Capture of the steamers Covington and Signal.
Report of Acting Volunteer Lieut. G. P. Lord.
United States steamer Chillicothe, above Alexandria falls, May 8, 1864.sir: It is with feelings of regret that I report the loss of the United States steamer Covington, and most respectfully submit the following report: I left Alexandria, convoying the steamer Warner, at eight o'clock on the morning of May fourth, 1864. While passing Wilson's plantation, the Warner was fired into by about one hundred infantry, losing one man. I fired my stern guns at them for some time, and passed on. After proceeding about one mile and a half further, Mr. McClossy, a pilot belonging to the General Price, struck the stern of the vessel against a bar, thereby breaking the port-rudder badly and shivering the tiller. I told him hereafter, Mr. Emerson, my other pilot, would manage her. I tied up all night about a mile from the Red House, and commenced repairing my rudder and tiller. At about five o'clock I was joined by the United States steamer Signal. Both of us kept up through the night an irregular fire on the right-hand shore going down, as they had fired to upon us with infantry while we were repairing. At half-past 4 o'clock in the morning we all got under way; the Warner in the lead, Covington next, and the Signal last. At Dunn's Bayou (on the right going down) we were fired upon by two pieces of artillery and infantry. The Covington was hit by this battery only three times, and the Warner's rudders were disabled; but she still continued down-stream until she came to a short point in the river, when she went into the bank. She had no sooner struck the bank, when a rebel battery (on the right-hand shore going down) and from four thousand to five thousand infantry opened on her and my vessel. The Covington and Signal immediately commenced firing. Almost every shot either struck the boilers, steam-pipe, or machinery of the Warner, as she was only about one hundred yards from the battery. After we had engaged the battery about three hours, the Warner hoisted a white flag. We still kept up our fire, and I sent a party from my vessel under a severe fire to burn her, but the colonel in charge sent me word that there were nearly one hundred and twenty-five killed and wounded, and requested that I would not burn her, which was granted. A short time after this, I was informed that the Signal was disabled. I immediately rounded to, and went alongside of her, took her in tow and started upstream, but my rudders became disabled and the Signal got adrift. (It was impossible to pass the Warner, so Mr. Emerson, my pilot, informed me.) Knowing that the Signal would drift down on the Warner, and the rebels could immediately board her, I ordered the commanding officer to anchor her, which was done. Finding it impossible to handle my vessel, and fearing I should get on the side where artillery and infantry were, I went over on the other bank and made fast, head up-stream. I used my stern guns on the lower battery and my broadside on the infantry abreast of us, and my bow guns on a battery that was ahead of us, which had been brought down from Dunn's Bayou. My escapepipe was cut while alongside of the Signal, causing a great deal of steam to escape, and making the impression that the boilers had been struck. The men, however, soon rallied, and kept up a brisk fire on the enemy. Most of the soldiers and officers, among whom were Colonel Sharp, of the One Hundred and Fifty-sixth New-York volunteers, Colonel Rainor, One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Illinois, (wounded in both legs,) Lieutenant Simpson, Aid-de-Camp to General Banks, and Acting Assistant-Paymaster Chester, went over on the Signal. The Signal getting adrift from us, they were not able to return to my vessel. After I had been tied to the bank an hour or so, my steam-drum was cut, and a shell struck under the boilers, letting out all the were disabled by the bracket-bolts drawing out, water. My ammunition gave out; my howitzers and every shot coming through us, with one officer and a good many of men already killed, I determined to burn my vessel. I spiked the  guns, had coals of fire strewn on the decks, and myself and executive officer set fire to the cotton which was on the guard alongside of the engines. I saw it burning finely before I left, and feel sure she was destroyed. While leaving the vessel to get up on the bank, a terrible fire of infantry was opened on us, and some were killed in going up. I collected my officers and men all together, and found I had with me nine officers and twenty-three men, (my crew was composed of fourteen officers and and sixty-two men,) and started through the woods for Alexandria, at twenty minutes of eleven o'clock. When within ten miles of Alexandria, we were fired upon by rebel cavalry, thereby scattering us. I am glad to say that they have nearly all arrived here safe, with the exception of Acting Third Assistant Engineer Syms, who was wounded in the head while fighting a few guerrillas who had fired into a party of my men, while close to Alexandria. He has since arrived safe. The whole action lasted about five hours, and the Covington was badly riddled from stem to stern, there being no less than five shots in her hull, and some forty or fifty in her upper works. The officers and men behaved with great gallantry, and with the exception of a few this was their first action. Acting Master's Mate C. W. Gross was killed by a shot that came through the shellroom. The officers and men lost all of their personal effects; the only things that were saved being the signal-book and the despatches intrusted to my care, which were returned to you. The arms that were brought with us, I turned over to Acting Master H. Gorringe, of the Cricket, taking a receipt for the same. In conclusion, I most respectfully beg that a court of inquiry may be called to determine whether the honor of our flag suffered in my hands. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
George P. Lord, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, United States Navy.
Report of rear-admiral D. D. Porter.
flag-ship Black Hawk, Mississippi Squadron, Mound City, June 29, 1864.sir: I inclose a report of the Surgeon of the Signal, who was released unconditionally by the rebels. It only corroborates all the reports I have received of the gallant defence of this vessel, which, I am told, was a most perfect wreck when she fell into the hands of the enemy, who were much chagrined that so frail a vessel had contended so long against seven guns placed in position to get a cross-fire on her. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Report of Acting Assistant-Surgeon N. Brewster.
United States steamer Signal: Leaving Alexandria on the fourth of May, she proceeded down the river, and anchored at night in company with United States steamer Covington and transport Warner. Starting again at daylight, we had proceeded but a short distaace, when the enemy opened on us with a battery of two guns, and from several others as we passed on. Their fire was promptly returned, and continued until nine o'clock, when it ceased for a few minutes, and the opportunity was seized for distributing bread, as breakfast has not been served. The firing soon commenced again, and continued until near noon, when the order was passed for all hands to prepare to abandon and burn the ship, having been totally disabled for more than an hour, the Warner flying a white flag, and the Covington nearly consumed, exploding her magazine soon after. Preparations were made and a part of the men had safely passed up the bank, when the order was countermanded; it being deemed a useless waste of life for more to attempt it, and wholly impossible to remove the wounded, under the fire of the batteries and several hundred sharp-shooters, and the white flag was raised. My station was unfavorable for observation, and my professional duties occupied considerable of my time; but I take pleasure in bearing testimony to the good conduct of those stationed near me, and with whom I came in contact during the action. Acting Volunteer Lieutenant E. Morgan, commanding, appeared to be coolly attending to his duties. Acting Ensign C. P. Bragg, Executive Officer, Ensign W. F. Loan, and Acting Master's Mate R. P. Croft, had charge of the divisions, and, cheering the men by voice and example, held them to their stations, despite the withering fire of the enemy's sharpshooters through the open ports, and were ably seconded by the captains of the guns. To the coolness of the engineers in shutting off the steam and emptying the boilers, when the steampipe was cut, the safety of many is owing. The pilot, Perry Wilkes, left his wheel only when he was disabled in his hand by a bursting shell. I would make special mention of Acting Ensigns Bragg and Loan, who went out in full view of several hundred sharp-shooters and let go the anchor; and again to ship the cable, this time assisted by John Fighland, (seaman,) who was here disabled by his second wound. Michael McCormic (boatswain's mate) and Timothy O'Donahu, (seaman,) captains of guns, were wounded early in the day, but stood to their guns until ordered away. George Butts, gunner's mate, and Charles Aster, quarter-gunner, were on the sick-list, but did duty during the whole engagement. Several whose names I have forgotten returned to their guns when their wounds had been dressed, and, with few exceptions, all stood to their work, using muskets when their guns could not be brought to bear. I am, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
United States steamer New national, June 27, 1864.sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of the condition of the sick and wounded captured by the enemy on the fifth of May, and left in my care in the confederate States hospital at Cheneyville, Louisiana: Chas. Allen, secondclass fireman, Signal, sick; Michael Lyons, coalheaver, Signal, wounded; A. J. Shiver, seaman, Signal, wounded; John Highland, seaman, Signal, wounded; Gabriel Frear, landsman, Signal, wounded; Isaac Highland, seaman, Covington, wounded; Lewis Jones, quartermaster, Signal, wounded. They were paroled on the sixteenth of June, and delivered to Colonel Dwight, United States army, on the seventeenth, who transferred them to the United States steamer General Bragg. I reported on board the United States steamer Choctaw on the eighteenth, and received orders to remove the wounded to Hospital Pinkney and report to you for duty. In obedience I took passage on the New National, and took to the hospital all except Lewis Jones, quartermaster of the Signal, whose time has expired, and Isaac Highland, ordinary seaman, Covington, entirely recovered. They are on board that vessel now awaiting orders. I have submitted, through the fleet surgeon, a detailed report of the casualties on board the Signal. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,