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Doc. 13.-the gunboat fight near Columbus, Ky.

Commander Porter's report.

United States gunboat Essex, Wm. D. Porter, Commanding, Fort Jefferson, Jan. 13, 1861.
Flag-Officer A. H. Foote:
sir: On the morning of the eleventh, Gen. McClernand sent on board this vessel and informed me that the enemy were moving up the river from Columbus with several vessels, towing up a battery. I immediately signalled Lieut. Commanding Paulding, of the St. Louis, to get under way and prepare for action. A very thick fog coming on, we were compelled to steam slowly down the river; but about ten o'clock, or a little after, it rose, and showed us a large steamer at the head of Lucas' Bend. We heard her whistle the moment we were seen by them. Shortly after whistling she was joined by another large and a small steamer. We pursued our course steadily down the river, and when within long range the large steamer fired a heavy shell-gun, which struck the sand-bar between us, and ricocheted within about two hundred yards of this vessel, and bursted. We, at this time, did not return the fire, but continued our course down, in order to near the vessel.

By this time the large steamer was joined by her consorts, and they opened a brisk fire upon us. I now hailed Lieut. Commanding Paulding and directed him to try one of his rifle cannon. [31] He instantly fired and sent his shot completely over the enemy. I then opened from my bow guns, and the action became brisk on both sides for about twenty minutes, the enemy firing by broadsides. At the end of this time the enemy hauled off, and stood down the river, rounding to occasionally and giving us broadsides. This running fight continued until he reached the shelter of the batteries on the Iron Banks above Columbus. We continued the action, and drove him behind his batteries in a crippled condition. We could distinctly see our shells explode on his decks. The action lasted over an hour, and terminated, as I think, in a complete defeat of the enemy's boats, superior in size and number of guns to the Essex and St. Louis.

On the twelfth, Gen. McClernand requested me to make a reconnaissance toward the Iron Banks. I did so, and offered the enemy battle by firing a round shot at their battery, but they did not respond, nor did I see any thing of their boats. I have since been informed, through the General, that the boats of the enemy were completely disabled, and the panic became so great at the Iron Banks that the gunners deserted their guns. The fire of the St. Louis was precise, and the shot told well. The officers and men of this vessel behaved with firmness, Mr. Riley, the first Master, carrying out all my orders strictly, while the officers of the gun divisions, Messrs. Loving and Ferry, paid particular attention to the pointing of their respective guns. Mr. Britton, my Aid, paid all attention to my orders, and conveyed them correctly and with alacrity; in fact, all the officers and men on board behaved like veterans.

Your obedient servant,

W. D Porter, Commander.

Flag-Officer Foote, in forwarding this report, says:

Cairo, Jan. 13, 182.
sir: I forward a report from Commander Porter. The rebel gunboat shells all fell short of our boats, while our shells reached and ranged beyond their boats, showing the greater range of our guns, but the escape of the rebels showed the greater speed of their boats. Your obedient servant,

A. H. Foote, Flag-Officer. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary Navy.

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William D. Porter (4)
A. H. Foote (3)
H. Paulding (2)
John A. McClernand (2)
Gideon Welles (1)
Robert K. Riley (1)
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January 13th, 1861 AD (1)
January 13th, 182 AD (1)
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