United States flag-ship Minnesota off Newport News, April 31.Sir: About half-past 5 P. M., on the seventeenth instant, Fort Gray, near Plymouth, on the Roanoke River, was attacked by the rebels from a battery of six field-pieces, on a sand-bank, some eight hundred or one thousand yards up the river. Lieutenant Commander Flusser despatched the Ceres to communicate with the Whitehead, which was doing picket-duty up the river. In passing up by the rebel battery, she received a shot in the port gangway, killing two and wounding seven men. Firing upon the fort ceased at about nine o'clock, the Ceres returning about this time. At early dawn on Monday, eighteenth, the enemy charged upon Fort Gray, and were repulsed. The Bombshell then steamed up the river to communicate with the Fort, receiving several shots, and put in a sinking condition. After communicating with the Fort, she returned and sank at the wharf. Later in the day the enemy appeared in force in rear of the town, and at sunset commenced a vigorous attack on Fort Williams and Fort Wessell, at which time the Miami and Southfield, previously chained together, were cut loose. The Southfield steamed up the river to protect Fort Wessell, whilst the Miami dropped down the river and shelled the enemy in front of Fort Williams. During the evening the enemy assaulted Fort Wessell, and were repulsed three times, the Southfield throwing shell among the enemy. At about half-past 10 P. M., the Southfield dropped down the river and reported to Lieutenant Commander Flusser, who ordered the vessels to be lashed together with hawsers, the Southfield being on the port side of the Miami. At about midnight the Southfield came down the Cachie, and came up alongside the Miami, reporting the ram on the way down; the Ceres returning about the same time, having been sent around through the Cachie to communicate with the White-head. About three o'clock A. M. on Tuesday, nineteenth, the ram dropped down along the left bank of the river, under cover of the shade of the trees, with the current, and when near, ran obliquely across into the starboard bow of the Southfield. We had been firing shell the previous evening on shore, and the guns of both vessels were left loaded with shell, which there was not time to draw. Lieutenant Commander Flusser fired the first shell at her, and upon its bursting, some fragments, either from this or from the Southfield's shells, rebounded, and caused the death of Lieutenant Commander Flusser, also wounding the officers and men below mentioned, the fragments piercing his chest, face, and skull. Upon the approach of the ram, the Southfield also fired at her. The prow of the ram running into the Southfield, caused her to fill with water, and she sank inside of fifteen minutes. The forward lashings were parted by the pressure of the ram between our vessels, and the after ones were then cut, and as many as could get on board of the Miami did so. When the Miami retired, she was followed a short distance by the ram, which was considered slow, making about four knots per hour; the Miami, however, throwing solid shot at her as she retired. Some of the men of the Southfield took the small boats, and were picked up by the Whitehead and Ceres. The gunboats Miami, Whitehead, and Ceres returned to the mouth of the river and came to anchor. The Ceres was despatched to Newbern immediately, with the body of Lieutenant Commander Flusser. The officers missing from the Southfield were, Acting Master W. B. Newman, Acting Ensign Thomas B. Stokes, Acting Second Assistant Engineer William F. Goff, Acting Third Assistant Engineer John A. Streiby, Acting Master's Mate George W. Pratt, and Paymaster's Clerk George W. Brown. Some of the officers and men of the Southfield may have been captured, but most of them must have escaped; few or none were probably lost. Acting Ensign Thomas A. Hargis, and Acting Third Assistant Engineer Harrington, and some six or eight men were wounded — none mortally — of the Miami. The Miami was uninjured. The ram is thought not to have used her guns whilst under our bows, nor could our guns then bear on her. The shell fired at her was when she approached, and her firing, which seemed to be from small guns, was while the Miami retreated, when she was struck by a glancing shot from the ram. Very respectfully.
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The loss of the Southfield.--P. H. Pursell, the Acting Assistant-Surgeon of the Southfield, gave the following account of the loss of this ship:
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