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Doc. 49. destruction of the privateer “Judah,” September 13, 1861.

Flag officer Mervine's report.

United States flagship Colorado, off Fort Pickens, September 15, 1861.
sir: I have the honor to inform you that a boat expedition was fitted out from this ship on the night of the 13th instant, consisting of the first launch, and first, second, and third cutters, under the commands of Lieutenant Russell, Sproston, Blake, and Midshipman Steece, respectively, assisted by Captain Reynolds, of the marines, Assistant-Surgeon Kennedy, Assistant-Engineer White, Gunner Horton, and Midshipmen Forrest and Higginson. The whole force detailed consisted of about one hundred men, officers, sailors, and marines. The object of the expedition was the destruction of a schooner which lay off the Pensacola Navy Yard, supposed to be fitting out as a privateer, and the spiking of a gun, in battery, at the southeast end of the yard.

The movements of the schooner had been assiduously watched for several days and nights, and I deemed it so morally certain that she was intended for a privateer that I determined the attempt should be made to destroy her, even in face of the fearful odds which would have to be encountered. Lieutenant Russell had charge of the expedition, and, with Lieutenant Blake, was to attack the vessel, while Lieutenant Sproston and Midshipman Steece spiked the guns.

The attack was made on the morning of the 14th instant, at half-past 3 o'clock. The schooner, named the Judah, was found moored to the wharf, under the protection of a battery and field-piece, and to be armed with a pivot and four broadside guns. Her crew were on her, and prepared to receive our forces, pouring in a volley of musketry as the boat neared the vessel. A desperate resistance was made from the decks of the schooner, but her men were driven off on to the wharf by our boarders, where they rallied and were joined by the guard, and kept up a continued fire upon our men.

In the mean time the vessel was set on fire in several places. That which finally consumed her was lighted in the cabin by Assistant-Engineer White, and a coal heaver, Patrick Driscoll, who went as a volunteer. She burned to the water's edge, and has since, while burning, been set free from her moorings, and has drifted down opposite Fort Barrancas, where she sunk.

Of the party assigned to the spiking of the gun, only Lieutenant Sproston and gunner Horton were able, after considerable search, to find it, the party becoming separated in the darkness. No opposition was made to their landing; Midshipman Steece, with his command, had gone to the aid of those on the schooner, where he performed valuable service. Very fortunately, only one man was found in charge of the gun, and he immediately levelled his piece at Lieutenant Sproston, but was shot down by gunner Horton before he could obtain certain aim. Both pieces exploded simultaneously. The gun, which was found to be a ten-inch columbiad, was immediately spiked, and, bringing off its tompion, these two officers returned to their boat.

The work proposed having thus been well and thoroughly done in the short space of fifteen minutes, and the whole force of the enemy in the yard — reported by deserters as over one [139] thousand strong — being aroused, our boats pulled away, and rallying at a short distance from the shore, fired six charges of canister from their howitzers into the yard, with what result it is impossible to say. Three of the enemy are known to have been killed, and our officers are confident the number is much larger. The boats then returned to the ship, arriving there about daylight.

But, sir, I am grieved to report that this brilliant affair was not unattended by loss on our side. I have to report as killed by shots from the cross-trees of the schooner, while the boats were approaching, boatswain's mate Charles H. Lamphere and John R. Herring, seaman and captain of the howitzer, two of the best men in our ship; and marine John Smith — the first man to board the schooner, and who behaved most gallantly — was, by a sad mistake, having lost his distinguishing mark, killed by one of our own men. We have wounded, probably mortally, seaman R. Clark and E. K. Osborne; severely, nine other seamen. Captain Reynolds received a severe contusion on his shoulder, and midshipman Higginson had the end of his thumb shot off. Lieutenants Russell and Blake had narrow escapes, the flesh of each being grazed by one or more musket balls.

It is not an easy task to select individual instances of bravery or daring where all behaved so gallantly. The officers unite in giving great credit to the coolness and bravery with which they were supported by the men, and the latter have learned to look with new pride and confidence on the former. The marines, especially, seem to have sustained the reputation borne by their branch of the service, as they receive encomiums from all sides. Assistant-surgeon Kennedy rendered valuable assistance in the care of the wounded. Assistant-engineer White brought down from the cross-trees of the schooner a man who had been seen to fire upon the boats, killing him instantly. I enclose, herewith, a complete list of all engaged in the affair, with the names of the killed and wounded in each boat.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

William Mervine, Flag-officer Commanding Gulf Blockade Squadron.
P. S.--By a strange inadvertency, my mind being so much engrossed with the expedition itself, I omitted to give credit to Capt. Bailey, of this ship, for maturing the plan and taking charge of fitting out the expedition to the minutest detail. It is to his thoughtfulness that a great portion of its success must be ascribed.

W. M. To Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

The Secretary of the Navy issued the following acknowledgment of the gallantry of the Federal forces:

Navy Department, October 4, 1861.
Sir: The department received Flag-officer Mervine's report of the boat expedition despatched by him from the Colorado on the night of the 13th of September, under the command of Lieutenant John H. Russell, of the navy, to destroy the rebel privateer Judah, moored at the wharf of the Pensacola Navy Yard, and to spike the guns in a battery near by. An expedition executed in the face of an enemy so much superior in numbers, with such brilliancy and gallantry and success, cannot pass without the special recognition of the department. To those who were engaged in it, not only the department, but the whole country, is indebted for one of the brightest pages that has adorned our naval record during this rebellion. Indeed, it may be placed, without disparagement, side by side with the fairest that adorn our early naval history. The expedition will give renown not only to those who were immediately concerned in it, but to the navy itself. It will inspire others in the service to emulation. Its recital hereafter will thrill the heart with admiration. The department will cherish the recollection of the exploit, and desires you to express to the officers, seamen, and marines who participated in it, its highest admiration of their conduct.

The loss to the service and to their relatives and friends of those who fell in the expedition is a painful feature of it; but the memory of those brave men should not be lost in the hearts of all true patriots, but be ever cherished therein.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

Gideon Welles. Flag-officer Wm. W. Mckean, Commanding Gulf Blockading Squadron.

Promotion of Lieutenant Russell.

Navy Department, October 4, 1861.
Lieutenant John H. Russell, U. S. frigate Colorado, Gulf Blockading Squadron:
sir: Transmitted herewith is a copy of a communication from the department, of this date, to Flag-officer McKean, commanding Gulf blockading squadron, in relation to the successful boat expedition despatched under your command to destroy the rebel privateer Judah. For your gallantry on this occasion the department designs to assign you to the command of one of the new gunboats, and you are therefore detached from the Colorado, and you will proceed to Washington, D. C., and report yourself in person to the department.

I am, respectfully,

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