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[230]

Help at hand — the gunboat “signal” towing materials for the dam On the 1st of May, 1864, thousands of men were set to work upon the famous dam by which Bailey raised the water sufficiently to enable the entrapped vessels to get below the falls. The “Signal” is busily at work towing materials to fill the cribs. Stones were gathered, deserted brick buildings were pulled down, and a large sugar-house a mile below the falls was wrecked and its woodwork, together with its machinery and kettles, were towed up to become a part of the dam. More dangerous work waited the “Signal,” however, for on May 4th she and the “Covington,” the best two gunboats below the falls, were despatched to convoy the transport “Warner,” on which was Lieutenant Simpson of Banks' staff, bearing despatches to Grant, Sherman, and Rosecrans. Near David's Ferry the two gallant little gunboats fought for five hours, on May 5th, against tremendous odds. The Confederates had posted twenty pieces of artillery on the river bank, and against their fire the gunboats stood up bravely. The odds were too heavily against them, however, and the “Covington” was at last abandoned and destroyed, while the “Signal” fell a captive to the Confederates, who sunk her in the channel as an obstruction. Admiral Porter said: “Many of the actions heralded to the world during the late war were much less worthy of notice than this contest between two little gunboats only musket-proof and twenty pieces of artillery.”

The Red River expedition

Transports waiting for the Union army


 

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