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Doc. 125.-destruction of the Indianola.

Rear-Admiral Porter's despatch.

U. S. Mississippi Squadron, Yazoo River, March 10, via Memphis and Louisville, March 13th.
The Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy:
I have been pretty well assured for some time past that the Indianola had been blown up, in consequence of the appearance of a wooden imitation mortar, which the enemy sunk with their batteries. The mortar was a valuable aid to us. It forced away the Queen of the West, and caused the blowing up of the Indianola.

The following is an account of the affair, taken from the Vicksburgh Whig of the fifth instant:

destruction of the Indianola.--We stated a day or two since that we would not enlighten our readers in regard to a matter which was puzzling them very much. We alluded to the loss of the gunboat Indianola, recently captured from the enemy. We were loth to acknowledge she had been destroyed, but such is the case.

The Yankee barge sent down the river last week was reported to be an iron-clad gunboat. The authorities, thinking that this monster would retake the Indianola, immediately issued an order to blow her up. The order was sent down by courier to the officer in charge of the vessel.

A few hours afterward another order was sent down, countermanding the first, it being ascertained that the monstrous craft was only a coal-boat; but before it reached the Indianola she had been blown to atoms — not even a gun was saved. Who is to blame for this folly — this precipitancy?

It would really seem as if we had no use for gunboats on the Mississippi, as a coal-barge is magnified into a monster, and our authorities immediately order a boat that would have been worth a small army to us to be blown up.

D. D. Porter, Acting Rear-Admiral Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

Rear-Admiral Porter's letter.

U. S. Mississippi Squadron, Yazoo River, Thursday, February 26, 1863.
my dear----: We are all in quite a state of excitement here, in consequence of the appearance of the ram Queen of the West at Warrenton, seven miles below Vicksburgh, with the rebel flag flying. She was discovered early yesterday morning lying there with steam up, ready for a start. The account I received from Commodore Ellet led me to believe that she was in such a condition that she could not be repaired for some time ; you may judge of my surprise, then, when told she was near Vicksburgh. I always thought that the ram crew skedaddled without any necessity, and now I am pretty well convinced of it; at all events, they spoiled a very important operation — holding possession of the Mississippi River between Vicksburgh and Port Hudson, and cutting off all supplies. The rebels had only one vessel on the whole river; that was the Webb, a worn-out, leaking vessel, and not in any way to be feared ; hence we should have had things all our own way. There were on the way and past Vicksburgh twelve good guns, such as they have not got in all “rebeldom” --at least in this part of it — and three vessels one, it is true, was an old ferry-boat that we had captured, but she had a gun on, and would have answered to protect the coal-barges while the other two cruised together. Well, all that was knocked in the head by the ram getting ashore, through the treachery of the pilot, under a battery.

The prize New Era, and the persons who escaped, were only saved from capture by meeting the Indianola, which vessel made the Webb turn back, and she (the Webb) escaped up Red River. I knew that Brown could take care of the Webb by himself, but I have no idea that he will be a match for the Queen and Webb both ramming him at the same time. The Indianola is a weak vessel, and the only good thing about her is her battery.

Amid the incidents of war ridiculous things [427] occur, and I must tell you of a little affair that happened here, and has created great mirth on our side, notwithstanding the loss of the Queen. I think the loss of that vessel is worse than the affair of the Galveston squadron. I have scarcely patience to write about it or to be amused at any thing.

During the time of the running the blockade by the Queen of the West and the Indianola, five of the guns in the forts at Vicksburgh were burst and dismounted; therefore it was an object to make the enemy fire as much as possible. I got a mortar in easy range and opened on that part of the town where there was nothing but army supplies, and soon provoked a fire of four of their heavy batteries. The shell at first fell over the mortar and around it, bursting close to our men, but the range began to grow shorter, until they let us have it all our own way.

Finding that they could not be provoked to fire without an object, I thought of getting up an imitation monitor. Ericsson saved the country with an iron one--why could I not save it with a wooden one? An old coal-barge, picked up in the river, was the foundation to build on. It was built of old boards in twelve hours, with pork-barrels on top of each other for smoke-stacks, and two old canoes for quarter-boats; her furnaces were built of mud, and only intended to make black smoke and not steam.

Without knowing that Brown was in peril, I let loose our monitor. When it was descried by the dim light of the morn, never did the batteries of Vicksburgh open with such a din; the earth fairly trembled, and the shot flew thick around the devoted monitor. But she ran safely past all the batteries, though under fire for an hour, and drifted down to the lower mouth of the canal. She was a much better looking vessel than the Indianola.

When it was broad daylight they opened on her again with all the guns they could bring to bear, without a shot hitting her to do any harm, because they did not make her settle in the water, though going in at one side and out at another. She was already full of water. The soldiers of our army shouted and laughed like mad, but the laugh was somewhat against them when they subsequently discovered the Queen of the West lying at the wharf at Warrenton. The question was asked, what had happened to the Indianola? Had the two rams sunk her or captured her in the engagement we heard the night before? The sounds of cannon had receded down the river, which led us to believe that Brown was chasing the Webb, and that the Queen had got up past him.

One or two soldiers got the monitor out in the stream again, and let her go down on the ram Queen. All the forts commenced firing and signalling, and as the monitor approached the Queen she turned tail and ran down river as fast as she could go, the monitor after her, making all the speed that was given her by a five-knot current. The forts at Warrenton fired bravely and rapidly, but the monitor did not return the fire with her wooden guns, but proceeded down after the Queen of the West. An hour after this the same heavy firing that we had heard the night before came booming up on the still air.

A rain commenced which defies all efforts to describe, and has been falling ever since, inundating every thing around here, and shutting out all sounds excepting the thunders of heaven, which are reverberating all the time, day and night. You can form as good an idea of affairs below as I can. I shall not believe in the safety of the Indianola until I see her.

The firing of the heavy guns may have been a ruse to entice some more of our gunboats down there, but it won't succeed. Brown may be there and out of coal, and I am afraid to set a coal-barge adrift for fear the ram might pick it up and be enabled to cut around with it, for they have a short supply now.

Richmond Examiner account.

Richmond, Va., March 7, 1863.
In the early part of the war, the Southern Confederacy was much diverted with the Yankee fright at “masked” batteries, little thinking the day would soon come for them to turn the tables on us and join in a general guffaw over our panic at gunboats. During the summer of 1862, the newspapers (believed by the immense Conrad) pleaded earnestly for the fortification of coasts, harbors, and rivers, and endeavored to prepare the public mind for the disasters which would inevitably ensue as soon as the gunboats began to swim in our waters. But Mr. Davis sneered at navies, placed his reliance in the somnolent Mallory, and expended his energies in the creation, on the average, of two brigadiers to each private.

True to the prediction of the newspapers, cherished by the noble Conrad, the gunboats came. They knocked down the mud-banks at Hatteras and alarmed the good people of the Old North State beyond measure. Their next essay was upon Fort Henry, a little pen, which Mr. Benjamin supposed to be placed, as near as he could guess, at the confluence of the Nile and the Ganges. After that the gunboat panic seized the whole country, and it became a serious question at the navy department whether liberty and the Southern Confederacy could exist in the presence of a cannon floating on a piece of wood in the water.

In this state of direful trepidation the unhappy South remained until the night at Drury's Bluff. On that eminence the fragmentary crews of Mr. Mallory's exploded navy were assembled to contest the advance of this modern horror — the iron gunboat. Sailors, marines, and middies did their best, and, with the aid of Providence and some spunky clod-hopper artillery from the neighborhood, succeeded in driving the gunboats off. Here was bravery and skill; but the exploit was no greater than the Chinese had performed on the Peiho. Yet the whole Confederacy threw up its hat, wept, danced, chuckled, and shouted as if Leonidas and Thermopylae had been found [428] again. The event was great in that it dissipated in a moment the gunboat panic. Since then gunboats have been regarded with such indifference that the gentlemen who are acting during Mr. Mallory's permanent nap have discarded navies altogether, and turned over all marine operations to a wild Tennessee cavalry under Wheeler, mounted on scraggy ponies.

The horse-marine system has answered admirably till now. But of late a new terror has turned up. The telegraph brings us tidings of something which is tremblingly described as a “Turreted monster.” Gunboats are deemed not more dangerous than dug-outs, but when the case is altered to an interview with a “Turreted monster,” then the brave defenders of the Father of Waters can do nothing better than make two-forty toward the mountains.

The reported fate of the Indianola is even more disgraceful than farcical. Here was perhaps the finest iron-clad in the Western waters, captured after a heroic struggle, rapidly repaired, and destined to join the Queen of the West in a series of victories. Next we hear that she was of necessity blown up, in the true Merrimac-Mallory style, and why? Laugh and hold your sides, lest you die of a surfeit of derision, O Yankeedom! Blown up because forsooth a flat-boat or mud-scow, with a small house taken from the back-garden of a plantation put on top of it, is floated down the river before the frightened eyes of the Partisan Rangers. A Turreted Monster!

“A most unfortunate and unnecessary affair,” says the despatch. “Rather so!” The turreted monster proved to be a flat-boat, with sundry fixtures to create deception! “Think of that! She passed Vicksburgh on Tuesday night, and the officers, (what officers?) believing her to be a turreted monster, blew up the Indianola, but her guns fell into the enemy's hands.” That is passing odd. Her guns fell into “the enemy's hands after she was blown up!” Incredible Mallory and Tatnall did better than that with the Merrimac.

“ The Queen of the West,” continues the facetious despatch, “left in such a hurry as to forget part of her crew, who were left on shore.” Well done for the Queen of the West and her brave officers. “Taken altogether,” concludes the inimitable despatch, “it was a good joke on the Partisan Rangers, who are notoriously more cunning than brave.” Truly an excellent joke — so excellent that every man connected with this affair (if any resemblance of the truth is contained in the despatch) should be branded with the capital letters “T. M.” and enrolled in a detached company, to be known by the name of “The turreted monster,” henceforth and forever. We employ the conditional tense because, as the reader will perceive by General Pemberton's telegram of a later date, some doubt yet exists as to the true story. General Pemberton does not precisely contradict the original statement relative to the turreted panic, but indicates that the guns did not fall into the enemy's hands, because one of them bursted, and the vessel itself is sunken in the river.

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