Doc. 191. the fight at Fort Pickens.
Colonel Brown's report.
The following is the conclusion of the official report of Colonel Harvey Brown:
A detailed account, by an officer of the Niagara.On Wednesday, the 20th November, it became pretty generally known among us, that the flag officer had made up his mind to commence the bombardment of Pensacola, providing that Col. Brown was ready; and as we knew that the colonel only waited for the Flag's action, we felt pretty certain that the ball would be opened at once. I need not tell you that all hands were up to “concert-pitch,” and as eager to commence, as you at the North have been anxious to have us; and although we felt sure that some formidable masked batteries would disclose themselves, we were ready to find out where they were, and try the effects of our eleven-inch guns in silencing them. The object was to destroy the Navy Yard, so as to put a stop to their use of government property and tools in building any more extensive means of defence, and to batter down some of their fortifications. Orders were given to our engineers to place bags filled with coal around such portions of the machinery as were exposed to shot, and nearly all the work was done which is necessary to “prepare ship for action.” Early on the morning of the 21st, the flag officer went on shore to confer with Col. Brown in regard to preliminaries. At twelve o'clock he returned, and then we received orders to complete all necessary arrangements. Orders were despatched to the Richmond and Montgomery, then in port, giving them directions how to act, and the word was passed that we should move in at daylight, so as to engage Fort McRea, the water-battery, and the sand-battery, just in front of McRea, all three of which could bring their guns to bear upon either Fort Pickens or the shipping. We could form no idea of the strength of these places, but it was highly important that we should draw their fire, as they enfiladed the parapet guns of Pickens. It had been arranged, that as soon as the steamers came down from Pensacola to the Navy Yard, the fort was to open fire upon them, so as to sink them if possible, and cut off all means of bringing down reinforcements from the town, and the first gun from the fort was to be the signal for us to move in and open fire. Orders were passed to have sufficient food for the day cooked before eight o'clock in the morning, and at a late hour we turned in to dream of terrible battles and hair-breadth escapes. By sunrise on the morning of the 22d we were all ready. Our boats had been hoisted out and moored alongside, shot and shell got up, and steam all ready to move in at short notice. The usual morning prayer was offered up, the chaplain imploring a blessing upon the events of the day, after which the flag officer addressed a few words to the men in his usual clear, quick, come-to-the-point manner. He urged upon them “strict obedience to all orders, coolness, judgment, and precision in firing.” The answer was three hearty cheers. About half-past 9 we could see the steamers coming down to the Navy Yard, little suspecting that their doom was sealed. In a very  short time they were fast to the dock, and at just twelve minutes of ten we saw a smoke issue from Fort Pickens, and heard the booming of the gun. A cheer burst forth from our men, and if ever a ship's anchor came up lively, it was ours then. In order to bring our guns within range, it was necessary for us to run into very shoal water, and consequently it required the utmost caution in working the ship. Even with a perfectly smooth sea, there would be only twenty inches of water under our keel, and if it should begin to blow, or a heavy swell set in, it was necessary for us to have the ship in such a position that we could easily run into deeper water. While working our way in, the Richmond came up under our stern, and as she draws less water than we do, the Commodore ordered her to go in and, open fire as soon as she was within range. She passed by us, took a position nearer to the land and opened fire. Meantime, the water battery and Fort McRea were doing their best to frighten us, by throwing shot that fell about a mile short. We kept on steadily until we thought that we were within range, and then came to anchor. Our first shot was from the eighty-four pound rifle, and it told with very good effect. The next was from a eleven-inch gun, but it fell short. A few more were fired, but with much the same result. Finding that we were too far off, a boat was sent out in charge of the master, in order to sound, and having found that we could get in somewhat closer without the water shoaling much more, we hove up anchor, and ran in about one-fourth of a mile further. During the time that our boat was out sounding, several of their shots came very near it, but fortunately none hit. We now again opened fire from our broadside guns, and this time to some purpose. Almost every shot told, and there must have been a fearful scattering of pieces, as our shell exploded over their heads. I do not think there was ever any target practice in the Navy, that can show such a record of effective shots. The rebels were constantly throwing shot at us, and seemed to be either increasing the charge of powder, or else getting more elevation, for their shot gradually came nearer, though it was not until late in the afternoon that we were struck. By twelve o'clock, both the Richmond and Niagara, together with the guns bearing from Fort Pickens and Battery Scott, were all playing into Fort McRea and its surrounding batteries. We averaged one shell every three minutes, and as the Richmond had more guns, though smaller, and more than our number of guns were being served from Santa Rosa, there was about two shell each minute being fired at this point. About one o'clock a firing commenced from a masked battery which disclosed itself in the woods along the shore, and about a mile south of McRea. They seemed to have a particular spite against us, by the pertinacity with which they fired at us; but finding that they could not reach us, they turned their attention to the Richmond, which was nearer in shore. Many of their shot came very close to the latter, and had they been well directed would have done a great deal of damage. Only one took effect, however, and I regret to record that this killed one man and wounded seven. The man killed was captain of the gun, and was in the act of taking aim when struck. The wounded were but slightly hurt. The battery of the Richmond was now brought to bear upon the hidden rebels, but I do not think it did much execution, as most of her shot were seen to fall short. About five o'clock she hauled out. At two o'clock, a shell from one of our guns set fire to a frame house in the rear of McRea, and much of the time the fort has been enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Soon after this fire broke out, their flag-staff was shot away, and the symbol of treachery came down by the run. Subsequently it was raised again. About three o'clock, one or two shots passed over us and dropped into the water, and by the note which they sang as they passed, we knew that they had turned some heavier metal upon us. Two or three of our guns were directed to the spot whence the smoke was seen to issue, and if they treated us to music, we returned the compliment with interest. They succeeded in planting two shots in our sides, making rather ugly holes, and upsetting things in one of the lieutenant's rooms. By six o'clock we must have dismounted the gun, for at that time McRea ceased firing altogether, and for one hour and a half we tumbled shell after shell inside of her walls, without any response. We could hardly believe that we had silenced them so soon, but thought that they must be at work in preparing some larger gun for our benefit. We ceased firing at half-past 5, it having become too dark to get good aim. Our whole number of shell fired was one hundred and eighty; of these, forty-three were filled with sand, an expedient sometimes used in breaching a wall. The shots which struck us proved to be from an eight inch columbiad. At six o'clock we got up anchor and steamed out to a safer anchorage, and then all hands began to find out that they were very tired and hungry. All begrimed and black with powder, our nostrils filled with smoke and heads nearly splitting from so much noise, we were glad enough to go below and take a little rest, as well as to try the effects of a little supper. Our men have done nobly; too much cannot be said in their praise. When the rebel shots would come near us, they would grumble out a howl of derision, and when each shot was fired in return, it seemed as though every man of that particular gun's crew would shut his teeth in defiance, and his look fairly expressed, “take that, you cowardly skunks.” The most of our crew are old man-o‘--war's men, and were considered  a “picked crew” at the time the ship was commissioned to go to Japan, and at that time sailors were plenty. It is no kind of use for an officer to attempt to teach these men how to shoot. Just give them both a gun, and the man will beat the officer so badly that he will be very glad to resign. After we had become well engaged in the fight, we hardly thought of or had time to look at Fort Pickens. Once in a while I would cast a glance that way, and I could see that the semicircle of batteries were keeping up a constant explosion of shell over loyal walls; while from out her sides there came a steady stream of white smoke, and I could see that the shots took good effect. We had already made two good holes in McRea, and Pickens had knocked a hole that a horse and part might enter in. A letter dated November 23, says: As I commence to write to-night, the whole sky is illuminated by the burning of the town of Warrington and the Navy Yard. The former has been burning since two P. M., but the latter has just taken fire. The sight is grand, sublime, any thing you choose to call it, only we are too tired to look at it. The forts and batteries have just ceased firing. Fort Pickens must have fired over one thousand shot and shell to-day. All hands were on deck this morning as soon as it was light, and in the best of spirits, notwithstanding the change in the temperature. During the night there came up a heavy rainstorm, and the wind shifted from the southwest to the northwest, and now overcoats are quite comfortable to us who have lived so long in the tropics. The wind blew quite fresh, and as it was off shore, we feared it would blow the water seaward, so as to render it impossible for us to get our position of yesterday. Boats were sent in to sound, and we found we could get there, but there would be only ten inches of water under us. As the sea was very smooth, we determined to try it. About sunrise, we saw a large body of men leave Fort McRea, and go towards the navy yard, and we conjectured, from the looks of the batteries, that they were a “relief,” who had been at work during the night. When our boat returned, the officer reported that he could see a new battery in the woods, and that higher embankments had been thrown up in front of the others. All hands had a good warm breakfast, and at nine o'clock went to prayers. At half-past 9 signals were made to Fort Pickens, and at ten we weighed anchor and steamed in nearly to our position. The Richmond did not go in at all, as the flag-officer did not think her shot took sufficient effect to pay for being badly cut up. As soon as we approached, the new battery in the wood disclosed itself, and although it burst shell very near us, it could not do us much harm. The other battery in the wood now consists of two pieces. Fort Pickens opened fire a little after ten. We came to anchor at ten forty, and fired the first gun at ten forty-five. At this time all the batteries were hard at work. There were between forty and fifty guns playing into Fort Pickens. As we expected, masked batteries had disclosed themselves all along the beach. Our firing was very slow, owing to our inability to reach them, except with the rifled gun. The wind, which was quite strong, was directly against us, and very much in favor of the rebels. The charges of powder were increased from fifteen to seventeen pounds, and still our shots fell short. About a dozen of their shells have exploded quite near enough for comfort. The men seem to have taken matters quite coolly to-day. The commodore, in his address this morning, told them he did not want so many lookers — on to be on deck. Said he, “One watch go below and sleep, and be ready to relieve the other when wanted.” As I passed along the berth-deck, I saw many of them stretched out, fast asleep, and not a few playing backgammon and checkers. Finding that all our shots fell short, we weighed anchor at half-past 2, and moved in a little closer. Hardly had we dropped it, before a shot went whizzing in between our smoke pipes, and dropped in the water half a mile the other side of us. Immediately there came another, and then another, and while they came over us, thick and fast, our guns returned the compliment. But it was no use; our shot all fell short. The wind was too strong, and our ship was dangerously near the bottom. The charges of powder were increased to twenty pounds, five more than the regular charge, and finding that that did us no good, we weighed anchor and stood out. Even after we had moved out a long distance, several of the shots of this new gun came directly over our quarter. It could have been no other than a ten-inch columbiad, or else one of the rifled 120-pounders said to have been brought over by the Bermuda. One of our men says he could hear it say, “Secesh-secesh-secesh, sechong,” as it landed in the water. Had one of the secesh villains hit us, it would have bored us through and through. We got out of their reach at last, and then we had the satisfaction of watching the grand conflagration. If the wind changes and we can get in, we shall give them an opportunity to try their guns again on Monday. We have fired about seventy-five shells to-day. No one has been hurt on our ship. News has come from Fort Pickens, and we learn that they are in excellent spirits. That rebel friend of ours was turned upon the fort, and managed to partially dismount a ten-inch gun, wounding six men, one of whom is fatally injured. No other casualties. The gun was soon remounted. Col. Brown says he shall not open fire to-morrow unless they first fire upon him, so that altogether likely the Sabbath will indeed be a day of rest. Some may think it foolishness, but I do not believe we shall lose any thing.  A letter dated November 25, says: During Saturday and Sunday nights we could see the camp-fires of two or three parties on shore, who are doubtless engaged in erecting batteries for our reception, but I do not think it is the commodore's intention to engage them. They have strewed their fortifications all along the beach, and contain only one or two guns in each, while at the same time they are protected by the woods. To silence such fellows, it is necessary to have a ship for each one, and even then I doubt if it could be accomplished. It requires a landing party, and a force sufficient to take possession of the whole place. The Richmond received a serious damage in the action of Friday, although at the time it was not considered to be much. A shot struck her just about the water-line and penetrated the side, landing in one of the purser's storerooms. Yesterday she gained three feet of water, notwithstanding the steam pumps were kept in operation constantly. It will be necessary to send her to Key West, and as she goes to-day, I hasten to send you this letter, in hopes it may reach you at an early date. I question whether Col. Brown will attempt to do much more. He has effected his purpose — that of destroying the winter-quarters of the rebels, and although they succeeded in putting out the fire in the Navy Yard, he has shown them that it will be a very unsafe operation to commence work there again, as he can and will set fire to it again, if they make the attempt.
Secession accounts.A correspondent of the Mobile Register, says:
--Richmond Examiner, Dec. 2.