Doc. 100.-destruction of the Hatteras.
Lieutenant Commanding Blake's report.
U. S. Consulate, Kingston, Ja., January 31, 1863.dear sir: It is my painful duty to inform the department of the destruction of the United States steamer Hatteras, recently under my command, by the rebel steamer Alabama, on the night of the eleventh instant, off the coast of Texas. The circumstances of the disaster are as follows: On the afternoon of the eleventh inst., at half-past 3 o'clock, while at anchor in company with the fleet under Com. Bell, off Galveston, Texas, I was ordered by a signal from the United States flag-ship Brooklyn to chase a sail to the southward and eastward. I got under way immediately and steamed in the direction indicated. After some time the strange sail could be seen from the Hatteras, and was ascertained to be a steamer, which fact was communicated to the flag-ship by signal. I continued the chase and rapidly gained upon the suspicious vessel. Knowing the slow rate of the Hatteras, I at once suspected that deception was being practised, and at once ordered the ship to be cleared for action, with every thing in readiness for a determined and vigorous defence. When within about four miles of the vessel I observed that she had ceased to steam, and was lying broadside on and awaiting us. It was nearly seven o'clock and quite dark, but notwithstanding the obscurity of the night I felt assured from the general character of the vessel and her manoeuvres that I should soon encounter the Alabama. Being able to work only four guns on the side of the Hatteras, two short thirty-two-pounders, one thirty-pounder rifled Parrott gun, and one twenty-pounder rifled gun, I concluded to close with her, so that my guns might be effective if necessary. I came within easy speaking distance, about seventy-five yards, and upon asking what steamer is that, received the answer: Her Britannic Majesty's ship Vixen. I replied  that I would send a boat aboard, and immediately gave the order. In the mean time, both vessels were changing their positions, the stranger endeavoring to gain a desirable position for a raking fire. Almost simultaneously with the piping away of the boat, the stranger craft again replied, We are the confederate steamer Alabama, which was accompanied with a broadside. I at the same moment returned the fire. Being well aware of the many vulnerable points of the Hatteras, I hoped by closing with the Alabama to be able to board her, and thus rid the seas of this piratical craft. I steamed directly for the Alabama, but she was enabled by her great speed, and the foulness of the bottom of the Hatteras and consequently her diminished speed, to thwart my attempt when I had gained a distance of but thirty yards from her. At this range musket and pistol-shots were exchanged. The firing continued with great vigor on both sides. At length a shell entered amidships in the hold, setting fire to it, and at the same instant — as I can hardly divide the time — a shell passed through the sick-bay and exploded in an adjoining compartment, also producing fire; another entered the cylinder, filling the engine-room and deck with steam, and depriving me of any power to manoeuvre the vessel or to work the pumps, upon which the reduction of the fire depended. With the vessel on fire in two places, and far beyond human power, a hopeless wreck upon the waters, with her walking-beam shot away, and her engine rendered useless, I still maintained an active fire, with the double hope of disabling the Alabama and attracting the attention of the fleet off Galveston, which was twenty-eight miles distant. It was soon reported to me that the shells had entered the Hatteras at the water-line, tearing off sheets of iron, and that the water was rushing in, utterly defying every attempt to remedy the evil, and that she was rapidly sinking. Learning this melancholy truth, and seeing that the Alabama was on my port-bow, entirely beyond range of my guns, doubtless preparing for a raking fire across the deck, I felt I had no right to sacrifice uselessly, and without any desirable result, the lives of all under my command, and to prevent the blowing up of the Hatteras from the fire, which was making much progress, I ordered the magazine to be flooded, and after-ward a lee-gun to be fired. The Alabama then asked if assistance was desired, to which an affirmative answer was given. The Hatteras was now going down, and in order to save the lives of my officers and men, I caused the armament on the port-side to be thrown over-board. Had I not done so, I am confident the Vessel would have gone down with many brave hearts and valuable lives. After considerable delay, caused by the report that a steamer was seen coming from Galveston, the Alabama sent us assistance, and I have the pleasure of informing the department that every living being was conveyed safely from the Hatteras to the Alabama. Ten minutes after leaving the Hatteras, she went down, bow first, with her pennant at her mast-head, with all her muskets and stores of every description, the enemy not being able, owing to her sinking so rapidly, to obtain a single weapon. The battery of the Alabama brought into action against the Hatteras consisted of the following: Four long thirty-two pounders, one one hundred-pounder, one sixty-eight pounder, and one twenty-four pounder rifled gun. The great superiority of the Alabama, with her powerful battery, and her machinery under the water-line, must be at once recognized by the department, who are familiar with the construction of the Hatteras, and her total unfitness for a contest with a regularly built vessel of war. The distance between the Alabama and the Hatteras during the action varied from twenty-live to one hundred yards. Nearly thirty shots were fired from the Hatteras, and I presume a greater number from the Alabama. I desire to refer to the efficient and active manner in which Acting Master Henry Porter, executive officer, performed his duty. The conduct of the Assistant Surgeon, Edward S. Matthews, both during the action and afterward, attending to the wounded, demands my unqualified commendation. I would also bring to favorable notice of the department Acting Master's Mate J. McGrath, temporarily performing duty as gunner. Owing to the darkness of the night, and peculiar construction of the Hatteras, 1 am able only to refer to the conduct of those officers who came under my especial attention, but from the character of the contest, and the amount of damage done to the Alabama, I have personally no reason to believe that any officer failed in his duty. To the men of the Hatteras I cannot give too much praise. Their enthusiasm and bravery was of the highest order. I inclose the report of Assistant Surgeon E. S. Matthews, by which you will observe that five men were wounded and two killed. The missing, it is hoped, have reached the fleet at Galveston. I shall communicate to the department in a separate report the movements of myself and command from the time of the transfer to the Alabama and the departure of the earliest mail from this place to the United States. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. Consulate, Kingston, Ja., January 21, 1863.sir: I have to report to you the annexed list of casualties as resulting from a recent brilliant but disastrous encounter with the Alabama: John C. O'Leary, fireman, Ireland, killed; William Healy, fireman, Ireland, killed; Edward  McGowan, fireman, Ireland,. severe wound in the thigh; John White, first cabin-boy, slight wound in the leg; Edward Mattock; Captain's Mate Delano, slight wound in the hand; Christopher Steptowick, seaman, Austria, slight wound in back; Patrick Kane, landsman, Ireland, slight wound in leg. Acting Master Partridge and five men are missing, all of whom we may hope have reached the fleet off Galveston. The wounded are in a favorable condition and will soon be able to return to duty again in the service of their country. Although destitute of medicines, owing to the rapid sinking of the Hatteras, and even of sufficient covering for the wounded, yet no difficulty was experienced in their proper treatment. An ample supply of medicines and medical appliances were placed at my disposal by the medical officer of the Alabama for the use of our sick and wounded. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A National account.
United States steamship Hatteras, I wish to state these facts. On the eighth of January we received orders in New-Orleans to take a draft of men, who had belonged to the Westfield, to the Brooklyn, the flag-ship at Galveston, and commence operations at that place. We arrived on the tenth, and on that afternoon commenced bombarding the fortifications until sundown, when we ceased firing. The next day being Sunday, there was no fighting. At three o'clock signals from the Brooklyn, announcing a strange sail in the offing, and for us to get under weigh in chase, were made to us. Twenty minutes after three we made the strange sail out to be a bark under easy sail; at half-past 6 we came within two miles of her, when she hoisted English colors; it now began to grow dark. At seven o'clock we were nearly alongside; at ten minutes past seven our captain hailed her, when she answered it was her Majesty's steamer Petrel. Then our captain answered he would send a boat on board, and had lowered the gig for that purpose, when we received a hail from them, wishing to know what steamer was that, and our captain answered, United States steamer Hatteras. Then he replied: “This is the confederate steamer Alabama--fire!” They had tried to get in a raking position, but we were too wide awake for them. The moment the order to fire from him was given, we received their starboard broadside, consisting of a hundred-and-five-pounder rifle pivot-gun, four long thirty-twos, one eight-inch double fortified pivot, and one twenty-pounder rifle Dahlgren gun, which we returned with two thirty-two medium guns, and one thirty-pounder rifled gun. Then commenceed a running fight. We got our twenty-pounder rifled gun over on the port side, and well she did her duty; there was no flinching, and our gallant captain well sustained the reputation that fame had given him. “Give it to them, my boys ; give it to them,” he said ; “the Stars and Stripes must never come down,” and three hearty cheers followed his words. But what was a shell like her to a staunch-built corvette like the Alabama? She peeled our iron plates off in a few minutes, and then came the terrible news that our engine was destroyed, and we were on fire in three different places. “Drown the magazine,” was the first order. By this tire she had seven feet water in the hold, and she had keeled over three streaks to port. The port battery was then thrown over, and in a few moments she righted. Then, when we could not return a single shot, and she was sinking fast, the order was reluctantly given to fire a lee gun, which was done. The great disparity between the two vessels was in the weight of metal. At her first broadside she threw three hundred and twenty-four pounds at u s, which fairly staggered us ; and we returned from our port broadside with two thirty-twos and one thirty pound rifle, all the available force we had at command. Weight thrown, ninety-four pounds; disparity between the two broadsides, two hundred and twenty-four pounds. We struck. the Alabama seven times between wind and water, and thirteen shots above her water-line. The pumps had to be kept going to keel her afloat from the time of our capture until we arrived at Kingston, Jamaica. I will give you an exact account of the battery of the Hatteras, and also of the Alabama:
|Short 32 guns--2700 lbs.,||4||Long 32s,||6|
|30-pounder rifle-guns,||2||105-pounder rifle, on a pivot,||1|
|20-pounder rifle-gun,||1||68 double fortified pivot,||1|
|12-pounder howitzer,||1||24-pounder rifle,||1|
A rebel narrative.
confederate States steamer Alabama, January 20, 1863.Esteemed friend: . . . We have at this present seventeen officers and one hundred and one men rescued from the gunboat Hatteras, which we entirely destroyed on the evening of the eleventh of January, 1863. As it is likely you may see the Northern accounts, I will give you the true version, or rather facts as they actually occurred. On the eighth of December last we captured the California steamer Ariel, and obtained late files of New-York papers containing accounts of the formidable Banks expedition. This, we judged, was destined to operate against Galveston, Texas, and as our whereabouts was unknown, we believed that a sudden and unexpected dart into their midst, and the destruction of some of their transports under cover of darkness, would be crowned with success, and consequently put an end to or delay for an indefinite time this part of their campaign. The pros and cons of this matter were fully discussed, and pronounced feasible. Accordingly, on the eighth of January  we shaped our course for Galveston, and at midday of the eleventh the lookout reported six men-of-war at anchor off the bar. In accordance with our prearranged plans, (for night attacks,) we hauled in shore, taking the bearings of the fleet, intending when dark came on to make one bold strike for Dixie, and determination in perceptible lines to do or die was traced on each countenance. But, as the result shows, all human calculations, by the will of an overruling Providence, are ofttimes brought to naught or entirely subverted. Scarce half an hour elapsed after changing our course when the look-out informed us that a steamer was in chase, showing that we had been under observation; and seeing us heading off shore, concluded at once that our object was to run the blockade. Under this false impression, the gunboat Hatteras, of twelve hundred tons, one hundred and thirty-two men, and mounting seven guns, was sent to capture and bring us into port. We continued our course without alteration until we had succeeded in drawing her beyond reach of assistance, when suddenly furling every thing, we turned to meet her. Every man was at his station, guns loaded with five-second shell, and run out, and in almost breathless silence we awaited the approaching vessel. By this time the deepening shades of twilight had fallen upon us. The enemy, steaming rapidly up, ranged close alongside, and hailed for our name and nationality. Our reply was, “H. B. M. Gunboat Petrel;” and demanding the same of them, were answered the “U. S. Gunboat Hatteras.” Immediately upon receiving this answer we informed them properly that our ship was the C. S. steamer Alabama, and immediately poured a broadside into her. The fire was promptly and vigorously returned, and for a short time shot and shell hurtled thick and fast around us, without doing any material damage. I will give the Yankee credit for fighting well and bravely, but the prestige of the Alabama's name hung like a pall over their spirits, and added to this, their own experience of the rapidity and accuracy of our firing was more than they could stand; and in thirteen and a half minutes from the time we opened upon her she was firing lee guns — the token of submission. The order to cease firing was passed, and, with three times three cheers for Dixie, we lowered our boats, as they were anxiously calling for assistance. None but an eye-witness can conceive the appearance of the wreck. With no standing rigging left, her entire broadside crushed in, and in one place under her guards an immense hole where our entire battery struck almost the same instant, presented a scene of confusion and destruction perfectly indescribable. Many of our shell struck and passed through both sides, tearing and smashing every thing in its way, and exploding on the far side of the vessel. Six shells passed through the engine-room, five exploding and breaking every thing to atoms; two others, entering and exploding in the coal-bunkers, set fire to her in different parts. Their condition was truly horrible, with the ship on fire and her bottom knocked out. We scarcely had time to clear the wreck after receiving the last man, when with a heavy lurch she went down, leaving visible a small portion of her top-gallant masts. The engagement lasted thirteen and a half minutes, and the entire time occupied in fighting and rescuing prisoners was fifty minutes. You will be able to form some faint idea of the affair when I tell you the engagement was begun at a distance of forty yards, and at no time were we at a greater distance than seventy yards. The most astonishing thing is how little loss of life there was. Their loss was two killed, one severely wounded, and six slightly, with twelve missing. We had one shot through the stern, passing through the lamp-room, smashing every thing to pieces; one shell a few feet abaft the foremast, passing through the bulwarks, ripping up the deck and lodging in the port bulwark without exploding, and, in truth, had it exploded, I would scarcely have written you this. A second shell struck a few feet forward of the bridge and tore up the deck. A third and fourth in the main rigging--one striking a chain-plate and doubling it, both entered the coal-bunkers, but only one exploded, and that did no damage further than making a hole in her side. A fifth shot passed through our midship boat, and striking the smoke-stack, passed through and through, scattering iron splinters around like hail. A sixth and last struck the muzzle of the after broadside gun, causing it to run in the truck, passing over the foot of one man and bruising it considerably, without incapacitating him for duty. Our calamities--one man wounded in the chest by a splinter from the smoke-stack. Not unto us, not unto us, O God, but unto Thee be all the praise! After receiving the prisoners on board, we immediately shaped our course for the island of Jamaica, at which place I will mail this. Your sincere friend,
Clarence R. Tonge, Paymaster C. S. N.