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Only a minute's work.

In one minute's time from the ringing of the bell, the steamer was in our possession. The crew of negroes surrendered without a blow. The old “Confederate yell” rang out that evening on the Chesapeake as it never will again. The steamer did not change her course or stop running until night. The officers and crew, all under the command of our captain, did just what they were ordered to do. The prow of the steamer had been turned gradually to the south, and when night came on we ran her aground in shoal-water, about two hundred yards from land. We had one large skiff in which to go ashore, which was manned by two stalwart negroes. The lieutenant and steamer's officers were taken ashore the first trip of the boat, and held as hostages for the good behavior of the crew while we were landing. We all got ashore safely. Captain Semmes, son of our illustrious admiral, was nominated as commander-in-chief of this “forlorn hope.” He was elected by acclamation. Captain Holmes, of the Louisiana Crescents, was elected second in command. All that we knew of our whereabouts was that we were on the beach of Virginia or North Carolina, south of Cape Henry. A light could be seen in the distance, evidently coming through the window of some human habitation. We sent a man to investigate, and he reported that the house was occupied by a woman and her children. Her husband was in the Confederate army. This information gave us great relief. The woman seemed much alarmed, but when she learned that ninety-four Confederate officers had just escaped all alarm and caution fled from her face. She told us we would be safe if we could reach the Dismal Swamp. “But,” said she, “Currituck sound is between you and the swamp, and there is not a boat nearer than thirty miles. If you can get to the salt-works, thirty miles down the coast, and surprise the men in camp, you can take their boats and [168] cross the sound before the Federal cavalry can overtake you.” She supplied us with a cart and horse to carry two or three day's rations which we had taken from the steamer when we left it. We at once made haste to depart for the salt-works.



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