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[204]

When entering the Mississippi the fleet of the enemy was found disposed as a phalanx, but the heroic commander of the Arkansas moved directly against it; though in passing through this formidable array he was exposed to the broadsides of the whole fleet, the vessel received no other injury than from one eleven-inch shot which entered the gun room, and the perforation in many places of her smokestack. The casualties to the crew were five killed, four wounded—among the latter was the gallant commander. General Van Dorn, commanding the department, in a dispatch from Vicksburg July 15th, states the number of the enemy's vessels above Vicksburg, pays a high compliment to the officers and men, and adds:

All the enemy's transports and all the vessels of war of the lower fleet (i.e., the fleet just below Vicksburg), except a sloop of war, have got up steam, and are off to escape from the Arkansas.

A vessel inspiring such dread is entitled to a special description. She was an ironclad steamer, one hundred feet in her length, her armament ten Parrott guns, and her crew one hundred men who had volunteered from the land forces for the desperate service proposed. Her commander had been from his youth in the navy of the United States, and his capacity was such as could well supplement whatever was wanted of naval knowledge in his crew. The care and skill with which the vessel had been constructed were tested and proved under fire. Had her engines been equal to the hull and armor of the vessel, it is difficult to estimate the value of the service she might have performed. At this period the enemy occupied Baton Rouge, with gunboats lying in front of it to cooperate with the troops in the town. The importance of holding a section of the Mississippi, so as to keep free communication between the eastern and western portions of the Confederacy, has been heretofore noticed. To this end it was deemed needful to recover the possession of Baton Rouge, and it was decided to make a land attack in cooperation with the Arkansas, to be sent down against the enemy's fleet.

Major General J. C. Breckinridge was assigned to the command of the land forces. This distinguished citizen and alike distinguished soldier, surmounting difficulties which would have discouraged a less resolute spirit, approached Baton Rouge, and moved to the attack at the time indicated for the arrival of the Arkansas. In his address to the officers and soldiers of his command, after the battle, viz., on August 6, 1862, he compliments the troops on the fortitude with which they had borne a severe march, on the manner in which they attacked the enemy, superior in numbers and admirably posted, drove him from his positions,

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