previous next

[454] Lieut. Terry ordered the men on the top-gallant forecastle to leave the guns in that part of the ship, and to descend to the main deck to help work the broadside guns. Our stern-chasers, of course, were still available, for the purpose of giving the enemy a parting blessing. I left my station on the top-gallant forecastle shortly after the men who had been working the bow-guns, and passed under where I had been sitting, taking up my station on the port side, just opposite the forward gun on the starboard side, where but a few minutes before a shell had exploded.

I was not long in this position when there came a blinding flash through the very port I was opposite to, revealing a high bank right opposite, so close that a biscuit might have been tossed from the summit on board the Richmond. Simultaneously there came a loud roar, and I thought the shot had passed through the port I was opposite to. Indeed, so close were we to the battery that the flash, the report, and the arrival of the shot, crashing and tearing through our bulwarks, were instantaneous, there not being the intermission of a second between.

It must have been about this time that Lieut. Commander Cummings, the executive officer of the Richmond, was standing on the bridge that connects the starboard with the port gangway, with his speaking-trumpet in his hand, cheering the men. Near him stood Capt. Alden, when a conical shot of large calibre passed through the hammocks, over the starboard gangway, taking off the left leg of the Lieutenant just above the ankle, battering his speaking-trumpet (a prize) flat, and knocking Capt. Alden down with the windage, and went through the smoke-stack. It has been said that the Captain was knocked down by a hammock which the shot had displaced; but this is not the fact. I am happy to say that the gallant Captain sustained no injury. Mr. Cummings was immediately taken below, where his wound was promptly attended to by Dr. Henderson, the ship's surgeon, but not before the brave young man had lost a large quantity of blood on his way down. On being carried below he used the following patriotic words, which are worthy of becoming historical: “I would willingly give my other leg so that we could but pass the batteries.”

The Rev. Dr. Bacon, the loyal rector of Christ Church, New-Orleans, who was acting as chaplain on board the Richmond, was on the bridge when Mr. Cummings received his terrible wound. He fortunately escaped unhurt, though he had been all over the ship, in the thickest of the fight, carrying messages and exhorting and encouraging the men.

It was no easy matter in the midst of such a dense cloud of smoke to know where to point our guns. Even the flashes of the enemy's guns shone dimly through the thick gloom. Several times the order was given to cease fire, so as to allow the smoke to clear away; but, as there was scarcely a breath of wind stirring, this was a very slow process; still the order was necessary, to prevent the several vessels from running into each other. In this respect the rebels had a decided advantage over us; for while they did not stand in danger of collision, neither was there any apprehension of firing into their friends. The wide river was before them, and if they did not hit our vessels at each discharge, they could but miss at the worst.

And now the turmoil arose high and loud. Denser and denser became the dark volume of smoke, rendering it next to impossible for the pilot to know where to put the vessel's head. Lieutenant Terry, therefore, stationed himself at the head of the ship, where there was a better chance of penetrating the gloom than on the bridge. Loud rose his voice, even amidst the roar of cannon and the shrieking of shot and shell, directing how the vessel's head should be placed. The order was taken from him by the men all along the deck, and by them conveyed to the quartermasters at the wheel. At times this was a difficult matter; for the noise of battle would sometimes drown the necessary orders thus conveyed. As it was, it seemed to me that a great deal of the manoeuvring was sheer guess-work. It could scarcely be otherwise. This was the moment of peril for the Richmond; for had she gone on shore under the batteries, it would have been all up with her, and many a gallant heart that then beat in her would have ceased to throb.

Matters had gone on this way for nearly an hour and a half--the first gun having been fired at about half-past 11 o'clock-when, to my astonishment, I heard some shells whistling over our port side. Did the rebels have batteries on the right bank of the river? was the query that naturally suggested itself to me. To this the response was given that we had turned back. I soon discovered that it was too true. Our return was, of course, more rapid than our passage up. The rebels did not molest us much, and I do not believe one of their shots took effect while we were running down rapidly with the current. It was a melancholy affair, for we did not know but what the whole expedition was a failure; neither could we tell whether any of our vessels had been destroyed, nor how many. We had the satisfaction of learning soon afterward, however, that the Hartford and the Albatross had succeeded in rounding the point above the batteries. All the rest were compelled to return. We soon came to an anchor on the west side of Prophet Island, so near to the shore that the poop-deck was strewn with the blossoms and leaves of the budding trees that we brushed back.

I had now time to look around me. The war of cannon had ceased; the hissing, whizzing, whistling, howling of shot and shell were no longer heard; the glorious stars once more shone forth — the sky no longer being obscured by the opaque smoke that had hovered over the river — and the pale moon now waning to a crescent, rose and shed its mild rays over the recent scene of carnage; the celestial orbs ran their courses in their respective orbits — all the same as if man had not just been imbruing his hands in the blood of his fellow-man. Nothing of these sanguinary transactions did these bright stars or that pale


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New Orleans (Louisiana, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
B. N. Cummings (3)
A. H. Terry (2)
Alden (2)
Alonzo Henderson (1)
George W. Bacon (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: