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[115]

The story of the Arkansas.

By George W. Gift

No. 2.

We left the Carondelet sinking and pursued the Tyler and Queen of the West. Both were swifter vessels than the Arkansas, and in our efforts to overtake them we worked off steam too rapidly and the result was that when we entered the Mississippi river they had gained sufficiently on us to notify the fleets of Farragut and Davis of our approach, and that before we had come in sight around the point. The result was instant and rapid preparation by the squadrons for our reception. Steam was hurried up on all the river vessels, and they weighed or slipped, and took up such positions as would enable them to hit us and at the same time keep away from our powerful beak, if possible. On coming in sight of them the scene was one of intense interest. A dozen or more war vessels were steaming about in an uneasy, uncertain way, somewhat after the manner of a brood of chickens on the approach of a hawk. Tugs, transports and hospital vessels were smoking up or trying to hide. The heavy sloops-of-war and gunboats of Farragut's squadron were anchored in the middle of the stream with fires out, but with batteries manned and ready for battle. On the banks batteries of field artillery were run up and several thousands of soldiers prepared to shoot Minie balls into our ports. The ‘mustang’ rams—the same that beat our ‘mustang,’ Montgomery, in front of Memphis a short time before—were under way also, but they did not come to the front too close, with a chap carrying guns and men who knew how to handle them. I think I do not over-estimate the force of the enemy when I say he had twenty pennants flying; and we were about to attack him in an unfinished and untried vessel, with engines totally and entirely unreliable. As we stood down to them there was a decided and painful pause. We were in range, but preferred to save our strength and ammunition for a close grapple. One of my best men was a tall, athletic young Irishman who had greatly distinguished himself for zeal and courage half an hour before. Putting his eye to the gun he peeped out ahead and saw the immense force assembled to oppose us. In an instant he was overcome, and exclaimed: ‘Holy mother, have mercy on us; we'll never get through there.’ I had been watching the changing panorama ahead with many doubts and misgivings. A half dozen I

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