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Doc. 152.-the “Essex” and “Arkansas.”

Report of Commander Porter.

United States gunboat Essex, off Baton Rouge, August 1, 1862.
To the Honorable Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy:
sir: Permit me to draw your attention to some facts relating to this ship running the blockade at Vicksburgh. These facts will relate principally to the manner in which she is plated; but in their detail it will be necessary to enter into a statement of all the circumstances connected with my running the blockade.

At six A. M. on the morning of the fifteenth of July we heard heavy firing up the Yazoo, and as I had the evening previously taken on board two deserters from Vicksburgh, who had stated that the Arkansas ram was ready to come down the river, (they were sent on board the flag-ship Benton,) I suspected this vessel was making her way down, and I prepared for action. I beg to state that on my passage from Cairo to Vicksburgh, my port boiler had burst one of the bottom sheets, and we were repairing it at the time herein mentioned. At eight A. M. the United States gunboat Tyler came out of the mouth of the Yazoo, closely followed by the rebel ram. The former passed down and took refuge behind this vessel, as well as some other rams belonging to Colonel Ellet's fleet. As the Arkansas passed I discharged at her seven guns, striking her three times; one of my shot penetrated her iron covering and did [553] considerable damage; but, recovering, she passed on, the Benton getting under way and following her some distance down the river. She, however, reached in safety the batteries at Vicksburgh. It was now determined by the two commanders-in-chief to make some effort to destroy the ram, and hence, on the evening of the same day the Arkansas passed the upper fleet, Flag-Officer Farragut, with the New-Orleans fleet that had previously attacked the Vicksburgh batteries, coming up-stream, concluded to run the blockade, and, while going down, try to sink her. The flag-ship Benton, with the gunboats Louisville and Cincinnati, accompanied his fleet to within range of the forts; but the destruction of the ram was not accomplished.

Flag-Officers Farragut and Davis, with myself, on the twenty-first, held a council of war on board the Benton, and I volunteered the services of the Essex to make an attempt to destroy the ram, and the following programme was agreed on: That on the morning of the twenty-second, precisely at four o'clock, the whole available fleet under command of Flag-Officer Davis, was to get under way, and when within range to bombard the upper batteries at Vicksburgh; the lower fleet under Flag-Officer Farragut was to do the same, and attack the lower batteries; the Essex was to push on, strike the rebel ram, deliver her fire, and then fall behind the lower fleet.

On the morning herein stated I got under way and passed the Benton. Flag-Officer Davis hailed me and “wished me success.” I now pushed on, according to my understanding of the programme, and precisely at half-past 4 A. M. the enemy's upper batteries opened upon me, but I heard no response at this time from our fleets. I arrived at the ram, delivered my fire and struck her; the blow glanced, and I went high on the river-bank with the bows of the ship, where I lay ten minutes under three batteries of heavy guns. I backed off and loaded up. The enemy had drawn up three regiments of sharp-shooters and several batteries of field-pieces, ranging from six-pounders to twenty-four pounders. I found it impossible, under these circumstances, to board the rebel boat, though such was my original intention. After I delivered my fire at but five feet from the ram, we distinctly heard the groans of her wounded and saw her crew jumping overboard. She did not fire a gun after we had delivered ours, and I have since seen in the rebel papers that they admit a loss of eighteen killed and thirty-five wounded. We knocked a very large hole in her side. At this time I began to look for aid from the fleets, but without result. I ordered the pilots to get the Essex's head up-stream, with the intention of holding on until the lower fleet came up, and then make another attack on the ram. At this time I was under the guns of three batteries, one of which was not over one hundred feet off. A heavy ten-inch shot from the nearest battery struck my forward casemate, about five feet from the deck, but fortunately did not penetrate. A rifle seven and a half-inch shot, from the same battery, struck the casemate about nine feet from the deck. It penetrated the iron, but did not get through, though so severe was the blow that it started a four-inch plank two inches and eighteen feet long on the inside. A conical shell struck the casemate on the port side, as we were rounding to, penetrated the three quarter-inch iron, and came half-way through the wooden side. It exploded through, killing one man and slightly wounding three. A small piece grazed my head, and another piece tore the legs of the first master's pantaloons.

I had now been under fire for upwards of an hour, and thirty minutes of the time from eighty feet to one hundred yards of some of the enemy's heaviest batteries. I still looked for the arrival of the lower fleet, but saw nothing of it. I held on for a short time longer, but the enemy began to fire with such rapidity and we were so close that the flashes of his guns through my gun-holes drove my men from the guns. At last, through the smoke, I saw the lower fleet nearly three miles off, and still at anchor. Seeing no hope of relief or assistance, I now concluded to run the gauntlet of the enemy's lower forts and seek an anchorage below the fleet. I therefore reluctantantly gave the order to “put her head downstream;” but I was determined to be in no hurry. They had now plenty of time to prepare, and so rapid was their fire that for half an hour the hull of this ship was completely enveloped in the heavy jets of water thrown over her by the enemy's shot, shell and rifle-balls. The department may have some idea of the amount and number of shot, shell, plugs and rifle missiles thrown at this vessel, when they are now informed we were two hours and a half under fire of seventy heavy guns in battery, twenty fieldpieces and three heavy guns on board the ram. During that time this vessel was heavily struck forty-two times, and only penetrated twice. This fully proves the admirable character of the ironplating, as the thickest iron was but an inch, with one inch of India-rubber beneath, according to my method now patented.

I still hope an opportunity may yet be given me to make a second attempt to destroy the Arkansas, as I believe it can be done, and I am ready and can do it.

Very respectfully, your obed't servant,

W. D. Porter, Commanding Division of the Fleet in the Western Waters.

Commander Walke's report.

gunboat Carondelet, July 15, 1862.
sir: In obedience to your orders, passed to me yesterday by acting Fleet-Capt. Phelps, I got under way this morning, accompanied by the gunboat Tyler and steam-ram Queen of the West, and proceeded up the Yazoo on a reconnoissance. We had proceeded about six miles up the river, when we discovered a formidable-looking rebel ram or gunboat, since proved to be the celebrated Arkansas. The Queen of the West, Tyler and Carondelet at once retreated down the river to avoid being inevitably sunk, firing upon her with our stern and occasionally [554] with our side-guns. The enemy vigorously returned the fire from her heavy bow-guns as she pursued, and had greatly the advantage of us from being thoroughly protected by iron. We had continued the fight about one hour when the Arkansas came up, with the evident intention of running us down. I avoided the blow, and as we passed exchanged broadsides at very close quarter. I endeavored to board her, but she passed us too quickly, and I could only fire our bow-guns fairly at her stern. Not a shot entered her, however, the shot easily glancing off her invulnerable stern.

At this moment our wheel-ropes were cut off for the third time, and we had to run the boat into shore. As she swung round, we gave the rebel vigorous discharges from our bow and starboard guns. Two shot-holes were now seen in her side, when the crew were observed pumping her out. At this juncture a man was observed to be thrown overboard from the Arkansas. We had now received severe damages in our hull and machinery, more than twenty shots having entered the boat. In the engineer's department, three escape-pipes, the steam-gauge and two water-pipes were cut away. In the carpenter's department, nineteen beams were cut away, thirty timbers damaged, and three boats rendered useless. Our deck-pumps were cut away also. We had some thirty killed, wounded and missing.

When the escape-pipes were cut away, many of the hands jumped into the water.

The gunboat Tyler sustained me in a gallant and effective manner.

Our officers and most of the men behaved in a gallant manner during the whole action.

Yours respectfully,

Henry Walke, Commanding Carondelet.

United States gunboat Tyler, Mississippi River, July 19, 1862.
The following is an extract from the “log” of the Tyler, giving an account of the engagement with the Arkansas:

From four to eight, clear and pleasant. At four A. M. got under way, ran alongside of the Lancaster and sent a boat on board of her, which returned with a pilot. At five, stood on up the river, followed by the ram Queen of the West, the Carondelet being ahead. Arrived at the mouth of Yazoo River at forty-five minutes past five; stood on up. At seven A. M., discovered a steamer standing down the river, at the distance of a mile, which proved to be the rebel ram Arkansas, and immediately opened fire on her with our bow-guns, which was returned. The Carondelet about a mile and a half astern, and the Queen of the West about a quarter of a mile.

We commenced backing down the river, keeping up a fire with the guns that could be brought to bear. Finding that she was gaining on us rapidly, we rounded down-stream and stood for the Carondelet, which vessel was standing downstream, and took a position on her port-bow, about one hundred yards distant, keeping up a continuous fire on the ram from our stern gun and an occasional fire from our broadside battery, the Carondelet having already opened on the ram with her stern-guns.

About half-past 7 the rebel ram closed with and struck the Carondelet, and forced her against the left bank of the river, receiving a discharge from her stern-guns. Standing past her she received the fire of her broadside guns, and stood directly for us, at that time distant about two hundred yards.

We then stood down the river at all speed, and managed to keep the ram from two to three hundred yards distant from us, keeping up a rapid fire from our stern-gun and an occasional discharge from our broadside batteries as we could bring them to bear, receiving the fire of her two bow-guns and occasional discharges from her broadside batteries.

At half-past 8 came within sight of the fleet; forty-five minutes past eight rounded to under the stern of the Essex, delivering a broadside at the rebel ram as she was standing down past the fleet.

At this time the ram was receiving the fire of most all the vessels of our flotilla.

She succeeded in passing the fleet and in reaching Vicksburgh, although, it is supposed, with considerable damage. The ram was pumping a heavy stream of water from her side, from three miles above the mouth of Yazoo River until she passed the fleet.

The following are the casualties:

Killed belonging to the TylerOscar S. Davis, Third Assistant Engineer; T. Jeff. Hood, seaman. Wounded — John Sebastian, pilot, lost left arm; David Hiner, pilot, slightly; R. H. Smith, pilot, slightly; J. W. Holly, coal-heaver, lost right arm; J. J. Milford, seaman, severely; R. Williamson, seaman, severely; James Hughes, seaman, slightly; James Morris, seaman, slightly; Richard Carter, seaman, slightly; Fred. Cooper, seaman, slightly; Stephen Tracy, seaman, slightly.

Killed belonging to detachment of Fourth Wisconsin regiment, detailed as sharp-shooters, on the United States gunboat Tyler--Capt. Lynn, company I, commanding detachment; F. Barton, company E; H. Randall, company B; L. Goodridge, company K; A. Palmer, company G; C. Shafer, company D. Wounded — C. Van Ormand, company F, seriously; Peter Tuey, company F, seriously; W. Kent, company G, slightly; Anson Ayres, company E, slightly; J. Doyle, company K, slightly.

Total killed, eight; total wounded, sixteen.

For the last half-hour of the engagement the after part of the ship was full of steam, from the port escape-pipe having been cut.

The vessel sustained no serious damage, although a good deal cut up, fourteen shot striking her, eleven of which penetrated the vessel.

Baltimore American account.

The following is a letter from a young engineer [555] on board Commodore Farragut's flag-ship, the steam sloop-of-war Hartford.

United States steamer Hartford, below Vicksburgh, July 17, 1862.
dear Father: The events of the past few days have been of a highly exciting nature, but I was not able to write a letter yesterday before the mail closed, otherwise you should have heard from me sooner.

On the night of the fourteenth instant two deserters from Vicksburgh came aboard and stated that the rebel ram Arkansas meditated an attack on the fleet either that night or the following morning. We had heard much of this vessel, and, in order to be on the safe side, the steamers Carondelet and Tyler, of Davis's fleet, were despatched up the Yazoo River in order to dispute her exit into the Mississippi. Early on the morning of the fifteenth, as these two vessels were entering the Yazoo, they descried an iron-clad ram coming down. She had no flag flying, but when she got near, the Stars and Bars were flung to the breeze, and a shot was fired from her. Seeing the formidable character of their opponent, our steamers turned around and steamed down the river, at the same time using their stern-guns. The ram followed on, using her bow-gun, and a running fire was kept up. While all this was transpiring we were lying at anchor, with fires banked but no steam on. Most of the other vessels in the two fleets were in the same condition, our object being to economize in fuel as much as possible, we having no means to replenish our bunkers should the coal give out.

I should judge it was a little past seven o'clock on the morning of the fifteenth that firing was heard up the river. It approached nearer and nearer, and by the time the fleet was fully astir two of our own boats came down the river at full speed. Soon after the ram came around the point, firing at the retreating vessels. As many of our boats as could bring their guns to bear on her immediately opened, and volumes of smoke were soon issuing from the smoke-pipes of the different steamers, as each one was endeavoring to get up steam.

She approached the Richmond and received a terrible broadside from her guns. For a moment she was lost in the smoke, and eager eyes watched for the smoke to lift in order to get a shot at her. As it cleared away the bow-guns of the vessels lying astern of the Richmond commenced firing on her, and she turned down-stream. As she passed us we gave her the benefit of a broadside, but she steamed on without firing a gun.

A shot took effect in the boiler of the ram Lancaster, of Commodore Davis's fleet, and several persons were killed and wounded. It is not certain whether this shot came from one of our guns or from the Arkansas, as the vessels were much crowded, and in no position for such an encounter.

As the Arkansas got past the Hartford she fired two rifle-shots, which passed harmlessly over our heads. The Benton had got under way by this time and started out to meet her, but she did not seem to like the looks of her antagonist, and steamed rapidly down the river, firing her guns at intervals. The Benton followed her under the guns of the batteries on the bluffs, which opened on her, and she retired, leaving the Arkansas to run down to Vicksburgh.

The fleet below, which consisted of the Brooklyn, Kennebec and Jackson, together with one division of mortar vessels and a lot of transports, were soon aware of the nature of the fight above the city, and had made preparations for an attack. One of the mortar-schooners, which was aground, was blown up, as she could not be moved. The ram, however, did not attempt to pass below the city, but ran alongside of the bank under the guns of the fortifications. Her appearance is truly very formidable, and the rebels claim her to be superior to the Merrimac, as she combines the good points of all iron-clad vessels that have been built and tested. Her sides are at an angle of about forty-five degrees, but are not run up to a point, like the Merrimac, her top being flat, with a single smoke-stack protruding. She has three guns on each side and one at each end, and her sides are completely cased with thick iron plates, which seemed to resist all the shots that were fired at her. She stands about five or six feet above the water-line, and presents a very small surface for our gunners to hit. Although her prow is sharp, I have not heard that she attempted to run into any of our vessels. She was commenced at Vicksburgh, but taken up the Yazoo River when our fleet came up, some two months since. Huge rafts of logs were then placed across the river to prevent our boats from approaching her, but these had all been removed the day before she came down. We greatly feared that she would run down to New-Orleans.

All the captains in the fleet were immediately called aboard and a consultation resulted in the determination to again attack the batteries, and, if possible, sink or capture the ram. At about six o'clock in the evening the fleet got under way. It was growing dark and the Davis fleet had commenced to engage the batteries. All of our fleet were engaged before we got in range, our intention being to run into the ram and sink her. The batteries were firing rapidly and our boats were returning the fire with good effect. As we approached shot and shell commenced whistling over us, riflemen were busy at work in the woods along the river side, and bullets chirruped a symphony to the bass voice of the artillery, while the mortars, at either end of the city, kept up a roaring accompaniment. The scene was terrific, and never did our men work their guns with such rapidity. The rebel artillerists would cease their fire to a great extent the moment we opened on them; they could not stand it.

Poor George Lounsbery, the brother of Lieut. Lounsbery, of the New-York Fifth, was killed during the action. His usual station as First Master was on the spar-deck, where he had charge of two guns, and in all our engagements we stood side by side; but he was placed on the berthdeck to take the place of the officer of the powder [556] division, who was sick, and thus met his death. He was in the act of speaking to some one down in the cockpit when a solid shot came through the ship's side and severed his head down to his shoulders. His head was literally torn to pieces, and but fragments of it could be found, while his body fell across the edge of the hatch, and his life's blood gushed in torrents down in the orlop. He was a clever fellow, and he and I were fast friends.

The same shot that killed poor Lounsberry also struck a colored cook, taking half of his head off, and also wounded several others. A man named Cameron was also struck in the head and his head partly taken off, on the spar-deck, and but a few feet from where I stood. Our loss in the engagement is three killed and six wounded. The rebels seemed, as usual, to concentrate all their fire on the “Old Hartford.”

All of Commodore Davis's vessels, except the captured steamer Sumter, are still above the city to prevent the ram from going up, and all of our fleet are lying below with steam up, ready for action at a moment's notice. The ram could be seen moving about in front of the city yesterday, but she has not attempted to run the gauntlet again. Capt. Porter, of the Essex, says he can take the ram, and Flag-Officer Farragut says he may do so, but I don't know whether it will be tried or not. Owing to the darkness and the smoke, no one in the fleet saw a sign of the ram on the night we passed, otherwise an attempt would have been made to sink her by running into her.

Lieut. Heisler, of the marine corps, died on his way to Memphis. He was attached to this ship and was going home on account of ill-health. I have no more room and must now close, and remain your affectionate son,


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