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 The ram, or the prow, was of solid oak, also plated with 2-inch iron, and tapered like a wedge. She had two engines of 200 horsepower, and when one considers the circumstances and difficulties under which she was constructed, we must confess she was a wonder. When Elliott reported her ready for service, the Government selected the best men available to man her, under command of Captain J. W. Cooke, and decided to make another effort to capture Plymouth. On April 18, 1864, the Albemarle cut loose from the little town of Hamilton, N. C., and started down the river to co-operate with an infantry force under command of General Hoke. The latter reached the vicinity of Plymouth and surrounded the town, from the river above to the river below, and awaited the advent of the ram. About a mile and a half above the Federal forts, at Warren's Neck, and near Thoroughfare Gap, the enemy had planted torpedoes and obstructed the channel with wrecks of old boats and other things. Captain Cooke came to anchor some three miles above Plymouth, and sent out a boat under command of a lieutenant to explore the river. The lieutenant, after a time, returned and reported that it was impossible to pass the obstructions. Captain Cooke thereupon gave orders to bank the fires, and the men were allowed to go to sleep. Gilbert Elliott, who accompanied Captain Cooke as a volunteer, feeling great dissatisfaction at the conclusion reached, and believing that it was ‘then or never’ with the ram, if she was to accomplish anything, urged Captain Cooke to make the trial. He argued that it would be foolhardy to attempt the passage of the obstructions and the forts in day time, and requested permission to make an investigation also. Captain Cooke assented, and with the pilot, whose name was John Lusk, and two sailors, who volunteered to accompany them, set out in a small lifeboat. They carried a long pole with them, and, arriving at the obstructed point, began to take soundings. Elliott soon discovered that there was ten feet of water over and above the obstruction (which fact was due to a freshet in the river). The little party, however, pushed along down the stream until they reached Plymouth, and, taking advantage of the darkness, which was increased by the shadow of the trees, pulled to the opposite
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