officer present, of the gallant fight on the afternoon of the fifth instant, in Albemarle Sound, between our wooden gunboats and the rebel ironclad ram Albemarle, in which the latter was repulsed and her tender captured. I ask the special attention of the department to the signal bravery displayed by Captian Smith, and the officers and men engaged with him in this remarkable action, which adds a brilliant page to the exploits of the navy. I have the honor to be, Sir, Very respectfully, yours,
Admiral Lee's instructions.
flag-ship, North Atlantic Blockading squadron, off Newport News, Va., April 23, 1864--1 P. M.Sir: The Navy Department, by telegraphic despatch of this date, directs me to send you to assume command in the sounds of North Carolina, for the purpose of attacking, at all hazards, the rebel ram there, in the best manner to insure its destruction, by running it down with the double-enders, or in any other manner which my judgment or yours may suggest. The Miami (Commander Renshaw) and the Tacony (Lieutenant-Commander Truxton) are now in the sounds. The Sassacus (Lieutenant-Commander Roe) was sent there last night. You will take the Mattabesett (Commander Febiger) and the Wyalusing (Lieutenant-Commander Queen) with you, and leave with all practicable despatch, availing yourself of the present high tides to enter the sounds. I send with you two (2) officers who have served in the sounds, and whose local knowledge will be useful to you. Enclose a copy of my instructions of the twenty-first instant to Commander Davenport for your information and guidance, unless you find occasion to vary them for a more promising plan of attack. Attacking the ram will, to some extent, intimidate it, and by getting alongside of it, in or near contact, and on each side, holding position, and by firing at the centre of its ports, whether open or shut, and on its roof, you will disable and capture it. Your guns should have double breeching, and be loaded with heavy charges (say from fifteen (15) to eighteen (18) pounds of powder for the nine-inch guns) and solid shot, and they should so be depressed as to fire as near a perpendicular line to the slope of the roof as practicable. If all hands lie down when the guns are fired, they will escape the rebound of broken parts from the shot. At the time of this attack, if some shell were thrown down the ram's smoke-stack, she might thus be disabled. The advantage of getting alongside, and of each side of her, is, that you prevent her from ramming, and have a controlling fire upon her roof and ports. The ports and stern are her weak points. Even if her ports are kept closed, as in her attack on the Miami and Southfield's bows, you can, if alongside of her, fire through them and into her; and if her roof is, as described, of railroad iron, with a thin plating over it, the mechanical difficulty of securing this is such that it will loosen and fly off under the concussion of your heavy fire, whilst the inside nuts and bolts will act like canister on her deck, and the concussion, especially if her ports are shut, will shock and demoralize her crew, giving you a complete victory. Besides, you may force her ashore, where the falling freshet in the Roanoke River will leave her. Be sure and not have the neutral point of your wheel-houses opposite her ports. Your wheel-houses should be abaft or forward of her roof,--better abaft. The department seems to prefer ramming. This ram is reported to be of the usual Merrimac model; if so, heavy logging, and a knuckle ironed over, make her sides strong. But ramming under high speed may drive it in, or you may drive her ashore, or mount her ends, and (especially if in the sounds with some sea) sink her. Intrusted by the department with the performance of this signal service, I leave (with the expression of my views) to you the manner of executing it. All assaults are exposed service; but this assault has, with much real risk, less than appears. Wishing you success and promotion, I have the honor to be Respectfully yours,
Report of Captain Melancton Smith.
Albemarle, steamer Cotton Plant, with troops, and the armed steamer Bombshell, laden with provisions and coal, came out of Roanoke River to-day at two o'clock P. M., and after being tolled ten miles down the sound by the picket force left to guard the entrance of the river, the Mattabesett, Wyalusing, Sassacus, and Whitehead got under way, and stood up to engage them; the smaller boats falling into position in accordance with the enclosed programme. The engagement commenced at 4.40 by the ram firing the first gun, which destroyed the Mattabesett's launch, and wounded several men. The second shot cut away some of the standing and running rigging. At 4.45 the Bombshell surrendered to the Mattabesett, and was ordered to fall in our wake; at 4.50 fired a broadside into the ram at a distance of one hundred and fifty yards; at 5.50 the Sassacus delivered her fire on passing, and then rammed his stern, pouring in a broadside at the same time. The Sassacus was seen soon afterwards enveloped with steam, when she hauled off, evidently disabled. The colors of the ram at this moment came down, and it was some time before it was ascertained whether he had surrendered, or they had been shot away. During the contact it was, of course, impossible for the other vessels to fire; but when the Sassacus became