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(about forty,) and a quantity of tobacco, supposed to be located on the peninsula formed by the Nanseinond River and Pagan Creek.
The matter was referred to the senior officer present, Captain Gansevoort, who gave his consent, and the Commodore Morris, Lieutenant Commander Gillis, commanding, was assigned the duty. A detail of fifty men was sent from this vessel to the Morris to supply the deficiencies in her crew.
This morning, in obedience to your order, the launches of this ship were armed and equipped, put under the command of Acting Master Pierson, and sent to aid in rescuing a party of General Graham's men at Smithfield, said to be in a critical position.
I herewith inclose the reports of Acting Ensign Birtwistlo and Acting Master's Mate Jarvis, officers of the launches, of the part taken by them in an engagement with the enemy at Smithfield, Virginia, Acting Ma'ster Pierson having been seriously injured.
I also inclose the surgeon's report of the wounded belonging to this ship.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. H. Upshur, Lieutenant Commander, Com'g U. S. Steamer Minnesota. Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee,
Commanding N. A. B. Squadron.
REPORT OF ACTING ENSIGN JA5IES BIRTWISTLE.
ygiTKD Statbs Steahek Mtknisota, I
Off Newport News, February 1,1S04. |
Sir: In obedience to your orders I left the ship this morning, at half-past nine, in charge of the second launch, heavy twelve-pound howitzer, and crew of twenty-three men, subject to the orders of Acting Master Pierson, who had command of the first launch, rifled howitzer, and twenty-three men. We were taken in tow by the United States steamer Shokokon, and arrived off Smithfield Creek at about twelve A.m. The army steamer Smith Briggs came to us; we cast off from the Shokokon, and were taken in tow by the Smith Briggs, up Smithfield Creek, to within about two thousand yards of the village of Smithfield, when we discovered our army detachments on shore, and the enemy engaged— the enemy having a battery to the southward of the village, on which the Smith Briggs and first launch opened fire, it being about three thousand yards distant. Wc continued in line toward the village, when we discovered our army men on shore running from the direction of the battery. The Smith Briggs ran alongside a wharf, and our men commenced getting on board of her, when the rebel riflemen opened a murderous fire on her and the launches from behind houses, etc, on the hill, about two hundred and fifty yards from the wharf, driving the men from their guns on the Smith Briggs, and capturing her by charging down the hill; the launches during this time kept up a fire with shrapnel. We could then no longer stand the fire of the riflemen, and Mr. Pierson headed the first launch down the creek, and, as he passed me, told me
to follow him. We rounded the point near the village, rounded to, and fired a few more shots. Our flag was still flying on the steamer, and they appeared to be working her about. This I thought strange; but as soon as we were fairly under way down the creek again, they turned the guns of the Smith Briggs on us, and also artillery from the side of the hill. During the engagement, George Anderson, (seaman,) while at the gun in tho second launch, was wounded in the right hand, and when I overhauled the first launch at the mouth of the creek, I learned that Mr. Pierson was wounded in the abdomen and right arm; George Cook, (seaman,) thigh and testicle; William B. Kelly, (seaman,) in bowels by sword-thrust by Mr. Pierson.
In nearing the Shokokon, which was lying off the mouth of the creek, we met a boat from her in charge of her executive officer, with Shokokon's doctor and steward with necessaries for wounded; landed our wounded on the Shokokon. At about forty-five minutes past two P.m., she towed our launch to the Minnesota. During the attack on the Smith Briggs, the first launch was about two hundred yards from her, and the second launch was about five hundred. I think it was well that we retreated; could they have managed the steamer and outflanked us on the beach, we could not have returned.
I am, sir, very respectfully,
Lieutenant Commander J. H. Upshur,
Commanding U. S. Steamer Minnesota.
REPORT OF ACTING MASTER'S MATE JAMES JARVIS.
Exited States Fricute Mixsesota, I
Sir: The following is a true report of the boat expedition which left this vessel ten A.m., in charge of Acting Master Pierson, in tow of the United States gunboat Shokokon.
We proceeded to the mouth of Pagan Creek, and finding we could not proceed any further, we then were taken in tow by the United States gunboat Smith Briggs and proceeded up the creek. Mr. Pierson and the pilot then went on board.
At half-past eleven A.m. the enemy opened fire; it was immediately returned, and silenced the enemy's. Mr. Pierson gave orders to haul up alongside; he and the pilot returned to the launch. We cast off and proceeded nearer tho town. Mr. Pierson then gave orders to Mr. Birtwistle to look out for his launch, for he should give him no more orders. Mr. Pierson said he would go above the town, but not fire, for our men held the town. When abreast of the town, the enemy commenced firing with muskets, (I should judge about one hundred and fifty,) which caused a confusion with the greater part of the launch's crew.
Mr. Pierson gave orders to turn the launch so the howitzer would come to bear on the enemy, using profane words to the crew. When the second volley was fired, wounding Mr. Pierson and three men, Mr. Pierson then said, "I am gone; you must get out the best way you can," giving the order to strike the flag. I then made answer: , "That cannot be done." The coxswain, Thomas j McCarty, and quartermaster, Julius Bartlot, re- i peated the answer: "No, no." By this time we were out of musket-range, with the exception of , those who ran down the bank and kept up a | brisk fire until we were out of range.
The muskets in the boat were discharged at: the enemy by those who did not man the oars. | We then proceeded down the creek to the United , States gunboat Shokokon, having our wounded , put on board and cared for. At five P.m. reported on board.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Master's Mate.
Lieutenant Commander J. II. Upshur,
Commanding Minnesota, off Newport News, Va.
United Status Steamer gnoKoiow, )
Sir: I beg leave to submit the following report, so far as my knowledge extends, of the circumstances of the attack on the boats, and wounding one officer and three seamen (up Smithfield Creek) belonging to the United States flag-ship Minnesota. About ten o'clock A.m. this day I left the flag-ship with two launches belonging to the Minnesota, and proceeded with them in tow up the James River, arriving oft" Smithfield Creek at half-past eleven A.m. The army gunboat Smith Briggs arriving, offered to take the launches alongside of her and tow them in, there not being water enough for this vessel to proceed further, it being very foggy at the time.
The Smith Briggs proceeded up the creek with the launches about four miles. I heard heavy and rapid firing ; soon after it cleared away enough to see that the firing was from shore, and was returned by the Smith Briggs and launches; they then passed around a point of land, from sight. About a half-hour after, saw the launches returning. I immediately sent a boat with the surgeon to assist the wounded, if any. At half-past three P.m. the boats returned, having on board Acting Master Picrson and three seamen, wounded. I learned that the Smith Briggs had been captured and destroyed. I started with the wounded for the flag-ship, arriving at about half-past five P.m. this day. Yours, very respectfully,
W. B. Sheldon,
Acting Master, Commanding.
Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee,
Commanding N. A. Blockading Squadron.
Uxitrd States Flao-ship Mixxesota, 1
Sir: According to your orders, I proceeded as pilot of the expedition in command of Acting Master A. B. Picrson, he having the two launches of this ship under his command. After leaving this ship, the United States steamer Shokokon took the launches in tow and proceeded to the mouth of Smithfield Creek, where she anchored, the water being too shallow for her to proceed up
the creek. The army boat Smith Briggs, on coming up, volunteered to take the launches in tow, which Mr. Picrson agreed to. After proceeding about two and a half miles up the creek, we perceived a man on the shore waving a white rag. The captain of the Briggs hove his vessel to, and sent a boat to get the man, who proved to be a soldier belonging to our forces, and was taken the night previous by the rebels, but had escaped. When within half a mile of Smithfield wharf, the captain of the Briggs said: "I must let you go; I cannot tow you further." We cast off then from the Briggs and immediately opened fire on the rebel battery, they having opened fire on our forces about five minutes previous, and being about a mile and a half distant from us. After firing about five rounds, we followed the Briggs toward the village. After getting to within about two hundred and fifty yards of the dock, I observed that it was crowded with soldiers, the Briggs at that time lying close to the docks, and firing at right angles to it. We kept on our course toward the wharf for a couple of moments longer, when a body of rebels ran down a hill and charged on our soldiers on the wharf, driving many of them overboard, and at the same time opening fire on the launches from the left bank of the creek. At that time Mr. Picrson gave the order to turn round with her head down the creek, and at the same moment received a shot in the right arm, and ordered the flag to be hauled jdown. Mr. McCarty, coxswain of the launch, said, "I will kill the first man that touches the colors," or some words to that effect Mr. Picrson said then: "If you will not haul it down, let it stay up." At this time the boats were going slowly down the creek, the enemy meanwhile keeping up a brisk fire at us. Mr. Picrson received another shot which struck him in the breast, and after a moment or so said, "I must lie down; I feel faint;" which he did accordingly. I think the rebels had possession of the Smith Briggs at that time, for while we wore going down her guns were trained on us, and opened fire. We made the best of our way down the creek, and got alongside of the Shokokon at half-past two P.m.
I ought to have stated that previous to the boats turning round, three of the men were wounded and fell to the bottom of the launch. I saw the Briggs on fire, and also saw her blow up at fifty minutes past three P.m.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant Commander J. H. Upshur,
Commanding United States Steamer Minnesota. REPORT OF ASSISTANT-SURGEON A. MATTHEWSOX.
United States Steamer Mixxesota, 1 Orr Newport News, Va., February 1, ISM. f
Sir: 1 respectfully report, that in the engagement of this date with the rebel force at Smithfield, Va., the following persons, attached to the United States steamer Minnesota, were wounded: A. B. Pierson, Acting Master, by a musket-shot, producing severe flesh-wounds pf the right-arm and chest; George Cook, ordinary seaman, by a musket-shot, producing flesh-wounds of left thigh and scrotum; John B. Kelly, seaman, by a swordthrust in the abdomen, producing a serious wound; George Anderson, seaman, by musketshot, producing flesh-wound of left hand. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, ABTnrK Mattfiewson,
AssUtant-Surgeon United States Navy.
Lieutenant Commander John H. Upshur,
Commanding United States Steamer Minnesota.
Norfolk, Vi., Tuesday, February 2.
Shortly before dark, on Saturday, an expedition started from here, under the command of Brigadier-General Graham. It was composed of the army gunboats Smith Briggs, Flora Temple, General Jesup, and the transport Long Branch, with detachments of men to the number of one hundred and fifty from the Third Pennsylvania artillery, Twentieth New-York cavalry, Ninety-ninth New-York, and Twenty-first Connecticut infantry.
The expedition proceeded up the James River to Logan Creek, to the small village of Smithfield. Here Captain Lee, of the Norfolk Harbor Police, landed at about one o'clock on Sunday noon, with ninety men from the Long Branch. He took command of the party, and the boats then left to go up the Nansemond River to reconnoitre, it being understood that after Captain Lee and his command had accomplished what they intended, they would march down to the north-western bank of the Nansemond, and there again join the boats.
Taking a direct road for Suffolk, he penetrated the country to the distance of about four miles and a half, where, in a dense wood, he met a force of the enemy, about two hundred and fifty strong, with two twelve-pound guns. Notwithstanding the inferiority of our numbers, the rebels were completely surprised, their advance-guard capturd, the main body driven back, and so great was their consternation, that they finally retreated in the greatest confusion.
Information was then received from prisoners and darkeys that there was a strong force of the enemy posted a short distance beyond, at a place called' " The Mill." Their position was such that our men could not pass them on either flank, and consequently they were compelled to fall slowly back to Smithfield, which was reached about a half-hour after dark. Captain Lee then intrenched his force on the main street of the town. Previous to this, however, as he was marching into the place, he was fired on from both sides of the road, and his advance-guard of five cavalrymen, of the Twentieth New-York, was captured.
About half-past seven o'clock yesterday morning the rebels made a fierce attack with their cavalry and infantry. The fight continued with great vigor until nearly eleven o'clock, when a communication came, under flag of truce, from Colonel Gordon, commander of the attacking forces, for an immediate and unconditional surrender.
In order to gain as much time as possible, and thinking that in the mean while some assistance might come to hand, Captain Lee sent a reply to the rebel Colonel asking for a personal interview to be granted. This was denied, and a peremptory demand was made for a surrender within five minutes. The second reply of Captain Lee was that he would not surrender, and that if the rebel commander wanted him he would have to come and take him.
In less than a quarter of an hour, he opened with four guns, beside the infantry and cavalry fire. A reply was made with a howitzer as rapidly as possible, which was kept up with great spirit until about half-past twelve o'clock, when Captain Lee was so hard pressed on all sides that it became evident that he would soon have to yield.
But, in the mean time, the gunboat Smith Briggs hauled in sight The position becoming untenable, the howitzer was rolled into the stream, and the men then followed along its line to reach the protection of the gunboat. They were followed by nearly a regiment of rebel infantry and cavalry, which harassed them in their flight. A stand was then made opposite the Smith Briggs, and a desperate engagement continued until our men were completely overpowered by the superior forces of the enemy, which was continually augmented by the arrivals of reinforcements.
All this time the gunboat kept up a constant fire, but so great were the numbers that had to be contended with, that at last our men had to give up fighting and take to the boat. To reach it, however, the poor fellows had to swim from the shore to where she lay in the stream, and in doing this many yielded up their lives to the merciless foe, who shot them as they were really drowning.
Upon reaching the boat, Captain Lee found its Commander, Rowe, severely wounded in the throat The engineer was also seriously wounded, and out of a crew of about fifty there were left on board hardly a half-dozen men who were not disabled. At the request of Captain Rowe, Captain Lee took command of the boat.
He found her to be greatly damaged from the fire of the enemy. The pilot-house was entirely demolished. The wheel could not be worked, and it was with much difficulty that the engine could be gotten to move sufficiently to propel her further out into the stream from the range of the rebel guns.
Firing was continued, and about three o'clock a shell from the enemy entered the boiler of the boat, and a great explosion followed. Resistance could no longer be continued, as the boat was now a mere wreck. She then surrendered, and all on board of her were prisoners. Some, to make their escape from captivity, jumped overboard, and, no doubt, the most of those who were not recaptured, sealed their fate with a watery grave.
Captain Lee, a Pamunky Indian pilot, and George Smith, a volunteer pilot, with two other men, are the only ones out of the whole party,
which in the aggregate amounted to nearly one hundred and fifty, that escaped, except two others that were sent out the night before in a small boat to report the perilous situation of the force under Captain Lee. These men were picked up near the mouth of the James River, and taken on board the flag-ship of the navy that is stationed there. Their mission was to go up the Nansemond River to report to General Graham for reenforcements, but being detained, word did not reach him as soon as the exigency of the case required.
Captain Lee and those who escaped with him, five in all, walked about seven miles, when they fell in with the gunboats of General Graham going to their relief. They were taken on board of one of the boats, and reached Fortress Monroe last night about eight o'clock.
The gunboat Smith Briggs is a total wreck, and what remains of her is in,the possession of the rebels. Nearly all our brave men who fought so valiantly are now prisoners. The most of them are supposed to be badly wounded. The number killed is not known, but must be very large. The rebels, too, must have suffered severely, as our men fought long, persistently, and to much effect
It is surmised that, though the rebels were finally victorious, they lost at least three to our one in killed and wounded. The rebels greatly outnumbered us. They had a full regiment of infantry, one of cavalry, and a battery of artillery, while our whole force engaged did not amount to over one hundred and fifty men.
During the fiercest part of the shelling, two small navy boats came up, and were apparently about to render assistance to the army gunboat Smith Briggs, when their commanding officer was shot through the breast. They then immediately retired, as the officer was evidently badly wounded.
Our men cannot be too highly praised for their valor, and it is to be greatly regretted that they suffered so much. The boats that reconnoitred the Xansemond returned safely.
EXPEDITION UP THE BLACK AND WASHITA RIVERS.
REPORT OP REAR-ADMIRAL D. D. PORTER.
FLAa-Snir Black Hawk, Mississippi Squadron, )
Sir: I have the honor to report that I sent an expedition up the Black and Washita Rivers on the first instant, under command of Lieutenant Commander F. M. Ramsay. The following vessels composed the expedition: Ouachita, Lieutenant Commander Byron Wilson; Fort Hindman, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant John Pierce; Osage, Acting Master Thomas Wright ; Lexington, Lieutenant George M. Bache; Concstoga, Lieutenant Commander Thomas 0. Selfridge; Cricket, Acting Master H. H. Gorringe.
The expedition was perfectly successful. The rebels, about two thousand strong, under General Polignac, were driven from point to point, some extensive works captured, and three heavy thirtytwo-pounders brought away. The works were destroyed. The enemy suffered severely from our guns, and the vessels brought away all the cotton they could find. They also destroyed a pontoon-bridge, cutting the rebels off from their main body, at or near Alexandria; but, having no force to put on shore, they had time to escape.
The water falling very rapidly, forced the expedition to give up the intended trip further into the interior. Some houses were necessarily destroyed; but as the community is all rebel, it is not to be regretted.
I regret to say that we lost two killed and fourteen wounded, and the Fort Hindman was badly cut up with shot and shell, being struck twenty-seven times, but nothing to impair her efficiency.
I inclose Lieutenant Commander Ramsay's report I am well pleased with the result of the expedition.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, David D. Porter,
Hon. Gideon Welles,
Secretary of the Nary, Washington, D. C.
REPORT OP LIEUTENANT COMMANDER P. A. RAMSAY.
CstiTEO States Steamship Choctaw, I
Sir: In obedience to your order, I left here on the Fort Hindman at half-past one P.m. on the twenty-ninth ultimo, taking the Osage, Cricket, Ouachita, Lexington, and Conestoga with me, and proceeding up Red River, anchored at dark about fifteen miles from the mouth of Black River. At daylight on the first instant, I got under way and proceeded up Black River. At four P.m., when about fiftoen miles below Trinity, we were fired into by sharp-shooters, concealed behind the levee. All the vessels immediately opened on them with shrapnel, grape, and canister, and drove them away. When we reached Trinity, white flags were shown onthe lower side of the town, but as soon as we rounded the point we were opened on by a battery of two twelvepounder rifle guns. We immediately opened fire, and in a few moments drove the rebels, who were under the command of General Polignac, from the town. I then proceeded two miles above the town, and anchored for the night At daylight on the second, I got under way, and proceeded up the Ouachita, with the Osage leading and the Hindman next We had not proceeded more than five miles when the Osage became disabled, by the main wheel of the turret breaking in three pieces, which rendered it impossible to revolve the turret Fortunately, the guns were pointed directly ahead at the time of the accident When we arrived within two miles of Harrisonburgh, we were attacked by a brigade (General Polignac's) of sharp-shooters, lying behind the levee, and a battery of twelve-pounder rifle-guns. The fire of the battery was directed entirely at the Fort Hindman. She was struck twenty-seven times by shot and shell, one shot disabling the starboard engine. I immediately dropped her down below the other vessels, and then went on board the Ouachita. The Ouachita was struck three times, but no damage done. The firing of the vessels was excellent, and soon drove the battery away. The banks were so high that it was impossible for the vessels abreast of the sharp-shooters to do them any damage; but the lower vessels enfiladed the banks, and, I afterward learned, killed and wounded a great many. A deserter reported that the colonel of his regiment was killed. Leaving the Hindman in a safe place, I proceeded up the river, with the other vessels, to Bayou Louis, which enters Sicily Island. The water was so shoal that the lightest boat I had could not enter. I then proceeded to Catahoula Shoals, where I found plenty of water to enable me to proceed to Monroe; but the water was falling so fast, I deemed it best to return. On our arrival at Harrisonburgh, I landed with the Ouachita, and set fire to some of the largest houses in the town. While the houses were being fired, a body of cavalry and infantry were observed coming down a ravine. I called the men on board, and opened fire from the vessels, causing the troops to scatter in every direction. The works at Harrisonburgh are very formidable. There are four forts on high hills, commanding tho river for two miles below the town, and more than a mile above. Rifle-pits run all around, and connect the forts. At dark, I anchored two miles above Trinity. At daylight on the third, I got under way and proceeded to Trinity. At this place, two excellent earthworks are thrown up, one of which commands the river for more than two miles. It was my intention to burn the town; but finding so many women and children in it, I spared it
"We found there three thirty-two pounder guns and carriages. The guns I brought away, and burnt the carriages and platforms. Hearing that the rebels had a pontoon-bridge a mile from the mouth of Little River, I sent the Cricket up, and burned H. I remained at Trinity until the morning of the fourth, when we proceeded down Black River, and picking up all the cotton near the bank, anchored at dark about twelve miles from the mouth. At daylight on the fifth, I got under way, and arrived at this place at meridian. I am much indebted to the officers of the different vessels for the manner in which thoy performed their duty. I regret to report that eight men were wounded on the Fort, Hindman, one mortally, (since dead,) and two severely. One man was wounded severely on the Osage; Acting Ensign Ezra Beaman, of the Choctaw, whom I took with me as signal officer, was wounded in the right foot while on board of the Ouachita. I would respectfully bring to your notice James K. L. Duncan, ordinary seaman; Hugh Melloy, ordinary seaman; and William P. Johnson, landsman, of the Fort Hindman, for their gallant conduct during the engagement with the battery near Harrisonburgh. A shell burst at the muzzle
of one of the guns, setting fire to the tie of the cartridge, which bad just been put in tho gun. Duncan immediately seized the burning cartridge, took it out of the gun, and threw it overboard. A shell pierced the bow casemate on the right of No. One gun, mortally wounding the first sponger, who had the sponge in his hand, which ho dropped out of the port on the forecastle. Melloy immediately jumped out of the port on the forecastle, picked up the sponge, sponged and loaded the gun, standing outside, under a heavy fire of musketry. Johnson, although badly wounded in the hand, took tho place of a wounded man, sponged and loaded the gun during the entire action.
The following is the list of casualties in the different vessels: Hindman, one man mortally wounded, since dead; eight wounded, two severely; hit twenty-seven times. Osage, one wounded. Ouachita, one killed; two wounded; struck three times. Choctaw, one wounded.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, F. M. Ramsay,
Commanding Expedition to Block and Washita Rivera.
Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
SURGEON MIXER'S ACCOUNT.*
United States Steamer Lexington, Off \ Teisitt, Ouachita Rives, March 8, ISM. (
The Admiral came down on the afternoon of the twenty-ninth of February, and, true to my prediction, he has furnished us with something to do. We are on an expedition up the Ouachita. (Pronounce that Washitaw.) There are six vessels in the fleet, carrying seventy guns. The Ouachita rises in Arkansas, and empties into the Red, about forty-five miles from the mouth of tho latter. The last sixty miles of the course of the Ouachita is sometimes called the Black River.
We started at noon on the first of March, and during the first day met no opposition. To-day we were also unopposed, until within four miles of our present position, when about one hundred men, concealed behind a levee, opened on us with musketry. The fire was replied to by the fleet, and we kept on our course until we were directly in front of the town. Trinity is a little town on the west bank of the river, and contains, perhaps, about three hundred inhabitants. When directly in front of this place, the rebels opened on us with two pieces of artillery, planted in tho centre of the town. It was the most atrocious piece of folly ever committed, and if they had counted on our not firing on tho town, they were very soon undeceived. Of our seventy pieces of artillery, we could bring to bear about forty, and they were discharged almost simultaneously. The shock may be imagined, but cannot be doscribed. For about twenty minutes, the war of artillery was almost continuous, and the smoke hid every thing from view. Finding that we elicited no reply, we ceased firing. When the
* Surgeon Mixer was attached to the Lexington.