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[360] 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.

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