Tue Apr 25 1865|
CMDR William Radford, James River Flotilla, writes John Lenthall, Bureau of Construction "Your communications regarding the raising of sunken vessels in the James River have been received.
The rebel steamers Shrapnel, Nansemond. and Patrick Henry lie near Richmond, having been burned by the enemy.
They are scarcely worth raising. The iron hull and machinery of the rebel steamer Torpedo, lying near Richmond, will be raised and sent to Norfolk by the Maumee.
The ironclad Richmond lies sunk abreast of Chapin's [Chaffin's] Bluff. She has been scuttled and blown up, and probably can be easily raised. There are several schooners at various points to which the same remark can be applied."
RADM Jonathan Dahlgren, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, writes LT George W Hayward, USN "You are hereby detached from the naval battery, and will take temporary charge of the ironclad Columbia.
Acting Master Jos. E. Jones has been ordered to report to you for duty on that vessel."
Allen Pinkerton, US Special Service, writes LCOL W H Wood, Provost Marshal General, Military Division, West Mississippi "On the 24th instant the rebel ram Webb passed New Orleans under rebel colors, and was pursued by the U. S. gunboat Hollyhock. About 25 miles below the city, having come in sight of the U. S. gunboat Richmond, the Webb was set on fire by her officers and then run ashore on the left bank of the Mississippi. The officers and crew then abandoned her, endeavoring to make their escape, fifteen of whom afterward surrendered to the United States authorities as prisoners of war and were brought under guard to your office. I have the honor to report that three of the fifteen, being apparently the most intelligent, viz, George Price, pilot; John C. Osborne, paymasters steward, and J. C. Hines, hospital steward, were at your request examined by me, and stated that the rebel ram Webb left Shreveport, La., on the 7th instant, going down Red River, her destination not being known to any of the crew, all information on this point being carefully withheld from the men. About fifteen days before the departure of the Webb from Shreveport, where she had been lying in port for the past two years, her officers were changed, her crew only remaining. At that time Lieutenant-Commanding, C. W. Read, with Lieutenant Wall and Passed Midshipman Scott, took command of the Webb, none of the old officers remaining. On the arrival of the Webb at Alexandria she loaded with cotton and took on a large supply of fuel, about 200 cords of wood, mostly pine knots. While at Alexandria they first heard of the assassination of President Lincoln, but none of the crew being allowed to go ashore or communicate with the citizens, they had no means of learning how that intelligence was received by the people, nor could they learn the strength of the Confederate forces and fortifications there. No passengers got on at Alexandria, nor were there any passengers on her at any time. Between Shreveport and Alexandria there are two Confederate gunboats, the Missouri and the Merite, the former of which is clad with T-iron rails, with an armament of six guns; the latter is a common steamboat, walled up with thick timber. There are also about fifteen transports on Red River in the Confederate Government service and one, the Twilight, on the Guachita River.
On Sunday, 23d instant, at 4:30 a. m., the Webb left Alexandria and came down the Red River about 15 miles, where she stopped and took on board the pilot, George Price, who says that he belonged to Captain Whites steamboat battalion, stationed at Marksville, La., and had received an order to join the Webb at Alexandria, and on his way to Alexandria he met the Webb coming down. He signaled to her, and she landed and took him on board; that his services had been engaged with a view to take the Webb through Atchafalaya Bayou into Berwick Bay, and from thence into the Gulf, as he was acquainted with these waters, but when he came on board the Webb and ascertained that she drew over 10 feet of water he informed the officers that the route was impracticable, and the Webb then kept on down the Red River, with her cargo. of cotton arranged for defense against attack, her armament being two 12-pounder howitzers aft and one 4-inch rifle forward and a torpedo projecting from the bow, supported by a long pole. In her magazine were three boxes of shells and three 100-pound kegs of powder. Sixty-eight rations were issued to officers and men. Before entering the Mississippi, about 3 miles from the mouth of Red River, a flatboat laden with cotton was captured by the Webb, and a small boat with officers and men from a United States gunboat, being near by, made their escape up a bayou. The flatboat and the men on it were held by the Webb until dark, when they were turned adrift. This was done in order to prevent the men from crossing over by land and giving information to the United States gunboats. At 8:30 p. m., the Webb, carrying the usual signal lights used by the Federal boats, entered the Mississippi, passing the United States gunboats stationed at the mouth of the Red River, and when nearly out of range a shell was fired at the Webb, which exploded about 400 yards from her, and she thus passed all the United States gunboats, not having been hailed or molested by any of them. About every 10 or 15 miles the Webb sent a party ashore to cut the telegraph wires, and at one time some men from a wood pile approached them, when the officer in command presented a musket and frightened them away. At another time, near the mouth of Red River, when an attempt was made to cut the wires, a party of colored soldiers who happened to be near prevented the design.
About 10 miles above the fortifications of New Orleans the Webb hoisted the United States flag at half-mast and raised steam to the highest pressure, so that she was running 25 miles an hour while passing the city, which was about 12 m. (24th instant). The true character of the Webb having been made known to the United States gunboats, several shots were fired after her, three of which struck her, the first entering her bow about a foot above the water, deranging the fixtures by which the torpedo was attached to the how, swinging it around and under the Webb, thereby endangering the safety of the boat so that she was stopped and the torpedo cut loose. This did not occupy more than two or three minutes. The second shot passed the chimney, severing one of the chains by which it was supported and wounding a man slightly by a flying link of the severed chain. The third shot struck a bale of cotton and did but little or no damage. As soon as the first shot was fired at the Webb the United States flag was lowered and the rebel flag raised by order of Captain Read. The Webb was then followed by a United States gunboat. It was the intention of the officers of the Webb to wait until after dark before attempting to pass Forts Jackson and Saint Philip, and it was decided by them that they would turn back and capture the pursuing gunboat, which would occupy their time until dark, but unexpectedly coming in sight of the U. S. sloop of war Richmond, the order was given to turn the boat up the river, and after some deliberation the Webb was set on fire by the officers and crew and ran ashore. As soon as she was ashore the Richmond and the pursuing gunboat commenced firing on her.
After the officers and crew had got safely to the shore, Captain Read advised them to separate, as they would be less liable to capture, and acting upon this suggestion the aforesaid George Price, J. C. Hines, and John C. Osborne, together with twelve others, endeavored to make their escape through the country, but finding it difficult to wade the Louisiana swamps, became disgusted with the enterprise and concluded to surrender themselves prisoners of war to the United States authorities. Lieutenant-Commanding Read is about 25 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, sandy complexion, slim build, light hair, sandy whiskers, and no mustache. Lieutenant Wall is about 25 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, light complexion, brown hair, clean shaved. Smith, Marsh, and Lewis were engineers; Price and Lewis were pilots; Blanc was master. The first names of those parties were not remembered. J. C. Hines, the hospital steward, states that in one of the Confederate hospitals at Shreveport, where he was stationed, there were 200 patients and that sickness prevailed to a considerable extent in the Confederate Army. The statement of the aforesaid three prisoners harmonized upon all material points, and they further stated that the sentiment of the people, as far as they had observed, in regard to the rebellion was divided, some looking upon the Southern Confederacy as a failure and others expressing a wish to continue the war."