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Doc. 137.-operations of the Jacob Bell.


Lieutenant McCrea's report.

United States steamer Jacob Bell, James River, June 21, 1862.
sir: I respectfully submit the following: Yesterday, in obedience to your orders, I proceeded with the despatches up the river to the Monitor. On passing the Red Bluff, known as Watkins's Bluff, I was opened upon by two batteries, three pieces, each of twelve-pounders, and about five hundred sharp-shooters.

The channel being very narrow, being obliged to go within a few feet of the bluff, I suffered severely. The hail of bullets from the sharp-shooters prevented me for a time from responding, as having no covering for my men at the batteries, I would not expose them to the heavy fire.

A shot, however, came and carried away my rudder-chain, and my vessel got ashore in front of the batteries. I was determined to go by, so manned my guns, steaming on and forced her over. The batteries were so masked that I could not see them until opened upon, though the upper battery raked me as I headed toward it — which, from the nature of the river, I had to do — but we stood on under their fire for about five minutes, which I considered better, as I had no idea of retreating until my duties were performed, and as long as my vessel lasted.

As soon as I got up to the upper battery, the lower battery raked me aft, doing more damage to my upper works than the other. [542]

I think I should not have been damaged so much had it not been for my getting ashore directly in front of them, giving them but a few feet between me and their guns.

The officers and men behaved with their accustomed coolness and efficiency, and promptly responded to the order to man the battery, though under a heavy fire of musketry.

A shot has penetrated the flange of the port-wheel, cracking it in several places; it will not do for me to be in any sea-way, as I will lose my wheel.

The starboard side of the pilot house was carried away, together with two iron plates; in fact, my upper works are completely riddled. One shot struck the steam-valve, bending it, which slowed us down — fortunately not stopping the engine.

As you ordered me to return after delivering the despatches, I passed the batteries again at night, but was not fired at. Ten shots struck the vessel in all, to say nothing of the bullets in the wood-work from the sharp-shooters.

Very respectfully, your obed't servant,

E. P. Mccrea, Lieutenant Commanding. Commander J. M. Gillis, Commanding Naval Forces, James River.

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