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[408] her struck the pilot-house, doing, it is thought, some damage, and carrying away one of her flags.

The rebel vessels then passed to the north-ward, receiving the fire of our ships, and took refuge in the Swash channel behind the shoals.

The only casualties were on the Mercedita and the Keystone State.

On the Keystone State they are very large — about one fourth of her crew were killed and wounded, and among the former is the medical officer of the ship, Assistant Surgeon Jacob H. Gotwold, who was scalded to death, while rendering surgical aid to one of the wounded men.

Most of those who died perished from the escape of steam when the boilers and steam-chimneys were penetrated, and among the wounded the greater number received their injuries from the same cause.

As the Mercedita was the only vessel that surrendered, I have directed a Court of Inquiry to examine into the circumstances of the case as well as into the terms under which the surrender was made., This investigation has been asked for by Capt. Stellwagen.

I received this intelligence on Saturday, at three P. M., by the Augusta, which ship immediately returned to Charleston.

The Mercedita soon after arrived, and the Keystone State, in tow of the Memphis, when the latter vessel was at once sent back to her station.

The James Adger, Commander Patterson, was also towed back. She was just coming into Port Royal, and was ordered back to Charleston.

The Powhatan, through the commendable zeal of Captain Gordon, was also got ready by nine o'clock P. M. I had the channel and bar buoys lighted, when she passed out safely.

I forward herewith copies of the reports of Capt. Stellwagen, Lieutenant Commander Abbott, and Commander Leroy; also, the reports of the casualties on board the Mercedita and the Keystone State.

On the Mercedita there were four killed and three wounded, and on the Keystone State twenty killed and twenty wounded.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. F. Du Pont, Rear-Admiral. To the Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy.


Commander Stellwagen's report.

United States steamer Mercedita, Port Royal, January 31, 1863.
Rear-Admiral S. F. Du Pont:
sir: I have to report that at half-past 4 this morning two iron-clad rams from Charleston, in the obscurity of a thick haze, and the moon having just set, succeeded in passing the bar near the ship channel, unperceived by the squadron, and made an attack upon it, this ship being the first encountered.

Particular vigilance was exhibited by the officers and crew in the expectation of a vessel to run the blockade.

At three o'clock in the morning we had slipped our cable and overhauled a troop-steamer running for the channel. At four I lay down. Lieutenant Commander Abbott was on deck giving an order to Acting Master Dwyer, about recovering the anchor, when they saw a smoke and the faint appearance of a vessel close at hand.

I heard them exclaim, “She has black smoke!” “Watch, man the guns!” “Spring the rattle!” “Call all hands to quarters!”

Mr. Dwyer came to the cabin door, telling me “A steamboat was close aboard.”

I was then in the act of getting my pea-jacket, and slipped it on as I followed him out. I jumped to the poop-ladder; saw the smoke and a low boat, apparently a tug, although I thought it might be a little propeller for the squadron.

I sang out, “Train your guns right on him — be ready to fire as soon as I order.”

I hailed the steamer, “Ahoy! Stand clear of us and heave to. What steamer is that?” I then ordered my men to fire on him, and told him: “You will be into us. What steamer is that?”

His answer to the first and second hail was: “Halloo!” The other replies were indistinct, either by intention or from having spoken inside of his mail armor until in the act of striking us with his prow, when he said: “This is the confederate States steam ram.”

I repeated the order, “Fire!” “Fire!” “Fire!” but no gun could be trained on him, as he approached us on the quarter, and struck us just abaft our after-mast with a thirty-two-pounder, and fired a heavy rifle through us diagonally, penetrating the starboard side through our Normandy condenser, the steam-drum of our port boiler, and exploding against the port side of the ship, blowing a hole in its exit some four or five feet square.

The vessel was instantly filled and enveloped with steam. Reports were brought to me: “That we were shot through both boilers; that the fires were put out by the steam and smoke; that a gunner and one man were killed, that a number of men were badly scalded; that the water was over the fire-room floor, and that the vessel was sinking fast.”

The ram had cut us through at and below the water-line on one side, and the shell had burst on the other side almost at the water's edge.

After the ram struck she swung around under our starboard counter, her prow touching us, and hailed: “Surrender or I'll sink you. Do you surrender?”

After receiving the reports, I answered: “I can make no resistance, my boiler is destroyed.”

The rebel then cried out: “Do you surrender?”

I said, “Yes,” having found my moving power destroyed, and that I could bring nothing to bear but muskets against his shot-proof coating.

He hailed several times “to send a boat,” and threatened to fire again. After some delay a boat was lowered, and Lieutenant Commander Abbott asked if he should go in her, and asked for orders what to say.

I told him to see what they demanded, and to tell him the condition we were in. He proceeded


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F. S. Stellwagen (3)
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