Doc. 183.-capture of the steamer Fair play.
Chicago evening Journal account.
Switzerland, Monarch, Sampson, and Lioness, of Col. Alfred W. Ellet's Mississippi ram fleet, in connection with the gunboats Benton, Mound City, and Gen. Bragg, under command of Capt. Phelps, of the Benton, (who is in command of the gunboat flotilla during Commodore Davis's illness,) together with the transports A. McDowell and Rocket, with the Fifty-eighth and Seventy-sixth regiments Ohio volunteers, and a battalion of cavalry, under command of Col. Wood, of the Seventy-sixth Ohio, left Helena, Arkansas, on Saturday morning, August sixteenth, for a cruise down the Mississippi. Nothing of interest took place until Sunday afternoon, when we picked up seven “contrabands” in a skiff, who reported that a rebel steamer had come up the river a short distance above them the day before. There being a plantation below, we landed to see if we could get any information from the planter. He denied having seen any boat, but the negroes confirmed the report of the boys we had picked up. He was the meanest secesh I have yet seen. He said he had no corn nor any kind of vegetables, but we found any amount, and sent the negroes down to the boats loaded with corn and beans. We also captured two pigs to roast, besides chickens. He begged very hard for some coffee, a luxury he had not indulged in for a long time. We gave him a little, but not enough to treat him much. We proceeded down the river, and early Monday morning captured the rebel steamer and transport Fair Play, loaded with arms, ammunition, and stores for Gen. Hindman's division of the rebel army. She had five thousand five hundred stand of arms, part Enfield rifles, a large amount of ammunition, etc. There was also a regiment  of cavalry and infantry camped near the bank of the river, where there was a section of the Vicksburgh and Shreveport Railroad. On our approach the rebels fled in great haste. Our troops were landed as soon as possible, and sent in pursuit. They followed the rebels as far as Richmond, and captured fifty prisoners and several baggage-wagons, besides numerous muskets, etc. We burned the depot and many cars, and destroyed the railroad bridge. Our men were much fatigued, as they had started without breakfast, and it was near noon before they returned, and the weather was very warm. There were six or eight ladies on the Fair Play, “dreaming the happy hours away,” little dreaming, however, that the terrible Federals were so near them; but when they awoke, and found how near we were to them, they immediately left, up the bank, and took refuge in a corn-field. They left en deshabille, with portions of their clothing in their arms. The gentlemanly reporter of the New-York Times called my attention to a young lady going up the bank, her fair form encircled in a long white dress; but I immediately left for the other end of the steamer, being a very bashful young man. He being a married man, it did not make so much difference. A trusty guard was sent out by the gallant Captain of the Benton, and, after hunting for some time, found six ladies, and assured them they were welcome to come aboard for their clothing, and they need have no fear. They came, and I saw several of them in a wagon, with their servants and baggage, going on a visit to some friends. A great many trophies were picked up in the town. One of the gunboat men found a silver goblet with Dan Sickles's name on it. It was captured by one of the rebels, and was brought out here, where a man paid fifty dollars for it, as a trophy taken from the Yankees. Capt. Phelps is going to send it to Gen. Sickles. On Monday night we dropped down the river and anchored near the mouth of the Vicksburgh cut-off, which was to cut off Vicksburgh, but did not. The river is now some ten feet below the bottom of the ditch, or canal, as it is called. We are about five miles above the city by water, and three by land. The rebels, when they found we were there, came up with a flag of truce on a steamer, and wanted to know if we had any prisoners to exchange, when, in reality, all they wanted was to see what our strength was — an old trick of theirs. Tuesday noon the gunboats Benton and Mound City, with three of Colonel Ellet's rams, and a detachment of the Fifty-eighth Illinois and Seventy-sixth Ohio volunteers, under command of Major Dester, of the Fifty-eighth, left the rest of the fleet for a trip up the Yazoo River, as far as possible, in hopes of capturing or destroying some transports which the rebels had up there, and of which we heard they were making gunboats. We proceeded up as far as Hayne's Bluff, Mississippi, where we discovered the rebels at work erecting batteries on the bluff, so as to command the river. The Benton opened on them, and was followed by the other boats, which made the rebels do some tall “skedaddling” through the fields and woods. Our boat was the first to land, and I was one of the first off the boat. We captured two forty-two-pounders, one rifled ; two thirty-two-pounders, one twenty-pound boat-howitzer, a brass twelve-pound Mexican gu--one that was captured by the United States in the Mexican war; a large amount of ammunition of all kinds, and about twenty muskets and necessary equipments. I went into some buildings which they had been using, and captured a revolver, (from its appearance I think it must be the first one ever made,) some confederate money, and several other valuable articles. We were compelled to blow up the four large guns and destroy most of the ammunition, for want of transportation. While we were loading the guns to burst them, some negroes came up with a pair of huge wheels, (such as are used in hauling heavy timber,) with five yoke of cattle attached, to haul the guns from the river, where they had been landed from the Fair Play the week before, to the fortifications on the bluff. They took us at first for secesh, as they said they expected a great many there to help place the guns in position. They were much surprised, and wanted to go with us. We took them on board, let the cattle loose, and destroyed the wagon. We laid there all night, and on Tuesday morning again moved up the Yazoo River. We got as far as the mouth of the Big Sunflower, and the gunboats could get no further.