A Naval engagement.
A correspondent of the Raleigh Standard furnishes a graphic account of an engagement (heretofore noticed) at Oregon Inlet, on the North Carolina
coast, between the steamer Beaufort
, Lieutenant Duval
, and a Federal steamer, name unknown.
We copy a portion:
On the 20th the weather was exceedingly rough and disagreeable — a stiff "sou' wester" prevailing all day — a more uncomfortable position than ours cannot well be imagined.--The wind moderated very considerably during the evening, and on Sunday, the 21st, the sun rose grandly and beautifully, seemingly refreshed by the long nap which he had taken on Friday and Saturday, the 19th and 20th.--There was a serenity and blandness in the air peculiar to Sundays the world over, and under the circumstances, doubly grateful to us. The officers of the "Beaufort
" had been courteously invited on the day previous, by Col. Morris
, to dine on shore, and early in the morning were busy with preparations to make a respectable appearance among the landsmen — the ship's crew were preparing to make a grand haul with the seine, in order to replenish our stock of fresh provisions, and all was gaiety and cheerfulness at the return of fair weather.
up went the signal at the light-house, dashing away by one short sentence, as it were, all our hopes of a dinner on shore and a supply of fresh fish.
The signal said plainly as a dumb thing could, "A war steamer standing in from the north' ard."
Immediately all hands were "beat to quarters," and then silence fore and aft; "all hands clear the deck for action," was the calm, cool order of our brave and chivalrous commander, as, with flashing eyes and compressed lips, his tall form drawn up to its full height, (six feet three or four inches,) he stood, glass in hand, viewing the slow and seemingly haughty approach of the enemy's steamer.
The commander of the Beaufort
then dispatched a messenger on shore with a note to Col. Morris
, asking what course he intended to pursue in the premises, and urging the importance of using the two guns mounted.
In a short time Col. Morris
came alongside the steamer, and remarked, in course of conversation, that he had no men to work the guns; the commander of our steamer replied that the crew of the Beaufort
was at his service.
then said that he thought it would do no good.
remarked to him that he would fire on the enemy as long as he could, which you will perceive, in the course of this letter, he did to the letter.
As the enemy's steamer bove fully into view, she shortened and furled all her sails and stood directly for the battery, under steam.--About this time, Captain Martin
's company, which had arrived early in the morning, took up position behind the sandridge on our extreme right, in order to resist a landing should such have been attempted from the steamer Our
gun was now brought to bear on her. Gracefully and majestically she passed the battery without firing a shot at it, much to our surprise, and showing that she had accepted our challenge.
Slowly she forced her way to the southward, till abreast of the light-house, which was below and on the right of us, when she rounded to and proceeded to take position opposite the "Beaufort
, " about one mile and a quarter to the eastward.
We could now plainly perceive her to be a large three-masted screw propeller, carrying three guns on each side, and what we after wards ascertained to be a rifled cannon six-pounder, "forward and aft." We looked at each other as this formidable stranger rounded to, and then inquiringly at the commander.
There he stood, serene and impassable, a fierce smile of bitter regret on his countenance that his vessel was so small, and in his eye a determination to give the "big steamer" a warm reception.
We saw that we had before us hot work and plenty of it. As soon as she lost her headway after rounding to, the steamer opened the ball by sending a rifle shell whistling high over our hurricane deck.
It was really a relief to us when the first was fired, as we had been in momentary expectation of it for some time, and the suspense was horrible, especially to those of us who had never before tasted "the fierce pleasures of war." The smoke from her gun had scarcely drifted astern of her, the echo had not ceased vibrating over the waters around, when the 'little Beaufort
,' the very impersonation of "multum in parvo," replied most graciously and effectively to this courteous Sunday salutation of our huge friend.
As the smoke of our gun cleared up, and we saw the water dashed up the sides of the steamer, a hearty cheer broke forth spontaneously from the entire crew.
The opinion of every one on board of our steamer, whose position enabled them to judge correctly, was that our first shot struck the enemy between her main and mizzen masts.
This opinion was confirmed afterwards by parties on shore.
The enemy now opened on us with her forward rifled cannon, and round shot and shell from her side guns, and the action became general; but far above the deafening roar of cannon, the whistling of shot and the bursting of shell, the voice of our commander rang clearly and cheerfully, calling on the men to keep cool and do their work surely.
Never did men behave better or more bravely; their working of the gun was beautiful, and as cool and steady as if going through the ordinary exercise for practice.
The enemy's first shot, as I have said, flew far above us, but with a queer hurtling, seething, very disagreeable, and tending much to disorder the nerves of one who hears it for the first time.
Their second and third shots were much better, but still above; while every time that peculiar sound of the shot and shell became more disagreeable.
After exchanging several shots with us, the enemy, apparently satisfied with our performance, moved around and dropped farther to the southward of us, behind a large sand bank which hid all of her except a portion of her masts and completely prevented us from firing a shot at her, as at the highest elevation we could give our gun our shot would not clear the sand bank behind which, moreover, the soldiers as before mentioned lay, and over which, if we fired at all, we should have been compelled to shoot.
This was, to say the least of it a cowardly retreat, and as such a victory for us — she had the advantage of position at first, (to say nothing of her superior armament,) being higher than we. Not content with that she took a position from which she could easily rake us "fore and aft" without being harmed by us. From this new position the enemy fired four shots--one of them just missing our smoke stack, another passing between the smoke stack and mast, very close to the hurricane deck; a third passing very near the boatswain's head.
The fourth shot, which together with the third were fired as we were preparing to get out of their raking fire, passed in about two or three feet of the men heaving at the windlass.
Their first shot from the new position satisfied our commander that they had gotten our range, and aware that we could by no possibility return their fire, the order to heave home the anchor was given, and slowly and sullenly the little Beaufort
obeyed her helm, swung round, her head up stream, compelled to retire from an advantage cowardly taken, and which she could not have prevented or remedied.
To have remained longer under such circumstances would have exposed ourselves and boat to certain destruction.
We retired with our colors floating defiantly to the breeze.
I should remark here as somewhat remarkable, that the enemy showed no colors during the entire engagement.
Thus you will perceive, that never in the manuals of naval history were there such terrible odds to contend with, and I may safely add, and never were odds more bravely encountered.