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 o'clock in the morning, Breckenridge's vanguard opened the fight. Williams' troops formed a semicircle outside of the city, which is situated on the left bank, resting on the river both above and below. His right wing, which was consequently posted below, was flanked by the two gun-boats, the left wing by the Essex. Breckenridge's entire effort was directed upon the latter point, and the Federals were soon compelled to give way. The brave Williams was shot through the heart while endeavoring to rally his men. But the success of the Confederates was of very short duration; the fire of the Essex, which enfiladed their lines, threw them into confusion. The Arkansas, which was to destroy the Federal flotilla, to take Williams' troops in the rear, to cut off their retreat and oblige them to lay down their arms—the invulnerable Arkansas—did not make her appearance. The Federals recovered from their disorder, and the assailants were crushed by their artillery. Breckenridge paused to wait for the Arkansas, unaware of the accident that had happened to this vessel; and finally, about ten o'clock in the morning, he retired, having lost nearly five hundred men in this fruitless encounter. Meanwhile, the Arkansas, rudely constructed, had had two of her engines successively disabled only a few miles above Baton Rouge, and it had been found necessary to run her ashore to prevent her being carried off by the current and falling into the power of the Federal ships. As soon as the battle on land had ceased, the latter went in search of her; the Essex soon perceived her old antagonist, which was waiting in vain for the two gun-boats, her acolytes, to come and take her in tow. The contest could no longer be continued. At the first shot thrown by the Essex the commander of the Arkansas landed his crew, and setting fire to his vessel sent her adrift in the current. It was a strange sight to see that vessel, steered by no human hand, slowly following the course of the great river, enveloped by the smoke of the interior fires that were consuming her, and still bearing the flag which was about to disappear in an instant, with herself, in the waters. The heat soon caused the guns to go off, the balls losing themselves in the two banks; a moment after, the vessel blew up, and its fragments were engulfed in the river. This was a serious loss to the Confederates; but they were not
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