previous next

Doc. 26.-attack on Sewell's point, Va.

Report of Com. Goldsborough.

U. S. Flag-ship Minnesota, Hampton roads, Va., May 9.
To His Excellency the President of the United States:
sir: Agreeably to a communication just received from the Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, I have the honor to report that the instructions I gave yesterday to the officers commanding the several vessels detailed to open fire upon Sewell's Point, were that the object of the move was to ascertain the practicability of landing a body of troops thereabouts, and to reduce the works if it could be done; that the wooden vessels should attack the principal works in enfilade, and that the Monitor, to be accompanied by the Stevens, should go up as far as the works and there operate in front.

On the Merrimac's appearance outside of the works the Monitor had orders to fall back into fair channel-way, and only to engage her seriously in such a position that this ship, together with the merchant vessels intended for the purpose, could run her down.

If an opportunity presented itself the other vessels were not to hesitate to run her down, and the Baltimore, an unarmed steamer, of light draught, high speed, and with a curved bow, was kept in the direction of the Monitor expressly to throw herself across the Merrimac, either forward or aft of her plated bows.

But the Merrimac did not engage the Monitor, nor did she place herself where she could have been assailed by our ram-vessels to any advantage, or where there was any prospect whatever of getting at her.

My instructions were necessarily verbal, and in giving them I supposed that I was carrying out your wishes in substance, if not to the letter.

The demonstration resulted in establishing the fact that the number of guns at the principal work on Sewell's Point has been essentially reduced, and is not greater now than about seventeen, and that the number of men now stationed there is comparatively quite limited.

The quarters connected with this work were set on fire by our shells, and no doubt seriously injured.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. M. Goldsborough, Commanding Naval Blockading Squadron.

Baltimore American account.

Fortress Monroe, May 8, 1862.
This has been a most stirring and exciting day at Old Point, and all are anticipating the early fall of Norfolk. The weather has been beautiful, and the scene was one of no ordinary attraction.

At eleven o'clock, the little steamer Naugatuck was observed raising steam, and a few minutes before twelve o'clock she moved out by the side of the Monitor, which vessel had also cleared her deck for action, taking down her awnings and pipes, and stood in full fighting trim.

11.30 o'clock.--The gunboat Dacotah has just moved up on line of battle with the two little batteries, followed slowly by the sloops-of-war Seminole and San Jacinto. The flag-ship Minnesota is also under steam.

12 o'clock.--The Naugatuck moved up towards Elizabeth, followed by the Monitor and Dacotah in regular line of battle, the Seminole and San Jacinto following slowly. Heavy firing still heard from the direction of the Galena, and the gunboats up the James River. [122]

12.10 o'clock.--The United States side-wheel steamer Susquehanna moved up, passing the Seminole and San Jacinto. In the mean time, the Dacotah and the Monitor had reached the channel, and taken possession of Sewell's Point, and the Dacotah fired a shot towards Craney Island, which fell short. A second shot from the Dacotah struck on the beach at Sewell's Point. A third also fell short.

12.20 o'clock.--The Susquehanna moves up, and takes the lead of the San Jacinto and Seminole. There was no return from either of the rebel forts, and the Dacotah and Monitor are steaming up the Elizabeth River, the Naugatuck laying off towards the mouth of James River.

12.30 o'clock.--The Dacotah and Monitor are moving up abreast, and are approaching Craney Island and Sewell's Point. The Dacotah stops and fires every few minutes, alternately at Sewell's Point and Craney Island, the enemy making no reply, although the balls all reach their intended destination. The Monitor is now taking the lead, but has not fired. In the mean time the Seminole and Susquehanna open fire on Sewell's Point, and two shots are fired from the Point, all of which fall short of the Monitor, which is now a mile above the other vessels.

12.40 o'clock.--The rebels are firing rapidly from Sewell's Point, principally at the Monitor, whilst a continual succession of shells are being poured in from the Susquehanna, Dacotah, Seminole and San Jacinto, broadside after broadside. The Rip Raps also threw an occasional shell into Sewell's Point.

12.50 o'clock.--The Susquehanna, Dacotah, San Jacinto and Seminole are pouring in shells, and the Monitor threw her first two shells from a point full a mile and a half ahead of the vessels. The guns from Sewell's Point fall short of the regular fleet, and many of them explode high in the air at half the distance. The Monitor is still moving forward, firing an occasional shot, whilst the Rip Raps and the fleet, lying off in line of battle, are still firing steadily.

1 o'clock.--The Monitor is now within a mile of Sewell's Point, moving slowly forward and firing. The enemy is firing briskly from Sewell's Point at the Monitor, and the shells are falling briskly around her. Craney Island is also joining in the fight, and has just thrown several shells at the Monitor, one of which has just exploded directly over her.

1.10 o'clock.--The Monitor is moving steadily forward, occasionally firing, and receiving the shells and shot from the rebel batteries with perfect nonchalance.

2 o'clock.--During the past hour there has been but little if any change in the progress of the bombardment. The Monitor has fallen back, and lies alongside of the Susquehanna, probably for the purpose of communicating with her. The Naugatuck, in the mean time, has been throwing shells into the Pig Point battery, and the fleet have also thrown a number of shell in the same direction.

2.15 o'clock.--The Monitor and the Dacotah are moving along again slowly up the Elizabeth River, and a dense black smoke has commenced to rise from Sewell's Point, indicating that some of the incendiary shells thrown have fired their barracks. The Dacotah continues to throw her shells direct into the Point, the explosions of which can be distinctly seen. The shells from the Point mostly fall short, and splash along in the water or explode in the air, the constant changing of the positions of the vessels destroying the range of the rebel gunners. They are, however, making quite a determined fight from their works, giving the fleet almost shell for shell and shot for shot. Sewell's Point is almost enveloped in smoke, the constant explosion of shells and the smoke from its own guns and the fire raging in the vicinity, making it a most hot place for suffering humanity.

2.30 o'clock.--The Monitor has lain out of action for nearly an hour, whilst the four larger vessels throw an occasional shot, all of which enter the works of the enemy, or explode within the woods. The Rip Raps also keep up a constant cross-fire, throwing a large number of shells in the rear of the Point batteries, giving them the benefit of a cross-fire. The Rip Rap battery has the range from Sewell's Point most perfectly.

2.45 o'clock.--The rebel monster Merrimac has just passed out from behind Sewell's Point, and is moving down slowly towards the Federal fleet. Her black hull can be seen moving slowly along the shore, in front of the Craney Island batteries. Simultaneously with the appearance of the Merrimac, the Monitor started up from behind the wooden vessels, and moved up to meet the enemy. Dense volumes of smoke rolled from the pipes of the Merrimac, and the Monitor, with only a puff of white steam escaping from her, looked in the distance an infinitesimal atom on the surface of the water. The larger vessels drew on one side, and left the Monitor and the Naugatuck in the path of the approaching enemy, the contestants being now fully two miles apart.

3 o'clock.--The Minnesota fires her signal-gun, and the long roll is being beat in the fort. The Minnesota is also coming up slowly from her anchorage below the fort. The fleet had been all lying quietly at anchor for the past half-hour, when a signal from the flag-ship ordered them all to return. The Susquehanna leads the way, followed by the San Jacinto, the Seminole and the Dacotah, the Monitor bringing up the rear, all apparently using their greatest speed towards the fort. To the spectators this seemed rather mortifying; but as they moved down in line, the Monitor was observed to halt, and the San Jacinto and the Dacotah also followed her example, leaving the Susquehanna and the Seminole moving ahead. The four steamers and the Monitor having taken their positions, the Merrimac also halted, and the five vessels stood not more than a mile and a half apart, the rebel monster not apparently willing to come further down, and the Monitor unwilling to go further up. The Minnesota had also steamed up in front of the Fortress [123] wharf, followed slowly by the Vanderbilt, when both stopped. After lying in this position, the Minnesota turned around and steamed back, and the Vanderbilt, without turning, backed water slowly down the river. Whilst all this manoeuvring was going on, the firing had entirely ceased from all points.

3.40 o'clock.--The Merrimac now turns around and steams back towards Norfolk, with the rebel flag flying from her stern. The Baltimore steamer Georgiana has lain out in the stream with steam up all the afternoon, ready to escape from danger at the earliest practicable moment. The Minnesota and Vanderbilt have gone back to their anchorage ground. The Dacotah wheels around, and again proceeds up towards the Merrimac, and the Monitor also stands off towards the mouth of the Elizabeth River. The Dacotah is now within easy range of Sewell's Point, the batteries of which do not open on her. She and the Monitor have both stopped, and the Merrimac is lying stationary, about a mile in advance of the Craney Island battery.

The Vanderbilt and the Arago have also steamed up in front of the wharf, and have again backed. The Merrimac has run back under the guns of Craney Island, and the Monitor is steaming off towards her at full speed. The Minnesota is also coming up again at full speed, the effort being to draw the rebel out again.

5.45 o'clock.--For the past hour, the fleet has been moving back and forward, but the Merrimac still lies under the guns of Craney Island. The Monitor is lying about a mile and a half from the Merrimac, and the Dacotah, Susquehanna and Seminole are still in her rear. The Naugatuck is also running up towards the Monitor. The Minnesota, Arago and Vanderbilt have gone back to their anchorage, and there is no prospect of any fight to-night.

5 o'clock.--The war-vessels, including the Monitor, have all returned to their anchorage. The Merrimac, in the mean time, is moving slowly behind Sewell's Point.

The President has witnessed the whole action from a tug-boat lying about a mile in the rear of the fleet. He has just returned, and as he passed up the wharf was vociferously cheered by the troops.

5.15 o'clock.--Our fleet having retired, the Merrimac is again steaming out. The Monitor, Dacotah and Naugatuck are, however, lying in position off Sewell's Point.

I just learn from an officer of the Seminole that the flag-staff at Sewell's Point was twice shot away during the bombardment. The first time it fell it was picked up, and a rebel in a red shirt jumped on the ramparts with the stump of the staff and flag, and waved it, when a second shell struck him and cut him in two, and, it is supposed, killed a number of others who were near him.

Of the many shots fired from Sewell's Point and Craney Island, not one struck any of the vessels. One or two went over their masts, but the balance fell short. The rebels could be distinctly seen carrying off their dead and wounded, the shells at times raining in among them with such fury that it was impossible to escape.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
L. M. Goldsborough (2)
Vanderbilt (1)
Edwin M. Stanton (1)
Sewell (1)
Merrimac (1)
Doc (1)
Arago (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 8th, 1862 AD (1)
May 9th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: