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[257]

Another account.

United States gunboat Miami, off mouth of Roanoke River, May 6.
We have just passed through the second engagement with that ugly little ram, the Albemarle. Yesterday afternoon, at two o'clock, the ram, consorted by the steamer Cotton Planter and the Bombshell, which last they sunk at the attack on Plymouth and afterward raised, made its appearance at the mouth of the river. We retreated slowly, and they followed. Captain French sent the steamer Massassoit ahead to inform the remainder of the fleet.

At four o'clock they came in sight, running up at full speed. When the rebel fleet saw our reenforcements they tried to back out; but it was no go, as some of our vessels can steam eighteen knots, while the ram can make but eight or nine. At half-past 4 we fired the first gun — our one hundred pounder rifle. That was the signal for the commencement of a most furious cannonading, which lasted over three hours. The fleet took up a position describing a circle, with the ram in the centre. In the mean time the Cotton Planter had fled, and by her superior sailing qualities escaped. The Bombshell we captured. She was crowded with sharp-shooters.

The gunboat Sassacus steamed full speed right into the ram, at the same time giving her a broadside, but without the least effect. The whole fleet then sailed slowly round the ram, each boat as it passed giving her a broadside, which made the iron fly from her side and riddled her smoke-stack. This seemed to “rile” her some, for she then, for the first time, showed her teeth, and began to act on the defensive. She made directly for the Miami, and when she was about ten yards off, let fly at us with Whitworth rifles. One shell went through our smoke-stack, just over the men's heads; and the other went into the captain's cabin and exploded there, tearing every thing in that vicinity to pieces, and starting the deck above. A large piece of the shell went through the opposite side, making a hole clean through the ship.

Mr. Hackett, our paymaster, was lying on a sofa in the cabin at the time, and, wonderful to say, was not hurt in the least, although the sofa was turned over on him, and he was covered with a pile of glass, books, clothes, pieces of wood, and broken furniture, and almost suffocated by the dust and smoke, with which the cabin was filled. We were also struck by a shell, which burst in the wheel-house, and shattered our signal-lamps, but did no other damage. A thirty-eight pound solid shot went through our second cutter, which hung alongside on its davits, and there is nothing left of our “dingy” but the keel and ribs. Strange as it may seem, not a man on our vessel was hurt.

The Sassacus got a shell in her boilers, which killed three and wounded six. The Mattabasset had her deck swept by a shot, which took both legs off of three men, one of whom has since died, and the others are not expected to live. We have not yet heard whether any others in the fleet were hurt.

The Miami fired over one hundred and seventeen times, and struck the ram over eighty times. We put one shot right into one of her ports, and dismounted a gun. The firing was kept up till after dark; and during the night the ram got away up the river. We all think that two hours more of daylight would have made her ours.

The fleet is now lying at the mouth of the Roanoke, waiting for the ram to come out again; but I think she had such a shaking as she did not expect, and will be very careful how she pokes her nose in such a mess again. She looks as much like a huge turtle as any thing I can compare her to. She is iron-clad, then a layer of oak fifteen inches thick, and then another casing of iron. She is much more powerful and substantial than the Merrimac was. Just consider what an immense power of resistance she must possess. Yesterday, in the space of a little more than three hours, she was struck upward of two hundred and eighty times.


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