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[599] ascertained that we could place a vessel of seven feet draught right on the edge of the beach; Lieutenant R. H. Lamson, commanding Gettysburg, volunteered to go in the Wilderness, Acting Master Henry Arey in command, and tow the Louisiana into position, having assisted in the gale in taking care of the Louisiana after she and the Nansemond (the vessel having her in tow) had lost all their anchors.

At half-past 10 P. M. the powder-vessel started in toward the bar, and was towed by the Wilderness until the embrasures of Fort Fisher were plainly in sight. The Wilderness then cast off, and the Louisiana proceeded under steam until within two hundred yards from the beach and about four hundred from the fort.

Commander Rhind anchored her securely there, and coolly went to work to make all his arrangements to blow her up. This he was enabled to do owing to a blockade-runner going in right ahead of him, the forts making the blockade-runner signals, which they also did to the Louisiana.

The gallant party, after coolly making all their arrangements for the explosion, left the vessel, the last thing they did being to set her on fire under the cabin. Then taking to their boats, they made their escape off to the Wilderness, lying close by. The Wilderness then put off shore with good speed, to avoid any ill effects that might happen from the explosion. At forty-five minutes past one of the morning of the twenty-fourth the explosion took place, and the shock was nothing like so severe as was expected. It shook the vessel some, and broke one or two glasses, but nothing more.

At daylight on the twenty-fourth the fleet got under way and stood in, in. line of battle. At half-past 11 A. M. the signal was made to engage the forts, the Ironsides leading, and the Monadnock, Canonicus, and Mahopac following. The Ironsides took her position in the most beautiful and seamanlike manner, got her spring out, and opened deliberate fire on the fort, which was firing at her with all its guns, which did not seem numerous in the north-east face, though we counted what appeared to be seventeen guns; but four or five of these were fired from that direction, and they were silenced almost as soon as the Ironsides opened her terrific battery.

The Minnesota then took her position in handsome style, and her guns, after getting the range, were fired with rapidity, while the Mohican, Colorado, and the large vessels marked on the plan, got to their stations, all firing to cover themselves while anchoring. By the time the last of the large vessels anchored and got their batteries into play, but one or two guns of the enemy were fired, this feu d'enfer giving them all to their bomb-proofs.

The small gunboats Kansas, Unadilla, Pequot. Seneca, Pontoosuc, Yantic, and Huron took positions to the northward and eastward of the monitors, and enfilading the works.

The Shenandoah, Ticonderoga, Mackinaw, Tacony, and Vanderbilt took effective positions as marked on the chart, and added their fire to that already begun.

The Santiago de Cuba, Fort Jackson, Osceola, Chippewa, Sassacus, Rhode Island, Monticello, Quaker City, and Iosco dropped into position according to order, and the battle became general. In one hour and fifteen minutes after the first shot was fired not a shot came from the fort. Two magazines had been blown up by our shells, and the fort set on fire in several places; and such a torrent of missiles were falling into and bursting over it that it was impossible for anything human to stand it. Finding that the batteries were silenced completely, I directed the ships to keep up a moderate fire in the hopes of attracting the attention of the transports and bringing them in. At sunset General Butler came in, in his flag-ship, with a few transports (the rest not having arrived from Beaufort).

Being too late to do anything more, I signalled the fleet to retire for the night for a safe anchorage, which they did without being molested by the enemy.

There were some mistakes made this day when the vessels went in to take position. My plan of battle being based on accurate calculation, and made from information to be relied on, was placed in the hands of each commander, and it seemed impossible to go astray if it was strictly followed.

I required those vessels that had not followed it closely to get under way and assume their proper positions, which was done promptly and without confusion. The vessels were placed somewhat nearer to the works, and were able to throw in their shell, which were before falling into the waters.

One or two leading vessels having made the mistake of anchoring too far off, caused those coming after them to commit a like error; but when they all got into place, and commenced work in earnest, the shower of shells (one hundred and fifteen per minute) was irresistible. So quickly were the enemy's guns silenced that not an officer or man was injured. I regret, however, to have to report some severe casualties by the bursting of a one-hundred-pound Parrott cannon.

One burst on board the Ticonderoga, killing six of the crew, and wounding seven others. Another burst on board the Yantic, killing one officer and two men. Another on the Juniata, killing two officers, and wounding and killing ten others. Another on the Mackinaw, killing one officer, and wounding five others (men). Another on the Quaker City, wounding, I believe, two or three.

The bursting of the guns (six in all) much disconcerted the crews of the vessels when the accident happened, and gave one and all a great distrust of the Parrott one-hundred-pounders, and (as subsequent events proved) they were unfit for service, and calculated to kill more of our men than those of the enemy.

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Vanderbilt (1)
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