Close of the Gunboat Raid--defeat of the effort to destroy the steamers — Brisk Cannonading,&c.
[correspondence of Richmond Dispatch.]
For two days after dropping our anchors at Port Royal
we were very busy in landing the machinery of the Satellite
and Reliance, and the cargoes of the two prizes.
On the latter were many very fine anchors, of different sizes and shapes, from the small grapnel and boat kedge to the heavy ship's anchor, weighing near eight thousand pounds. From the spars of the schooners purchases were rigged, and with these the heavy weights were swung out of the hold and floated ashore upon lighters.
At the end of two days very little was left upon any of the vessels that would be of service to us in Richmond
, the bare hulls only remaining.--From the troops on shore we had frequent intimation of an advance on the part of the Yankees
, and fearing they might come upon us before the work was completed, the guns were hauled ashore and put in battery upon the bluff, in a position commanding both the river and the opposite side.
Only one smooth bore thirty-two was left upon the decks.
All this time our four wagons had been busily engaged in transporting the things to Mifford Station, on the Fredericksburg R. R., and Mr. Wood
had gone to Richmond
to procure further transportation.-- Lieut. Hudgins
was left in command.
Monday was a hot day, but towards evening it became cool and pleasant, and I determined to go ashore to enjoy a twilight walk through the desolated town of Port Royal
After over forty- eight hours confinement to the hard and heated decks the turf felt unusually pleasant, and I sauntered up to the village, feeling very comfortable and good natured — as one feels after a day's labor, when he contemplates his work well done at night.
Hardly had I reached the precincts of the town before the sound of musketry on the opposite shore attracted my attention, and soon after heard the cry of "Yankees."Hastening down to the river banks I saw that, sure enough, the Yankees
had come--two regiments of cavalry being there visible.
All our troops had been withdrawn from Port Royal
but one regiment — the 48th Alabama.
From this about one hundred men had been sent across the river to protect commissary trains foraging in King George.
With this small force Col. Hardwicke
immediately engaged the enemy, holding him in check until the wagons could be crossed and the boats free to receive his men. Protected by a small patch of woods and firing rapidly, Col. Hardwicke
probably deceived the Yankees
as to his numbers, for he kept them back until nearly dark, and then safely embarked his men at the ferry.
While in the boat they received a volley from a squadron of cavalry; but, strange to say, not a man was injured.
Our loss amounted to one private and two quartermasters captured.
had some three or four killed.--One of the dead was a captain in the Michigan
cavalry, our men getting his sword, watch, and several letters from his wife.
One private lay dead beside him.
At dark the firing ceased, but we could hear the rumble of artillery as a battery rundown the shore and took a position opposite our steamers.
We knew then that a fight was certain in the morning.
During the night everything that then remained on the gunboats was taken on shore, and the battery on the bluff prepared for action, which we fell confident would begin at "the crack of day." After the ammunition and arms were put in a place of safety and the personal baggage "sent to the rear," the men lay down by their guns to catch a few hours'sleep.
It was a singularly beautiful night.
I had worked hard all day, with the rest, and through half the night; but about 12 o'clock nearly all were in the land of dreams, and I sat down to have a comfortable pipe before retiring to the soft spot of ground picked out for a bed. We were upon a small bluff some fifty feet high.
Below the river flowed smoothly on, shimmering in the light of the gibbous moon, while above it, just resting upon the tops of the trees hung a thin white veil of mist.
Stretching along the stream, curving gracefully southward, was a dark line of woods, throwing a black shadow upon the water and sending out from every tree the night cry of the katy-did and sawyer.
Disturbed watch-dogs in the neighboring farmyards barked to each other or the moon, and cows lowed in the meadows.
But above all the sounds of the night was a single hootowl in the lonely branches crying, who shouted "murder" to the Yankee
foe beyond the river.
An hour of revery and then to rest — the bivouac fires smouldered in their ashes, and only the guard lent ears to the wakeful sentinel of the woods.
Early Wednesday morning, before the first line of daylight was visible, I went over to Port Royal
to procure some necessaries in case of an action.
The place was entirely deserted, Col. Hardwicke
, with commendable industry, having removed every family the night previous.
There was nothing to be had and I turned back again to our boats.
The firing commenced, however, before the distance was made, the Yankees
having opened with two guns at the distance of a mile.
This challenge was promptly responded to by Lieut. Hudgins
, who returned two shots with admirable aim, the shells exploding exactly at the enemy's guns.
These shots are said to have done more damage than all the rest during the day's firing.
If the report of a citizen be true, a staff officer was killed, a man wounded, a gun injured, and one horse disabled.
Afterwards the firing became general, the Yankees
opening with four other pieces.
Unfortunately, our best gun, a splendid Parrott
, was thrown down after the first shot, and could be used no more; for it was impossible to remount it under the heavy fire of rifle shell and spherical case poured in upon us. The two smaller guns remained, and these replied leisurely to the rapid shots of the enemy.
Probably perceiving their fire had no effect, the Yankees
moved down abreast of us, at a distance of about twelve hundred yards. Here they fired at least two shell a minute for a hour, Lieut. Hudgins
firing half a dozen, perhaps, during the time.--Then there was a lull for a few moments, when our guns were opened, firing rapidly until they began again.
This was kept up for over four hours. The steamers were an especial target, and they were frequently hit, the rifle balls going completely through the upper works, and a shell occasionally exploding in them.
As near as we could estimate, over five hundred shot and shell had been thrown at us, when the enemy became tired of the fun and ceased firing.
We watched them as they limbered up and started on the retreat, and Lieut. Hudgins
, by way of a parting salute, sent Midshipman Gardner
to give them the compliments of the old thirty two, still on the decks of the Satellite
The final shot accelerated their retreat, and almost before its echoes had died away all had disappeared behind the hills beyond.
Not a particle of damage was done us during the bombardment — not a man was injured.
had some fifteen or twenty shots in her, but none of them injured the machinery in any way or did any damage to the hull.
The wheelhouse was somewhat splintered, and the Captain
's room was riddled; otherwise she was in no way the worse for the fight.
Had she been in motion I doubt if she would have been struck at all.
After a few hours rest the men again loaded the wagons with the material on shore and started them on to Milford
The coolness of both officers and men during this day's work was a little remarkable.
Some of them had never been under fire before.
was in command, as I have previously remarked, and the guns were fought by Midshipmen Gardner
, and Cook
The men obeyed orders with alacrity, manning their guns, in a very exposed position, in the face of a heavy fire.
On Thursday Col. Wood
came up from Richmond
, bringing a train of transportation wagons.
The work then went on rapidly, the men, although much fatigued, working well when his eye was upon them.
The enemy did not return, and the trains were loaded unmolested Friday everything was removed, and in the evening the steamers were scuttled and burned and the schooners destroyed.
The boats were once more put upon wheels, and after a three weeks trip we started for "home."
Riding ahead of the party, I reached Bowling Green
at dark and took quarters in a comfortable country hotel, the quiet rooms of which brought up pleasant recollections of peace times in the past, mingled with hopes for the future "when this cruel war is over."
Of the village of Bowling Green
there is little to say. It is the county-seat of Caroline, and contains a court-house, jail, church, thirty or forty residences strung along in a rambling style upon either side of the road.
Perhaps this town has suffered less from the war than any in Virginia
north of the James river
have been here but few times, and then spent but a few hours in the town.
Neither do I know of any historical or romantic associations that attach themselves to the village.
In former times, however, it was inhabited by a number of sporting gentlemen, who raised and raced fine horses, and had a singular fondness for cock- fighting.
Situated in the Court house
yard, and visible from my hotel windows, is the remains of a cock-pit, where in times gone by these ardent sportsmen matched their mains and staked large sums upon them.
I venture to say the old hotel, in which I am now writing, has many a time rung with excited disputes and arguments over a day's sport, and has concocted many a cool mint julep for thirsty betters.
is three miles from here, and at that place we take the cars.
The down train passes at twelve and before the night comes, D. V., our journey will end at its starting point, Richmond
At any rate here ends my record of the trip, and once more my pen glides into silence from the signature.