Page images
PDF
EPUB

ADVENTURES OF COLONEL ELLET.

589

• Feb. 12.

a

one 20-pounder and three 12-pounder brass cannon on her gun-deck.

She was manned by a good crew, well armed, and was accompanied by a squad of soldiers; and her machinery was protected by three hundred bales of cotton. Thus prepared, she went down the river before dawn on the morning of the 2d of February (the day Grant arrived at Young's Point), first to attack and destroy the steamer City of Vicksburg, that lay under the guns of the batteries at the city, and then to push farther down the river. After receiving a terrible cannonade while attacking the steamer, she passed on down, and just below Natchez destroyed three others. She ran a few miles up Red River, and, returning, repassed the Vicksburg batteries.

On the 10th of Februaryo she was started on another raid down the river, to capture Confederate transports, pass the Port Hudson bat

a 1863. teries, if possible, and effect a junction with the fleet of Farragut below that point. Accompanied by the gun-boat De Soto and a coal-barge, she again ran by Vicksburg, went up the Red River to the Atchafalaya, and, entering that stream, captured a train of army-wagons; and at Simmsport, a little farther on, a quantity of stores. Returning to the Red River, she went up that stream also, and, a little above the mouth of the Black River, captured the small steamer Era, laden with corn and other supplies, and bearing a few Texan soldiers. These were paroled, and the Era was left in charge of a guard.

The Queen of the West pushed on about twenty miles farther, toward a battery on the river called Fort Taylor, making the captured pilot of the Era ply his vocation on the ram. When turning a point near the fort the fellow ran her aground, when the Confederate guns opened upon her so severely and accurately that she was soon utterly disabled, and Ellet and his crew were compelled to leave her as a prize and retreat on floating bales of cotton. The De Soto, lying just below, picked them up. Going down the river, that vessel was also run into the bank by the treacherous pilot, and lost her rudder, when she and the coal-barge were scuttled and sunk.

The Era was now Ellet's last refuge. Throwing her corn overboard, she was made to go down the stream as rapidly and lightly as possible, the rebel pilot, strange to say, still at the helm, when he ran her ashore just after reaching the Mississippi. Four armed boats were then in close chase, the leader being the powerful iron-clad ram Webb, which had been lying at Alexandria, about sixty miles up the Red River. After much exertion the Era was loosed, and went slowly up the river, when she met the powerful iron-clad Indianola, just above Elles's Cliffs, coming down in a fog. When

[graphic]

THE INDIANOLA,

1 The Indianola was a new vessel, seventy-four feet in length, fifty feet beam, and every way one of the Anest in Porter's feet. She was heavily armored all round, excepting some temporary rooms on deck. She was pro elled by seven engines, and was armed with 9 and 11-inch Dahlgren guns.

2 See page 527.

590

THE “INDIANOLA."-SUCCESSFUL TRICK.

a Feb., 1863.

the mist dispersed the Webb in chase was in sight. She turned and fled, and was pursued a short distance, when the chase was relinquished, and the Era went safely up to a point below Vicksburg, notwithstanding she was fired at from Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf.

The appearance of the Indianola (Lieutenant-commanding Brown) was very opportune. She had left her anchorage at the mouth of the Yazoo on the night of the 13th of February, and silently drifted by Vicksburg undiscovered, until she had nearly passed the lower batteries. These opened upon her, but without serious effect, and were followed by others quite as harmless. She rescued Ellėt, as we have seen, and then went on down the Mississippi, expecting to sweep it of all Confederate craft. She blockaded the mouth of the Red River a few days, and then turned her prow up the Mississippi, intending to go up the Big Black River, if possible, as far as the bridge of the Vicksburg and Jackson railway, which was one of the objects

of her voyage. When, at half-past nine o'clock in the evening of

the 24th,' she was nearly abreast of Grand Gulf, she was suddenly assailed by the ram Webb, the captured Queen of the West, which the Confederates had repaired, and two smaller gun-boats, which, without the knowledge of Lieutenant Brown, had gone up the Mississippi. The attack was so furious and skillful that the Indianola was soon disabled. Seven times the ram had struck her, and at last stove in her stern. Finding her in a sinking condition, her commander surrendered her, and she was immediately run ashore. And now the Confederates had nothing to fear on the Mississippi between Vicksburg and New Orleans, for at that time (near the close of February) Farragut and his fleet were on the Gulf coast.

The Confederates immediately began to repair the Indianola, with the expectation of holding sway with her and their other craft over the Mississippi, between Vicksburg and Port Hudson at least, when, by a trick fatal to their schemes, their hopes were blasted. Porter fitted up a worthless flatboat in imitation of a ram, with smoke-stacks made of pork-barrels, and set it afloat one night on the current of the river, without a man on board. It was believed by the Confederates, when they discovered it, to be a most terrible iron-clad monster, and as it passed sullenly by in the darkness it drew a tremendous fire from the Vicksburg batteries. On it went, appearing more terrible as it seemed to defy shot and shell. Word was hastily sent to the Queen of the West, at Warrenton, to beware of the impending danger, whereupon she fled for her life. Orders were also sent for the Indianola to be instantly destroyed, to prevent her being captured by the awful ram, The trick was soon discovered, and other orders were sent to save the Indianola ; but it was too late. Lighted gunpowder had blown her into fragments, and her cannon had gone to the bottom of the great river.

When General Grant withdrew his forces from the bayous he determined to send troops down the west side of the Mississippi by land, and make a lodgment at New Carthage, the first point below Vicksburg that could be reached in that way while the river was so full. General McClernand, with the Thirteenth Army Corps, moved in that direction on the 29th of March, and the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps were ordered to follow him as speedily as supplies of food and ordnance stores could be afforded them. The roads were heavy and the movements slow, and when the head of

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

PASSAGE OF THE VICKSBURG BATTERIES.

591

McClernand's column reached a point only two miles from Carthage, it was found that breaches in the Bayou Vidal had caused that town and its neighborhood to be made an island, by the submerging of the country around it. The army was compelled to make a circuitous march of twelve miles further, around Bayou Vidal, and so the work was accomplished after overcoming great difficulties.

In the mean time measures had been in preparation for another and more daring experiment. It was no less than the passage of Porter's fleet, with transports and barges, by the heavy batteries at Vicksburg. The object was to afford means for carrying the troops across the Mississippi from Carthage, and to have gun-boats to cover the movement and the landing. Porter was ready for the attempt on the 16th of April. The gun-boats selected for the purpose were the Benton, Captain Green ; Lafayette, Captain Walke; Price, Captain Woodworth; Louisville, Commander Owen ; Carondelet, Lieutenant Murphy; Pittsburg, Lieutenant Hoel; Thscumbia, Lieutenant Shirk; and Mound City, Lieutenant Wilson. All of these were iron-clad excepting the Price. They were laden with supplies for the army below, and were well fortified against missiles from the batteries by various overlayings, such as iron chains, timbers, and bales of cotton and hay. The transports chosen for the ordeal were the Forest Queen, Henry Clay, and Silver Wave. These, too, were laden with supplies for the army, with their machinery protected by baled hay. and cotton. It was arranged for the iron-clads to pass down after dark in single file, a few hundred yards apart, each engaging the batteries as it passed, so that the transports might go by under cover of the smoke.

At dark of the 16tho every thing was ready for the perilous enterprise. Silently the armored vessels moved down the river, the Benton leading, followed by the Lafayette, with the gun-boat Price and a coal-barge in tow, and the other vessels in the prescribed order. All was silent and dark at Vicksburg, until, at nearly eleven o'clock, the ten vessels were abreast the city and its defenses, when suddenly the heights seemed all ablaze with lightning and the air fearfully resonant with thunder, as the batteries opened on the fleet. Their fire was returned with spirit, and under cover of the curtain of smoke the transports hastened down the river. The Silver Wave passed unhurt; the Forest Queen was so badly wounded that she had to be towed, and the llenry Clay was set on fire, and, being deserted by her people, went flaming and roaring down the river until she was burned to the water's edge and sunk. Of all the men who passed down with the fleet only one was killed and two were wounded. They were on the Benton. The affair was eminently successful, and Grant at once ordered six more transports,' similarly prepared, to run by the batteries. They did so on the night of the 22d of April, with the loss of only one of them (the Tigress), which was struck below water-mark, and sunk on the Louisiana shore, some distance below. The others were injured, but were soon made ready for use again.

Grant now prepared for vigorous operations against Vicksburg from the line of the Big Black, on its left flank and rear Awaiting this movement, let us see what was occurring in the Department of the Gulf, under the com

a April, 1563.

· These were the Tigress, Anglo-Saxon, Cheeseman, Empire City, Ilorisona, and Moderator.

592

BANKS'S EXPEDITION.

mand of General Banks, having reference to and bearing upon the grand object of opening the Mississippi and severing the Confederacy.

General Banks, as we have observed,' assumed command of the Depart. ment of the Gulf on the 16th of December. He found the disloyal inhabitants restive under the restraints imposed by General Butler, and tried the policy of conciliation. It was not received in the gentle and honorable spirit with which it was given, and arrogance, defiance, open contempt for the National power, and revived hopes of the speedy expulsion of the “ Yankees "

, from New Orleans, were soon the visible results. His mild policy was a failure, and he was compelled to use the strong arm, as his predecessor had done.?

The destination and special object of an expedition under General Banks, fitted out in the north during the autumn of 1862, was the subject of much speculation. Banks succeeded better than most others in keeping that destination a secret, and the curiosity of the public mind was about as much satisfied by inquiries, as was that of one of the General's staff officers, who, anxious to know where they were going, adroitly inquired, “Shall I take thick or thin clothing with me, General ?” Banks more adroitly answereil, “You had better take both.” By the time the expedition sailed it was generally believed that Texas was its destination. General Andrew J. Hamilton, the newly appointed Provisional Governor of Texas, was in New Orleans, anxiously awaiting its arrival, with that expectation; and the loyal people of Texas were stretching forth their hands toward the Government in piteous petitions for relief from one of the most terrible despotisms the world had ever experienced.

When Banks arrived in New Orleans, he found there, as we have observed, seventeen thousand five hundred well-disciplined men, whom his predecessor turned over to him. These, with the troops that accompanied him, made an army at his command of about thirty thousand men, with the designation of the Nineteenth Army Corps. With these he was expected to co-operate with Grant in opening the Mississippi, and in taking possession of the Red River region, and expelling the Confederates from Louisiana, with a view to the speedy restoration of the National authority in Texas. The task before him, as we shall observe, was much greater than was anticipated, and for a long time afterward Texas remained bound in chains. Even the important positions of Sabine Pass and Galveston, which the Government had “ repossessed,” were wrested from it within a month after Banks's arrival. Let us see how it happened.

We have observed how Galveston was surrendered to Commodore Renshaw without resistance, when the civil and military authorities retired to the main land. To make the possession of the city and island* more secure,

i See page 530.

2 - These Southern people," reinarked an English writer who went to New Orleans with General Banks, " with their oriental civilization and institutions, cherish something of the eastern impression, that kindness and conciliation imply weakness, originating in a fear of indicting punishment. They hated Butler, and feared him; Dow the more foolish sort hope for a certain amount of impunity to the treason yet latent among them."

3 See page 538.

• The City of Galveston is nt the northeastern end of Galveston Island, an extensive sand-spit near the entrance to Galveston Bay, in which empty the rivers San Jacinto and Trinity. The island, at time we are considering, was connected with the main land by a wooden bridge about two miles in length. Its barhor is one of the few on that cheerless coast of the Gulf of Mexico tbat may fairly claim the dignity of that title.

THE NATIONAL FORCES AT GALVESTON.

593

a Dec. 28,

1862.

General Banks, at the request of Renshaw, sent thither from New Orleans the Forty-second Massachusetts, Colonel Burrill. Three companies (two hundred and sixty men) of that regiment arrived there at near the close of December, and were landed' and encamped on the wharf. In front of the town lay the gun-boats Westfield, Clifton, Harriet Lane, Olasco, Coryphæus, and Sachem, under the command of Commodore Renshaw, whose relations with the Confederate leaders were so cordial that he enjoyed perfect quiet.

General John B. McGruder had been sent to Texas from Virginia, and was then in chief command in that Department. He had so high an opinion of Renshaw's courtesy and conciliatory spirit, that he went from Houston to Virginia Point, opposite Galveston, and passed over one night with eighty men, and inspected the defenses of the city He found the long wooden bridge connecting that island with the mainland in good order and unprotected, and in view of other evidences of a feeling of perfect security, he was satisfied that he might make an easy conquest of the city with a few troops. But could he hold it ? Probably not; so he took four steamboats from the adjacent rivers, put guns on them, and fortified them with cottonbales. At the same time he collected all the available Confederate troops, volunteers, and arms, in his power, and with this land and naval force, such as it was, he proceeded to attack the National land and naval force at Galveston before dawn on the morning of the first of January, 1863.

The secessionists of Galveston were in such high spirits on the previous day, and there were so many enigmatical assurances of a speedy change of affairs there, that it was easy to perceive that mischief for the National forces was impending. Renshaw, who was in command of these forces on land and water, was warned that an attack was contemplated, yet no extraordinary preparations for resistance were made. Under his direction the handful of Massachusetts troops had been encamped on the wharf, their only protection from an assault from the city being an open space of water, made by taking up the wharf planks, and a barricade formed of them.

At about midnight, while the moon was shining brightly, Magruder crossed the long bridge on a train of cars, with his troops and field-pieces, and, proceeding to within two squares of the camp of the Massachusetts soldiers, planted his artillery there so as to bear upon Renshaw's squadron. In the mean time the armed Confederate steamers were seen in the bay, approaching. These were tardy, and Magruder became nervous, for he was anxious to attack before daylight. The moon went down at four o'clock, and, under cover of the darkness, a storming party five hundred strong and a battalion of sharp-shooters attacked the Massachusetts troops. At the same time Magruder's cannon opened on the gun-boats. The storming party were repulsed and the assailing field-pieces were silenced, and all appeared to be going well for the Nationals, when the Confederate steamers came up, amply manned by a portion of Sibley's brigade, who, we have seen, were driven out of New Mexico. Two of the steamers (Bayou City and Neptune) fell at once upon the Harriet Lane, Captain Wainwright, sweeping her decks with a murderous fire of small arms. She gave the Neptune a

1 See

page 188.

VOL. II.-38

« PreviousContinue »