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,