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Doc. 114.-the loss of the Isaac Smith.

Report of rear-admiral Du Pont.

flag-ship Wabash, Port Royal harbor, S. C., February 3, 1863.
sir: On Saturday, when I received information of the affairs off Charleston, referred to in my previous despatch No. 53, there were also vague rumors that two gunboats, holding Stono Inlet, had been engaged, heavy firing having been heard in that direction. At two o'clock A. M. of the first instant, the Commodore McDonough came into Port Royal, and, I regret to say, reported the capture, by three rebel batteries, of the United States steamer Isaac Smith.

It appears from Lieutenant Commanding Bacon's reports, herewith inclosed, that on the afternoon of the thirtieth ultimo he sent the Isaac Smith, Acting Lieutenant Conover, up Stono River to make a reconnoissance, as had been frequently done for weeks previous. She passed some miles beyond Legareville without seeing the enemy, and was on her way back; when about a mile above that place, and in a bend of the river, three batteries, heretofore concealed, opened a concentrated fire upon her, firing heavy rifled guns.

Lieutenant Commanding Bacon, who, with the Commodore McDonough, was anchored lower down the river, immediately on hearing the firing, proceeded to her assistance. Soon after he had got under way he discovered that a white flag was flying from the Isaac Smith, and that the firing from the shore had ceased. On arriving abreast of Legareville, she was seen to be aground about a quarter of a mile above the bend in the river, and two of her boats were observed going on shore loaded with officers and men.

The Commodore McDonough stood up toward the bend with the intention of either towing her off or destroying her. But after reaching the bend, she was fired upon by the same three batteries--one on the bend, one half a mile above the bend on St. John's Island, mounting six heavy guns, and one back and to the left of Legareville. Lieutenant Commanding Bacon immediately returned the fire from his rifled guns, and by keeping his vessel in motion, going ahead and backing, succeeded in escaping injury from the enemy's shell, which struck all around the ship. It becoming dark, he ceased firing, and dropped down to the entrance of the bar.

Lieutenant Commanding Bacon reports that the Isaac Smith was under a heavy cross-fire, and just before it ceased a large cloud of steam was ascending from her, which probably rendered her unmanageable, and caused her to run aground. [405] Notwithstanding all the vigilance exercised by the commanding officers of the Isaac Smith and Commodore McDonough, the enemy, who hold complete possession of the surrounding country and islands, succeeded in erecting the batteries by which the Isaac Smith was taken, masking them so skilfully that their existence was unknown.

I have had no means of ascertaining the casualties on board the Isaac Smith, but it is my purpose to do so by a flag of truce at the earliest moment; though I presume the department will receive information through Southern sources on this point before it can be obtained here.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. F. Du Pont, Rear-Admiral Com'g South-Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

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