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on this ship, and the terrible disaster to the Tecumseh, the result of the fight was a glorious victory, and I have reason to feel proud of the officers, seamen, and marines of the squadron under my command, for it has never fallen to the lot of an oflicer to be thus situated and thus sustained. Regular discipline will bring men to any amount of endurance, but there is a natural fear of hidden dangers, particularly when so awfully destructive of human life as the torpedo, which requires more than discipline to overcome.
Preliminary to a report of the action of the fifth, I desire to call the attention of the Department to the previous steps taken in consultation with Generals Canby and Granger. On the eighth of July I had an interview with these officers on board the Hartford, on the subject of an attack upon Forts Morgan and Gaines, at which it was agreed that General Canby would send all the troops he could spare to cooperate with the fleet Circumstances soon obliged General Canby to inform me that he could not despatch a sufficient number to invest both forts, and in reply I suggested that Gaines should be the first invested, engaging to have a force in the sound ready to protect the landing of the army on Dauphin Island in the rear of that fort, and T assigned Lieutenant Commander De KrafFt, of the Conemaugh, to that duty.
On the first instant General Granger visited me again on the Hartford. In the mean time the Tecumseh had arrived at Pensacola, and Captain Craven had informed me that he would be ready in four days for any service. We therefore fixed upon the fourth of August as the day for the landing of the troops and my entrance into the bay; but owing to delays mentioned in Captain Jenkins's communication to me, the Tecumseh was not ready. General Granger, however, to my mortification, was up to time, and the troops actually landed on Dauphin Island.
As subsequent events proved, the delay turned to our advantage, as the rebels were busily engaged during the fourth in throwing troops and supplies into Fort Gaines, all of which were captured a few days afterward.
The Tecumseh arrived on the evening of the fourth, and every thing being propitious, I proceeded to the attack on the following morning.
As mentioned in my previous despatch, the vessels outside the bar, which were designed to participate in the engagement, were all under way by forty minutes past five in the morning, in the following order, two abreast, and lashed together: Brooklyn, Captain James Alden, with the Octorara, Lieutenant Commander C. H. Green, on the port side; Hartford, Captain Percival Drayton, with the Metacomet, Lieutenant Commander I. E. Jouett; Richmond, Captain T. A. Jenkins, with the Port Royal, Lieutenant Commander B. Gherardi; Lackawanna, Captain J. B. Harchand, with the Seminole, Commander E. Donaldson; Monongahela, Commander J. H. Strong, with the Kennebec, Lieutenant Commander W. P. McCann; Ossipee, Commander 'W. E. Le Roy, with the Itasca, Lieutenant Com
mander George Brown; Oneida, Commander I. R. M. Mullany, with the Galena, Lieutenant Commander C. H. Wells. The iron-clads—Tecumseh, Commander T. A. M. Craven; the Manhattan, Commander I. W. A. Nicholson; the Winnebago, Commander T. II. Stevens; and the Chickasaw, Lieutenant Commander G. H. Perkins—were already inside the bar, and had been ordered to take up their positions ori the starboard side of the wooden ships, or between them and Fort Morgan, for the double purpose of keeping down the fire from the water-battery and the parapet guns of the fort, as well as to attack the ram Tennessee as soon as the Fort was passed.
It was only at the urgent request of the Captains and commanding officers that I yielded to the Brooklyn being the leading ship of the line, as she had four chase-guns and an ingenious arrangement for picking up torpedoes, and because, in their judgment, the flag-ship ought not to be too much exposed. This I believe to be an error; for apart from the fact that exposure is one of the penalties of rank in the navy, it will always be the aim of the enemy to destroy the flag-ship, and, as will appear in the sequel, such attempt was very persistently made, but Providence did not permit it to be successful.
The attacking fleet steamed steadily up the main ship-channel, the Tecumseh firing the first shot at forty-seven minutes past six o'clock. At six minutes past seven the Fort opened upon us, and was replied to by a gun from the Brooklyn, and immediately after the action became general.
It was soon apparent that there was some difficulty ahead. The Brooklyn, for some cause which I did not then clearly understand, but which has since been explained by Captain Alden in his report, arrested the advance of the whole fleet, while, at the same time, the guns of the Fort were playing with great effect upon that vessel and the Hartford. A moment after I saw the Tecumseh struck by a torpedo, disappear almost instantaneously beneath the waves, carrying with her her gallant commander and nearly all her crew. I determined at once, as I had originally intended, to take the lead, and after ordering the Metacomet to send a boat to save, if possible, any of the perishing crew, I dashed ahead with the Hartford, and the ships followed on, their officers believing that they were going to a noble death with their commander-in-chief.
I steamed through between the buoys, where the torpedoes were supposed to have been sunk. These buoys had been previpusly examined by my Flag-Lieutenant, I. Crittenden Watson, in several nightly reconnoissances. Though he had not been able to discover the sunken torpedoes, yet we had been assured by refugees, deserters, and others, of their existence, but, believing that from their having been some time in the water, they were probably innocuous, I determined to take the chance of their explosion.
From the moment I turned to the north-westward, to clear the middle ground, we wore enabled to keep such a broadside fire upon the batteries of Fort Morgan that their guns did us comparatively little injury.
Just after we passed the Fort, which was about ten minutes before eight o'clock, the ram Tennessee dashed out at this ship, as had been expected, and in anticipation of which I had ordered the Monitors on our starboard side. I took no further notice of her than to return her fire.
The rebel gunboats, Morgan, tiaines, and Selma, were ahead, and the latter particularly annoyed us with a raking fire, which our guns could not return. At two minutes after eight o'clock I ordered the Mctacomet to cast off and go in pursuit of the Selma. Captain Jouett was after her in a moment, and in an hour's time he had her as a prize. She was commanded by P. N. Murphy, formerly of the United States navy. He was wounded in the wrist, his executive officer. Lieutenant Comstock, and eight of the crew, killed, and seven or eight wounded. Lieutenant Commander Jouett's conduct during the whole affair commands my warmest commendations. The Morgan and Gaines succeeded in escaping under the protection of the guns of Fort Morgan, which would have been prevented had the other gunboats been as prompt in their movements as the Metacomet; the want of pilots, however, I believe, was the principal difficulty. The Gaines was so injured by our fire that she had to be run ashore, where she was subsequently destroyed, but the Morgan escaped to Mobile during the night, though she was chased and fired upon by our cruisers.
Having passed the forts and dispersed the enemy's gunboats, I had ordered most of the vessels to anchor, when I perceived the ram Tennessee standing up for this ship. This was at forty-five minutes past eight. I was not long in comprehending his intentions to be the destruction of the flag-ship. The Monitors and such of the wooden vessels as I thought best adapted for the purpose, were immediately ordered to attack the ram, not only with their guns, but bows on at full speed, and then began one of the fiercest naval combats on record.
The Monongahela, Commander Strong, was the first vessel that struck her, and in doing so carried away his own iron prow, together with the cutwater, without apparently doing her adversary much injury. The Lackawanna, Captain Marchand, was the next vessel to strike her, which she did at full speed; but though her stem was cut and crushed to the plank ends for the distance of three feet above the water-edge, to five feet below, the only perceptible effect on the ram was to give her a heavy list.
The Hartford was the third vessel which struck her, but, as the Tennessee quickly shifted her helm, the blow was a glancing one, and, as she rasped along our side, we poured our whole port broadside of nine-inch solid shot within ten feet of her casemate.
The Monitors worked slowly, but delivered their fire as opportunity offered. The Chickasaw succeeded in getting under her stern, and a fifteen-inch shot from the Manhattan broke
through her iron plating and heavy wooden backing, though the missile itself did not enter the vessel.
Immediately after the collision with the flagship, I directed Captain Drayton to bear down for the ram again. He was doing so at full speed when, unfortunately, the Lackawanna run into the Hartford just forward of the mizzenmast, cutting her down to within two feet of the water's edge. We soon got clear again, however, and were fast approaching our adversary, when she struck her colors and run up thewhite flag.
She was at this time sore beset; the Chickasaw was pounding away at her stern, the Ossipee was approaching her at full speed, and the Monongahela, Lackawanna, and this ship were bearing down upon her, determined upon her destruction. Her smoke-stack had been shot away, her steering chains were gone, compelling a resort to her relieving tackles, and several of her port shutters were jammed. Indeed, from the time the Hartford struck her until her surrender she never fired a gun. As the Ossipee, Commander Le Roy, was about to strike her, she hoisted the white flag, and that vessel immediately stopped her engine, though not in time to avoid a glancing blow.
During this contest with the rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee, and which terminated by her surrender at ten o'clock, we lost many more men than from the fire of the batteries of Fort Morgan.
Admiral Buchanan was wounded in the leg; two or three of his men were killed, and five or six wounded. Commander Johnston, formerly of the United States navy, was in command of the Tennessee, and came on board the flag-ship, to surrender "his sword and that of Admiral Buchanan. The surgeon, Doctor Conrad, came with him, stated the condition of the Admiral, and wished to know what was to be done with him. Fleet Surgeon Palmer, who was on board the Hartford, during the action, commiserating the sufferings of the wounded, suggested that those of both sides be sent to Pensacola, where they could be properly cared for. I therefore addressed a note to Brigadier-General R. L. Pnge, commanding Fort Morgan, informing him that Admiral Buchanan and others of the Tennessee had been wounded, and desiring to know whether he would permit one of our vessels, under a flag of truce, to convey them, with or without our wounded, to Pensacola, on the understanding that the vessel should take out none but the wounded, and bring nothing back that she did not take out. This was acceded to by General Page, and the Metacomet proceeded on this mission of humanity.
I inclose herewith the correspondence with that officer, (marked numbers one, two, three, and four.) I forward also the reports (marked numbers five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one) of the commanding officers of the vessels who par
ticipated in the action, and who will no doubt call attention to the conduct of such individuals as most distinguished themselves.
As I had an elevated position in the main rigging near the top, I was able to overlook not only the deck of the Hartford, but the other vessels of the fleet 1 witnessed the terrible effects of the enemy's shot, and the good conduct of the men at their guns, and although no doubt their hearts sickened, as mine did, when their shipmates were struck down beside them, yet there was not a moment's hesitation to lay their comrades aside, and spring again to their deadly work.
Our little consort, 'the Metacomet, was also under my immediate eye during the whole action up to the moment I ordered her to cast ofr in pursuit of the Selma. The coolness and promptness of Lieutenant Commander Jouett throughout merit high praise; his whole conduct was worthy of his reputation.
In this connection I must not omit to call the attention of the Department to the conduct of Acting Ensign Henry C. Nields, of the Metacomet, who had charge of the boat sent from that vessel, when the Tecumseh sunk. He took her in under one of the most galling fires I ever saw, and succeeded in rescuing from death ten of her crew, within six hundred yards of the Fort I would respectfully recommend his advancement The commanding officers of all the vessels who took part in the action deserve my warmest commendations, not only for the untiring zeal with which they had prepared their ships for the contest, but for their skill and daring in carrying out my orders during the engagement. With the exception of the momentary arrest of the fleet, when the Hartford passed ahead, and to which I have already adverted, the order of battle was preserved, and the ships followed each other in close order past the batteries of Fort Morgan, and in comparative safety too, with the exception of the Oneida. Her boilers were penetrated by a shot from the Fort, which completely disabled her, but her consort, the Galena, firmly fastened to her side, brought her safely through, showing clearly the wisdom of the precaution of carrying the vessels in two abreast. Commander Mullany, who had solicited eagerly to tike part in the action, was severely wounded, losing his left arm.
In the encounter with the ram, the commanding officers obeyed with alacrity the order to run her down, and without hesitation exposed their ships to destruction to destroy the enemy.
Our iron-clatls, from their slow speed and bad steering, had some difficulty in getting into and maintaining their position in line, as we passed the Fort, and, in the subsequent encounter with the Tennessee, from the same causes were not as effective as could have been desired, but I cannot give too much praise to Lieutenant Commander Perkins, who, though he had orders from the Department to return North, volunteered to take command of the Chickasaw, and did his duty nobly.
The Winnebago was commanded by Commander T. H. Stevens, who volunteered for that position. His vessel steers very badly, and neither of his turrets will work, which compelled him to turn his vessel every time to get a shot, so that he could not fire very often, but he did the best under the circumstances.
The Manhattan appeared to work well, though she moved slowly. Commander Nicholson delivered his fire deliberately, and, as before stated, with one of his fifteen-inch shot broke through the armor of the Tennessee, with its wooden backing, though tho shot itself did not enter tho vessel. No other shot broke through her armor, though many of her plates were started, and several of her port shutters jammed by the fire from the different ships.
The Hartford, my flag-ship, was commanded by Captain Percival Drayton, who exhibited throughout that coolness and ability for which he has been long known to his brother officers. But I must speak of that officer in a double capacity. He is the Fleet Captain of my squadron, and one of more determined energy, untiring devotion to duty, and zeal for the service, tempered by great calmness, I do not think adorns any navy. I desire to call your attention to this officer, though well aware that in thus speaking of his high qualities, I am only communicating officially to the Department that which it knew full well before. To him, and to my staff, in their respective positions, I am indebted for the detail of my fleet
Lieutenant I. Crittenden Watson, my FlagLieutenant, has been brought to your notice in former despatches. During the action he was on the poop attending to the signals, and performed his duties as might be expected, thoroughly. He is a scion worthy the noble stock he sprang from, and I commend him to your attention.
My Secretary, Mr. McKinley, and Acting Ensign H. H. Brownell, were also on the poop, the latter taking notes of the action, a duty which he performed with coolness and accuracy.
Two other Acting Ensigns of my staff, Mr. Bogart and Mr. Heginbothara, were on duty in the powder division, and, as the reports will show, exhibited zeal and ability. The latter, I regret to add, was severely wounded by a raking shot from the Tennessee, when we collided with that vessel, and died a few hours after. Mr. Hcginbotham was a young married man, and has left a widow and one child, whom I commend to the kindness of the Department.
Lieutenant A. R. Yates, of the Augusta, acted as an additional aid to me on board the Hartford, and was very efficient in tho transmission of orders. I havo given him the command temporarily of the captured steamer Selma.
The last of my staff, and to whom I would call the attention of the Department is not the least in importance. I mean Pilot Martin Freeman. He has been my great reliance in all difficulties in his line of duty. During tho action, he was in the main-top, piloting the ships into