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