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[233] grounded on the west bank of the river. It was an awful moment; for the guns of countless batteries were immediately concentrated upon her. Captain Smith, while, with his efficient engineer Rutherford he made the most strenuous exertions to get the ship afloat, ordered his gunners to keep up their fire with the utmost possible rapidity. In the short space of thirty-five minutes they fired two hundred and fifty shots. The principal battery of the foe was within five hundred yards of the crippled ship, and the majestic fabric was soon riddled through and through by the storm with which she was so pitilessly pelted. The dead and the wounded strewed the decks, and it was soon evident that the ship could not be saved.

Captain Smith prepared to destroy the ship, that it might not fall into the hands of the rebels, and to save the crew. Captain Caldwell, of the iron-clad “Essex,” hastened to his rescue. Under as murderous a fire as mortals were ever exposed to, the sick and wounded were conveyed on board the ram. Combustibles were placed in the fore and after part of the ship, to which the torch was to be applied so soon as the crew had all escaped to the western shore. By some misunderstanding she was fired forward before the order was given. This caused a panic, as there were but three small boats by which they could escape. Some plunged into the river and were drowned. It is related, in evidence of the coolness of Captain Smith, that in the midst of this awful scene, while lighting his cigar with steel and flint, he remarked to Lieutenant Dewy:

It is not likely that we shall escape, and we must make every preparation to secure the destruction of the ship.

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Kirby Smith (6)
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