would endeavor to pass out and destroy the transports, and the vital duty of the flanking column was to take care of Tatnall
, and destroy his vessels if he attempted that movement.
With these explanations the reader is prepared to consider the vessels with a speed of six miles per hour, fairly formed in two columns and at 9.26 coming within long range of the earthworks, when the enemy opened.
The force of Commodore Tatnall
lay just within an imaginary line connecting the two forts.
The vessels composing it were poorly adapted for successfully opposing those advancing and now within fair range of the earthworks.
's were what are known as ‘river steamers,’ extremely vulnerable, boilers and machinery fully exposed, and the guns carried, although rifled, were of inferior calibre.
The vessels entering were not long in replying to the guns of the enemy; with carefully studied elevations and well-directed aim, the heavy shells fell fast within the earthworks, burying themselves and exploding, throwing sand into the guns, covering platforms and gun-traverses with sand, and disturbing much the accuracy of aim and rapidity of fire of the enemy.
As the columns advanced, Tatnall
's steamers withdrew, but when the main column turned they again put their bows toward the fleet, perhaps under the impression that the vessels found the fire from the earthworks too heavy to be borne, and were withdrawing.
However that may be, seeing the vessels again returning, the Seneca
was again headed toward them from a position just reached north of Fort Walker
, and on her opening fire, they entered Scull Creek
, the entrance to which has no great depth and is intricate; it is situated four miles northwest of Fort Walker
, followed closely by the Susquehanna