Doc. 97.-capture of the Antona.
U. S. Steamer Pocahontas, Western Gulf Blockading Squadron, off Mobile, Ala., Jan. 8, 1863.On the morning of the sixth instant we weighed anchor to overhaul a vessel which was descried from the masthead. At a quarter-past nine o'clock came up to it, and she proved to be a United States transport with troops, bound for Ship Island. We put our steamer about to return to our station, when “Sail, ho!” sounded again from the ever-vigilant look-out at the cross-trees; and at the same time a steamer was seen standing close into the beach. We promptly directed our course accordingly, when the steamer, perceiving our movements, at once stood out to sea, and now a highly exciting chase followed. At ten o'clock A. M., the steamer, with sails set, swept before us at full speed, gaining distance, and soon threatened to be out of sight. We now set all sails that would draw, ran down our colors, and graced our peak with the ensign of her Britannic Majesty. Eleven o'clock, we hold our distance, but gain nothing. Twelve M., commenced feeding our furnaces with pork and junk, which increased our speed considerably, but the steamer, sending forth huge masses of black smoke, told us that she had similar resources, and kept her distance. One P. M., we seem to gain but very little. We fired our rifled gun, which of course fell considerably short. Two P. M., gained about a quarter of a mile, and now saw the English colors hoisted on her main. Three o'clock P. M., same distance as an hour ago. Four P. M., the vessel seems to gain a little, but not much. Five o'clock, trying our engines to the best, were pleased to gain upon her; fired a thirty-two pounder, which, however, dropped short. Six o'clock, a strong breeze sprung up, and we set our storm main-sail, which increased our speed to eleven and a half knots. Darkness sets in, but stationing our look-outs with night-glasses in top and on the forecastle, are enabled to keep her in sight. Seven o'clock P. M., the moon rose, and the vessel was plainly visible without the aid of glasses. We gained considerable, and had the best of expectations soon to bring her to heave to by a ten-inch shell, when our fore-top-sail gave way, and before it could be mended the steamer gained considerably. Eight P. M., we gain again, and now complimented her with a couple of shell, which fell, however, short. At nine P. M., the steamer's top-sail gave way, her rigging having been cut by a rifle-shot. This gave us considerable advantage. and at half-past 9 P. M. another rifle-shot, whizzing over her, brought her to; her engine stopped, and the race was won. Captain Gamble hailed her, and as the sea was very rough, so that he could send no boat, ordered her to keep close by, disobedience of which would be promptly punished by “Old Ben,” (the name of our ten-inch pivot, baptized at Port Royal. The next morning we boarded her, when she  proved to be the English steamer Antona, from Liverpool via Havana, bound for the most convenient “secesh port.” The steamer is a fine iron one, built in England in 1861, and about four hundred tons burden. The cargo is a very valuable one, and consists of a complete battery of brass field-pieces, a lot of quinine, opium, several thousand pairs of shoes, numerous boxes of tea, about five hundred kegs of powder, Enfield rifles, medicines, clothing, etc., etc. Her pilot, who came on board at Havana, left Mobile but two weeks ago, and was promised two thousand dollars for safe pilotage. He seems to be disappointed, but takes it easy, and who knows may become a staunch Union man hereafter? He says the people in and about Mobile suffer much. Shoes, twelve and fourteen dollars a pair; coffee, one dollar per pound; salt scarce and very dear. He says that the success of the Democratic party at the last election fills the rebels with new hopes. They count upon an early truce, by which they might profit. If the Republican party had had a majority at the last elections, he says the rebels would have laid down their arms; and but for that, peace would have been sought on the best terms possible. Acting Master Edward Baker has taken command of the Antona. He leaves to-morrow for Pensacola to coal ship, whence he will proceed to New-York.
H. A. M.