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The Third action of the Arkansas.

The chagrin of the baffled commanders of the combined fleets can be readily appreciated. It was determined by Flag Officer Farragut during the day (15th) to draw the fire of the land batteries about dusk by means of one of his fleets, and to pass the other (his own) close under the bluff at Vicksburg, down to the lower fleet and mortar flotilla. [8]

Accordingly, at

9 P. M. fourteen of the upper fleet, with the sloops of war of the lower fleet, rounded the point above Vicksburg, with the intention of passing below the town, and at the same time endeavoring to destroy the ‘Arkansas,’ if possible. She lay under the bluff in the darkness, and being painted a dark brown color could not be seen at a distance. Our engineers had gotten up steam, but were unable to generate much, owing to the riddled condition of our smoke stack. With so many men disabled and our armor badly shattered, we were not in trim condition for another engagement. A few volunteers from a Missouri regiment ashore came aboard in the afternoon to assist in working our guns. The batteries above us opened fire on the fleet as soon as they got within range, and the ‘Arkansas’ joined in the duel when they began passing her line of fire. The enemy's gunners were guided solely by the flash of our guns, as we were almost invisible in the darkness. They fired well, however, and their shot and shell fell thickly all around. One heavy shot entered our port side. * * We inflicted much damage on the passing fleet, as their vessels passed very close to us and offered fair targets. The engagement lasted about an hour, during which we lost eight men killed at the guns and eleven wounded.

From an eye witness on the other side, the following testimony is appended: ‘The fleet of Commodore Davis took up a station at about dark and opened on the batteries, to draw their fire. They succeeded admirably, and at an unexpected moment the fleet of large vessels struck into the channel and descended the river. As each boat arrived opposite the “Arkansas,” she slakened and poured her broadside into her. She answered as well as she could in such a storm of missiles, and put one or two balls into our vessels, but her main occupation was to be still and take it. Upwards of a a hundred guns, some of them throwing 10-inch (or 11-inch?) shots, poured their deadly charges into her. Seven-inch steel-pointed shot were fired into her. The firing was tremendous. The “Sumter” also ran into her and tried to knock a hole in her hull, but seemingly might as well have run into a rock. The batteries, of course joined the engagement, and poured shot into our vessels as well as they could in the darkness. The roar of guns was like an earthquake, and nothing more terrific ever was conceived that this grand artillery duel by night. It lasted an hour, and then our vessels passed below and took up their old anchorage. In the morning messengers were dispatched to see what damage the ‘Arkansas’ [9] had sustained. By going up the opposite bank of the river, she could be plainly seen. Two battles such as not a boat in the world ever went through before had failed to demolish her.’

With a Union fleet, thus, above and below her, the ‘Arkansas’ continued to be exposed to a daily and nightly shelling by 13-inch mortars from the 16th to the 22nd of July. To be fairly struck by one of these mortar shells was to ensue destruction—only fragments came on board, and no severe damage was suffered; but the danger was great, and her moorings were frequently changed.

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