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[355]

A national account.

Wilmington, N. C., January 9, 1864.
It is my purpose to narrate in this letter the facts concerning the chase and destruction of the blockade-runner steamer Dare by the United States steamers Montgomery and Aries, resulting in the capture of the executive officer, one engineer, and seventeen men from the Montgomery, and one ensign, the captain's clerk, and seven men from the Aries, by rebel cavalry on the coast.

It seems that at early dawn on the morning of the eighth, the Montgomery discovered a steamer apparently attempting to get away from the blockading fleet, after an unsuccessful attempt to get into Wilmington during the night. Chase was immediately given, when the steamer hoisted the rebel flag, and soon after the Aries hove in sight and joined in the chase. Notwithstanding the well-known speed of the two vessels, it was evident that the rebel was getting the best of it. Several shots were fired at her, and it was afterward proved that one took effect in one of her paddle-boxes. Later in the chase a strong and favorable breeze for the Union steamers came up, and with full sail and steam it was certain that the blockade-runner could not get away. She was determined not to be captured, however; and, after all hope of escape was gone, she headed in for the land and was run ashore thirteen miles north-east of Georgetown Light, S. C. The Montgomery and Aries immediately lowered their boats, and with armed crews boarded her, not, however, until all hands on board had gained the land.

The surf at the time was running very high, and the sea was striking the grounded vessel heavily, thus making the matter of boarding extremely dangerous and difficult. Had it not been for this, the steamer could have been taken off and made useful to our Government. After setting her on fire, the officers and crew made to the boats. A very trying time for the boats' crew now ensued. The surf was so high that it was almost impossible to push from the burning vessel. Six boats had escaped the danger when it was discovered that a boat from the Aries had been swamped, and all hands were floundering in the water. George H. Pendleton, Acting Master and Executive Officer of the Montgomery, in charge of a launch, at once returned to the rescue of the unfortunate men, and succeeded in taking five from the surf. Having accomplished this noble and daring act, he was again nearing his steamer when others were seen in the waves. Turning once more to the good work, his boat soon became unmanageable, and was thrown on the beach.

It was impossible to render them any help. We could only feel thankful when we saw that they were safe on land.

Night coming on, the Montgomery and Aries lay by at anchor until morning, with the hope of recovering the unfortunate officer and men. It was then, however, discovered that they had unfortunately been captured during the night by rebel cavalry, as several hundred were seen on the coast in the morning.

At daybreak the United States schooner George Manghan, blockading an inlet near by, came up to the scene of action, and, owing to her light draught of water, was enabled to go close in shore and shell the rebel cavalry and coast-guard.

The destroyed vessel proved to be the English steamer Dare, a splendid side-wheel vessel of seven hundred tons, and was from Nassau, bound for Wilmington.

Her cargo apparently was not large, and from the facts gathered it is highly probable that some important and distinguished rebel persons were on board, and the only object of the vessel was to get them safe into rebeldom.

The Dare was chased a distance of sixty miles. It is possible that some of the unfortunate boat's crew may have been lost, but it is to be hoped that all are alive. The bravery and nobleness of conduct on the part of Acting Master George H. Pendleton is commendable in the very highest degree. Third Assistant Engineer George M. Smith, of the Montgomery, and Mr.----Parkman, Captain's Clerk, of the Aries, and one ensign of the same vessel, whose name I have not learned, are among the captured.

I have also to state the circumstances attending the destruction of the blockade-runner Bendigo but a few days since. It seems that this vessel got ashore some miles down the coast from the blockading fleet, and was discovered by the flag-ship Fa-Kee, with Admiral Lee on board, and immediately opened fire upon her, and was soon after joined by the Mongomery. Both vessels now fired at the Bendigo, and by evening several shots had taken effect. Early the next morning the Bendigo was boarded by a boat expedition from the Montgomery, Iron Age, and Daylight, in charge of Acting Master George H. Pendleton, and was destroyed. Four valuable blockade-runners — the steamers Ceres, Antonica, Bendigo, and Dare--have in this way been destroyed off Western Bar, Wilmington, since the sixth day of December. The question may naturally be asked, how it is that so many blockaderunners are now so suddenly and rapidly being destroyed while running into port.

In my mind the question is easily answered. It is well known that the lightship which has been stationed off Fryingpan Shoal, which is the dangerous approach to Wilmington, was blown off in a gale of wind; and while these four steamers have been destroyed, no lightship has been at this place.

That the blockade-runners have made this light a most important point from which to take bearings, etc., and have been governed by it altogether while running in or out, is most evident. Without it, they are obliged to take the land as a guide, and in so doing at night get in shoal water and aground, and are then discovered by our gunboats and destroyed.

The Montgomery has just arrived here from destroying the Dare. The Aries remained behind,


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