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[388] positions. Late Friday night we anchored at the mouth of Black River, as before, the De Soto thrown out as our advance picket.

Saturday morning, at daylight, we raised anchor and proceeded up the river. We had heard that the enemy had lately constructed fortifications at Gordon's Landing, eighty-five miles from the mouth, called Fort Taylor. We had heard also that there were heavy guns at Harrison-burgh, near the head of navigation on Black River, and for a time Colonel Ellet was undetermined which to attack. He finally settled upon the former, and we moved as rapidly as the tortuous nature of the stream and the ignorance of our pilots would admit, in the hope that we should reach the position and commence the attack before nightfall.

The steamer Louisville, we also learned, had, just before we reached the mouth of the Black, passed up the Red with a thirty-two pounder rifled gun, intended for the gunboat W. H. Webb, then lying at Alexandria.

We had, therefore, incentives for speed. At ten o'clock the look-out reported a steamer descending the river, and shortly after the Era No. 5 hove in sight. She saw us as quickly as we discovered her, and we half turned around, as if attempting to escape, when Col. Ellet ordered a shot to be sent after her. This took effect in her stern, passing through the cook-room, demolishing a store and slightly wounding the negro cook. The officers and passengers then came on deck, and hoisted white sheets and waved white handkerchiefs in token of surrender. The Queen ran alongside and took possession. The Era No. 5 is a fine boat of a hundred and fifty tons burden, belonging to the Red River Packet Company, and heretofore engaged in transporting supplies for the confederate army. At that time she was laden with four thousand five hundred bushels of corn, intended for the Quartermaster's Department at Little Rock. This was to be taken to Camden, Arkansas, and to be transported thence by army wagons. Among the passengers were fifteen privates of the Fourteenth Texas cavalry, and three belonging to the Twenty-seventh Louisiana, Lieut. Daly, of the Texas State troops, and Lieut Doyle, of the Fourteenth Texas. The citizens on board were set on shore without parole, the soldiers were set on shore with parole, and the officers were retained. Among the parties retained was a German Jew named Elsasser, who had upon his person thirty-two thousand dollars in confederate money. Col. Ellet thought he was a confederate quartermaster, although he strongly insisted to the contrary, and brought him along. One man dressed in citizen's clothing and claiming to be a non-combatant, and on that account released without parole. We have since learned that he was one of Gen. Hindman's brigadier-generals. His name I did not learn. Our prisoners being thus disposed of, the fleet, now numbering three steamers, moved toward Gordon's Landing. Four miles from the Landing, in a direct line across the country, but fifteen miles as the river runs, we left the Era with three or four men to guard the boat and prisoners.

We moved slowly up the channel, making the bend with considerable difficulty, until we reached the point below the negro quarters where the land is cleared, when we discovered a long line of dense black smoke moving up the river beyond the fort, indicating the hasty departure of a transport. Our gun upon the bow was immediately placed in position, and two percussion-shells were sent in that direction. These exploding in the vicinity of the transport, which we afterward learned was the Doubloon coming down the river with corn, caused her to disappear toward Alexandria.

The land makes out into the river on the point, leaving an extremely shallow place twenty feet or more from its extremity, which pilots are careful to avoid. Our pilot, whether designedly or otherwise I know not, ran the Queen aground, and at the same instant the batteries opened fire upon us. Recollect, we were not four hundred yards from the fort, and immovable. The pilots tried in vain to back her off, but she would not budge an inch. Shot were flying, shell were bursting, and, worse than all, we could not reply. The enemy had our exact range, and every explosion told with fearful effect. Your correspondent sought the pilot-house, and thus became an unwilling witness of the terrible affair. Three huge thirty-two pounder shells exploded on the deck, and between the smoke-stack, not twenty feet from our heads.

The air was filled with fragments and exploding shells, which flew before, behind, and all about us. Soon we heard a crash among the machinery below. Word was passed up that the lever which regulates the engines was shot away. Another crash, and we learned the escape-pipe was gone. Still another, and the steam-chest was fractured. The whole boat shook with the rush of the escaping steam which penetrated every nook and cranny. The engine-room was crowded with engineers, firemen, negroes, and prisoners, who had sought that place under the impression that it was the safest. All this time, while we supposed we were blown up, and looked every moment to be launched into eternity, the batteries played upon the unfortunate vessel, and pierced her through and through. Men crowded to the after-part of the vessel. Some tumbled cotton-bales into the river, and getting astride of them, sought to reach the De Soto a mile below. The yawl was tied to the stern, and a man, stood there with a loaded pistol threatening to shoot the first one who entered it. The cry was raised for Col. Ellet, and men were sent forward to look after him. The negroes in their fright jumped overboard and many of the poor creatures were drowned. Some of our men were scalded. Word was sent to the De Soto to come alongside to remove us. She came as near as she dare, and sent her yawl, but before it returned, she herself was compelled to move down the river out of range.

As I have before stated, I was in the pilot-house


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