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Doc. 94.-the Navy on the Mississippi.

Official despatches.

United States Mississippi Squadron, flag-ship Black Hawk, off Vicksburgh, July 18, 1863.
sir: I have made reports to the Department of the different actions that have occurred on this river since the investment of Vicksburgh; and it now remains for me to give credit to the different officers who have participated in the events trans-piring here.

When I took command of this squadron, this river was virtually closed against our steamers from Helena to Vicksburgh. It was only necessary to impress the officers and men with the importance of opening communication with New-Orleans, and every one, with few exceptions, have embarked in the enterprise with a zeal that is highly creditable to them, and with a determination that the river should be. opened if their aid could effect it.

With such officers and the able General who commanded the army, I have not feared for the result, though it has been postponed longer than I thought it would be.

First and foremost, allow me to speak of Captain Pennock, Fleet Captain and Commandant of Station at Cairo. To him I am much indebted for the promptness with which he has kept the squadron supplied with all that was required or could be procured. His duty has been no sinecure, and he has performed it with an ability that could not have been surpassed by any officer of the navy. He has materially assisted me in the management of the Tennessee and Cumberland squadrons, keeping me promptly informed of all the movements of the enemy, and enabling me to make the proper dispositions to check him, exercising a most discreet judgment in moving the vessels to meet the rebels when there was no time to hear from me.

The war on the banks of the Tennessee and Cumberland has been carried on most actively. There has been incessant skirmishing between the guerrillas and gunboats, in which the rebels have been defeated in every instance. So constant are these attacks that we cease to think of them as of any importance, though there has been much gallantry displayed on many occasions.

Lieutenant Commanders Phelps and Fitch have each had command of these rivers, and have shown themselves to be most able officers. I feel no apprehension at any time with regard to movements in that quarter. Had it not been for the activity and energy displayed by Lieutenant Commander Fitch, Captain Pennock, and Lieutenant Commander Phelps, General Rosecrans would have been left without provisions.

To Captain Walke, Commander Woodworth, Lieutenant Commanders Breese, Greer, Shirk, Owen, Wilson, Walker, Bache, Murphy, Selfridge, Prichett, Ramsay, and acting volunteer Lieutenant Hoel I feel much indebted for their active [343] and energetic attention to all my orders, and their ready cooperation with the army corps commanders at all times, which enabled them to carry out their plans successfully.

The Benton, Lieutenant Commander Greer, Mound City, Lieutenant Commander Byron Wilson, Tuscumbia, Lieutenant Commander Shirk, Carondelet, Acting Lieutenant Murphy, and the Sterling Price, Commander Woodworth, have been almost constantly under fire of the batteries at Vicksburgh since the forty-five days siege commenced.

The attack of the twenty-second of May by the Benton, Mound City, Carondelet, and Tuscumbia on all the water batteries, in which three were silenced, and four guns injured or dismounted, was one of the best contested engagements of the kind during the war.

On the next attack of the same gunboats, when General Grant opened all his batteries for six hours, the river batteries were all deserted, and the gunboats moved up and down without having a shot fired at them, showing the moral effect the first attack had.

The attack of the Cincinnati, Lieutenant Commander Bache, on the water-battery will long be ranked among the most gallant events of this war; and though Lieutenant Bache had the misfortune to have his vessel sunk under him, he well deserves the handsome commendations bestowed upon him by the Department.

To Lieutenant Commander Ramsay, of the Choctaw, was assigned the management of three heavy guns placed on scows, and anchored in a position that commanded the town and waterbatteries. Every gun the enemy could bring to bear on these boats was fired incessantly at them, but without one moment's cessation of fire on the part of our seamen, though the enemy's shot and shell fell like hail among them. This battery completely enfiladed the batteries and riflepits in front of General Sherman, and made them untenable.

The mortar-boats were under charge of Gunner Eugene Mack, who for thirty days stood at his post, the firing continuing night and day. He performed his duty well and merits approval. The labor was extremely hard, and every man at the mortars was laid up with sickness, owing to excessive labor. After Mr. Mack was taken ill, Ensign Miller took charge and conducted the firing with marked ability. We know that nothing conduced more to the end of the siege than the mortar-firing, which demoralized the rebels, killed and wounded a number of persons, killed the cattle, destroyed property of all kinds, and set the city on fire. On the last two days we were enabled to reach the outer works of the enemy by firing heavy charges of twenty-six pounds of powder; the distance was three miles, and the falling of shells was very annoying to the rebels — to use the words of a rebel officer, “our shells intruded everywhere.”

Lieutenant Commander Breese has been very efficient in relieving me of a vast amount of duty, superintending personally all the requirements! made on the navy, and facilitating the operations of the army in every way that lay in his power. In every instance where it was at all possible to bring the Black Hawk into action against the enemy's batteries he has not hesitated to do so, though she is not fortified exactly for such a purpose. His long-range guns have done most excellent service at different times.

I beg leave to mention the different commanders of the light-draughts, who have carried out my orders promptly, aided in keeping guerrillas from the river, convoyed transports safely, and kept their vessels in good condition for service, namely, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant George W. Brown, commanding Forest Rose; Acting Volunteer Lieutenant C. Downing, commanding Signal; Acting Volunteer Lieutenant J. S. Hurd, commanding Covington; Ensign Wm. C. Handford, commanding Robb; Acting Master J. C. Bunner, commanding New Era; Acting Volunteer Lieutenant J. V. Johnstone, commanding Romeo; Acting Volunteer Lieutenant John Pierce, commanding Petrel; Acting Master W. E. Fentress, commanding Rattler; Acting Volunteer Lieutenant T. E. Smith, commanding Linden; Acting Volunteer Lieutenant E. C. Brennand, commanding Prairie Bird; Acting Volunteer Lieutenant J. Gandy, commanding Queen City. There are others who deserve commendation, but these seem to me the most prominent.

The action of the fourth of July, at Helena, wherein the Tyler participated so largely, has already been reported to the Department. There is no doubt left in the minds of any but that the Tyler saved Helena, for though General Prentiss fought with a skill and daring not excelled in this war, his little force of three thousand five hundred men were fast being overpowered by the enemy with eighteen thousand men, when the Tyler took a position and changed the fortunes of the day.

I must not omit to mention Acting Volunteer Lieutenants Hamilton and Richardson, of the powder vessels Great Western and Judge Torrence. They were unremitting in their attention to their duties during the siege, supplying without delay every requisition made on them by army and navy, and volunteering for any service.

When the army called on the navy for siegeguns, I detailed what officers and men I could spare to man and work the batteries. Lieutenant Commander Selfridge had command of the naval battery on the right wing, General Sherman's corps. This battery was worked with marked ability, and elicited the warmest praises from the Commanding General. One thousand shells were fired into the enemy's works from Lieutenant Commander Selfridge's guns. His services being required up the river, I relieved him a few days before the surrender, and Lieutenant Commander Walker supplied his place, and conducted the firing with the same ability.

Acting Master Charles B. Dahlgren was ordered to report to General McPherson for duty, and was assigned the management of two nine-inch guns, which were admirably served. [344]

Acting Master Reed, of the Benton, had charge of the batteries at Fort Benton, so named by General Herron in honor of the occasion. General Herron generously acknowledged the services of those I sent him, which communication I inclose with this report.

I have endeavored to do justice to all who were immediately engaged in the struggle for the mastery of the Mississippi. To the army do we owe immediate thanks for the capture of Vicksburgh; but the army was much facilitated by the navy, which was ready at all times to cooperate. This has been no small undertaking. The late investment and capture of Vicksburgh will be characterized as one of the greatest military achievements ever known. The conception of the idea originated solely with General Grant, who adopted a course in which great labor was performed, great battles were fought, and great risks were run. A single mistake would have involved us in difficulty; but so well were all the plans matured, so well were all the movements timed, and so rapid were the evolutions performed, that not a mistake has occurred from the passage of the fleet by Vicksburgh and the passage of the army across the river, up to the present time. So confident was I of the ability of General Grant to carry out his plans when he explained them to me, that I never hesitated to change my position from above to below Vicksburgh. The work was hard, the fighting severe, but the blows struck were constant.

In forty-five days after our army was landed, a rebel army of sixty thousand men had been captured, killed, and wounded, or scattered to their homes, perfectly demoralized, while our loss has been only about five thousand killed, wounded, and prisoners, and the temporary loss of one gunboat.

The fortifications and defences of the city exceed any thing that has been built in modern times, and are doubly unassailable from their immense height above the bed of the river.

The fall of Vicksburgh insured the fall of Port Hudson and the opening of the Mississippi River, which I am happy to say can be traversed from its source to its mouth without apparent impediment, the first time during the war.

I take this opportunity to give to Mr. Fendal and Mr. Strausz, assistants in the coast survey, the full credit they deserve for their indefatigable industry. Since they have been attached to the squadron they have been connected with almost every expedition that has been. undertaken; they have kept both army and navy supplied with charts when they could not otherwise be obtained; they were found ready at all times to go anywhere or do any thing required of them, whether it was on a gunboat expedition or in the trenches before Vicksburgh engineering, when the General Commanding called for volunteers from the navy. They have added to our collection of maps many geographical corrections which are valuable, and they have proved to me that no squadron can operate effectively without a good corps of surveyors.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Acting Rear-Admiral Com'g Miss. Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington.

Headquarters left division investing forces, Vicksburgh, July 5, 1863.
Admiral: While congratulating you on the success of the army and navy in reducing this Sebastopol of rebeldom, I must at the same time thank you for the aid my division has had from yourself and your ships.

The guns received from the Benton, under charge of Acting Master Reed, a gallant and efficient officer, .have formed the most effective battery I had, and I am glad to say that the officer in charge has well sustained the reputation of your squadron. For the efforts you have made to cooperate with me in my position on the left I am under many obligations.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,

F. J. Herron, Major-General. Admiral D. D. Porter, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

Headquarters left division investing forces, Vicksburgh, July 5, 1863.
Captain: Having had from your ship, since the first of our siege operations on the left of the investing line, four of your heavy guns, under charge of Acting Master J. Frank Reed, I must, before their return to the ship, express to you my thanks for the good service they have rendered, and the admirable and officer-like manner in which they were handled by Acting Master Reed. His battery (which I have named after your ship, Battery Benton) has been our main support in advancing, and I learn has been a terror to the rebels in our immediate front.

The management and conduct of Acting Master Reed and his subordinates, Wm. Moore and W. P. Brownell, cannot be too highly spoken of, and I can assure you they have nobly sustained the reputation of your ship and the Mississippi Squadron.

Acting Master Reed is well worthy of promotion.

Congratulating you, Captain, on the combined success of the army and navy in reducing this Sebastopol of the rebels, I remain, very truly, yours,

F. J. Herron, Major-General. To Captain J. H. Greer, Commanding Benton.

United States steamer Conestoga, Mississippi River, July 8, 1863.
sir: I have the honor to present the following report of the naval battery, consisting of two eight-inch columbiads, whilst under my command.

Acting under your orders of June first, I reported to General Sherman, who located the battery nearly on the extreme right, not far from the river. After many delays I succeeded in getting one gun in position the night of June fourth. Fire was opened from it the next morning, and the next night the other was got in [345] position. Opposed to us was an eight-inch columbiad, six hundred yards distant, and a thirty-two pounder, one thousand yards distant.

The columbiad was disabled by our fire the second day, and no further use made of it; the thirty-two pounder was also effectually silenced. There was nothing left at which to direct our fire, but rifle-pits. Upon these I kept up a slow and steady fire at different intervals during the day. Operating upon earth-works, it was impossible to know the damage inflicted. Deserters report, however, that our fire was so accurate as to cause the battery to be greatly feared, and that it had done them much harm. On June twenty-fifth, agreeably to your orders, I turned my command over to Captain Walker.

It gives me pleasure to bear testimony to the good conduct of my officers and men. The labor imposed upon them was very arduous-working their guns under a hot sun, and frequently employed half the night repairing the damage inflicted during the day.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Thos. J. Selfridge, Lieutenant Commander. Acting Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

Headquarters Expeditionary army, Black River, July 4, 1863.
Admiral D. D. Porter, Commanding Fleet.
dear Admiral: No event in my life could have given me more personal pride or pleasure than to have met you to-day on the wharf at Vicksburgh — a Fourth of July so eloquent in events as to need no words or stimulants to elevate its importance.

I can appreciate the intense satisfaction you must feel at lying before the very monster that has defied us with such deep and malignant hate, and seeing your once disunited fleet again a unit, and better still, the chain that made an inclosed sea of a link in the great river broken for ever. In so magnificent a result I stop not to count who did it. It is done, and the day of our nation's birth is consecrated and baptized anew in a victory won by the united Navy and Army of our country. God grant that the harmony and mutual respect that exists between our respective Commanders and shared by all the true men of the joint service may continue for ever and serve to elevate our national character, threatened with shipwreck. Thus I muse as I sit in my solitary camp out in the wood far from the point for which we have justly striven so long and so well, and though personal curiosity would tempt me to go and see the frowning batteries and sunken pits that have defied us so long, and sent to their silent graves so many of our early comrades in the enterprise, I feel that other tasks lie before me, and time must not be lost. Without casting anchor, and despite the heat and the dust and the drought, I must again into the bowels of the land to make the conquest of Vicksburgh fulfil all the conditions it should in the progress of this war. Whether success attend my efforts or not, I know that Admiral Porter will ever accord to me the exhibition of a pure and unselfish zeal in the service of our country.

It does seem to me that Port Hudson, without facilities for supplies or interior communication, must soon follow the fate of Vicksburgh and leave the river free, and to you the task of preventing any more Vicksburghs or Port Hudsons on the bank of the great inland sea.

Though farther apart, the navy and army will still act in concert, and I assure you I shall never reach the banks of the river or see a gunboat but I will think of Admiral Porter, Captain Breese, and the many elegant and accomplished gentlemen it has been my good fortune to meet on armed or unarmed decks of the Mississippi Squadron. Congratulating you and the officers and men of your command at the great result in which you have borne so conspicuous a part,

I remain, as ever, your friend and servant,

W. T. Sherman, Major-General.

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