Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/217
The Story of the Arkansas. 207
hours before General Breckinridge had arranged to make his attacks. The short time allowed to arrive at the rendezvous made it impera- tive that the vessel should be driven up to her best speed. This resulted in the frequent disarrangements of the machinery and con- sequent stoppages to key up and make repairs. Every delay re- quired more speed thereafter in order to meet our appointment. Another matter operated against us. We had been compelled to leave behind, in the hospital, our chief engineer, George W. City, who was worn out and broken down by excessive watching and anxiety. His care and nursing had kept the machinery in order up to the time of leaving. We soon began to feel his loss. The en- gineer in charge, a volunteer from the army, had recently joined us, and though a young man'*' of pluck and gallantry, and possessed of great will and determination to make the engines work, yet he was unequal to the task. He had never had anything to do with a screw vessel or short-stroke engines, and, being zealous for the good re- pute of his department, drove the machinery beyond its powers of endurance.
The reader may wonder why the machinery of a vessel of so much importance should have been entrusted to a strange and inexpe- rienced person, and ask for an explanation. Were there not other engineers than Mr. City in the navy, and, if so, where were they ? There were dozens of engineers of long experience and high standing at that time in the navy, most of whom were idle at Richmond and other stations. At or near the mouth of Red river, the engines had grown so contrary and required to be hammered so much that Stevens deemed it his duty to call a council of war to determine whether it was proper to proceed or return. The en- gineer was summoned and gave it as his opinion that the machinery would hold out, and upon that statement we determined to go ahead. A few miles below Port Hudson he demanded a stoppage to key up and make all things secure before going into action. We landed at the right bank of the river, and I was dispatched with Bacot to a house near by to get information. After a deal of trouble we gained admittance and learned that the naval force of the enemy at Baton Rouge consisted of our particular enemy, the Essex, and one or two small sea-going wooden gunboats. This was very satis- factory. We learned, also, that Breckinridge was to attack at daylight ; that his movements had been known for several days
- I have forgotten his name.