Doc. 179.-attack on Grand Gulf, Miss.
Admiral Porter's report.
Mississippi Squadron, flag-ship Benton, below Grand Gulp, April 29, 1863.sir: I had the honor of sending you a telegraph announcing that we had fought the batteries at Grand Gulf for five hours and thirty-five minutes, with partial success. Grand Gulf has been very strongly fortified since Admiral Farragut went down, to prevent his coming up again, and four (some of very heavy guns) are placed at the distance of a quarter of a mile apart, on high points, and completely command the river. I ordered the Louisville, Carondelet, Mound City, and Pittsburgh, to lead the way and attack the lower batteries, while the Tuscumbia, Benton, and Lafayette, attacked the upper ones; the Lafayette lying in an eddy, and fighting, stern down-stream. The vessels below silenced the lower batteries, and then closed up on the upper one, which had been hotly engaged by the Benton and Tuscumbia, both ships suffering severely in killed and wounded. The Pittsburgh came up just at the moment when a large shell passed through the Benton's pilot-house, wounding the pilot, Mr. Williams, and disabling the wheel. This made the vessel unmanageable for a short time, and she drifted down to the lower batteries, which she opened upon while repairing damages. The Pittsburgh, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Horl, for a short time bore the brunt of the fire, and lost eight killed and sixteen wounded. The Tuscumbia was cut up a great deal. As the fire of the upper battery slackened, (I presume for want of ammunition,) I passed up a short distance above the fort to communicate with Gen. Grant, to see whether he thought proper to send the troops in the transports by the battery under what was rather a feeble return to our fire. He concluded to land the troops and march them across by a road two miles long, coming out below the batteries. As there was a prospect of expending a great deal of ammunition on the upper battery, without being able to occupy it if it was silenced, the vessels moved up-stream again by signal, without being much fired at or receiving any damage while the enemy had a raking fire on them. I then sent down Captain Walke in the Lafayette to prevent them from repairing damages, which they were doing with great diligence. He opened on them, to which they responded a few times, and finally left the fort, when he fired at intervals of five minutes until dark. At six o'clock P. M. I again got under way, with the transports following up, and attacked the batteries again, the transports all passing down under cover of our fire. We are now in a position to make a landing where the General pleases. I should have preferred this latter course in the first instance; it would have saved many lives and many hard knocks. The Benton received forty-seven shots in her hull alone, not counting the damage done above her rail; but she was just as good for a fight when she got through as when she commenced. All the vessels did well, though it was the most difficult portion of the river in which to manage an iron-clad — strong currents (running six knots) and strong eddies, turning them round and round, making them fair targets. . . . It was a hard fight and a long one on both sides. The enemy fought his upper battery with a desperation I have never yet witnessed, for though we engaged him at a distance of fifty yards, we never fairly succeeded in stopping his fire but for a short time. It was remarkable that we did not disable his guns, but though we knocked the parapets pretty much to pieces, the guns were apparently uninjured. . . . . The squadron has been six hours and a half to-day under a hot and well-directed fire, and are ready to commence at daylight in the morning. I will send a list of killed and wounded the first opportunity. No naval officers were killed or severely wounded. In our attack to-night only one man killed; he was on the Mound City.
A National account.
near Grand Gulf, Mississippi, Wednesday, April 29, 1863.This day, which a year ago was signalized by the capture and occupation of New-Orleans by the Union forces, has been again rendered memorable by one of the fiercest and longest contested naval engagements of the war. The long-promised, and, as some think, too long delayed attack upon Grand Gulf by our naval flotilla commenced at eight o'clock this morning, all seven of the gunboats — Benton, (flag-ship,) Lafayette, Tuscumbia, Carondelet, Mound City, Pittsburgh, and Louisville — participating, and the fight continued until near one o'clock P. M., lasting almost five hours. The place was, very properly, reported by Admiral Farragut as very strong. We found it so. The enemy had at least twenty guns favorably posted in casemates and behind earthworks of the most formidable description. They fought, too, with characteristic tenacity and courage. Our gunboats, however, were too much for them. One after the other was silenced by the direct firing at close quarters from the rifle Parrotts, and the eleven-inch and nine-inch Dahlgrens — the guns, large and small, which compose the armament of the gunboat fleet. At one P. M. only a single gun, protected by a casemate, on the bluff nearest to Big Black River, responded, at long and nervous intervals, to our fire, and the place was taken, to all intents and purposes, so far as silencing the rebel guns was concerned. All that was wanted to complete the victory was for the fifteen thousand troops, which were lying on board of transports three miles above, to land, according to the programme, and occupy the enemy's works under cover of our guns. Why they did not do this — why they remained spectators to the scene, and why, after five hours of as hard and successful fighting as has been done during the war, all the gunboats were withdrawn, are questions I am unable to answer. The Tuscumbia remained at a considerable distance below the batteries, while all the rest proceeded up-stream. Within two hours--while I am now writing — some hundred and odd men may be seen by the glass, busily engaged repairing their dilapidated works, and apparently remounting their guns. The troops, at a late hour in the afternoon, are on the march to a point below Grand Gulf, on the Louisiana side, from which, it is reported, ported, they are to be ferried across by the transports, which will go down empty. All the gunboats have received some injury, but not one has been materially damaged or crippled. The Lafayette, Tuscumbia, Pittsburgh, Mound City, Carondelet, Louisville — all went in and fought the rebel batteries, head, stern, and broadside; first down-stream, then up-stream; then enfilading them in the still basin formed by the outlet of Big Black, within two hundred yards or less of the rebel casemates. The Mound City actually laid herself ashore directly opposite to one of the most formidable batteries, and kept firing at it until every rebel gunner had left. The Benton (flag-ship) did terrible execution with her guns. The firing on the Lafayette was exceedingly accurate--one shot from her eleven-inch Dahlgrens completely upsetting one of the largest of the rebel guns. First Master Bryant, a New-Yorker by birth, but who fought all through the Crimean war, and received a medal from the British government, handled his guns with remarkable skill and judgment, and was complimented several times by Captain Walke for his excellent shots. The Benton fired over six hundred rounds, the Lafayette over three hundred. The number of rounds fired by all the boats must have exceeded four thousand. The rebels were not backward in returning the fire, as all the boats give unmistakable evidence. The Benton was hit over fifty times, the Lafayette twenty-eight times. The Lafayette received a shot in her hull, exploding near the magazine. The Benton had eight killed and twenty wounded, Pittsburgh six killed, and Tuscumbia seven killed and a number wounded.