Vicksburgh, Miss.; also the particulars of the engagement with the rebel armed rams Queen of the West and William H. Webb, and the armed cotton-clad steamers Dr. Batey and Grand Duke, in which the Indianola was sunk, and her officers and crew made prisoners. In obedience to an order from Acting Rear-Admiral Porter, commanding the Mississippi squad. ron, I passed the batteries at Vicksburgh and Warrenton, on the night of the thirteenth of February last, having in tow two barges, containing about seven thousand bushels of coal each, without being once struck, although eighteen shots were fired, all of which passed over us. I kept on down the river, but owing to dense fogs, made but slow progress until the morning of the fifteenth. When about ten miles below Natchez, I met the steamboat Era No. Five, having on board Colonel Ellet, of the ram fleet, and a portion of the officers and crew of the steamer Queen of the West. I then learned, for the first time, of the loss of that boat, and after consulting with Colonel Ellet, I concluded to continue on down as far as the mouth of Red River. On the afternoon of the same day, I got under way, the Era No. Five leading. On nearing Ellis's Cliffs, the Era made the prearranged signal of danger ahead; soon after which I made out the rebel steamer William H. Webb. Before I got within range of the Webb, she had turned, and was standing down-stream with great speed. I fired two shots from the eleven-inch guns, but both fell short of her. She soon ran out of sight, and in consequence of a thick fog setting in, I could not continue the chase, but was obliged to anchor. I reached the mouth of the Red River, on the seventeeth of February, from which time, until the twenty-first of the same month, I maintained a strict blockade at that point. I could procure no Red River pilots, and therefore did not enter that river. The Era No. Five being unarmed, and having several prisoners on board, Col. Ellet decided to go up the river, and communicate with the squadron, and sailed at noon, on the eighteenth of the same month, for that purpose. On learning that the Queen of the West had been repaired by the rebels, and was nearly ready for service, also that the Wm. H. Webb, and four cotton-clad boats, with boarding parties on board, were fitting out to attack the Indianola, I left the Red River, for the purpose of getting cotton, to fill up the space between the casemate and wheel-houses, so as to be better able to repel the boarding parties. By the afternoon of the twenty-second of the same month, I had procured as much cotton as I required, and concluded to keep up on the river, thinking that I would certainly meet another boat the morning following, but I was disappointed. I then concluded to communicate with the squadron as soon as possible, thinking that Col. Ellet had not reached the squadron, or that Admiral Porter would expect me to return when I found that no other boat was sent below. I kept the bunkers of the Indianola filled with coal, and would have sunk what remained in the barges, but knowing that if another boat was sent below Vicksburgh, I would be expected to supply her with coal, I concluded to hold on to the barges as long as possible. In consequence of having the barges alongside, we could make but slow progress against the tide; the result of which was, I did not reach Grand Gulf until the morning of the twenty-fourth of the same month, at which point, and at others above, we were fired on by parties on shore. As I knew that it would be as much as I could do to get past the Warrenton batteries before daylight the next morning, I returned the fire of but one party. About half-past 9 P. M., on the twenty-fourth of the same month, the night being very dark, four boats were discovered in chase of us. I immediately cleared for action, and as soon as all preparations were completed, I turned and stood down the river to meet them. At this time the leading vessel was about three miles below, the others following in close order. As we neared them, I made them out to be the rams Queen of the West and William H. Webb; and two other steamers, cotton-clad and filled with men. The Queen of the West was the first to strike us, which she did, after passing through the coal-barge lashed to our port side, doing us no serious damage. Next came the Webb. I stood for her at full speed. Both vessels came together, bows on, with a tremendous crash, which knocked nearly every one down on board of both vessels, doing no damage to us, while the Webb's bow was cut in at least eight feet, extending from about two feet above the water-line to the kelson. At this time, the engagement became general, and at very close quarters. I devoted but little attention to the cotton-clad steamers, although they kept up a heavy fire with field-pieces and small-arms, as I knew that every thing depended on my disabling the rams. The third blow crushed the starboard barge, leaving parts hanging by the lashings, which were speedily cut. The crew of the Indianola not numbering enough men to man both batteries, I kept the forward guns manned all the time, and fired them whenever I could get a shot at the rains. The night being very dark, our aim was uncertain, and our fire proved less effective than I thought at the time. The peep-holes in the pilot-house were so small that it would have been a difficult matter to have worked the vessel from that place in daylight, so that during the whole engagement the pilots were unable to aid me by their knowledge of the river, as they were unable to see any thing-consequently they could do no more than obey such orders as they received from me in regard to working the engines and helm. No misunderstanding occurred in the performance of that duty, and I was enabled to receive the first five blows of the rams forward of the wheels, and at such angles that they did no more damage than to start the plating where they struck. The sixth blow we received, was from the Webb, which crushed in the starboard wheel, disabled the starboard rudder and started a
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Rebel reports and Narratives.
Doc . 91 .- General Sherman 's expedition.
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