previous next

[440] been two hours on the road, and therefore General Graham directed that the party he had placed under my command should land at that hour, and also march on Chuckatuck, where he expected they would form a junction. I did not arrive at Ferry Point, from which place they were to debark, until about five minutes before two o'clock, but at a quarter past two all the men were landed, and at twenty minutes past two they had taken up their line of march for Chuckatuck, with directions to proceed to that place and remain two hours, at the expiration of which time, if they neither saw nor received any intelligence of the other party from Smithfield, they were to return; which instructions were carried out, they having remained the specified time and received no intelligence of the other party, but hearing heavy firing in the direction of Smithfield, which led them to suppose that the enemy had been met in considerable force, and that our men had been obliged to retire. Returning without having seen any of the enemy, they reembarked at half-past 6 P. M. I then got under way, the Smith Briggs in company, towing launches, and stood down to opposite Town Point, where I came to anchor, feeling certain that the expedition had most signally failed. At half-past 7, General Graham arriving in the Long Branch with the information that the party which he had taken had landed and were on their way across the peninsula, I got under way, and in company with the Long Branch and Smith Briggs returned to Ferry Point, where we again came to anchor, hoping to receive some intelligence. Having received none during the night, at seven o'clock this morning General Graham started for Chuckatuck with thirty (30) men of the Naval Brigade, and the fifty (50) men belonging to the Minnesota, hoping either to meet or receive some word from those about whom he now began to feel great anxiety; but being unsuccessful in his efforts, he returned to the vessels, determined to proceed again to Smithfield, to which place he had sent the Smith Briggs at an early hour in the morning. Before getting under way, however, the United States gunboat Commodore Barney brought your despatch of this date to me, and at the request of General Graham I immediately proceeded to the mouth of Pagan Creek, where I communicated with the commanding officer of the United States steam gunboat Shokokon, who informed me that the launches sent to Pagan Creek by yourself had been repulsed at Smithfield, with a loss of five wounded, one being Acting Master Pierson, of the Minnesota, and that the Smith Briggs and all on board had been captured; and that the smoke which had been seen in the direction of Smithfield was supposed to be from the burning of that vessel, which supposition was confirmed in a short time by the rapid explosion of her shells; and soon thereafter, at fifty minutes past three P. M., by the explosion of her magazine.

About this time a flag of truce was discovered on shore, on the lower side of Pagan Creek near the mouth, and a launch belonging to the Naval Brigade, under command of Captain McLaughlin, was sent in to communicate. He brought off five of our men, including Captain Lee, (who had command of the force landed at Smithfield,) who had succeeded in making good their escape.

Captain Lee informed me that in the fight of Sunday he succeeded in driving the rebels; but having received information that heavy reenforcements were coming in from Ivor station to cut him off from his advance on Chuckatuck, and also that there was a company of cavalry at Cherry Grove, he deemed it advisable to fall back on Smithfield, where he hoped to be able to communicate with General Graham in time to receive assistance before the enemy could advance in sufficient numbers to render his capture or destruction certain; but the Smith Briggs, which had been sent to his assistance, did not arrive until too late. The strength of the enemy, as reported by Captain Lee, was one regiment of infantry, one of cavalry, and one battery of artillery.

Deeming any further demonstration with the means at hand against so strong a force of the enemy impracticable, not being able to get up the river any further with my vessel, I directed the commanding officer of the Shokokon to return to the Minnesota with the launches and their crews, and the wounded men and officer, after which I returned and reported to you in person.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant.

J. H. Gillis, Lieutenant Commander United States Navy. Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee, Commanding N. A. B. Squadron, U. S. Flag-Ship Minnesota, Newport News, Virginia.


Letter from Acting rear-admiral Lee to Lieutenant Commander J. H. Gillis.

flag-ship Minnesota, February 1, 1864.
sir: I send this by the Barney. Ensign Harris has just come off on the Commodore Jones, and reports that the first detachment fell back upon Smithfield at eight P. M. yesterday, where they are surrounded and short of howitzer ammunition. I have sent him to General Butler.

I am sending on launches to Pagan Creek, with plenty of ammunition. The Morris or Barney can bring General Graham out and take him there if he wishes it. Leave a gunboat in the Nansemond to pick up stragglers.

Respectfully yours,

S. P. Lee, Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding N. A. B. Squadron. Lieutenant Commander Gillis, Commanding Commodore Morris.


Report of Lieut. Com. John H. Upshur.

United States flag-ship Minnesota, off Newport news, Va., February 1, 1864.
sir: In your absence yesterday, at the Norfolk navy-yard, Brigadier-General Graham appeared here with three armed steamers and a detachment of men, and sent a request that a gunboat might go up the Nansemond River to assist in an expedition, the object of which, as stated to me by one of General Graham's lieutenants, was to capture a number of the enemy's troops,


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Charles K. Graham (8)
S. P. Lee (6)
James H. Gillis (2)
John H. Upshur (1)
A. B. Pierson (1)
Morris (1)
William McLaughlin (1)
Thomas H. Harris (1)
J. H. Gillis (1)
J. A. Butler (1)
Smith Briggs (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February 1st, 1864 AD (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: