Doc. 106.-fight at Bayou Teche, La.
New-York times account.
Lafourche Station, Friday, January 16, 1868.we have just arrived here with Gen. Weitzel and the larger number of the forces under him, who are encamped at Thibodeaux, near this place, having accompanied them from their successful expedition up the Bayou Teche, in which they destroyed the rebel gunboat Cotton, and sent the enemy skedaddling. If you have moral courage enough to examine any detailed hydrographical and topographical map of Southern Louisiana, and lose yourself among the labyrinthine intersections of the countless lakes and bayous there represented — resembling more the plan of a spider's web than any portion of the habitable globe — you will find the Lafourche Station just where the bayou of that name is crossed by the New-Orleans, Ope lousas and Great Western Railroad, which extends at present, no further than to Brashear City and Berwick's Bay, at the junction of the Atchafalaya River and Lake Palondre. For the benefit of those of your readers who may not know — and perhaps there are many such — any thing about these extraordinary bayous, or water-courses, it may be well to state that, although when compared with the mighty Mississippi, they sink to the insignificance of mere streamlets — many of them far exceed in volume the river Thames, a very short distance above London,--and the smallest of them would, in any  part of England, be considered a very respectable river. Although not positively known, it had been, for some time past, pretty generally rumored that an expedition of some sort was about to take place in the neighborhood of Berwick's Bay, but when or how no one could tell. All that we knew was that the rebels were collecting forces above Donaldsonville, in the neighborhood of Plaquemine, that they now and then came in collision with our pickets, run off all the horses, mules, and cattle they could lay their hands on, and that they, moreover, had a steamer, called the J. A. Cotton, lurking somewhere in the Bayou Teche, which had become the terror of that part of the country. It became, therefore, simply necessary to go and clean them out, and the task was allotted to General Weitzel. The General commenced moving his forces from Thibodeaux on Sunday, the eleventh. These consisted of the Eighth Vermont, One Hundred and Sixtieth and Seventy-fifth New-York, Twelfth Connecticut, Twenty-first Indiana, Sixth Michigan, company B, First Louisiana Union cavalry, Capt. Barrett; four pieces of Bainbridge's artillery, Sixth Massachusetts battery, Capt. W. W. Carruth; First Maine battery, Lieut. Bradley, and one section Fourth Massachusetts battery, Lieutenant Briggs. Capt. Fitch, with a portion of the Seventy-fifth New-York, volunteered as sharp-shooters. The troops commenced embarking from Brashear on Monday night; by Tuesday morning they had all safely embarked, and the whole of the infantry — placed upon our gunboats Calhoun, Diana, Kinsman, and Estrella--proceeded up the Atchafalaya River to Patersonville, where they arrived on Tuesday, at two P. M. The cavalry and artillery went by land. There was some little skirmishing on the road, and in one hand-to-hand sabre encounter with the rebel cavalry — a most dashing affair on the part of Capt. Barrett's company — they were driven before us, we losing one man killed, and they several. At three P. M., Commodore Buchanan, commander of the fleet of gunboats, steamed up the river on board the Diana, and returned at a quarter to four o'clock. At half-past 4 o'clock the Calhoun, (flag-ship,) Kinsman, Estrella, and Diana all went up the bayou, came to anchor about ten miles below where the bayou was obstructed, made a hawser fast from each quarter to the shore, and staid all night. Early on Wednesday morning, at six A. M., the Diana, Capt. Goodwin, was ordered to go down the Bayou to Lynch's Point, to take the Eighth Vermont across to the left or northern bank, in order for a flank movement on the enemy. At seven, the Calhoun, Commodore Buchanan, Kinsman, Captain Wiggin, and Estrella, Captain Cook, commenced moving slowly up the bayou, and at eight o'clock reached the formidable obstruction. This was at a place called Corney's Bridge, from a man of that name owning a plantation there. Nothing but the piles of the old bridge remain, protruding about three or four feet above water, and against these the rebels had sunk an old steamer, filled with brick, and placed all manner of rubbish-making it impossible at that time either for the Cotton to come down to us, or for us to get at her. At this time, about a quarter to nine, an artillery duel commenced between our gunboats and the gunboat Cotton and the rebel batteries, located where shown on the map. The Kinsman was now in advance, and the Estrella next, and the Calhoun, with Commander Buchanan on board, following up close. The firing continued for some time without any manifest difference to either party. A few desultory rifle-shots had been fired at us from the shore, which our men returned as well as they could against a hidden foe. Suddenly the Kinsman felt something explode under her; it was a torpedo, and her stern was violently lifted in the air, but fortunately with no damage, as was afterward found. An aid of Gen. Weitzel came galloping up to tell the Kinsman of another torpedo being planted right ahead, a contraband, escaped from the Cotton, having brought the intelligence. Owing to this, and one of her guns being disabled — so the Kinsman's officers all assured me — she was cautiously dropping back, after warning both the Estrella and Calhoun of what had been told her. Commodore Buchanan, either not hearing or not heeding the information, at once steamed up right ahead of both the Estrella and the Kinsman, and personally seized the post of danger. It was now about ten o'clock, when the rebels, from behind their concealed rifle-pits, poured forth a most murderous volley upon our men; and the Cotton coming down to attack our batteries, the fight became severe and general. The gallant Buchanan was one of the first to fall. He was standing forward, spyglass in hand, a motionless target for the deadly missiles of the hidden enemy. W. D. Brown, Acting Chief-Engineer, who was near him at the time, having received a spent ball in the thigh, the Commodore said: “Al! You've got it.” The very next moment a ball struck Buchanan in the right cheek, immediately below the temple, passing through to the opposite side. He exclaimed, “My God!” and fell back dead. Some say this gallant officer was rash on this occasion, and threw away his loved and valued life; perhaps so, but it was a rashness which will endear his heroic name forever. The following are the names of the others who suffered on this occasion on board the Calhoun and Kinsman: Charles Daverich,(seaman,) Wm. Neilson, (landsman,) both killed; W. D. Brown, (acting Chief-Engineer,) slightly wounded; H. D. Foster, (Ensign,) badly wounded in the right cheek; John Lewis, Quartermaster, and Geo. Perkins, acting Quartermaster, both wounded while in the wheel-house; Wm. Adams, Coxswain; James Williams, Captain of the Guard, and Geo. Riley, landsman, were also wounded, but not severely; Acting Master A. S. Wiggin, of the Kinsman, badly wounded from the rifle-pits, and the only casualty on the  Kinsman. The fate of this brave officer is a sad one. When the rifle-pits opened their murderous fire on our men, they were commanded to lay down behind the bulwarks. Lieut. Wiggin, from some fatal impulse of pride or bravery, although in a most exposed position, did not do so and being the only one standing, was a prominent mark for the enemy. He immediately received a Minie ball in his right shoulder, which has compelled his arm to be operated upon at its socket, and a portion of the injured bone taken out. The arm is replaced, but it is feared the suppuration will be such a drain on his system as to endanger life. To show how terribly murderous was the position in which our boats were placed, it is only necessary to state that, at this point, the bayou was so narrow that the Calhoun, in turning, had her bow and stern aground. While this was going on, our land forces were by no means idle. The Eighth Vermont, as soon as they had been brought across from Lynch's Point in the Diana, at once attacked the rebels in the rear of their rifle-pits; and during a brisk and sharp engagement killed several, took forty prisoners, and put the rest to flight, their cannon leading the way. But for this sudden and gallant assistance from the Eighth Vermont, there can be little doubt that the Calhoun would have been lost, from the impetuosity with which the rebels were firing upon her. In the mean time, no less efficient aid was being given by other portions of our troops. Three batteries--the First Maine, Lieut. Bradbury; one section of the Fourth Massachusetts, under Lieut. Briggs, and Capt. W. W. Carruth's Sixth Massachusetts--had gone round by the woods, from Patersonville, to a point above the Cotton, where they could successfully play upon her, and in this they were assisted by some of the One Hundred and Sixtieth New-York, and sixty sharp-shooters of the Seventy-fifth New-York, who played havoc among the crew of the rebel gunboat, which was one of those enormous Mississippi steamers, protected by cotton wherever possible, and clad in iron. Thrice did this ungainly monster retire up the bayou, from the effect of the deadly iron hail poured into her, and thrice did she desperately come up to renew the contest. She came once too often, however; for, after having had her men nearly cleaned out of her, the last time she made her appearance, which was at two o'clock next morning, she was floating, in solitary glory, down the bayou, one sheet of flame. The game being over, and the ostensible object of the expedition accomplished, our gunboats and land forces returned in perfect order and good spirits, and arrived opposite Brashear at five o'clock on the evening of Friday, sixteenth, in one of the most terrible “Northers” that I ever witnessed. They crossed over, bivouacked for the night, and next day (Friday) returned to camp. I am sorry to have to add the following list of casualties to those already given: Killed--Second Lieut. E. Whiteside, Co. H, Seventy-fifth New-York; John Noble, Co. G. Seventy-fifth New-York; John Welsh, Co. B. First Louisiana Cadets; and two others--one of the One Hundred and Sixtieth, and another of the Seventy-Fifth New-York, whose names I could not obtain. Wounded--Corp. Caypless, Co. A, Seventy-fifth New-York, leg; Benson Sherman, Co. F, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh; Jas. Mitchell, Co. F, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh ; John Evenden, Co. F, Seventy-fifth New-York, knee, slightly; Adam Michael, Co. C, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh; John W. Riley, Co. B, Seventy-fifth New-York, back; M. V. B. Van Etten, Co. A, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh ; H. W. Prescott, First Maine battery, thumb; John Thompson, First Maine battery, both arms amputated; Byron Herman, Co. D, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh; Michael Kennedy, Co. F, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh; D. S. Devoe, Co. A, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh ; W. H. Tibbs, Co. A, One Hundred and Sixtieth New-York; Corp. Saml. P. Hitchcock, Co. G, Seventy-fifth New-York, knee; James H. Henry, Co. K, Seventy-fifth New-York, chest; George Derby, Co. F, Seventy-fifth New-York, thigh; Bela Burbank, Co. H, Seventy-fifth New-York, leg amputated Patrick Mulholland, Co. E, Seventy-fifth New-York; Peter Richards, Co. A, Twelfth Connecticut, finger, slightly. On board the Diana I afterward met and conversed with a rebel lieutenant, who was made prisoner. He told us that their forces did not consist (independently of the Cotton) of more than one thousand one hundred, namely, Four, net's “Yellow jacket” battalion, of some three hundred men, of which he was a member, and eight hundred of the Twenty-eighth Louisiana; also, Simms's battery and the Pelican battery of Parrott guns, the same who fought us at Donaldsonville and Lapataville. Colonel Gray was commander of the post, a man of some social consideration, who once run for Senator against Benjamin. The rebel loss is not known; but two women who came to Brashear under flag of truce, say they knew of fifteen buried. Although the ostensible object of this expedition was carried out as clearly and prettily as any one could desire, and bravery was shown there equal to any thing experienced in battles of far greater importance, the grandeur of the result does not strike people here as quite commensurate with the means employed. It is true we have destroyed the Cotton, which, according to current rumors out there, the rebels looked upon as worth an army of twenty thousand to them, and captured a large quantity of cattle, horses, and mules; but then, the obstruction in the bayou still remains; they have at least two other boats up there getting ready; we have come back to precisely the point from which we started, and I see nothing to prevent us from having to go over exactly the same work again. Had we gone on and taken Franklin — held the ground as we went on, and never stopped till we seized New-Iberia, and with it the mountain of  salt on Petite Anse Island--(miles long by miles in width of solid rock salt, capable of supplying the world)--worth more than an army to the rebels, in their present condition, there would have been something to record really worth crowing over. But of one thing we are all confident here, General Weitzel is capable of any thing he may be set to do; and so let us indulge in the hope of soon recording something of more lasting and important results in the district under his command. Before closing my narrative, I ought to say that the information which our good friend the contraband from the Cotton gave, respecting a concealed torpedo, proved to be perfectly correct, and exactly where he stated. I saw this infernal machine on board the Estrella, and afterward conversed with the poor fellow who rendered us such essential service, and who is now safely in our lines. Judge of my astonishment when, on scraping away the waxen stuff on the brand of this machine, I discovered the following inscription in raised letters: Taylor & Hodget's cans, With Burnett's Attachment, New-York. Patented August 21, 1855. It was shut up in a neat wooden box and labelled, in large letters: “Hospital stores, this side up, with care.” The manufacturers are fully welcome to all the benefits of this advertisement. “Hospital stores,” forsooth! Rather a grim joke, is it not? One strange thought struck me as I gazed upon this monstrous invention, and that was, that while people in the North are enriching themselves by manufacturing these hellish things to blow our own brave men to atoms, a poor black “animal” down here has friendship and humanity enough to come and warn them off from their terrible doom. I forgot, in my hurry, to write down this negro's name; perhaps it is as well I did not. General Weitzel can easily find him, and surely, if the lives of some dozen or two of our defenders are worth any thing, that faithful fellow should not go unrewarded.