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[206] little band as ever went in search of an enemy. There was not a faint heart or a nervous hand in the party. The noble fellows, in fisherman's boats, moved along, hugging the banks as closely as possible, hoping to avoid detection, until they had reached sight of the gunboats. What those men talked about and what hopes they had of surviving an attack against an armored fleet as they glided down the Neuse, would be a pretty story, if it could be told, but we can only surmise what passed between them in their whispered conversations, or what their thoughts reverted to.

About the middle of the night they sighted the Underwriter, lying at anchor, and immediately under the big guns of the fort.

Nothing daunted, Colonel Wood formed his skiffs in columns of fours, and gave orders to pull for the gunboats.

He imparted to the commander of each the part he was expected to perform.

He directed the movement with as much deference and ceremony as if he was communicating with captains of modern men-of-war.

On they pulled in the stillness of the night, each crew striving their utmost to be the first to reach the scene.

The signal lights hung from the Underwriter, but all was darkness without. A sentinel paced the deck to and fro, but otherwise there was no evidence of life on the vessel.

It was well known to the Federals that the Confederates had no vessel of any nature or kind in the river, therefore they felt no anxiety for their safety.

Fortunately the tide was in favor of the Confederates, as it ebbed to the sea, and the noise of the waves, as they splashed against the gunboat, drowned the sound of their oars.

Noiselessly the assailants glided into the shadow of the ship, and the four skiffs in front passed by and turned into shore.

Instantly, almost, those following were in touch of the gunboat, and when Colonel Wood gave the signal the boys clambered on the sides as nimbly as squirrels. They all knew what was expected of them and went to work.

The sentinel was captured before he could arouse his comrades, therefore little difficulty was experienced in making the crew prisoners.

The officers of the vessel tried to rally the crew, and the Commander, Lieutenant Westervelt, and four or five marines, who refused to surrender were killed.

The little band of Confederates behaved as if each was a captain, and covered every part of the boat without a moment's delay.

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John Taylor Wood (2)
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