(about forty,) and a quantity of tobacco, supposed to be located on the peninsula formed by the Nansemond River and Pagan Creek. The matter was referred to the senior officer present, Captain Gansevoort, who gave his consent, and the Commodore Morris, Lieutenant Commander Gillis, commanding, was assigned the duty. A detail of fifty men was sent from this vessel to the Morris to supply the deficiencies in her crew. This morning, in obedience to your order, the launches of this ship were armed and equipped, put under the command of Acting Master Pierson, and sent to aid in rescuing a party of General Graham's men at Smithfield, said to be in a critical position. I herewith inclose the reports of Acting Ensign Birtwistle and Acting Master's Mate Jarvis, officers of the launches, of the part taken by them in an engagement with the enemy at Smithfield, Virginia, Acting Master Pierson having been seriously injured. I also inclose the surgeon's report of the wounded belonging to this ship. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Report of Acting Ensign James Birtwistle.
United States steamer Minnesota, off Newport news, February 1, 1864.sir: In obedience to your orders I left the ship this morning, at half-past 9, in charge of the second launch, heavy twelve-pound howitzer, and crew of twenty-three men, subject to the orders of Acting Master Pierson, who had command of the first launch, rifled howitzer, and twenty-three men. We were taken in tow by the United States steamer Shokokon, and arrived off Smithfield Creek at about twelve A. M. The army steamer Smith Briggs came to us; we cast off from the Shokokon, and were taken in tow by the Smith Briggs, up Smithfield Creek, to within about two thousand yards of the village of Smithfield, when we discovered our army detachments on shore, and the enemy engaged — the enemy having a battery to the southward of the village, on which the Smith Briggs and first launch opened fire, it being about three thousand yards distant. We continued in line toward the village, when we discovered our army men on shore running from the direction of the battery. The Smith Briggs ran alongside a wharf, and our men commenced getting on board of her, when the rebel riflemen opened a murderous fire on her and the launches from behind houses, etc., on the hill, about two hundred and fifty yards from the wharf, driving the men from their guns on the Smith Briggs, and capturing her by charging down the hill; the launches during this time kept up a fire with shrapnel. We could then no longer stand the fire of the riflemen, and Mr. Pierson headed the first launch down the creek, and, as he passed me, told me to follow him. We rounded the point near the village, rounded to, and fired a few more shots. Our flag was still flying on the steamer, and they appeared to be working her about. This I thought strange; but as soon as we were fairly under way down the creek again, they turned the guns of the Smith Briggs on us, and also artillery from the side of the hill. During the engagement, George Anderson, (seaman,) while at the gun in the second launch, was wounded in the right hand, and when I overhauled the first launch at the mouth of the creek, I learned that Mr. Pierson was wounded in the abdomen and right arm; George Cook, (seaman,) thigh and testicle; William B. Kelly, (seaman,) in bowels by sword-thrust by Mr. Pierson. In nearing the Shokokon, which was lying off the mouth of the creek, we met a boat from her in charge of her executive officer, with Shokokon's doctor and steward with necessaries for wounded; landed our wounded on the Shokokon. At about forty-five minutes past two P. M., she towed our launch to the Minnesota. During the attack on the Smith Briggs, the first launch was about two hundred yards from her, and the second launch was about five hundred. I think it was well that we retreated; could they have managed the steamer and outflanked us on the beach, we could not have returned. I am, sir, very respectfully,
Report of Acting Master's Mate James Jarvis.
United States frigate Minnesota, February 1, 1864.sir: The following is a true report of the boat expedition which left this vessel ten A. M., in charge of Acting Master Pierson, in tow of the United States gunboat Shokokon. We proceeded to the mouth of Pagan Creek, and finding we could not proceed any further, we then were taken in tow by the United States gunboat Smith Briggs and proceeded up the creek. Mr. Pierson and the pilot then went on board. At half-past 11 A. M. the enemy opened fire; it was immediately returned, and silenced the enemy's. Mr. Pierson gave orders to haul up alongside; he and the pilot returned to the launch. We cast off and proceeded nearer the town. Mr. Pierson then gave orders to Mr. Birtwistle to look out for his launch, for he should give him no more orders. Mr. Pierson said he would go above the town, but not fire, for our men held the town. When abreast of the town, the enemy commenced firing with muskets, (I should judge about one hundred and fifty,) which caused a confusion with the greater part of the launch's crew. Mr. Pierson gave orders to turn the launch so the howitzer would come to bear on the enemy, using profane words to the crew. When the second volley was fired, wounding Mr. Pierson and three men, Mr. Pierson then said, “I am gone; you must get out the best way you can,” giving