The Engagements at Aquis Creek — a gallant defence — Hishly interesting statements — the results of the achievement.
To the Editors of the Dispatch:
--What has surprised me more than anything else in these days of exaggeration, when every little skirmish is magnified into a battle, is that so little has been thought of the repeated attacks upon, and, in particular, the three days terrific cannonade of, the little sand-bag battery at Game Point
, Aquia Creek
For so glorious a result, with such means of resistance to the attacking force, I know nothing to be compared to it.
The main cause, perhaps, of this under-valuation, (to use a mercantile phrase,) may be attributed to the unsatisfactory official report, which gave a brief account, as of nothing extraordinary, of what was indeed a glorious victory.
I happened to be at the Creek
on the evening when the first attack was made by a single steamer, since ascertained to be the Freeborn
This attack, as I heard an officer say, was evidently only designed to get the range of our guns, as only about a dozen shots were exchanged.
One of the enemy's rified shells passed through the redoubt and exploded in the officers' quarters, beneath the Captain
's bed, and demolished everything in the apartment.
By the fragment of another shell, one man was slightly wounded in the hand.
This was the only casualty.
It was taken for granted that another attack would be made.
I went the following day to the Point
, but everything was quiet, excepting that our boys were busy strengthening their redoubt, by throwing up additional quantities of sand in front.
The next day (Friday) I again rode over after breakfast, and had no sooner reached the range of hills which overlook the point, than I saw that something interesting was about to take place.
In addition to the Freeborn
, there were two other armed steamers, one of them, however, a small tug, which were evidently preparing for an attack.
Soon after 10 o'clock they approached and opened fire, which was steadily returned by our battery of two guns.
In about half an hour after the action began, the Purcell battery, of four small rified guns, was brought to the height near which I stood, and opened upon the enemy, and some of its shot must have struck him, for he immediately returned its fire, and did so from time to time while the fight lasted.
In the meantime the shot were flying into and the shell were bursting over our little battery on the point, and several times we thought that it was destroyed; but when our fears had grown almost to certainties, the boom of the gun would tell that our defenders maintained their post.
About half-past 1 the enemy withdrew.
Our men were wholly unhurt; what injury the enemy sustained we could not tell; but it must have been considerable, as he was repeatedly struck.
Soon after the fight, one of the steamers went up the river; it was supposed to procure assistance, and the supposition proved correct.
On Saturday morning a large three-masted steamer, which proved to be the Pawnee
, mounting 14 heavy guns, had joined the squadron of the day before, and all were evidently preparing for an attack.
The manner in which our men had maintained their post the day before satisfied me that they would do their best; but I regarded their annihilation as certain when I looked upon the over whelming force arrayed against them.
Owing, it was said, to the small amount of ammunition, the Purcell battery was not this day brought into action, but one of the guns was placed in the Game Point battery.
Only think--two large and one small rified gun, looking like a 6-pounder, against four steamers, one with 14 guns, heavier than those in the battery, and the others carrying as many in the aggregate — some of them rified ones.
Just before the first, shot was fired, the building at the extremity of the wharf was set on fire and the bridge leading to it blown up by the defenders.
Between 11 and 12 the battle began, and continued for five mortal hours; and when the cannonade and the conflagration were at their height, the grandest spectacle was exhibited which I have ever seen or expect to see, and I wish that every lover of the sublime could have been there.
The incessant flashes through a sheet of flame, the eddying smoke, and the hiss and whiz of ball and shell hurling and bursting in the air, with the loud reports reverberating among the hills, made us, as I have said, tremble for the little band which was literally girdled with fire.
But there was a flag-staff beside the redoubt, and our hearts were cheered as, from time to time, through the lifting smoke, we saw that our flag was triumphantly waving.
‘"Poor fellows!"’ we exclaimed, again and again, as a shell burst apparently in the very midst of the battery; but, in a moment, the report of a gun would tell that though, at least, were left to defend it.
The enemy hauled off, leaving a partially demolished sand-bank, with its defenders unscathed behind it. His loss must have been severe as evinced by the number of times he was struck and the precipitation of his retreat — a retreat which received a salute of three cheers and a parting shot from the little garrison.
For the disparity of force, and the quantity of ammunition expended by the enemy in so brief a space of time, the defence of Game Point
I consider unparalelled in the annals of modern warfare.
To sum up the injury known to have been sustained by the enemy, the Anacosta
was so much injured that the carpenters who surveyed her pronounce that she cannot be repaired.
is admitted to have been eight times struck--one of them a raking shot, which dismounted two of her guns.
took up twenty-one dead bodies.--Among them, it is reported that of the 2d Lieutenant
of the Pawnee
— and there were upwards of fifty wounded--among them, the Commander
of the latter vessel.
The results of the achievement cannot be two highly estimated.
Had the battery been silenced, Gen. Scott
, in pursuance of his plan, would have fortified the railroad, taken possession of Fredericksburg
, therefrom take the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, cut off the communication between our Northern army, and marched with his hordes directly upon the Capital