Doc. 26.-army and Navy expedition up the Nansemond and James Rivers.
Report of rear-admiral Lee.
flag-ship North Atlantic squadron, off Newport News, Va, April 16, 1864.Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report in regard to the part taken by the navy in the recent combined army and navy expedition up the James and Nansemond Rivers: On the ninth instant I wrote to General Butler, suggesting that he send a sufficient force to clear the country in the vicinity of Smithfield and Chuckatuck of the guerilla parties known to be there, and to destroy the boats which it was supposed they had concealed. (Copy enclosed, No. 1.) In reply to this I received on the tenth a letter from General Butler, (copy No. 2,) which was brought by General Graham, who proposed going up the creeks with his light armed transports, and landing some troops in the Nansemond. I saw General Butler the same evening, and urged him to send at once a suitable force to come in from the rear and envelop the rebels so as to effectually capture them at Iron Station, and between the Blackwater, James, and Nansemond Rivers, and to advise me when he was ready to begin this movement, that I might send a naval force to watch Chuckatuck and Pagan Creeks, and prevent the escape of the rebels by water. This he promised to do. I suggested to him that the plan of attack brought by General Graham, of approach in front instead of in the rear, would drive back the rebels, whereas they ought to be captured. This recommendation I hoped would be adopted, but the plan sent by General Graham was substantially carried out, and the force sent to the rear was cavalry, and was kept too far off for effect. On the afternoon of the twelfth I received from General Smith and Colonel Shaffer (chief of staff to General Butler) a memorandum, of which a copy is enclosed. On the morning of the thirteenth I issued orders to the commanding officers of the gunboats I had assigned to take part in the expedition — the Commodore Morris, Commodore Perry, Commodore Barney, and Stepping Stones — of which copies are enclosed. Two (2) launches with howitzers from this ship, in charge of Acting Master Wilder and Acting Ensign J. Birtwistle, were ordered to accompany the Stepping Stones. The gunboats and launches accordingly started from this point as directed, and up to sunrise on the morning of the fourteenth all was carried out according to their orders given. At this time, however, the intended cooperations and the infantry force on Pagan Creek failed of being fully carried out, owing to the grounding of the transports and delay in landing the troops, and that part of the expedition designed to explore Pagan Creek did not begin to ascend it until 12.15 P. M. The launches, going ahead of the troops, were fired on from the shore by a concealed force, and Acting Master Wilder, of this ship, instantly killed, and H. Miller, landsman, severely wounded. Assistant Surgeon William Longshore's report of casualties is enclosed, and the report of Acting Master Campbell (12) gives full details of this part of the affair. The Commodore Morris, as will be seen by the report of her commanding officer, Lieutenant Fyffe, assisted the military force, and carried out my orders. The Commodore Perry and Commodore Barney also did their part in cooperating with the troops in the Nansemond and Western Branch. The boats from these vessels explored Western Branch to the extent that the troops afforded cooperation. The expedition returned yesterday afternoon. It failed in accomplishing the main objects, viz., the complete capture of the rebels in that region and the destruction of the torpedo-boat which attacked this ship on the morning of the ninth. This, it was ascertained, had gone from Pagan Creek to Richmond on the night of the tenth instant for repairs. This country is a very difficult one to operate in, and requires more time than was available for a complete overhauling. I give in a separate report information received in relation to this torpedo-boat. The results accomplished were four (4) prisoners, one (1) twelve-pound howitzer, belonging to the navy, and probably captured by the rebels from the army boat Smith Briggs, and a few wagons taken and brought off; a valuable officer killed, and one man wounded on our side — the rebel loss unknown. The following enclosures accompany this report: No. 1. Admiral Lee to General Butler, April 9, 1864. No. 2. To Admiral Lee from General Butler, April 10, 1864. No. 3. Memorandum received from General Butler and Colonel Shaffer, April 12, 1864. No. 4. Orders to Acting Master D. A. Campbell, United States steamer Stepping Stones, April 13, 1864. No. 5. Orders to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant A. P. Foster, United States steamer Commodore Perry, April 13, 1854. No. 6. Orders to Acting Master James M. Williams, United States steamer Commodore Barney, April 13, 1864. No. 7. Orders to Lieutenant J. P. Fyffe, United States steamer Commodore Morris, April 13, 1864. No. 8. Report of Lieutenant-Commander J. H. Upshur, commanding United States steamer Minnesota, (three enclosures,) April 16, 1864. No. 9. Report of Acting Master J. M. Williams, United States steamer Commodore Barney, April 14, 1864. No. 10. Report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant A. P. Foster, United States steamer Commodore Perry, April 15, 1864. No. 11. Report of Lieutenant Joseph P. Fyffe, United States steamer Commodore Morris, April 15, 1864. No. 12. Report of Acting Master D. A. Campbell, United States steamer Stepping Stones April 15, 1864. I have the honor to be, Sir, Very respectfully, yours,
Letter to General Butler.
flag-ship N. A. B. Squadron, off Newport News, Va., April 9, 1864.General: The vicinity of Smithfield and Chuckatuck are known to be invested by guerillas, who are reported to have boats concealed up those creeks and their tributaries. You are aware that the rebels have an organized system of boat expeditions all along the coast, operating at one time from creeks in Morton and Gloucester counties against the Eastern Shore counties, Cape Charles light-house, &c.; at another time against the gunboat Underwriter at Newbern, and now against this ship here. In all these cases they harbor in the vicinity of their operations. This was explained by your prisoner, Acting Master Webb, of the rebel navy, captured while thus engaged in the Neck counties near Yorktown, where, as in the vicinity of Smithfield, &c., the small creeks are numerous and not accessible to our gunboats. It is believed that the little torpedo-boat which struck this vessel last night, happily without accomplishing its object, came out of Pagan and Chuckatuck Creeks or their tributaries. I respectfully suggest that you send at once a sufficient force to capture these rebels and destroy their boats on the upper creeks, and to cooperate with a naval force to prevent their escape by the river, which I will send as soon as you are ready. I have the honor to be, General, Very respectfully, yours.
Letter to Admiral Lee.
headquarters Eighteenth army corps, Department of Va. And N. C., fortress Monroe, April 10, 1864.Admiral: I have your note in relation to the pirates of the creeks and inlets of the James River, and the means of destroying them, and am desirous of cooperating with you in that object. I have, therefore, sent General Graham, who is charged with the duty of making all such dispositions as you may judge necessary, after conference with him for the purpose indicated. Very respectfully, yours,
Memorandum from General Butler.
Fort Monroe, April 12, 1864.Admiral Lee will please have a gunboat at Halloway's Point, on the Nansemond, to-morrow evening, for the purpose of covering the crossing of an infantry force. The boat is to remain until advised to withdraw. Place one or more gunboats some distance above Day's Point when the army gunboat Brewster proceeds to that place with her convoy to land the infantry — the naval vessels to remain there after the Brewster and transports leave, and to continue there until information is communicated that the object of the expedition has been effected. Likewise to station a gunboat near the mouth of Pagan Creek whilst the army gunboats of light draught convey troops in and out.
Orders to D. A. Campbell.
flag-ship North Atlantic Blocking squadron, off Newport News, Virginia, April 13, 1864.Sir: Proceed with the Stepping Stones under your command, to the mouth of Pagan Creek, taking in tow the two (2) launches of the Minnesota. You will there be joined by an army transport with troops, which are directed to land at or near Smithfield at sunrise in the morning. Render all the assistance in your power in effecting and covering this intended landing, and after it is effected, remain at that station until you are advised that your services are no longer needed. Guard closely the water before and after the landing is effected. The object of this expedition is to cooperate with a detachment of our troops, which will be landed some distance above Day's Point, for the purpose of scouring the waters about Pagan Creek, and capturing and destroying any rebel torpedo or other boats which may be there secreted. In furtherance of this object, as well as covering the landing, the launches will be employed. Respectfully, yours,
Orders to A. P. Foster.
flag-ship Minnesota, Newport News, Virginia, April 13, 1864.Sir: Proceed with the Commodore Perry, under your command, to the landing opposite Halloway's Point, on the Nansemond River, timing your departure so as to pats through the obstructions in safety, and so as to arrive at Halloway's Point at ten o'clock P. M., to-night. It is intended to cross in pontoon boats an infantry force to Halloway's Point at eleven o'clock P. M. Communicate with the officer in command of such troops as you may find upon the bank of the Nansemond, opposite Halloway's Point, and so dispose of the Commodore Perry as will best assist and cover the intended passage and landing of the troops on the other side of the river. You will remain in such position until you are advised that your presence there is no longer needed and you are directed to withdraw. The Commodore Perry is directed to proceed farther up the Nansemond to Western Branch, and you will send with her two armed boats from the Perry, under competent officers, who will be under the orders of Acting Master Williams, commanding the Barney. Should the General Putman still be in the Nansemond, you will deliver the accompanying despatch to her commanding officer. Respectfully, yours,
Orders to James Williams.
flag-ship North Atlantic Blocking squadron, off Newport News, April 13, 1864.Sir: Proceed with the Commodore Barney, under your command, up the Nansemond River, communicating with the Commodore Perry, and receiving from her two armed boats, with which you will proceed with the Barney to the mouth of Western Branch. It is expected that a detachment from the army will be at Milnerstown or Red Ferry, situated on the West Branch, at about eleven o'clock to-morrow, (Thursday morning,) who are to cooperate with you in exploring and scouting the Western Branch for the purpose of capturing or destroying any rebel torpedo or other boats which may be there secreted. Upon your arrival at the mouth of the creek you will arm and equip two boats from the Barney, and, together with the two boats of the Perry assigned to you, you will carefully and cautiously ascend the Western Branch, having first endeavored to ascertain the strength of the enemy, if any there, and communicate, if practicable, with the army detachment expected at Milnerstown or Red Ferry at eleven o'clock. You will take command of this boat expedition in person, and be careful not unduly to expose your men. Upon the return of the boats to the Barney, join the Commodore Perry at Halloway's Point, and remain there until your services, in covering the army operations at that point, are no longer needed, when you will return and report to me here. Respectfully yours,
Orders to Lieutenant Fyffe.
flag-ship North Atlantic Blocking squadron, off Newport News, Va., April 13, 1864.Sir: It is intended that a force of infantry will be landed at daylight, to-morrow morning, some distance above Day's Point, on the James River. For the purpose of assisting and covering this landing, you will hold yourself in readiness to proceed with the army transports, which will be collected at Newport News, at about midnight, this evening, under cover of the armed transport Brewster, and will accompany the expedition to the point of landing. You will direct that the United States steamer Shokokon, now on advance picket duty, be in readiness to join you as you proceed up the river, giving her commanding officer notice of the intended movement beforehand. Upon the arrival at the point of landing, you will so dispose of the Commodore Morris and Shokokon as to render every assistance in covering the landing, and after the landing has been effected, the naval vessels will remain in their positions until information is communicated that the objects of the expedition are effected. Guard closely the water during this movement. You are charged with the notification to the commanding officer of the vessels now lying in James River, between Newport News and the intended place of landing, of the intended movement, so that the vessels engaged in it may pass safely and quietly to their destination. It is intended that an infantry force shall land at or near Smithfield, passing into Pagan Creek to assist in that movement; the Stepping Stones, with two launches from the Minnesota, is detailed to assist and cover the landing, which will take place at sunrise tomorrow. Respectfully yours,
Report of Lieut.-Commander Upshur.
United States flag-ship Minnesota, off Newport News, Va., April 16, 1864.Sir: I enclose herewith the reports of Acting Ensign Birtwistle and O'Connor, of this vessel, of the part taken by them and the men under their command, composing the crews of the launches in the late expedition to Smithfield; also Assistant Surgeon Longshaw's report of casualties. It is with feelings of deep regret and sorrow that I have to report the loss of Acting Volunteer-Lieutenant Wilder. He was a brave, zealous, and subordinate officer. True to the reputation he had won among his shipmates for promptness and gallantry, he fell while in the act of firing a shot at the enemy. I am, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Report of Ensign O'Connor.
United States flag-ship Minnesota, off Newport News, Va., April 15, 1864.Sir: I have the honor to report that on the thirteenth of April, at about seven P. M., the first and second launches of this ship, with a crew of nineteen and twenty men respectively, the second launch being under the charge of Acting Ensign James Birtwistle, and both being under the command of Acting Master Charles B. Wilder, left this ship, and went alongside the United States steamer Stepping Stones, and were fastened astern, while the Stepping Stones proceeded a short distance up the James River and anchored. At two A. M., on the fourteenth, the Stepping Stones proceeded up the James River to the mouth of Pagan Creek with the boats in tow, where she anchored, it being yet dark, and seeing no signs of the army transports. At about 5.30 A. M. two army boats came in view coming down the river, and soon others came from the same direction. We lay there, waiting for them to come in, which they seemed unable to do. At about ten A. M. the boats cast off from the Stepping Stones and anchored, while she proceeded out and communicated with the transports, and then piloted them into the creek, and. was the pilot of the flotilla all of the way to Smithfield. When the Stepping Stones got back into the creek the launches proceeded up in tow of the army steamer Emma; she got aground after proceeding about three miles, when the boats cast  off from her and commenced to pull up. At about 12.15, noon, we arrived off Smithfield, having up to this time seen no enemies. The first launch proceeded a short distance beyond the wharf, to a jetty, where Mr. Wilder sent me with a guard of four men to bring down one of the inhabitants of the town--one of whom we saw sitting in front of a store. I brought him to Mr. Wilder, who examined him closely concerning the rebels and about the torpedo boat. He stated that there were no troops in the vicinity, nor had there been any since the Smith Briggs was destroyed; but occasionally some of the rebel picket came into the town. He also stated that the torpedo boat had been there twice, and had come from Richmond. He told us that the David had left the village on last Sunday night, at ten o'clock, and had returned to Richmond. We then went back to the wharf, and Mr. Wilder left the launch and communicated with Acting Master Campbell and the officer commanding the forces on shore. At two P. M. Mr. Wilder said to Mr. Birtwistle that he was going a short distance up the creek, and desired him to follow at a short distance, and cover us in the first launch, which he did accordingly. We then proceeded up the creek, and past the town, till we came to the ruins of a bridge, where we saw an old negro sitting; we went alongside the bank, and Mr. Wilder put various questions to him, and the answers he gave corroborated the statement of the man who was previously examined. Apprehending no danger, though we were prepared for it, we proceeded through the bridge and up the creek, and were followed at the proper distance by the second launch. When we were about three hundred yards from the bridge the enemy opened fire on us from the right bank of the stream, and from a thickly wooded bluff. Immediately we pointed the boat's head for the bluff and returned the fire from the howitzer and the rifles--Mr. Wilder going to the howitzer, and I attending to the boat and using small arms. We had fired two rounds at the rebels, and Mr. Wilder had the lock string in his hand ready to fire, when, I regret very much to say, he was struck by a rifle ball in the left temple and instantly killed. H. H. Miller, one of my men, was also struck by a rifle ball and badly wounded. I discharged the gun, and got the launch with her head down stream, thinking itwas useless to endanger the lives of my men any longer. Mr. Birtwistle got a good position and ably supported me, and I will now add that through the whole expedition my men behaved well, and especially while under fire. This morning my boat, in company with the second launch, covered the army steamer Emma while she ascended the creek. We gave the woods a vigorous shelling, and had the satisfaction of starting some of the enemy from the woods. The town of Smithfield has a deserted appearance, and I saw no one in the town but old men, women, and children. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Report of Ensign Birtwistle.
United States steam frigate Minnesota, off Newport News, Va., April 25, 1864.Sir: I have the honor to report that on the thirteenth instant, pursuant to your orders, I left the ship, in charge of the second launch, with Master's Mate J. M. Simms, (20) twenty men, and heavy twelve-pounder howitzer, subject to the orders of Acting Master Charles B. Wilder, in command of the first launch, with Acting Ensign Fred A. O'Connor, (19) nineteen men, and heavy twelve-pounder howitzer, smooth bore. Both launches were taken in tow by the Stepping Stones. She anchored a short distance up the river until two o'clock next morning, the fourteenth, when she got under way and arrived off Smithfield Creek, which we entered at daylight and came to anchor just inside, awaiting the arrival of the army steamer which steamed in towards us at about nine. A. M., but grounded outside. The Stepping Stones went out to pilot them in, while the launches lay at anchor until they came up, when we were taken in tow by the army steamer Emma to within about (3) three miles of Smithfield, when we cast off and took stations to cover the advance and landing of the troops, and arrived at Smithfield at about 12.30. Troops landed, launches advanced, and Mr. Wilder stationed me to guard the main street and back entrance to the town, while he commanded the main approaches to the right of the town; and while in this position Mr. Wilder interrogated an aged colored man who was living in a toll-house to a destroyed bridge near him in reference to the Torpedo, the nature of the creek, force and vicinity of the rebels, and other necessary and important questions, while I, on the left, questioned an aged white man in a similar manner. Shortly afterwards we compared accounts, and found them to agree. Though they said the Torpedo had left there last Sunday evening, Mr. Wilder was not satisfied, nor any of us; we thought possibly their statements were not true, or she might have returned. Mr. Wilder having called me to him, placed me in command of the right of the town, while he went to consult Acting Master Campbell, commanding the Stepping Stones. He returned, and said he was going a little way up the creek, and ordered me to follow him and cover his advance. He proceeded through the bridge a few hundred yards, when he was fired on from an ambushed bluff by concealed riflemen. Fortunately the second launch was lying on their oars — waiting for the first launch to get about (100) one hundred yards ahead — with the gun manned and trained directly on the bluff. I primed and fired a percussion shell right in their midst, and the second volley they fired was quite scattering; backed the second launch and fired rapidly, each shell bursting beautifully. The first launch, on being fired on, promptly rounded to and fired three effective shots from their gun, and discharged all their small arms, pulled from under the bluff under cover of the second launch, and I most sincerely regret to have to say that while in close action Mr. Wilder received a shot in the left temple which killed him instantly, and  in the very act of pulling the lock-string of the howitzer to fire the second shot. Mr. O'Connor then fought and managed the first launch gallantly, bringing her out manfully, and his men fought heroically. I ordered him to take position on the opposite side of the bridge, but he said he had wounded in his boat, so I allowed him to proceed to the Stepping Stones, and the shots then were very few. The Stepping Stones at this time chimed in beautifully, sending a number of well-directed shots in various places at the edge of the woods, which greatly cheered us, and we heard no more firing from the enemy. I am very gratified to say that Mr. Simms, officer of the piece in the second launch, was remarkably cool, and directed the working of the gun in a most creditable and skilful manner. All the men, both at the gun and the oars, gave the strictest attention to every order, and I feel at a loss to commend any individual one. Therefore, sir, I commend to your notice both officers and men of both launches. Not a shot was dodged by any one, and when I headed the second launch towards the town, to get clear of some bushes on my starboard quarter, the crew murmured, and to hasten the move I had to tell them I was only getting clear of the bushes for a better position. I then lay a while in easy range, and the army having possession of the town and its rear, I reported to Captain Campbell, and lay astern of the Stepping Stones until the next morning. At about seven A. M. we covered the advance of the little army steamer Emma, with troops, up the creek, and had the satisfaction of driving a number of the enemy from the same place. She returned without the Torpedo. I am, Sir, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Report of Surgeon Longshaw.
United States steam frigate Minnesota, Newport News, Va., April 15, 1864.Sir: I have to report the following casualties to the detachment sent from this ship on the thirteenth instant, under command of Acting Master D. M. Campbell, to cooperate with the army in landing at Smithfield, Va., on the fourteenth instant. Killed,. Acting Volunteer-Lieutenant Charles B. Wilder; wounded, Harmon H. Miller, landsman, severely in left shoulder. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Report of James M. Williams.
Nansemond River, and at 7.45 P. M. of that day (thirteenth instant) reported to the commanding officer of the Commodore Perry, (lying at first obstructions in the river,) who furnished me with two boats (crews armed) from his vessel. We then proceeded up the river, and at 10.55 P. M. anchored at Sleepy Hole. I then fitted out two armed boats from this vessel, and with the two from the Commodore Perry communicated with Colonel Keys, of the One Hundred and Eighteenth New York volunteers, (at 11.30 P. M.,) who required our assistance in transporting his troops to the opposite side of the river. At 2.30 A. M. of this day (fourteenth April) they commenced crossing in army launches and boats on the expedition from this vessel, and at six A. M. the last of them ,had crossed. I then returned to this vessel immediately, got under way, and, with two of the Commodore Perry's boats in tow, steamed to Western Branch and anchored at the obstructions; then, with two boats' crews, armed, proceeded about three miles up the branch, where I communicated with the Colonel of the Thirteenth New Hampshire volunteers, who informed me that the pickets had seen rebel cavalry in the morning, (it was noon when I met the Colonel.) He also informed me that they (the rebel cavalry and infantry) were reported to be about ten thousand strong, and in the neighborhood of Barker's Cross Roads. A little farther up the branch I met a citizen (a farmer) whom I strictly questioned concerning torpedoes, boats, &c. He positively denied that any such things were in that neighborhood, but he acknowledged that they might be in Chuckatuck, as Lieutenant Roy had a force at his headquarters to replace the old one that we had captured on the twenty-ninth March. After receiving from him all the information that he appeared to know, I returned to my vessel, steamed to Sleepy Hole, where the Commodore Perry was anchored, returned her boats, and proceeded down river to flag-ship. I am, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Report of Lieutenant Foster.
United States steamer Commodore Perry, April 15, 1864.Sir: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to your orders of April thirteenth, I proceeded up the Nansemond River to the landing opposite Halloway's Point, at which place I arrived at 9.50 P. M. I there found Colonel Keys, of the One Hundred and Eighteenth New York volunteers, who told me that he intended to cross four hundred (400) troops as soon as his barges should arrive. I offered to render him any assistance in my power with regard to crossing his troops. He told me that he would cross the troops himself, but desired me to take such a position as would cover the landing of his troops. This I immediately did. At 11.45 P. M. the Delaware came up with four (4) launches, under the charge of a Lieutenant of the naval brigade. I immediately sent the Lieutenant  with the barges on shore to report to Colonel Keys. I went on shore myself, and again offered to assist in crossing the troops. The Colonel, however, wished to cross them himself. It was five o'clock in the morning before all the troops were across the river. At three o'clock, on the afternoon of the fourth instant, seventy (70) men returned, under charge of the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment, and recrossed. At two o'clock this P. M. Acting Ensign Arnold Harris arrived here in the army gunboat Brewster, and reported to me that the remainder of the troops under Colonel Keys had been taken to Norfolk, and would not return to recross at Nansemond. I immediately got under way, and proceeded to Newport News. I am, Sir, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Report of Lieutenant Fyffe.
United States steamer Morris, Newport News, April 15, 1864.Sir: I have the honor to report that in obedience to your orders of the thirteenth instant, I proceeded with this vessel, the Commodore Jones, and Shokokon, accompanied by the army transports Brewster and John D. W. Pentz, up James River, to a point in Burrell's Bay, about three miles north of Point of Shoals light-house, where, arriving at 3.30 A. M., of the fourteenth, the troops were disembarked from the transports by the boats of this vessel, the Commodore Jones, and two launches, the Shokokon being sent on picket about four miles farther up the river. All the troops, nearly four hundred, of the Twenty-third Massachusetts regiment, were landed by five A. M., when the transports steamed down the river. About seven A. M. some musket firing was heard, which I supposed to be a small party of skirmishers. At eight A. M. an officer (quartermaster) came down to the beach at a point about one and a half mile below where the troops had landed and made signal to this vessel. He was accompanied by three soldiers. I went in a boat to communicate with him, but before I got to the beach he had sent two of his men off, who did not return, and are now supposed to be prisoners. On landing, he told me that he had two wounded men; that they were in the rear guard of the regiment, which was but a short distance off. I took five men with me to help bring the wounded down, the officer acting as guide. We proceeded about three quarters of a mile to where he said the rear guard ought to be, but saw nothing of them, nor could we find the wounded. We saw a cavalry picket or escort, composed of about eight men, riding in the direction of Day's Point. We fired upon them, at which they returned and galloped back, and we returned to our boats. I brought the officer and one man on board this vessel, and soon after I put them on board the Brewster. At 12.15 discovered some soldiers on shore, at a house just above Rock Wharf, who.were signalizing to this vessel. I now discovered them to be the same ones we had landed in the morning. I manned two boats, and went on shore to see what assistance was required. On landing, the Colonel told me he had four wounded men and four prisoners, and said he had no way of caring for the wounded, and no way of keeping his prisoners, and wished me to receive them on board this vessel until they could be properly cared for, which I did. They were all put on board the Mt. Washington last evening, and sent down. He had also a twelve-pound Dahlgren howitzer, which he had found in the house, and which he said he should leave, as he had no way of taking it with him. I then took it and brought it on board, where I still have it. It is complete, with the exception of sights. At ten P. M. last night the John D. W. Pentz came up after the troops, and requested of me some boats to help reembark them, which I sent. They were all got off at 3.30 this morning, and immediately started down the river. I remained there until I received your orders to return to this station, which I reached at seven o'clock P. M. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Joseph P. Fyffe, Lieutenant, commanding. Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee, Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.P. S.--I omitted to mention that at 2.30 this morning this vessel was hailed from Rock Wharf. I sent a boat, which brought off a soldier of the Twenty-third Massachusetts, who said he had been left behind. I shall send him to his regiment.
Joseph P. Fyffe, Lieutenant, commanding.
Report of Acting Master Campbell.
United States steamer Stepping Stones, off Newport News, Va., April 15, 1864.Sir: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to your order of the thirteenth instant, I proceeded with this vessel and two launches from the Minnesota in tow, under command of Acting Master Charles B. Wilder, to the mouth of Pagan Creek, at sunrise on the fourteenth, to cooperate with a detachment from the army; but as the transports did not arrive until nine A. M., and then all got aground, it was late before we could proceed. As soon as the transports grounded I sent a boat to know if I could render them any assistance, to which the Captain replied they had no pilot. When the boat returned, and reported this to me, I steamed down to them, told the captains to follow me as soon as they could get afloat, and I would show them the way, which they did, and I steamed up the creek to Smithfield, arriving at 12.15 P. M., followed by the steamers C. W. Thomas, John Tracey, and Emma, and landed the troops without opposition. The Stepping Stones taking position about one hundred (100) yards below, and the launches about fifty (50) yards above, the transports to cover the landing. After the troops were landed, I immediately reported to the senior army officer present, and was  requested to remain until further orders, which I did. At two P. M. Acting Master Wilder told me he would like to go to the upper end of the town with the launches, if I had no objection; I replied that I had none, and (as I suppose) thinking there was no danger, we not having seen any rebels on the way up, went about two hundred (200) yards farther up the creek, where about fifteen (15) of the rebel signal corps, which were concealed in the woods on the bank, opened on the launches with musketry. Sad to relate, Acting Master Wilder, of the Minnesota, was instantly killed, a musket ball passing through the head, and Harmon H. Miller, (seaman,) also from the Minnesota, was severely wounded. The boats returned the fire promptly, as did also this vessel, and we very soon heard no more from them. The boats, after giving the woods a pretty good shelling, returned to this vessel. I am satisfied, from the best information I could obtain, that the rebel torpedo boat, which has been hovering around these waters for a few days, left Smithfield on Sunday evening last, bound to Richmond. It is reported by the inhabitants, with several of whom, both white and black, I conversed, and their statements all agree, that the torpedo boat came to Smithfield on Saturday morning, the ninth instant, and left on Sunday evening for Richmond for repairs. As near as I could ascertain, she is a wooden boat, about thirty-five (35) feet long, and very narrow, has a propeller engine, low pressure, is covered with boiler iron, making her shot-proof against musketry, and is commanded by Lieutenant Davidson, of the rebel navy. This morning, at daylight, General Graham informed me that my services were no longer required at Smithfield, and requested me to cover the rear of his transports while going down the creek, which I did, and arrived at this place at 11.30 A. M. The officers and men of this vessel, as well as the officers and men of the Minnesota's launches, conducted themselves through this expedition in the most becoming manner, always ready and anxious to do their duty. Pilot Henry Stevens, of the Minnesota, deserves much credit in piloting this vessel, as well as the transports; were it not for him, we should not have been able to find the way to Smithfield without much difficulty. I am, Sir, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,