previous next

[555] on board Commodore Farragut's flag-ship, the steam sloop-of-war Hartford.

United States steamer Hartford, below Vicksburgh, July 17, 1862.
dear Father: The events of the past few days have been of a highly exciting nature, but I was not able to write a letter yesterday before the mail closed, otherwise you should have heard from me sooner.

On the night of the fourteenth instant two deserters from Vicksburgh came aboard and stated that the rebel ram Arkansas meditated an attack on the fleet either that night or the following morning. We had heard much of this vessel, and, in order to be on the safe side, the steamers Carondelet and Tyler, of Davis's fleet, were despatched up the Yazoo River in order to dispute her exit into the Mississippi. Early on the morning of the fifteenth, as these two vessels were entering the Yazoo, they descried an iron-clad ram coming down. She had no flag flying, but when she got near, the Stars and Bars were flung to the breeze, and a shot was fired from her. Seeing the formidable character of their opponent, our steamers turned around and steamed down the river, at the same time using their stern-guns. The ram followed on, using her bow-gun, and a running fire was kept up. While all this was transpiring we were lying at anchor, with fires banked but no steam on. Most of the other vessels in the two fleets were in the same condition, our object being to economize in fuel as much as possible, we having no means to replenish our bunkers should the coal give out.

I should judge it was a little past seven o'clock on the morning of the fifteenth that firing was heard up the river. It approached nearer and nearer, and by the time the fleet was fully astir two of our own boats came down the river at full speed. Soon after the ram came around the point, firing at the retreating vessels. As many of our boats as could bring their guns to bear on her immediately opened, and volumes of smoke were soon issuing from the smoke-pipes of the different steamers, as each one was endeavoring to get up steam.

She approached the Richmond and received a terrible broadside from her guns. For a moment she was lost in the smoke, and eager eyes watched for the smoke to lift in order to get a shot at her. As it cleared away the bow-guns of the vessels lying astern of the Richmond commenced firing on her, and she turned down-stream. As she passed us we gave her the benefit of a broadside, but she steamed on without firing a gun.

A shot took effect in the boiler of the ram Lancaster, of Commodore Davis's fleet, and several persons were killed and wounded. It is not certain whether this shot came from one of our guns or from the Arkansas, as the vessels were much crowded, and in no position for such an encounter.

As the Arkansas got past the Hartford she fired two rifle-shots, which passed harmlessly over our heads. The Benton had got under way by this time and started out to meet her, but she did not seem to like the looks of her antagonist, and steamed rapidly down the river, firing her guns at intervals. The Benton followed her under the guns of the batteries on the bluffs, which opened on her, and she retired, leaving the Arkansas to run down to Vicksburgh.

The fleet below, which consisted of the Brooklyn, Kennebec and Jackson, together with one division of mortar vessels and a lot of transports, were soon aware of the nature of the fight above the city, and had made preparations for an attack. One of the mortar-schooners, which was aground, was blown up, as she could not be moved. The ram, however, did not attempt to pass below the city, but ran alongside of the bank under the guns of the fortifications. Her appearance is truly very formidable, and the rebels claim her to be superior to the Merrimac, as she combines the good points of all iron-clad vessels that have been built and tested. Her sides are at an angle of about forty-five degrees, but are not run up to a point, like the Merrimac, her top being flat, with a single smoke-stack protruding. She has three guns on each side and one at each end, and her sides are completely cased with thick iron plates, which seemed to resist all the shots that were fired at her. She stands about five or six feet above the water-line, and presents a very small surface for our gunners to hit. Although her prow is sharp, I have not heard that she attempted to run into any of our vessels. She was commenced at Vicksburgh, but taken up the Yazoo River when our fleet came up, some two months since. Huge rafts of logs were then placed across the river to prevent our boats from approaching her, but these had all been removed the day before she came down. We greatly feared that she would run down to New-Orleans.

All the captains in the fleet were immediately called aboard and a consultation resulted in the determination to again attack the batteries, and, if possible, sink or capture the ram. At about six o'clock in the evening the fleet got under way. It was growing dark and the Davis fleet had commenced to engage the batteries. All of our fleet were engaged before we got in range, our intention being to run into the ram and sink her. The batteries were firing rapidly and our boats were returning the fire with good effect. As we approached shot and shell commenced whistling over us, riflemen were busy at work in the woods along the river side, and bullets chirruped a symphony to the bass voice of the artillery, while the mortars, at either end of the city, kept up a roaring accompaniment. The scene was terrific, and never did our men work their guns with such rapidity. The rebel artillerists would cease their fire to a great extent the moment we opened on them; they could not stand it.

Poor George Lounsbery, the brother of Lieut. Lounsbery, of the New-York Fifth, was killed during the action. His usual station as First Master was on the spar-deck, where he had charge of two guns, and in all our engagements we stood side by side; but he was placed on the berthdeck to take the place of the officer of the powder

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
George Lounsbery (2)
Oscar S. Davis (2)
Stonewall Jackson (1)
D. G. Farragut (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 17th, 1862 AD (1)
15th (1)
14th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: