The only excuse I offer for publishing this little book of reminiscences is that a story half told is better than a story not told at all.
J. M. B.
73 Sixth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa., May 8, 1881.
REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY.
JOHN M. BATTEN, B.E., M.D.,
Late Acting Assistant Surgeon United States Navy, Pittsburgh, Pa.
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR.
LANCASTER, PA. INQUIRER PRINTING AND PUBLISHING CO. 1881.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1881,
By JOHN M. BATTEN, B.E., M.D.
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D.C.
Grand Army of the Republic,
AND TO THE
Soldiers and Sailors
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES AS AN OFFERING FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE UNION,
AND TO MY MOTHER,
THIS LITTLE BOOK OF REMINISCENCES
Appointment in the United States Navy 9
On the Princeton 10
Choice Prescriptions 10
Acting as Coxswain 11
Detached from the Princeton 12
Adieu to Mother 12
Back of Orders 13
A Night on the United States Steamer Minnesota 14
Visiting Important Places in the Vicinity of Hampton, Va. 15
Dismal Swamp Canal. Reporting Aboard the Valley City 15
Washington, N.C. 16
Sinking United States Steamers Southfield and Bombshell 17
Death of Flusser. Plymouth Re-captured by the Confederates 17
An Attack on Washington, N.C. 17
Down Tar River in a Storm. Evacuation of Washington, N.C. 18
July 4, 1864 22
Cruising, and Capturing John Taylor 22
Ordered to the Mouth of Roanoke River 24
Roanoke Island 25
Joining the Fleet 25
Ram Albemarle and Edenton 26
Taking H. T. Wood to U.S. Naval Hospital, Norfolk, Va. 27
Again Through Dismal Swamp Canal. Too Late for the Boat Fawn. At Norfolk, Va. 28
Arriving Aboard the United States Steamer Valley City, and description of Dismal Swamp 29
Leaving Newbern 32
Appearance of the Albemarle at the Mouth of Roanoke River 33
Aground in Scuppernong river. A Brush with the Enemy 34
Confederate Account of It 35
What Mr. Milton Webster says of the Brush 36
Up Alligator River 38
Up Frying-pan River 39
Cushing the Brave 40
Meeting Cushing for the First Time 40
His Arriving Aboard the Valley City 41
Blowing up the Ram Albemarle 41
Three Cheers for Cushing 42
Cushing's Official Report 45
New York Herald's Dispatches 49
Mr. Galen H. Osborne's Dispatch 49
Mr. Oscar G. Sawyer's Dispatch 52
The Hero of the Albemarle in Washington, D.C. 62
The Valley City on the Dry Dock for Repairs 63
From Gosport, Va., to Plymouth, N.C. 63
During the Month of November, 1864 63
Ashore for the First Time at Plymouth 64
Ashore at Newbern 64
Rainbow Bluff. How a Fleet went up the Roanoke and came down again 65
New York Herald's Dispatch 77
Thanks of the Officers of the Otsego to Captain Wood 86
That Old Family Bible 87
The Valley City and Her Officers 89
Chincapin Ridge 98
Farewell to the Officers and Crew of the Valley City 110
Homeward Bound 111
Again through Dismal Swamp Canal 112
At Home 112
Meeting Men of Note 113
Ordered to Cairo, Ill. 116
Don Carlos Hasseltino 118
Honorable Discharge from U.S. Navy 124
UNITED STATES NAVY.
After having passed an examination before the Medical Board of the United States Navy, which was in session at the United States Naval Asylum, Philadelphia, Pa., Dr. James Green, President of the Medical Board, I received the following appointment:
NAVY DEPARTMENT, 22d March, 1864.
You are hereby appointed Acting Assistant Surgeon in the Navy of the United States on temporary service.
After having executed the enclosed oath and returned it to the Department with your letter of acceptance, you will proceed to Philadelphia without delay, and report to Commodore Stribling for temporary duty on board the United States steamer Princeton.
GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.
Acting Assistant Surgeon John M. Batten, United States Navy, Guthrieville, Pa.
After bidding my relatives and friends good-bye, I proceeded to Philadelphia, Pa., and reported for duty on board the United States steamer Princeton, which was lying anchored in the Delaware river off Philadelphia, and which was the same vessel on which Abel Parker Upshur, Secretary of State under President Tyler, was killed by the explosion of a monster cannon whilst visiting said vessel, in company with the President and other members of the Cabinet. The duty aboard this vessel was of an initiatory character, to prepare officers for clerical duties peculiar to each of their particular offices. I made the acquaintance on this vessel of Surgeon James McClelland, who was the Surgeon of the Princeton. He had entered the United States Navy when a young man, and had been in the service ever since. He was about fifty-five years of age. The first morning after sleeping aboard this vessel, I was awakened by what is always usual aboard a man-of-war, a large gun fired at sunrise. The concussion and reverberation from the report of the heavy gun shook the vessel till it creaked, and, in my half-slumbering condition, I wondered to myself whether it was not a real battle in which the vessel was engaged; but upon mature reflection and inquiry, I learned it was only the report of the sunrise gun.
One day, whilst on board the Princeton, a blank book in which were copied a number of choice prescriptions used by many of the old celebrated physicians of Philadelphia, fell into my hands. The book belonged to Surgeon James McClelland. I thought, as I had nothing else special to do, I would occupy the time in re-copying these prescriptions into a blank book of my own; and just as I was re-copying the last prescription, Dr. James McClelland came aboard. He noticed me engaged in writing, and came into the state-room where I was, and observed his book. He immediately asked me where I had got the book. I told him where I had got it.
"Why," said he, "I would not take any money for a copy of those prescriptions. I consider them very valuable, and would not for any consideration let my best friend have a copy of them."
I told him that I believed it to be very wrong not to let prescriptions which have been found valuable in disease, be known. After reprimanding me for re-copying the prescriptions, he cooled down, and became very affable. I, however, got a copy of the prescriptions.
Another day, in rowing aboard the Princeton from the United States Navy Yard at Philadelphia, Pa., I acted as coxswain, and came very near capsizing the boat in the Delaware river. The river was very rough, and I got the boat in what the sailors call the "trough of the sea." I, however, arrived on board the Princeton safely, after running the boat "bows on" against the steamer. The officer of the deck said:
"Sir, why don't you bring that boat alongside in a sailor-like manner?"
"Why," I said, "I am glad to get aboard in any manner, even though there were a hole stove in the side of the Princeton by my boat; besides, sir, I know nothing about bringing a boat alongside in a sailor-like manner." I soon, however, learned to manage a small boat in water very well.
On receiving the following order:
NAVY DEPARTMENT, 5th April, 1864.
SIR: You are hereby detached from the Princeton, and you will proceed to Hampton Roads, Va., without delay, and report to Acting Rear Admiral Lee for duty on board the United States steamer Valley City.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.
Acting Assistant Surgeon John M. Batten, U.S. Navy, Philadelphia.
I left the Princeton, and after bidding my mother farewell, who was stopping with my sister, who resided in Philadelphia—this was a hard task, and it affected us both greatly; but separate we did, and whether we should ever meet again in this world was a question which time alone would determine—on turning a corner I looked back, and saw my mother standing on the steps of the doorway, weeping. It was to me an affecting separation. I journeyed to the Philadelphia and Baltimore railroad depot, located in the southern part of Philadelphia, Pa., and at 8 o'clock a.m. of a beautiful day I took the train for Baltimore, Md., arriving in that city at about noon of the same day. Having some time to view the city, I took advantage of the opportunity, and promenaded the principal thoroughfares. At 5 o'clock p.m., I took the steamer Louisiana for Fortress Monroe, and arrived there the next morning, and as soon thereafter as possible reported to Admiral Lee. On the back of my order I find:
Delivered April 6, 1864, C. K. Stribling, Commander.
Delivered April 6, 1864, John Calhoun, Commandant.
Flagship Minnesota, off Newport News, Va.
Reported April 8, 1864.—Apply to Col. Biggs, Army Quartermaster at Fortress Monroe, for transportation to Newbern, and then report to Captain Davenport in the sounds of North Carolina.
S. P. LEE, Acting Rear Admiral, Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Transportation will be given by first steamer bound for North Carolina.
April 9, 1864.
Reported April 14, 1864.
Report to Acting Master J. A. J. Brooks, Commanding U.S. steamer Valley City.
H. K. DAVENPORT, Commander U.S.N., Senior Naval Officer, Sounds of N.C.
Reported April 15, 1864.
JOHN A. J. BROOKS, Acting Master, Commanding U.S. steamer Valley City.
It being late in the evening of April 8, 1864, when I reported on board the United States steamer Minnesota, and there being no opportunity to return ashore, I was compelled to remain aboard the Minnesota till the following morning, April 9, 1864. Being very much fatigued, I retired early, and soon fell soundly asleep. About 1 a.m., I was aroused from my slumbers by a noise; I could not for the life of me tell from whence it came or whither it had gone; but it was sufficient to arouse and bewilder me, for it made the vessel tremble. I soon arose from my sleeping couch, put on my clothes, and made my way, in the darkness, through the ward-room to the forward hatchway, and to the gun deck. There I found Admiral Lee, with his officers and men, on deck in their night clothes. I soon learned what was the cause of the excitement. It was an explosion of a hundred-pound torpedo under the bottom of the Minnesota, which had been borne thither by a torpedo-boat manned by Confederates from somewhere up the James river. The officers and men on deck, in the gloom of the night, were discussing in a subdued but excited tone the possibility of capturing the torpedo-boat; but, owing to the fires in the picket-boats to the Minnesota being out, nothing could be done till the steam in them was raised; and in the meantime the torpedo-boat was allowed to return up the James river. The damage to the Minnesota was considerable, though no hole was made in her hull. Her guns were dismounted, her partitions were broken down, her doors were jambed, her chairs and tables were upset, and crockery-ware broken. After the excitement of the occasion was over, I returned to my berth, and slept soundly till morning.
After a few days spent in visiting the important places in the vicinity of Hampton, one of which was Fortress Monroe, I took passage on a boat through the Dismal Swamp Canal to Albemarle Sound, and from thence through the sounds of North Carolina to the Neuse river, up which we steamed to Newbern, where I reported to Commander H. K. Davenport, on board the United States steamer Hetzel, who ordered me to report for duty to Acting Master J. A. J. Brooks, aboard the United States Steamer Valley City, which was lying off Hill's Point, near Washington, N.C., on the Tar river. Dr. F. E. Martindale, Surgeon aboard the Valley City, the gentleman whom I was to relieve, met me at Newbern, N.C., and accompanied me to that vessel.
It was 5 a.m. of April 15, 1864, when I reported to Captain J. A. J. Brooks for duty. I was ushered into the ward-room of the Valley City and introduced to the officers, some of whom were not up. James M. Battin, the engineer, one of the officers who had not yet arisen, on hearing my name mentioned, thought that letters directed to him were being called, and he sprang suddenly out of his berth; but it was only to be introduced to a person of the same name, yet an entire stranger. Dr. Martindale had been expecting his relief for some weeks; being anxious to return home to his family, he left for Newbern in the same boat (the Trumpeter) which brought us hither from that place.
Washington is a small town, situated on the left bank of the Tar river, thirty miles from its mouth. It was occupied by about fifteen hundred Federal troops. The United States steamer Louisiana, the vessel on which the powder was afterwards exploded off Fort Fisher, was lying immediately off the town. Below Washington, N.C., on either side of the river, there was timber. On the right bank, just below the town, was Rodman's Point; three miles farther down the river, on the same side, was Hill's Point, and still farther down on the same side was Maule's Point—places which the Confederates had fortified previous to their falling into the hands of the Federals.
Newbern on the Neuse river, Washington on the Tar river, and Plymouth on the Roanoke river, lie in a circle which might be described from a point somewhere in Pamlico Sound—the former and latter towns being each about thirty miles from Washington, the latter town being in the middle; so that the report of heavy artillery could be heard at Washington from either of the other two places.
Saturday, April 16, 1864, my diary states that Plymouth was attacked by the Confederates. Firing continued every day till Tuesday, April 19, 1864, when the place fell into the hands of the Confederates. Lieutenant-Commander Charles W. Flusser made a remark early in the morning of April 19, 1864, that he would either sink the rebel ram Albemarle before night, or he would be in ——. Captain Flusser commanded the United States steamer Miami, and Captain French the ill-fated Southfield. These two vessels had been lashed together at their sterns early in the morning, for the purpose of inducing the Albemarle to come between the vessels, and in this manner, if possible, sink her. The rebel ram, early in the morning of April 19, came floating down the Roanoke river with the current, past the batteries on the right bank of the river above Plymouth, and bore down upon the United States steamers Southfield and Bombshell, and sunk them. It is supposed that Captain Flusser, in the excitement of the moment, exposed himself unnecessarily, and was shot by a sharp-shooter from the Albemarle. When it was noised among the Federal army and naval forces at Plymouth that Flusser was killed, the Federal forces became more or less demoralized, and the place fell into the hands of the Confederates. Captain Flusser was a brave and daring officer. He was interred in the cemetery at Newbern, and on a board that marked his resting place, in the fall of 1864, was inscribed his name, and below it, "Peace to his ashes."
On Wednesday, April 27, 1864, an attack was made by the Confederates on Washington, N.C. There is great excitement among the residents of the place, so that some of them are leaving by every possible route. We hear the firing quite plain off Hill's Point. At 12 m. all is quiet. Preparation is being made to evacuate Washington, N.C. The day is beautiful. The ammunition of the army at this point has been put aboard the Valley City for the purpose of conveying it to Newbern. The thermometer stands 85 deg.. The Federal large guns on the forts outside of Washington are being fired all day. The Valley City got under weigh, proceeded down the river, and shelled the woods below Washington. There were twenty-three shells from the 32-pounder guns fired, which burst among the tree-tops.
Thursday, April 28, 1864.—This morning there were a few shots fired from heavy guns by the Federal troops, but they soon ceased. The evacuation is going on quietly. The place has a deserted and gloomy appearance.
Friday, April 29.—The place is quiet. Transport boats are steaming to Newbern, laden with the Federal troops and provisions of the place. Two gunboats, the United States steamers Commodore Barney and Commodore Hull, steamed up the river to assist in the evacuation. At 3-1/2 o'clock p.m. the Valley City, with thirty-one barrels of powder aboard, and a large number of shells, weighed anchor and steamed for Newbern. In going down the Tar river, one of those violent thunder-storms peculiar to that climate came up. It was not considered a very safe place to be aboard the Valley City with all this powder during a thunder-storm. I was glad when the storm was over. We got aground for one hour in Pamlico Sound, but arrived safely at Newbern at 9 o'clock a.m., Saturday, April 30th, 1864. Washington, N.C., is evacuated.
Sunday, May 1, 1864.—The Valley City took in coal and then proceeded toward Washington, N.C. At 8 p.m. she anchored off Brant Island light-house. May 2d, Monday. We got under weigh at 5 a.m., and proceeded toward Washington.—At 4 o'clock p.m. we anchored off Rodman's Point, and fired a shell into Washington at a number of Confederates. We then got under weigh, and proceeded down below Maule's Point, and anchored.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, May 3d and 4th, nothing of note transpired but taking refugees aboard. On Thursday, May 5th, the Valley City shelled Hill's Point, then she got under weigh, and proceeded up Pungo river, and anchored for the night. On Saturday, May 7, 1864, the Valley City got under weigh, and proceeded to Newbern, where she arrived at 9 a.m. of the 8th. James W. Sands, John Maddock and myself, attended church.
Newbern is a beautiful town on the right bank of the Neuse river. Just below Newbern the Neuse river receives the Trent river as a tributary. The houses of the place were brick and also frame. They stood back from the street, with yards in front of them, in which choice flowers grew and bloomed. The streets are at right angles. In the cemetery, in the western part of the town, are interred many of the early settlers of the place. The cemetery is very old, and the tombstones, many of them, present an ancient appearance. On the 9th I was ashore—on the 10th we left Newbern. The 11th we arrived off Maule's Point, and took on as a refugee Mrs. Forbes. The 12th raining, the Valley City took aboard some more refugees. On the 13th, 14th and 15th, nothing of note took place. The 16th we destroyed the guns at Hill's Point. The 17th, at 2:45 p.m., we proceeded to Newbern, where we arrived at 8:30 a.m. of the 18th.
The Valley City remained off Newbern till June 4th, when we left at 1 p.m., and arrived off Hill's Point at 9-1/4 a. m, of the 5th. The 6th we went ashore at Maule's Point, and got a mess of strawberries. The 7th we landed at Bath. The 8th two boats' crews were sent to Maule's Point to watch the Confederates, a squad of whom had assembled there. Two shots were fired from the Valley City, one to the right and the other to the left of the house on the point. The family living in the house was very much frightened, but nobody was hurt. On the 9th and 10th, nothing of note occurred. The 11th cloudy, the Thomas Collyer, a mail-boat from Newbern, came up with a "flag of truce," and went to Washington.
On the 12th and 13th there was nothing of note took place. On the 14th we went ashore at Bath, and called on Mr. Windley's family. The 15th, we went ashore at Maule's Point, and called on Mrs. Orrell's family. Mrs. Forbes made me a present of a Confederate flag. In the evening, we steamed down to the mouth of Pungo river, and anchored for the night.
Thursday, June 16.—There was an armed party sent ashore, for the purpose of foraging. After they had returned we proceeded up Pungo river to Leechville, a small place at the head-waters of that river. The occupation of its inhabitants was cutting down timber and making shingles. There was an armed party sent ashore, who captured and brought aboard a quantity of corn. We then left with a scow in tow, and proceeded down the river and anchored off Wright's Creek. The 17th, the United States steamer Ceres arrived from Newbern. An armed party was sent ashore for the purpose of foraging. On the 18th, in company with the United States steamer Ceres, the Valley City steamed through Pamlico Sound. The Ella May soon hove in sight, with two schooners she had captured in tow. On the 19th the Valley City, Ceres, and Ella May, with the schooners in tow, steamed up the Pungo river, and anchored off Sandy Point. At about 10 p.m. we proceeded farther up the river, and landed an armed party of men for the purpose of capturing some Confederates at Leechville. On the 20th we proceeded up the river to Leechville to join the party, which had already arrived there. Three schooners were loaded with shingles. On the 21st, the United States steamers Valley City, Ceres, and Ella May, proceeded down Pungo river with the three schooners laden with shingles in tow. On the 22d, we anchored in Pamlico Sound. At 8 a.m. we proceeded towards Newbern, where we arrived with the schooners in tow at 8 p.m.
On July 4th, the Valley City, in commemoration of the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, fired twenty-one guns, and a copy of the Declaration of Independence was read to the officers and crew of the Valley City by Captain J. A. J. Brooks. On the 5th, the Valley City got under weigh, and proceeded towards Tar river, and on the 6th arrived and anchored off Maule's Point. On the 10th, the Valley City got under weigh and proceeded to Bath, where an armed force was landed, and captured John Taylor, Company G, 62d Georgia cavalry. In trying to make his escape, he jumped from a buggy which was drawn by a horse in rapid flight, and in doing so injured his knee, so that he was unable to walk for five weeks. On the fly-leaf of a Bible which I loaned him to read in his leisure hours, he wrote:
"May peace and happiness attend thee, and Heaven's richest blessings crown thee ever more. When this you see, remember me.
"Your most obedient servant,
"Houstin City, Ga., July, 1864."
At about 10 p.m. of the same day, July 10, another armed party of men was landed with the intention of capturing some Confederate pickets, but did not succeed. Bath, N. C, is a very small place on the left bank of the Tar river, at the junction of Bath creek, about ten miles below Washington. The place was built of frame principally. The people of the place were rather intelligent.
July 13.—The Valley City got under weigh, and proceeded down Tar river to Durham's creek, and sent a party out to fish; afterwards she steamed down the river, and anchored off North creek, and there brought a boat to, which had permission from the Federal Government to trade with the loyal people of Beaufort county, N.C. On the 14th, got under weigh and steamed over to South creek; from thence down to the mouth of Tar river, and anchored. On the 15th, the Valley City proceeded to off Maule's Point and anchored. Mrs. Daniels and her two children, with her sister-in-law, came aboard. On the 19th, the U.S. steamer Louisiana hove in sight. The Valley City proceeded to the mouth of the Tar river with her, where we anchored.
After taking abroad our refugees, the Louisiana proceeded to Newbern. On the 21st, at 7 o'clock a.m., the Valley City steamed for Newbern, where she arrived at 4 p.m. On the evening of July 31, the Valley City was ordered to proceed up the Trent river to guard that river in case of an expected attack. August 4th, the Valley City was ordered down to her old anchorage off Newbern. On the 5th, at 8 a.m., we weighed anchor and proceeded down the Neuse river, through Pamlico Sound, and up the Tar river, and at 6 p.m. relieved the U.S. steamer Louisiana. At 7 p.m., the Valley City anchored near the mouth of Bath creek. Mrs. Quin and Mrs. Harris were brought with us from Newbern, and landed near Bath creek.
On the 10th we weighed anchor and proceeded down the Tar river. At the mouth of Bath creek, two shells were fired from the howitzers, at a house where there were a number of Confederates. At 2 o'clock p.m. we anchored in South creek. On the 11th, at 12 m., we weighed anchor and proceeded to Pamlico light-house and anchored. On the 13th, at 4 o'clock a.m. we weighed anchor and proceeded to Brant Island light-house in order to get the mail from the U.S. steamer Massasoit that we expected to meet steaming near this point. At 1 o'clock p.m. we weighed anchor and proceeded to above Maule's point, where we anchored at 6 o'clock p.m. On the 18th, at 7 o'clock a.m., we weighed anchor and proceeded down Tar river past Maule's Point, down by the mouth of Bath creek, and down by South creek, where we anchored at 3 o'clock p.m. During this cruise there have been eight refugees taken aboard. On the 19th, we weighed anchor, and proceeded to Maule's Point. On our way we stopped at the mouth of Durham's creek. Captain J. A. J. Brooks and I went ashore. At 6 p.m. we anchored at the mouth of Bath creek. In the evening there was a heavy thunder-storm, accompanied with rain.
On the 20th, at 9-1/2 o'clock a.m., we were relieved by the United States steamer Louisiana, and the Valley City was ordered to the neighborhood of the mouth of Roanoke river, in Albemarle Sound, to join the fleet composed of United States steamers Shamrock, Sassacus, Ceres, Tacony, Chicopee, Mattabessett, and Wyalusing, to assist in watching the Confederate ram Albemarle, which was stationed at Plymouth, which is situated on the right bank of the Roanoke river, eight miles from its mouth. We arrived at Roanoke Island at 12 m., and coaled. A portion of Roanoke Island is a barren, sandy place, separating the Atlantic Ocean from Pamlico Sound.
On Roanoke Island, in 1585, the first attempt to found an English colony in America was made. Though abandoned the following year, it was in advance of any similar effort. After the war commenced, the place was held by the Confederates till the year 1862, when the Federal forces under General Burnside captured the place. On the 21st the Valley City left Roanoke Island at 12 m., and joined the fleet, and anchored for the night.
On Monday, August 22d, 1864, at 9 o'clock, a.m., the Valley City was ordered to the mouth of Roanoke river, where the United States steamers Ceres and Sassacus were anchored. We were to take a very dangerous and responsible position, immediately at the mouth of the Roanoke river. During the long dark nights the Valley City did not anchor, for it was rumored that the Confederate ram Albemarle might come down any night, and especially a very dark night under the cover of the darkness, so that the Valley City must be constantly on the alert. If the Albemarle did make her appearance at the mouth of the Roanoke river, the Valley City was to fire one gun as a signal to the fleet, which was anchored six miles farther down the Albemarle Sound, and then steam towards the fleet.
This Confederate ram was a formidable adversary on water. She had a sharp arrow-like ram extending twenty feet under water in front of her bow. She was plated with iron, which completely protected her inmates from solid shot; she had two two-hundred-pounder Brooke's rifled guns on the inside of this iron encasement, and one port-hole to each of her four sides. She was very unwieldy, but in a body of water like the Albemarle or Pamlico Sound no wooden vessel could cope with her.
Friday, August 25.—I visited Edenton to-day for the first time. It is situated pleasantly on the bank of Edenton Bay, as it is called, but really Albemarle Sound. The people are kind, courteous, educated, and hospitable. There were magnificent residences in the place, each of which was surrounded by a large yard with shade trees, having that comfortable, spacious, home-like appearance, which so many of the buildings in Southern cities present. When the officers of the Valley City first visited Edenton, they were treated very coolly by the people; but gradually they became quite sociable, and we were invited to visit many of the families of the place—in fact, one of our officers afterwards married an Edenton lady. Edenton was a sort of neutral ground, at which the Federal officers and Confederate officers often met. On August 31, the day was clear and cool. Nothing took place of any note except a false alarm that the ram was coming down the river, causing some excitement aboard the Valley City.
Thursday, September 1, 1864, the double-ender Shamrock came up from the fleet. Last night some army gunboats took an armed body of men up the Chowan river, to be landed and marched across to Plymouth for the purpose of destroying the Albemarle. The project was not successful. The day is cool and hazy. The double-ender Wyalusing came up from the fleet during the night. The Albemarle ram is expected out to-night.
2d.—The ram did not make her appearance. The double-enders all went to Edenton. The weather is pleasant.
On the 4th I went to Edenton and spent the afternoon at Mr. B.'s, and made the acquaintance of his daughters. On the 6th, H. T. Wood, paymaster's clerk, and myself, went aboard a tug, and were conveyed to the United States steamer Shamrock, from whence we boarded the Trumpeter, where Dr. P. H. Barton and myself held a medical survey upon H. T. Wood, and sent him to the United States Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Va. I accompanied him. We left the Shamrock at 7 o'clock p.m., in the Trumpeter, and anchored at 1 a.m., September 7th, and at 6 o'clock a.m. weighed anchor, and arrived at Roanoke Island at 8 a.m. We left Roanoke Island at 1 p.m., and at 8 p.m. we changed to the Fawn, and after steaming two hours anchored for the night. On the 8th we weighed anchor at 5 a.m., and changed boats to the Undine at 11 a.m., and arrived at Norfolk at 1 p.m., when I immediately took H. T. Wood to the hospital. I stopped at the National Hotel.
On the 9th I went to Quartermaster's office at Norfolk to procure transportation to Roanoke Island, but I was a half hour too late, the boat Undine having left at 8 o'clock a.m. At 5 p.m. I heard that the Fawn, which had made connection with the Undine in the Dismal Swamp Canal, and the boat I would have been aboard had I not been too late for the Undine, was captured and burned by the Confederates. In the evening I went to the theatre. I passed the time pleasantly at Norfolk in viewing whatever there was of beauty and interest in the place. On Sunday morning I attended service at the Episcopal church, and also in the evening, in company with Mr. Y., of Bellefonte, Center county, Pa. On Monday the 12th, and Tuesday 13th, Mr. Y. and I promenaded the principal streets and visited places of interest.
At 6 p.m., Wednesday, September 14, I left Norfolk in the C. W. Thomas, which steamed to Fortress Monroe, where she arrived at 7-1/2 p.m., when I got aboard the John Farran, and steamed by the way of the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Hatteras, through the Swash, and through Pamlico sound to Neuse river, and thence up to Newbern, where we arrived at 7 p.m. of the 15th. Having expended all the money that I took with me but a few cents, I felt perplexed as to how I should reach the Valley City, which I supposed was at the mouth of the Roanoke river, where I had left her; but on going ashore at Newbern, I soon learned that she was anchored off that place, having steamed there during my absence. I quickly arrived aboard her, feeling delighted that I was once more among my old naval companions. The next thing of interest I learned was, that Newbern was being visited by an endemic of yellow fever.
Having already passed twice through the Dismal Swamp Canal, and would have steamed through it the third time had I not been too late for the boat that was destroyed, but I was destined to pass through it still again on my passage home. Lossing, in his history of the American Revolution, in volume I, page 311, gives a very complete description of the Dismal Swamp, through which this canal passes. He says:
"Schemes for internal improvements, for facilitating the development of the resources of the country, often occupied Washington's most serious attention. At the time we are considering, he was engaged, with some other enterprising gentlemen, in a project to drain the Dismal Swamp, an immense morass lying partly in Virginia and partly in North Carolina, and extending thirty miles from north to south, and ten miles from east to west. Within its dark bosom, and nowhere appearing above its surface, are the sources of five navigable rivers and several creeks; and in its centre is a body of water known as Drummond's lake, so named from its alleged discoverer. A great portion of the morass is covered with tall cypresses, cedars, hemlocks, and junipers, draped with long mosses, and covered with creeping vines. In many places it is made impassable by fallen trees, thick brakes, and a dense growth of shrubbery. Thomas Moore, who visited it in 1804, has well indicated its character in the following stanzas of his legendary poem, called 'The Lake of the Dismal Swamp:'
"'Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds— His path was rugged and sore; Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds, Through many a fen where the serpent feeds, And man never trod before!
"'And when on earth he sank to sleep, If slumber his eyelids knew, He lay where the deadly vine doth weep In venomous tears, and nightly steep The flesh with blistering dew!'
"'They tell of a young man,' says Moore, in his introduction to his poem, 'who lost his mind upon the death of a girl he loved, and who, suddenly disappearing from his friends, was never afterwards heard of. As he frequently said, in his ravings, that the girl was not dead, but gone to the Dismal Swamp, it was supposed that he had wandered into that dreary wilderness, and had died of hunger, or had been lost in some of the dreadful morasses.' The poet makes him say:
"'They made her grave too cold and damp, For a soul so warm and true, And she has gone to the lake of the Dismal Swamp, Where all night long by her fire-fly lamp, She paddles her white canoe.
"'And her fire-fly lamp I soon shall see, And her paddles I soon shall hear; Long and loving our life shall be, And I'll hide the maid in a cypress-tree, When the footsteps of Death are near.'
"Towards the southern portion of the swamp there is a tract covered with reeds, without any trees. These are continually green, and, as they wave in the wind, have the appearance of water. On that account it is called 'The Green Sea.' The eastern borders of the swamp are covered with tall reeds, closely interlaced with thorny bamboo-briers, and present almost an impassable barrier even to the wild beasts that prowl there. Into this dismal region Washington penetrated, on foot and on horseback, until he reached the lake in its centre. He circumtraversed this lake, in a journey of almost twenty miles, sometimes over a quaking bog, and at others in mud and water; and just at sunset he reached the solid earth on the margin of the swamp, where he passed the night. The next day he completed his explorations, and having observed the soil, its productions, the lake and its altitude, he returned home, convinced that the immense morass might be easily drained, for it lay considerably higher than the surrounding country. Through his influence the Virginia Legislature gave a charter to an association of gentlemen who constituted the 'Dismal Swamp Company.' Some, less sanguine of success than Washington, withheld their co-operation, and the project was abandoned for the time.
"It was reserved for the enterprise of a later day to open the Dismal Swamp to the hand of industry. A canal now passes through it from north to south, upon the bosom of which immense quantities of shingles and lumber are floated to accessible deposits. By that canal the swamp might be easily drained, and converted into fine tillable land. To every visitor there, the wisdom and forecast of Washington, in suggesting such improvement a hundred years ago, is most remarkably manifest."
Friday, September 16, 1864.—The Valley City left Newbern at 4 o'clock p.m., with Paymaster Louis Sands of the United States steamer Shamrock aboard, and arrived at Roanoke Island on the 17th, at 11 a.m., and at 2-1/2 p.m. left Roanoke Island. At 9 p.m. arrived at the fleet, and put stores, which the Valley City had conveyed from Newbern, aboard the Shamrock. On the 18th, at 6-1/2 p.m., left the mouth of Roanoke Island to go on an expedition up the Chowan river, and arrived at Winton, on the right bank of the river, at the junction of Meherrin river, at 8 o'clock a.m. of the 19th. Winton was entirely destroyed in the early part of the war, leaving nothing but here and there a wall, a chimney, or foundation wall standing. An armed party went ashore and captured some cotton, and came in contact with some Confederate pickets, with whom they had a little skirmish, or exchange of shots. We left Winton at 4 o'clock p.m., and arrived off Edenton at 9 o'clock p.m., where we anchored for the night. At 7 o'clock a.m. of the 20th we got under weigh, and proceeded to the fleet, where we arrived at 9 o'clock a.m. At 1 p.m. we steamed to the mouth of Roanoke river, where we anchored. On the 22d we got under weigh, and at 1:35 p.m. arrived at Edenton. Captain J. A. J. Brooks, Acting Assistant Paymaster J. W. Sands and myself went ashore, and called on Mr. Samuel B.'s family, and spent a very pleasant time. At 3:40 p.m. we returned aboard, and proceeded to our old anchorage at the mouth of Roanoke river. The weather was cloudy and hazy. On Friday 23d, at 12-1/2 p.m., the ram Albemarle made her appearance at the mouth of Roanoke river. We immediately fired our signal gun, and got under weigh, and steamed towards the United States steamer Otsego, commanded by Captain Arnold, which was anchored further down the Albemarle Sound. As we passed the Otsego, Captain Arnold ordered the Valley City to steam as rapidly as possible towards the fleet, and the Otsego would follow after. We soon met the fleet steaming towards the mouth of Roanoke river. The Valley City and Otsego soon fell into line, and arrived at the mouth of Roanoke river. By this time the ram had returned up the river. The fleet remained reconnoitering at the mouth of the river till 6 p.m., when it returned to its old anchorage. The appearance of the ram at the mouth of Roanoke river caused some excitement aboard the fleet, for we were anxious to have the ram come out into Albemarle Sound, so as to have a chance, if possible, to sink her. On the 27th, at 11-1/2 a.m., the Valley City steamed down to Edenton, and remained there two hours, and came back to our old anchorage.
On the 29th, at 3-1/2 o'clock a.m., the Valley City weighed anchor, and proceeded to and up Scuppernong river. At 11-1/2 o'clock a.m. we got aground in a position transversely across the river, with the stern of the vessel towards the left bank. About seven hundred yards distant on the left bank of the river, in the bushes and wood, a concealed Confederate battery was situated. In making an effort to get afloat, the guns of the Valley City were run out of position, the decks were crowded with hawsers and ropes, and the propeller had a hawser tangled in it; so that the steamer was in a very helpless and dangerous position. We were not aware that this battery was situated in the place named till at 3-1/2 p.m. they opened fire on the Valley City, and continued firing till half past 5 o'clock p.m. It was some time before the Valley City could clear her decks and get into position to bring the guns to bear on the enemy. In the meantime Commodore W. H. Macomb sent orders to Captain J. A. J. Brooks to blow the Valley City up and leave her as best we could; but when the Valley City got her guns to bear on the enemy's battery, they were silenced at 5-1/2 p.m. The shells and bullets from the Confederate batteries ashore fell around us fast and thick, but fortunately nobody aboard was seriously injured, notwithstanding the vessel was struck several times by shell, and also by a number of bullets. At 9:20 o'clock p.m., after throwing coal overboard, emptying the boiler, and with the assistance of the tug Belle, which came up, we got afloat, and were towed by the tug Belle down into Albemarle Sound, along side of the Otsego. On the 30th the hawser was taken out of the propeller. At 1:15 p.m. the Valley City got under weigh, and steamed alongside of the Tacony for coal.
I append an extract from the North Carolina Confederate, published at Raleigh, N.C., bearing on the brush up the Scuppernong river:
"BRUSH WITH THE YANKEE GUNBOATS.
"The Goldsborough State Journal gives an account of quite a spirited little brush between a small detachment of our troops and some of the Yankee gunboats, which attempted to go up the Scuppernong river, in which the Yankees came out second best.
"On attempting to ascend the river, two boats were attacked and forced back by Lieutenant Sharp, commanding Captain Pitt's company of cavalry, assisted by two pieces of artillery under Lieutenant Williams of Lee's light battery, and Lieutenant McWaston of the 50th North Carolina regiment, with thirty infantry.
"One of the boats got aground at the mouth of the river, about seven hundred yards from the shore, where she was well peppered for some time by both our artillery and sharpshooters, one shot striking her near the water-line.
"So hot was the fire upon this craft that the Yankees were all driven from their guns.
"Three more gunboats at length came up to their relief, and opened fiercely on our little party, who courageously held their ground and fought them, till the approach of night and scarcity of ammunition admonished us to retire beyond the range of the enemy's guns.
"We had three men slightly wounded, and one howitzer was somewhat damaged by a shell.
"The enemy's loss has not been ascertained, but it must have been considerable, as their wooden gunboat was aground and under the fire of our artillery for some three hours, and it was well ascertained that every man had to seek shelter below from the deadly aim of our sharpshooters.
"Hit him again, Colonel W."
Mr. Milton Webster, Executive Officer of the Valley City, says of this "brush" with the Confederates:
"It is a pity about that 'deadly aim,' for we did not have a man injured, and one of the men and myself were over the stern exposed to their guns, and though their shot fell all around us, we were not struck. A pretty correct account of the time of the action and position of the Valley City is given, but there was not a man left his station during the action, although their sharpshooters fired at and left marks of their bullets all round our port-holes, and the gangway to which we afterwards shifted a gun to bear on them.
"The three other boats did not even get within range of the enemy, on account of drawing too much water. They, however, fired one shot at long range, after the enemy had retired, and this shot was made merely to get the range of the enemy in case another attack should be made on the Valley City before she got afloat. One of the two boats they speak of was a tug-boat that went with the Valley City up the river to assist her to get afloat in case she got aground, and was manned by two officers—one an ensign, the other an engineer—and five men. The tug-boat was not armed.
"It is very singular that they, in their account of the brush, should italicize the word wooden, as much as to say we had an iron-clad.
"I saved one of their shells that lit on the deck of the Valley City, which fortunately did not explode. If the Valley City had been afloat, she would have silenced their batteries sooner."
On Saturday, October 1, at 4 o'clock a.m., the Valley City got under weigh, and steamed to Edenton. Captain J. A. J. Brooks, Acting Master James G. Green, J. W. Sands and myself went ashore, and visited Mr. Samuel B.'s, and spent the time very pleasantly. At 4 o'clock p.m. we returned to the Valley City, and got under weigh, and proceeded to our old station at the mouth of the Roanoke river. On the 3d, the U.S. steamers Commodore Hull and Tacony and the tug Belle came up and anchored near us. On the 6th, I was ordered aboard the Otsego, to hold a medical survey on one of the officers of that vessel, for the purpose of sending him to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Norfolk. When I returned aboard the Valley City, I found a refugee aboard, suffering from yellow fever. She was taken to Edenton aboard the Valley City, where she died of the disease. We called on Mr. Samuel B.'s family. At 5-1/2 o'clock p.m. we got under weigh, and proceeded towards Roanoke Island. At 12 p.m. we anchored. Early in the morning of the 7th, we steamed to off Roanoke Island, where we arrived at 8 o'clock a.m. On the 8th there was a breeze from the northwest, and the day was clear and beautiful. At 2 o'clock p.m., Paymaster J. W. Sands, Acting Master's mate John Maddock, and myself, with six men, sailed in a small boat to Roanoke Island. There was a heavy sea, and the wind was blowing quite a gale. We landed at Roanoke Island, but did not remain long ashore before we took the boat for the purpose of sailing back to the Valley City. We did not succeed. We then took the sails down, and the men rowed us to the vessel.
On the 9th, at 6 o'clock a.m., we got under weigh, and steamed up to the mouth of the Alligator river, where we arrived at 9 o'clock a.m. The Shamrock was lying close by. The weather was cold. At 1:30 o'clock p.m., the Valley City proceeded up the Alligator river. At 7 p.m. we anchored off Newport News. On the 10th, at 4 a.m., two armed boats' crews were sent ashore on a reconnoitering expedition, but returned at 1 p.m. without accomplishing anything. At 2 p.m. the Valley City got under weigh, and proceeded down Alligator river, and anchored at 3 p.m. The weather is cool, and there was frost last night.
Thursday, October 11th, at 5 a.m., the launches were ordered up Frying-pan river. At 10 a.m. I went with Captain J. A. J. Brooks in pursuit of the launches, and after rowing about six miles we came in sight of them. At 2-1/2 p.m. we returned with the launches. At 4 p.m. the Valley City weighed anchor, and at 8 p.m. anchored in Albemarle Sound. On the 12th, at 6 a.m., we got under weigh, and arrived at the fleet at 8 a.m. At 9 a.m. we got under weigh, and at 10 a.m. arrived at the mouth of Roanoke river. The ram was expected to come out to-day. On the 15th, at 11-1/2 a.m., the Valley City got under weigh, and arrived off Edenton at 11-1/2 o'clock p.m. Captain J. A. J. Brooks, Paymaster J. W. Sands, and Acting Master James G. Green, went ashore. At 5 p.m. they returned, and the Valley City got under weigh, and proceeded to the mouth of Roanoke river. The weather is cool and beautiful. At 10 a.m. of the 20th, I went aboard the Commodore Hull. At 12 m., returned aboard the Valley City. At 9-1/2 p.m., the Valley City steamed to off Edenton, to protect the tug Belle, which had got hard and fast aground during the day. On the 21st I went ashore at Edenton, and spent a pleasant time. I returned to the Valley City, when she proceeded to off Roanoke Island, where we arrived on the 22d at 8 o'clock a.m. At 9 o'clock a.m., Captain J. A. J. Brooks, Acting Assistant Paymaster J. W. Sands and I went ashore, and made the acquaintance of Dr. Walton, of the 103d Pennsylvania regiment, and Colonel Wardrobe, Commandant of Roanoke Island. I spent a very pleasant time in company with these gentlemen. In the evening I became acquainted with Lieutenant Wm. B. Cushing, U.S. Navy. I will quote a war reminiscence which was published in the Philadelphia Weekly Times of June 7, 1879:
"CUSHING, THE BRAVE.
"Reminiscence of His Heroic Adventure in Albemarle Sound: By J. M. Batten, M.D., late U.S.N.
"It was on the evening of October 22d, 1864, I first met Captain Wm. B. Cushing. I was then attached to the United States steamer Valley City, Captain J. A. J. Brooks commanding. The vessel was anchored about a mile west of Roanoke Island, in Pamlico Sound. Captain J. A. J. Brooks, Paymaster J. W. Sands and myself, left the vessel in the morning, the wind blowing a strong breeze from the west, and arrived at Roanoke Island. The wind continuing to blow almost a hurricane, we attempted to return to the vessel in the evening, but failed; consequently we were compelled to remain on Roanoke Island all night. As I said, it was on this evening I first met Captain Wm. B. Cushing. He then was a young man of twenty-one or twenty-two years of age, wore long, light hair falling around his neck, and was rather reserved in his manners. Captain Cushing, Captain Brooks, Paymaster Sands and myself, occupied a room together that night. The next morning when I awoke, I found that Captain Cushing had gone. Upon making inquiry about him, I learned he had departed at 4 a.m. of the 23d, in his torpedo launch, a boat he had constructed at the Navy Yard, Brooklyn, for a certain purpose, and had proceeded this far on his expedition with the steam launch.
"In referring to my diary, I find that on Friday, October 28, at 5:30 a.m., the Valley City weighed anchor and proceeded toward the fleet. The weather was clear but windy. We arrived at the fleet at 6 p.m. The fleet was composed of twelve double-ender side-wheel vessels, manned, armed and equipped, and commanded by Commodore Wm. H. Macomb, and was anchored about six miles from the mouth of Roanoke river, in Albemarle Sound, and fourteen miles from Plymouth, where the Albemarle was stationed. My diary states that at 7 p.m. we got under weigh, and proceeded to the mouth of Roanoke river, where we arrived at 8:30 p.m. At 11 p.m. we were hailed by a voice at the mouth of Roanoke river: "Boat ahoy! send a boat!" A boat was sent, and the man who had left us so early in the morning of the 23d of October—Captain William B. Cushing—was brought on board the Valley City in his stocking feet, with only a coarse flannel shirt and pantaloons to cover him. He was wet, cold, tired, hungry and prostrated.
"My diary states that after leaving us on the morning of the 23d of October he steamed to the fleet in his torpedo launch, having received from the crews of the fleet twelve volunteer men to accompany him. On the evening of October 27th he proceeded with his small torpedo launch, with a torpedo rigged on her bow, up the Roanoke river. At 3:15 a.m., October 28th, exploded torpedo under the ram Albemarle and sunk her. He (Captain Cushing) and another man were the only ones saved from drowning or capture. Captain Cushing, after blowing up the ram, jumped into the river, swam ashore, lay in the swamps near Plymouth till night, then proceeded through the swamps till he came to a creek, where he captured a skiff belonging to a Confederate picket, and paddled himself to the Valley City. The torpedo boat was sunk, and about a dozen men were either drowned or captured. In the meantime, the fleet had moved up to the mouth of Roanoke river. Upon learning that Captain Cushing was on board the Valley City, Commodore Macomb ordered the riggings of the fleet to be manned, and at the general signal to give Captain Cushing three hearty good cheers; and such cheering—it made those swamps, forests and waters resound with the voices of glad-hearted men.
"On the following day, October 29th, at 11 o'clock a.m., the fleet weighed anchor with every man at his post, and proceeded up Roanoke river, the Valley City leading, for the purpose of confirming the report of Captain Cushing that the Albemarle ram was sunk; and, if true, capturing Plymouth. This is a small town situated on the right bank of the Roanoke river, eight miles from its mouth, surrounded by swamps and large cypress trees as far as the eye can reach. One mile above Plymouth the waters of the Roanoke river divide, one forming the Cashie river, the other the Roanoke river. At about two thirds of the distance from the mouth of the Roanoke river to Plymouth, the Cashie river and the Roanoke river are connected by what is called Middle river, so that these rivers in their course at these points formed a figure resembling the capital letter A, the left line the Roanoke river, the right line the Cashie river, and the horizontal line the Middle river.
"The fleet steamed up Roanoke river. The day was beautiful, the birds were singing in the branches of the trees, the leaves of which were gently rustling, and the water could be heard dripping from the wheels of the fleet as they made their slow revolutions. All else was quiet. No man said a word. This was not strange, for we believed the river to be full of torpedoes and its banks lined with sharpshooters. We ascended further and further up the river till we came to Middle river, when the Valley City steamed through Middle and up the Cashie river. The remainder of the fleet steamed on up Roanoke river.
"After arriving at a point in the Cashie river opposite Plymouth, we heard heavy firing by the fleet, which continued an hour, and then suddenly ceased. We thought, of course, that Plymouth had been captured. At this point we picked up the other man who was with the expedition, and who escaped. The Valley City continued to ascend the Cashie river, and after encountering much difficulty on account of the narrowness and crookedness of the river, we arrived at the Roanoke river above Plymouth, where we could see the town, but we could see no fleet nor American flag. We concluded then that the Albemarle had not been sunk, but had driven the fleet back into the Sound. Of course, it was not a very happy feeling to fear the ram might prevent our retreat.
"After some delay, and an exchange of shot with the enemy at Plymouth, we descended the Cashie river to Albemarle Sound, where we arrived at 8 p.m., and found the fleet at the mouth of Roanoke river. They had ascended the Roanoke river till they came to some obstruction which placed them at a disadvantage to the enemy; they then descended the river.
"Commodore Macomb was now convinced that the ram Albemarle was sunk. The Valley City was now detached to convey Captain Cushing to Fortress Monroe. We weighed anchor at 12:30 a.m., October 30th, and proceeded through Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, and into the Atlantic Ocean, and arrived at Fortress Monroe at 7 a.m., November 1. A fleet of about one hundred vessels was stationed there, preparatory to making an onslaught on Wilmington. Captain Wm. B. Cushing was received on board the flagship with a salute of twenty-one guns, and, of course, was almost worshiped for his heroic achievement. It was at Fortress Monroe I first saw the United States steamer Kearsarge, of Commodore Winslow and Alabama fame. My attention was directed to her by hearing an old sailor say, 'Does she not sit like a duck on water?' And truly she did.
"Captain Cushing is now dead. He certainly was one of the bravest men that ever trod the decks of a man-of-war. Peace to his ashes! Commodore Macomb is also dead; he died in your city of Brotherly Love, while taking a bath. We all loved him. God bless him."
Published in the New York Herald, Thursday, November 3, 1864.
THE RAM ALBEMARLE.
DESTRUCTION OF THE FAMOUS REBEL IRON-CLAD—THE RAM SUNK BY A TORPEDO—DESTRUCTION OF THE TORPEDO BOAT—TERRIBLE MUSKETRY FIRE—ESCAPE OF LIEUTENANT CUSHING—HIS ADVENTURES IN THE SWAMP—FULL AND INTERESTING DETAILS OF HIS BRILLIANT ACHIEVEMENT—THE CASUALTIES—ETC., ETC., ETC.
LIEUTENANT CUSHING'S OFFICIAL REPORT.
WASHINGTON, November 2, 1864.
Admiral Porter has communicated to the Secretary of the Navy the following interesting particulars from Lieutenant Cushing, in regard to the sinking of the rebel ram Albemarle:
"ALBEMARLE SOUND, October 30, 1864.
"Sir: I have the honor to report that the rebel ram Albemarle is at the bottom of Roanoke river.
"On the night of the 27th, having prepared my steam launch, I proceeded towards Plymouth with thirteen officers and men, partly volunteers from the squadron.
"The distance from the mouth of the river to the ram was about eight miles, the stream averaging in width some two hundred yards, and lined with the enemy's pickets.
"A mile below the town was the wreck of the Southfield, surrounded by some schooners, and it was understood that a gun was mounted there to command the bend. I therefore took one of the Shamrock's cutters in tow, with orders to cast off and board at that point in case we were hailed.
"Our boat succeeded in passing the pickets, and even the Southfield within twenty yards, without discovery, and we were not hailed until by the lookouts on the ram.
"The cutter was then cut off and ordered below, while we made for our enemy under a full head of steam. The rebels sprang their rattle, rang the bell and commenced firing, at the same time repeating their hail, and seeming much confused.
"The light of the fire ashore showed me the iron-clad made fast to the wharf, with logs around her, about thirty feet from her side. Passing her closely, we made a complete circle, so as to strike her fairly, and went into her bows on.
"By this time the enemy's fire was very severe, but a dose of canister at short range seemed to moderate their zeal and disturb their aim.
"Paymaster Swann, of the Otsego, was wounded near me, but how many more I know not. Three bullets struck my clothing, and the air seemed full of them.
"In a moment we had struck the logs just abreast of the quarter post, breaking them in some feet, our bows resting on them. The torpedo boom was then lowered, and by a vigorous pull I succeeded in diving the torpedo under the over-hang and exploding it.
"At the same time the Albemarle's guns were fired. A shot seemed to go crashing through my boat, and a dense mass of water rolled in from the torpedo, filling the launch, and completely disabling her.
"The enemy then continued their fire at fifteen feet range, and demanded our surrender, which I twice refused, ordering the men to save themselves, and removing my overcoat and shoes. Springing into the river, I swam with others into the middle of the stream, the rebels failing to hit us.
"The most of our party were captured; some were drowned, and only one escaped besides myself, and he in another direction.
"Acting Master's mate, Woodman, of the Commodore Hull, met me in the water half a mile below the town, and I assisted him as best I could, but failed to get him ashore. Completely exhausted, I managed to reach the shore, but was too weak to crawl out of the water until just at daylight, when I managed to creep into the swamp close to the fort.
"While hiding close to the path, the Albemarle's officers passed, and I judged from their conversation that the ram was destroyed. Some hours traveling in the swamp served to bring me out well below the town, when I sent a negro in to gain information, and found that the ram was truly sunk. Proceeding through another swamp, I came to a creek, and captured a skiff belonging to a picket of the enemy, and with this, by eleven o'clock the next night, I made my way out to the Valley City.
"Acting Master's mate, William L. Howorth, of the Monticello, showed as usual conspicuous bravery. He is the same officer who has been with me twice in Wilmington Harbor. I trust he may be promoted when exchanged, as well as Acting Third Assistant Engineer Stolsbury, who, being for the first time under fire, handled his engine promptly and with coolness. All the officers and men behaved in the most gallant manner.
"The cutter of the Shamrock boarded the Southfield, but found no guns there. Four prisoners were taken there. The ram is now completely submerged, and the enemy have sunk three schooners in the river to obstruct the passage of our ships.
"I desire to call the attention of the Admiral and department to the spirit manifested by the sailors on the ships in these sounds. But few hands were wanted, but all hands were eager to go into the action, offering their chosen shipmates a month's pay to resign in their favor.
"I am sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
"W. B. CUSHING, U.S.N.
"Rear Admiral D. D. Porter, Commanding the North Atlantic Squadron."
"The name of the man who escaped was William Hoffman, seaman on the Chicopee. He did his duty well, and deserves a medal of honor.
"WM. B. CUSHING, U.S.N."
THE HERALD DESPATCHES.
[Mr. Galen H. Osborn's Despatch]
"FORTRESS MONROE, VA., November 1, 1864.
"The United States steamer Valley City arrived at Hampton Roads from the blockading squadron of the Sounds of North Carolina, this morning. She brings the glorious tidings of the destruction of the rebel iron-clad ram Albemarle. The terror of the Sounds is at the bottom of Roanoke river. She was blown up by a torpedo early on the morning of the 28th ultimo; and her destruction is due to the personal heroism and reckless daring of Lieut. W. B. Cushing, of the Navy. All the particulars I have been able to collect concerning this feat, which stands prominently forth as one of the most gallant of the war, I hasten to forward for the information of the Herald's readers.
"On the night of Thursday, October 27, Lieutenant Cushing, who has on several previous occasions especially distinguished himself, manned a steam-launch with a party of thirteen officers and men, mostly volunteers, and proceeded, under cover of the darkness, up the river towards Plymouth. Eight miles from the mouth of the stream the Albemarle lay, surrounded by a pen of logs and timber, established to prevent her destruction by torpedoes.
"As he approached this framework, Lieut. Cushing was discovered by the officers of the ram, who hailed him. He gave no answer, the enemy meantime maintaining against him a severe and galling fire, to which he replied effectively with frequent doses of canister. Finding that he could not approach the ram as he desired, a complete circle was made by the Lieutenant, and the launch was again brought fairly against the "crib," bows on, pushing back a portion of it, and leaving the bows of the launch resting on the broken timbers.
"At this moment, by a most vigorous effort, Lieut. Cushing succeeded in driving a torpedo under the over-hang of the ram, and exploded it. Simultaneously with the explosion, one of the Albemarle's guns was fired, and the shot went crashing through the launch. At the same instant a dense volume of water from the torpedo came rushing into the launch, utterly disabling her.
"Lieut. Cushing then ordered his men to save themselves. He himself threw off his coat and shoes and sprang into the water. Several of his men were captured and some were drowned, but I have not been able to ascertain his exact loss. Lieut. Cushing, taking to the swamp, managed to secrete himself from the enemy's pickets, and brought up alongside of the steamer Valley City at about 11 o'clock the next night, in a small skiff which he discovered and appropriated on his way.
"The steamer Valley City brought Lieutenant Cushing as a passenger, and he reported in person to the Admiral the accomplishment of the daring mission he was specially selected to perform. Though much fatigued by the severities of his recent task, he is yet in good health and spirits, and is at this moment the hero of the squadron. He is the same officer that went to Smithville and captured General Whiting's chief of staff, while a regiment of troops was quartered in the buildings on the opposite side of the way. It was he who took a small boat up the Wilmington river, past the forts and batteries, landed and captured a rebel mail, staid three days in the enemy's country, and finally came away in safety with his trophies. But this last act of his stamps him as one of the most daring men in the service. To attack an iron-clad like the Albemarle, with a launch and a baker's dozen of men, would seem the height of reckless folly; but to have succeeded in such an enterprise, is to have earned a life lease of glory.
"In the affair, paymaster Swann, of the Otsego, is known to have been wounded, and master's mate Howarth, of the Monticello, captured. Lieut. Cushing speaks very highly of the conduct of all who were with him.
"The destruction of the ram was not definitely known until the following day, the 29th, when negroes sent to gain information returned with the glorious news. Reports from other quarters corroborated this intelligence, and finally a reconnoissance by the Valley City revealed the Albemarle resting on the bottom, with only her smoke-stack visible above the water.
"The yellow fever is said not to have entirely disappeared from Newbern, although the succession of sharp frosts in that vicinity has somewhat dispelled it. The steamer John Farron left for that port yesterday, taking an immense mail, and a number of officers who have been congregating here for some time, waiting for the sickly season to terminate."
[Mr. Oscar G. Sawyer's Despatch]
"HAMPTON ROADS, VA., NOVEMBER 1, 1864.
"The most audacious, brilliant and successful affair of the war, occurred in the waters of North Carolina last week, in which, after the briefest contest, but one as it will prove of the best results, the rebel iron-clad ram Albemarle was effectually destroyed and sent to the bottom by a torpedo discharged by Lieutenant William B. Cushing, of the Navy. The great mailed monster that has so long excited the apprehensions of the Navy Department, and held in the Sound a force greatly in excess of that which was usually stationed there, now lies quietly at the bottom of the Roanoke river, a subject of curious contemplation and dread to the fish that frequent these waters. In the squadron every one feels a sense of relief in realizing the fact that the Albemarle is no longer afloat, or capable of doing further damage; for it is no secret that she was one of the toughest customers for wooden vessels to confront that has yet floated. Her raid on the flotilla, on the 5th of last May, proved that fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. She then encountered and fought to great advantage three heavily armed double-enders—the Sassacus, Mattabessett and Wyalusing—and retired, after a long contest, but slightly damaged. While she floated, no post held by us and accessible to her was safe. She could go her way as she chose, in spite of the efforts of our wooden vessels, unless some accident occurred to her which should prevent her steaming. None of the light-draft monitors were ready to confront her, and she threatened to clear our forces out of the State of North Carolina.
"Such was the state of affairs subsequent to the 5th of May. Our squadron in Albemarle Sound had been largely increased by the addition of several light draught, heavily-armed vessels; but, even with these, it was somewhat doubtful whether the possession of the Sound was insured us; so it was determined to get rid of the monster in some more expeditious and certain way.
"Lieutenant William B. Cushing, a young officer of great bravery, coolness and resource, submitted a project to Admiral Lee, in June last, by which he hoped, if successfully carried out, to rid the Sound of the Albemarle, and insure us its possession. Admiral Lee entered warmly into the scheme, as did the Navy Department, which immediately detached Lieutenant Cushing from the Monticello, and placed him on special duty, at the same time giving him every facility to carry out the object in view.
"Lieutenant Cushing at once proceeded to New York, and in conjunction with Admiral Gregory, Captain Boggs, and Chief Engineer Wm. W. W. Wood, fitted one of the new steam picket boats, which is about the size of a frigate launch, with a torpedo arrangement, and then took her down into the Sound for duty. Having made several reconnoissances up the Roanoke river, which gave him some valuable information, and having perfected his arrangements, on the night of the 27th ultimo he got under way from the squadron off the mouth of the river, and steamed boldly up stream. In the steam launch were Lieutenant Cushing, Paymaster T. H. Swann, a volunteer from the Otsego, Master's Mate W. L. Howorth, of the gunboat Monticello, and Third Assistant Engineer Stolsbury, in charge of the engine, with a crew of ten men, nearly all of whom volunteered for the service. An armed cutter of the Shamrock, with an officer and ten men, was towed along for the purpose of attending to some of the minor details of the work. It was known that the enemy had pickets along the river banks, and on the wreck of the gunboat Southfield sunk by the Albemarle last spring, and which lay about a mile below the town of Plymouth. The pickets, who were in the habit of stationing themselves on the hurricane deck of the Southfield—the only portion of the wreck above water—were to be turned over to the care of the Shamrock's cutter when the proper time came, whilst those along the river were to be passed in silence, and without giving alarm, if possible.
"At about midnight the little picket-boat entered the narrow river, and steamed silently and cautiously up without giving the least alarm. The Southfield and three schooners alongside of her, engaged in raising her up, were passed at a short distance—almost within biscuit-toss—without challenge or hail. It was not till Lieutenant Cushing reached within pistol-shot of the Albemarle, which lay alongside of the dock at Plymouth, that he was hailed, and then in an uncertain sort of way, as though the lookouts doubted the accuracy of their vision. He made no reply, but continued to press towards the rebel monster, and was for the second time hailed. He paid no attention to the challenge, but kept straight on his way, first detaching the Shamrock's cutter, to go below and secure the rebel pickets on the Southfield.
"In another instant, as he closed in on the ram Albemarle, the rebel Captain Walley, in a very dignified, pompous, studied manner, shouted, 'What boat is that?' The reply was an invitation for him to go to ——! Thereupon arose a terrible clamor. The rattle was vigorously sprung, the bells on the ship were sharply rung, and hands were called to quarters, evidently in great consternation and some confusion. A musketry fire was immediately opened on the torpedo-boat, and a charge of canister was fired, injuring some of the crew. Along the dock to which the Albemarle was tied, were a large number of soldiers, evidently stationed there to guard against a landing of our force after a surprise; and in front of their lines blazed cheerily up a number of their camp fires, which threw a strong light on the rebel vessel and the bosom of the river. By the aid of this glare Lieutenant Cushing discovered the raft of floating timbers which surrounded the ram on the accessible sides, to guard against the approach of rams and torpedoes; and by the aid of the same light he plainly saw the large body of soldiers thronging to the wharf and blazing away at his boat. To quiet these fellows, he brought the bow of his boat around a little, and discharged a heavy stand of canister into them from his twelve-pounder howitzer mounted at the bow, and sent them flying. Making a complete circle under a scorching musketry fire, at less than thirty yards, he came around, bow on, at full steam, and struck the floating guard of timbers, pressing them towards the hull of the ram. His boat soon lost headway, and came to a standstill, refusing to back off or move ahead. The moment for decisive action had now arrived. The enemy fired muskets and pistols almost in his face, from the ports of the ram, and from the hundred small arms on shore. Several of his men were injured, and Paymaster Swann had fallen severely wounded. The officers and crew of the Albemarle cried out: 'Now we've got him! Surrender! surrender! or we will blow you to pieces!' The case looked desperate, indeed; but Lieutenant Cushing was as cool and determined at that moment as one could be under the most agreeable circumstances. He knew that the decisive moment had come, and he did not allow it to glide from his hands. He seized the lanyard to the torpedo and the line of the spar, and crowding the spar until he brought the torpedo under the over-hang of the Albemarle, he detached it by one effort, and the next second he pulled the lanyard of the torpedo, and exploded it under the vessel on her port side, just below the port-hole of the two-hundred-pounder Brooke's rifle, which at that moment was discharged at the boat. An immense volume of water was thrown out by the explosion of the torpedo, almost drowning all in the steam-launch; and to add to the peril of the moment, the heavy shell from the enemy's gun had gone through the bottom of the boat, knocking the splinters about in a terrible style. She at once began to sink in the most rapid manner, and Lieutenant Cushing ordered all hands to save themselves as best they might. He divested himself of his coat and shoes, and plunged into the river, followed by those of his men who were able to do so. All struck for the middle of the river under a hot fire of musketry, the balls perforating their clothing and striking all about them, and in two or three instances, it is feared, so badly wounding the swimmers that they sunk before boats from shore could reach them. Lieutenant Cushing heard the rebels take to boats and push after the survivors, demanding their surrender. Many gave up, but two of his seamen were drowned near by him—whether from wounds received or exhaustion, he could not state. Paymaster Swann was wounded and is a prisoner; but how many others fell into the rebel hands has not as yet been ascertained. Lieutenant Cushing swam down the river half a mile, until, exhausted and chilled by the cold water, he was compelled to struggle to the shore, which he reached about daybreak. After lying in the weeds along the river bank for some time, he recovered his strength sufficiently to crawl into the swamp further, till daylight found him lying in the swamp grass, between two paths, and in speaking distance of the enemy's fort. While lying there but partially screened by the low sedge, he saw rebel officers and men walk by, and heard their conversation, which was entirely devoted to the affair of the morning. From their remarks he learned that the torpedo had done its work effectively and thoroughly, and that his great object was accomplished. He did not learn any of the details of the sinking, but heard it stated that the ram had gone down by her dock, and was a complete loss. He also learned of the capture of the paymaster and some others of his crew from the same source.
"Finding that there was great danger of his detection if he remained in his exposed position all day, lying within a few yards of two frequented paths, and so near the river, he began to move slowly away towards the swamp. He was obliged to move cautiously, so he lay on his back, and by pushing his heels into the ground, he slowly pushed himself along, and after a long and exhausting effort, passed over the sixty yards of ground that lay between him and better cover. Once concealed, he laid up for the day and rested himself. He was fortunate enough before midnight to get hold of a negro, whom he sent into town to learn the extent of his success. The negro obeyed his instructions, and reported that the Albemarle was out of sight—'clar gone sunk.'
"At night, Lieutenant Cushing struck through the swamp, and after the greatest and most exhausting toil and pain—as he was in his stocking-feet, and continually plunging over roots, briers, logs, oyster-shells, and lacerating his flesh severely—he reached a point four miles below the town, where he discovered a skiff used by a picket. Watching his chance, he seized this, and, with a single paddle, paddled off to the squadron, four miles distant, which he reached in safety. Only one besides himself—William Holton, a sailor on the Chicopee, who had volunteered on the occasion—returned to the squadron. He was picked up by the Valley City, the following day, nearly exhausted.
"Lieutenant Cushing immediately came here on the special despatch-boat Valley City, and reported to Admiral D. D. Porter. To-night he will go to Washington and report to the Department. He is worn out and in need of rest, which we hope he will be permitted to enjoy.
"This last brave and gallant action of his is likely to gain him an advance of one grade in his rank, and it will also, if the law is rightly construed, be a great financial success, which is somewhat more substantial. His share of the prize-money from the Albemarle, if she is fairly placed at a valuation, would be in the neighborhood of fifty thousand dollars, an acceptable sum to any one. Lieutenant Cushing has been ordered to the command of the gun-boat Monticello, which will await him until his return from a short leave.
"The destruction of the Albemarle will release the large squadron of powerful light-draught vessels which have, since her debut last May, been maintained in the Sound. They can go elsewhere now.
"On a reconnoissance by the Valley City, to within a mile of Plymouth, it was discovered that the enemy had sunk the schooners which were engaged in attempting to raise the Southfield, directly across the channel, thus temporarily blockading the river. Although the town was in sight, not a trace could be seen of the rebel ram; and it is proved in other ways, beyond a doubt, that she lies in thirty feet of water, from which it will be impossible to raise her again.
"Captain Walley, who had assumed command of the ship only three weeks ago—relieving Captain Cook, who commanded her in the action of May last—began his duties in a very bombastic style. He mustered his officers and men, and assured them that in three weeks he could again attack the enemy and sink and scatter his fleet, and then he would re-take Newbern and drive the Yankees from every foot of North Carolina soil. With the Albemarle and their aid, with the co-operation of the gallant army, he would, before the new year, regenerate the state, and leave not a trace of a Yankee within its borders.
"It is not improbable that he might have effected a good deal of damage, and perhaps have endangered for the time being our tenure of Newbern and Roanoke Island, as he was nearly ready for his raid. Thanks, however, to the gallant Cushing and his brave comrades, through whose coolness, courage, and skill the coup de main was so admirably administered to the mailed monster, all danger has passed, and another destructive blow has been given to the declining rebel navy.
"A meed of credit and praise should be awarded to Chief Engineer William W. W. Wood, of the navy, to whose inventive abilities and experience in submarine warfare we owe the contrivance of the torpedo and the successful arrangement by which it is handled and exploded. The one fired by Lieutenant Cushing contained but fifty pounds of powder; but it did its work to a charm. There was no chance of its failing in his hands. The entire arrangement is exceedingly ingenious, and it would be manifestly improper to describe at this time.
"The cutters of the Shamrock, we omitted to mention, captured four rebel soldiers on picket on the Southfield, and brought them along safely to the squadron.
"The Albemarle was an iron-clad vessel, similar in general features to the Merrimac and Tennessee, but much stronger. It is said her iron mail was twelve inches in thickness, and backed by several feet of solid timber. She was armed with two two-hundred pound Brooke's rifles, and was perfectly shot-proof. Her weak point proved to be below. She could have been captured only by ramming, and for that purpose much heavier vessels were needed than any that could be got into the Sound. The torpedo was the only means of destroying her, and that proved successful when tried.
"The Albemarle is probably the last formidable vessel that the rebels have in the inland waters of North Carolina, and they will hardly have an opportunity of building more."
"THE HERO OF THE ALBEMARLE IN WASHINGTON.
"WASHINGTON, NOV. 2, 1864.
"Lieutenant Cushing arrived here to-day, bringing with him the official report of the particulars attending his destruction of the rebel ram Albemarle. This act relieves all the sounds of North Carolina from floating enemies, and thus leaves them free to the operations of our fleet. Lieutenant Cushing is a citizen of, and was appointed from, the State of New York. He is satisfied that a large number of lives must have been lost by the blowing up, as the Albemarle's guns were all manned. The Secretary of the Navy will recommend to Congress a vote of thanks, and he will be promoted to a Lieutenant Commander."
After landing Captain Wm. B. Cushing aboard the flag-ship of the fleet, the Valley City the same day, at 2-1/4 p.m., weighed anchor, and proceeded to Norfolk, Va., and from thence to the United States Navy Yard at Gosport, Va., and was put there on the dry dock for repairs. After the repairs of the Valley City were finished, on Sunday, November 27, at 4-1/2 p.m., we got under weigh, and arrived at Hampton Roads, Va., at 6-1/2 o'clock p.m. On Monday, November 28th, at 11-1/2 o'clock, a.m., we weighed anchor, and arrived at Hatteras Inlet at 9-1/2 o'clock a.m., Tuesday, November 29. At 2 o'clock a.m., on Wednesday, November 30, the Valley City arrived at Plymouth, and at 3-1/2 o'clock of the same morning the Valley City was ordered to Newbern: we weighed anchor and proceeded towards Newbern. We arrived at Roanoke Island at 11-1/2 o'clock a.m. Our orders were then countermanded, and at 2 p.m. the Valley City steamed towards Plymouth, where we arrived at 10. p.m.
During the month of November, 1864, whilst the Valley City was absent at Norfolk, the remainder of the fleet, commanded by Commander Wm. H. Macomb, steamed up the Roanoke river, then across through Middle river, and then up the Cashie river to Roanoke river, down which it steamed and made an attack on Plymouth, which, after a hot action, fell into the hands of the Federals. The ram Albemarle was soon afterwards raised by the United States government.
On Thursday, December 1, I went ashore at Plymouth, and observed the ram Albemarle as she lay at the bottom of the river. At 12:15 p.m., we left Plymouth, and arrived at off Edenton at 2 p.m., and at 4 p.m., the Valley City weighed anchor for Roanoke Island, where we arrived at 8 o'clock, a.m., December 2, and at 9-1/2 o'clock p.m. the Valley City left Roanoke Island, arrived at Newbern at 1 o'clock p.m., Saturday, December 3d; Sunday, December 4, I attended church at Newbern.
Monday, December 5, I visited the graves of Captain Charles W. Flusser and Acting Assistant-Surgeon George W. Wilson. The latter died after two hours' sickness, of yellow fever. He was stationed, at the time, on the United States steamer Hetzel, off Newbern, and was the surgeon of that vessel when he contracted the disease. He was a young man, and was expecting soon to return North and visit his aged parents, and also a betrothed young lady. They waited, but he never came.
On Tuesday, December 6th, at 4 o'clock p.m., we left Newbern, with Commander W. H. Macomb and his son on board, and on Wednesday, December 7, at 8-1/2 o'clock a.m., we arrived off Roanoke Island. The Valley City left Roanoke Island at 12 o'clock m., and arrived at Plymouth at 10 p.m. On Thursday, December 8, at 12-1/2 o'clock p.m., we left Plymouth and arrived at Edenton at 2-1/2 o'clock p.m. We left Edenton at 8 o'clock p.m., and anchored at 10 o'clock p.m., at the mouth of the Roanoke river, where the U.S. steamer Ceres and a schooner were anchored. On Friday, December 9, at 9 o'clock a.m., the Valley City weighed anchor and proceeded to Plymouth, where she arrived at 10 o'clock a.m.
HOW A FLEET WENT UP THE ROANOKE AND CAME DOWN AGAIN.
In the fall of 1864, when General U.S. Grant was shortening his lines around Petersburg, it was his policy to have every man, both in the army and navy, employed, in order to draw off as many as possible from General Lee's forces at Petersburg. Accordingly, for the purpose of capturing Rainbow Bluff, the fleet composed of the United States steamers Wyalusing, Otsego, General Berry, Bazeley, Valley City, Chicopee, tug Belle, and the picket launch No. 5, weighed anchor at 5 p.m., December 9, 1864, and proceeded up the Roanoke river, with Commander W. H. Macomb on board the Wyalusing leading, the Valley City second, and the Otsego third, followed by the Chicopee, Bazeley, General Berry, tug Belle, and the steam launch No. 5.
Commander Macomb was informed by what he supposed was reliable authority that there were no torpedoes in the river from Plymouth to above Jamesville, twelve miles up the river. A fortunate occurrence for the Valley City took place on our passage to Jamesville. The engine of the Valley City gave out, and the engineer slowed up and repaired the damage, the Otsego in the meantime passing on ahead. By this circumstance the Valley City became third, and the Otsego second. We arrived off Jamesville about 9 p.m. The Wyalusing signaled the fleet to come to anchor, and just as the fleet was slowing up previously to anchoring, we heard a loud report, the concussion of which shook the Valley City, which was a short distance off, as if there were an earthquake in the locality. Presently it was reported that the Otsego was lost, two torpedoes, one before and the other aft, striking her simultaneously, and sinking her to the bottom of the river. From some fortunate occurrence, the Wyalusing had passed safely over the place where the Otsego was blown up.