifled twelve-pounder, belonging to that vessel, was put on board of us. The gun, which, while on board the Yankee, had been mounted on a slide, was placed on a field-carriage, in view of our high bulwarks. Lieut. Commanding Eastman came on board, with the gig's crew, to take temporary command. We then cast off, towing the launch Decatur, with a full crew from the Yankee, commanded by Master's Mate Lawrence, a young gentleman that Capt. Eastman generally intrusts with special duties, such as that of to-day.

It was evident that something was up, and it soon became certain that Occoquan Bay was to be reconnoitred. We ran up three or four miles, when the launch was cast loose, and proceeded toward the shore to search some houses near the beach. We threw in one shell from the rifle, under cover of which the landing was effected. The Stepping Stones then stood toward a schooner, lower down the creek. On our way, a fourhorse wagon was seen making its way along, a little above the beach. We lay to for a short time, when the launch again came alongside, and was made fast astern. The officers and crew had found nothing suspicious in the houses. We then stood for Freestone Point, the launch having been again sent on shore on the way down for another domiciliary visitation, but nothing illegal was found. Sufficient time had now elapsed for the rebels to bring their forces down, when Capt. Eastman once more gave orders to move up the bay. All hands were at quarters and every preparation made for a fight, when, on arriving abreast of the schooner, a little above Freestone Point, several men were seen moving about a little way from the beach. Fire was immediately opened from our rifle, and seconded by our smooth-bore twelve-pounder, which was within range, as we were only five hundred yards from the shore. The shells went right into the sand. Capt. Eastman then ordered the launch to open fire, which was done. Several shells had been thrown in when the enemy opened fire on us. His shots, at first, fell very short, but some of them, which ricocheted, came near enough. At length, when we had got the proper range, one of our shells burst right in the midst of the enemy, and must have done some execution. This was followed by successive shots which exploded in the right place. The enemy's fire now waxed fast and furious. Hardly a second intervened between each gun, and the smoke curled away in white wreaths to leeward. The smoke of their guns and the flashes of flame were intermingled with those from our exploded shells. We had now moved off to such a distance that the smooth-bore of the launch and our own were of no further use, and had to cease firing; but still the shells from the rifle were thrown with wonderful precision, those from the enemy falling short and skipping along the water. At length the enemy opened fire from a gun of much larger calibre than the rest, sending a shot which whizzed over our quarter-deck, right over the heads of the men working the rifle. Capt. Eastman had a narrow escape. Another shot went over the hurricane-deck, between the smoke-stack and the walking-beam; another passed close to the corner of the pilot-house; a fourth swept over the quarter-deck, in about the same direction as the first, while another struck the American ensign, passing through the second white stripe from the top, and close to the Union. One of the enemy's shells struck the water, about twenty yards from us, and exploded, throwing upward a tongue of flame, succeeded by smoke. With one solitary serviceable gun, at that range we were no match for the enemy with his five, but still the unequal contest was kept up with great spirit on our part, till the exhaustion of our ammunition compelled us to retire.

The last shot we fired was at the distance of two miles from the enemy, but he continued to blaze away at us, till we were long beyond his superior weight of metal. We used percussion-shells, not one of which, save the last, failed to [196] reach the shore — and when it is remembered that we were in motion, with a rather rough sea on the whole time, the accuracy with which the shells exploded in the midst of the enemy was almost marvellous. Capt. Eastman sighted the gun himself several times, and every one of his shots told. The number of shells fired by us was between twenty and thirty, while the rebels must have thrown much over a hundred. We were not struck, and none of our men were hit, while there is every reason to believe that several of the enemy were killed, or, at least, wounded. As a reconnoissance, the affair was eminently successful. It is almost unnecessary to say that officers and men behaved with the accustomed bravery of American sailors.

Capt. Grumley, of the Stepping Stones, is sick, but he left his bed and was present, though not actively engaged, throughout the whole affair.


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Occoquan Bay (Virginia, United States) (3)
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Occoquan (Virginia, United States) (1)
Cornfield Point (Maryland, United States) (1)

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February 20th, 1862 AD (1)
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