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[261]

Doc. 177.-attack on Sewell's point, May 19, 1861.

The following is the official report of the action between the United States war-steamer Star and the Sewell's Point battery, on the 19th inst.

United States steamer Star, May 19, 1861.
flag officer S. H. Stringham, Commander of the Home Squadron:--
From the time I reported to you yesterday I kept a strict watch on the movements of the enemy in and about the Sewell's Point battery. Several noises were heard during the night, but not distinct enough for me to trace them. At half-past 5, P. M., I heard distinct blows, as if from an axe securing timber platforms for gun-carriages inside of the embrasures, and immediately I ordered a shot to be fired over them. The rebels immediately hoisted a white flag, with some design on it, and fired a shot that cut the fore spencer guys near the gaff. I immediately went to quarters, and returned their fire, which was continued by them. I expended fifteen round of grape, twelve ten-inch shot, thirty-two ten-inch shell, ten shell for thirty-two pounders, and forty-five thirty-two pound shot; making a total of one hundred and four-teen shots, which I think did some execution among the rebels. I only desisted for want of ammunition, having only five eight-pound charges remaining for the pivot gun. I regret that want of ammunition compelled me to retire, as I am satisfied I could have silenced the battery in a short time.

I cannot too highly praise the courage and patriotism of the officers and men under my command. They acted nobly, and with great coolness, as the repeated firings as above will show. The action continued from 5.30 to 6.45, P. M., a duration of one hour and fifteen minutes.

The battery is masked, thirteen embrasures having been erected behind a sand bank. The rebels had three rifled cannons, and fired several volleys of Minie balls, which struck the ship. The ship was struck five times by the rifled cannot shot in the hull and upper works. The damage can be repaired by ourselves.

I herewith enclose the report of the medical officer of this ship, by which you will perceive that two men were slightly wounded during the action.

I cannot close this communication without calling the attention of the Flag Officer to the valuable services of Lieutenant Daniel L. Braine, who had charge of our pivot gun, and who during the whole action displayed great coolness and skill in the management.

Henry eagle, Commander.

--National Intelligencer, May 27.


Rebel account.

Norfolk, May 20, 1861.
The ball has been opened in this neighborhood, and now it may be, the war will commence in earnest.

Last Saturday the steamtug Kahokee took down a number of negro laborers, to complete a fortification that had been commenced on Sewell's Point, which is situated immediately at the mouth of Elizabeth River, and from which the entrance into James River may be commanded. The enemy had an improvised war steamer, the Monticello, stationed off the point. The Kahokee perceiving from certain demonstrations on the part of the Monticello that it would be unsafe to proceed to her destination, landed her men at Boush's bluff, a point some two miles this side of Sewell's, where a small battery had been erected. This had hardly been accomplished, before the Monticello steamed up and fired two shots, both of which passed over the tug without inflicting any damage. The fire was responded to by the battery at Boush's bluff, which had the effect of causing the Monticello to relinquish the chase of the Kahokee and dropping to her former position. She opened her guns on the incomplete battery at Sewell's Point, with the intention of destroying the work. She fired in all about thirty shots, only two of which took effect, but no serious damage was done.--Two companies of soldiers were at the point, with about a hundred negro laborers. The soldiers stood their ground bravely when the shells fell about them, but there was scampering among the darkies.

During the night several heavy pieces of artillery and an additional force of laborers were sent down by land from this place, a distance of nine miles. By 4 o'clock yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, three short 32-pounders and two rifle 6-pounders had been placed in position and were ready for action. They had not long to wait. Some brushwood by which the operations had been masked, was removed, and no sooner was the battery exposed to view, than at once the Monticello opened on it. She mounts six guns of the heaviest calibre, and for about two hours threw shot and shell about the work with fearful rapidity, and oftentimes with great precision. Our men returned the fire with spirit, but, wanting experience, the guns were served with no great skill. Still several shots from the rifle cannon took effect, and, about nightfall, the steamer was obliged to draw off, evidently in a disabled state.

The second shot from the battery struck near the water line, which she instantly signalized to the war vessels in the Roads by sending up a rocket. Later in the conflict she sent up another rocket, when two steamtugs, the Yankee and the Young America, came to her assistance. The Yankee took part in the engagement, but receiving a shot in the stern, which raked her deck and carried away her flag-staff, she prudently withdrew to a safer [262] distance. Her example was quickly followed by the other two steamers, the Monticello making headway very slowly, and rolling heavily, as if partially filled with water.

Thus in this first encounter in our waters, victory remains with us. The troops that achieved it were a company from Columbus, Ga., Capt. Colquitt, and the Woodis Rifles, from this place, Capt. Lamb. A detachment of the Junior Rifles of this place were also in the work. The men, all accounts agree, exhibited the coolness and courage of veterans. No troops could have behaved better.

When the affair was ended, Captains Colquitt and Lamb both made speeches to the command, and complimented them on their gallant and soldierly bearing. Gen. Gwynn, who was present during a part of the engagement, also spoke in high terms of the bravery that the troops exhibited.

As usual, in the battles that have thus far occurred during the present singular war, “nobody was hurt.” That is, nobody on our side, except one man who got a bruised shin from a spent fragment of a shell, and Col. Collier, aid to Gen. Gwynn, who, I learn, was rapped so severely over the knuckles by a flying splinter, as to damage his hand somewhat. These, I believe, are the only casualties, great or small, that occurred on our side.

On the part of the enemy, the list, it is to be hoped, presents a bloodier appearance.

Last night, four of the heaviest guns, and a force of nearly a thousand men, were moved down to the point. It was expected that warm work would occur there this morning, but up to the present writing (10 A. M.) every thing is quiet.

Among the troops moved last night, were the five Petersburg companies heretofore stationed at Ferry Point, and the Richmond Grays, all under command of Col. Weisiger. Let these boys have a chance, and they will surely give a good account of themselves. They marched with the greatest alacrity, and shouted when the order was given. They all have the proper mettle.


Norfolk, May 20, 9 P. M.
All is quiet here to-night.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Confederate troops were concentrated at Sewell's Point last night, but the Yankee mercenaries did not return, as apprehended, and our men, who were actually eager for the fray, had nothing to do.

The steamer West Point, Captain Rowe, belonging to the York River Railroad line, left the railroad wharf at Portsmouth, to-day, under a flag of truce, to visit the Federal fleet off Old Point Comfort, for the purpose of carrying to that destination all the women and children who desire to join their Northern friends. The steamer was accompanied by Capt. Thos. T. Hunter, commander of the Virginia Navy.

The families of the following, among other persons, left in the steamer:

James Hepenstall, L. T. Barnard, J. Lucas, Geo. Richard Boush, John Harbonner, Jos. D. Knapp, Thomas Nelson, Robert Gill, John Butler, W. H. Lewis, and James H. Hardwick.

The West Point having accomplished its mission, has returned.

Captain Hunter reports the Monticello as having fared very badly in her engagement with our battery at Sewell's Point, yesterday. The boat is seriously damaged in both hull and machinery, and it is thought that it will be some time before she can indulge in another bombardment.

Six men were killed on board, and several badly wounded.

We have been unable to learn the names of the killed, or the extent of the injuries of the maimed.


--Richmond Examiner, May 22.

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