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[319] more deadly and effective means was adopted to stop us. The vessels one could see and avoid; but the others were intended to take us unawares, and sink or destroy our fleet, or such of it as should attempt to pass them. A number of thick, heavy spars were sunk in the channel and pointed down the stream; the tops were strongly coated with iron, sharpened so as to run into the bows or sides of a vessel coming toward them ; and not content with these for a defence against vessels approaching the city, they had a species of torpedo constructed to blow up our vessels, a slight description of which will be interesting, showing as it does, the desperate efforts that the rebels made to prevent us from taking the city of Newbern; and it is really astonishing how they were beaten so easily, and they with every means in their power, both natural and artificial, to defend themselves against the small force brought against them.

The infernal machines, or torpedoes, were constructed out of three heavy pieces of timber, placed in the position as shown above, at the bottom of which was placed a box, filled with stone, old iron, etc., so as to sink in its place; and, after being sunk, it was inclined forward at an angle of about forty-five degrees, by means of ropes and weights. This, formidable as it was in itself, was capped by a cylinder of about ten inches in diameter, made of iron, into which fitted a shell, heavily loaded — the shell resting on springs, so arranged that a pressure upon the cylinder by any portion of a vessel, would discharge a percussion-cap, explode the shell, and carry death and destruction to the craft so unfortunate as to come into collision with it. Their labor was entirely thrown away, as none of our vessels went near them, and certainly none touched them. Several of these torpedoes were found in a ship-yard after the possession of Newbern by the Union forces.

Before the fleet of gunboats reached this obstruction two batteries were encountered, and as a matter of course were silenced. The first was known as Fort Dixie, and mounted four guns. But little resistance was made to our fire before the rebels deserted the fortification — the shot and shell pouring in rather too fast for them from the gunboats. A small force was landed by means of yawls, and the glorious old Stars and Stripes waved proudly over the spot lately guarded by the rebel standard, saluted by the enthusiastic cheers of the men engaged in the conflict.

Just about this time, a force of rebel cavalry was discovered a little back of the woods on the shore, and boats were instantly despatched to fire into them. A few shell from the boats scattered them like chaff before the wind — the horses being compelled by their riders to make doublequick time out of the reach of danger.

The fleet then continued on its way, led by the flag-ship Delaware, and a short distance ahead another rebel battery was discovered, mounting some fifteen guns. This was called Fort Thompson, and, like the other battery, needed but a few shots to effectually silence it, and make its defenders (?) beat a hasty retreat. The greatest surprise and disappointment were manifested at the little courage displayed on the part of the occupants of these forts, two or three well-directed shots sufficing to frighten them into a retreat. Here again a force was landed in small boats, and the “flag of the Union” floated defiantly above that of the cowardly rebels. Night approaching, it was deemed advisable to stop any further operation until the next day, when the victory would be continued with the same success. Tired out with the day's exertion, the men slept soundly, with the exception of those who were on picket duty, naval vessels being chosen as guards.

The next morning, (Sunday, the fourteenth inst.,) a very heavy fog lay upon the surface of the water, rendering objects but a short distance from you invisible. It lasted but a short time, however, lifting sufficiently to enable the gunboats to proceed on their way to Newbern. The great trouble now was to pass the obstruction in the channel, which I have already described, and at the same time to engage Fort Brown and the rebel fortification, much stronger than the two preceding ones. It contained two powerful columbiads, brought so as to bear upon any vessel that might be impaled upon the beams placed there for the purpose, or that might be otherwise stopped, and it was also bomb-proof, rendering it very difficult to subdue. The blockade had to be forced, and every moment was precious. This was a moment of suspense, but it lasted only for a short time, as Commander Rowan signalled for the rest of the boats to follow his lead, and run the Delaware straight ahead, taking the risk of an accident, and the steamers passed over this fearfully dangerous ground in perfect safety, with the exception of the Stars and Stripes and the Picket, both being slightly injured in the hull, but not sufficiently so as to prevent them from proceeding; the torpedoes which were destined to do such terrible execution among the vessels being left behind, still lying harmless in the beds in which they were planted. A very brisk fire was kept up by the two guns from Fort Thompson, but as far as I could discover, without the least effect upon our gunboats. This firing was suddenly put a stop to by the well-directed shot from our side, which struck one of the columbiads on the muzzle, throwing it from its carriage and spreading consternation amongst the men. This was the finishing stroke. The rebels left the battery in double-quick time, and another fort was ready for the victorious Stars and Stripes to float over. Still another fortification lay before us, and still another defeat for the enemy. Fort Ellis mounted nine guns, and it was understood that quite a force had collected there from the batteries that we had silenced on the way up. A brisk fire was kept up here on both sides for a short time, until a shell from one of the gunboats went through the magazine, exploding it with a terrific report and killing many inside the Fort. It was afterward claimed by some of the rebels that the shell that did the execution was one of their own


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