Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/367

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359
Reminiscences of the Confederate States Navy.

force afloat. It was proposed that General Breckinridge should move with his division by rail to Tangipahoa, a station on the New Orleans and Jackson railroad, thirty miles from Baton Rouge, and make a forced night march to that place, which he would attack at daylight. The "Arkansas" was to attack the gun-boats simultaneously. Lieutenant Stevens did not like to move with the "Arkansas" while Captain Brown was absent, and he preferred that General Breckinridge would wait until the repairs were completed and until Captain Brown should return. But General Breckinridge was anxious for the vessel to go without delay. As no Confederate could refuse to comply with the wish of one so universally loved and respected as General Breckinridge, Lieutenant Stevens consented to go, and at once began getting the ship ready. A full complement of men was obtained and organized, and at two A. M., August 4th, we started down the river. The "Arkansas" behaved well, and made with the current about fifteen miles an hour. We steamed on down during all the next day, passing many signs of the wanton and barbarous destruction of property by the enemy. The people on the river banks gathered around the burnt and charred remains of their once happy homes, and hailed with exclamations of delight the sight of their country's flag, and the gallant little "Arkansas" moving down to chastise the savage foe.

The next morning at one o'clock, being about fifteen miles below Port Hudson, the engines suddenly stopped. I was officer of the deck at the time, and learning from the engineer that he could not go ahead for some time, I rounded the vessel to, and let go the anchor. All of the engineers were called and started to work to get the machinery in order. Each engineer had a different idea of what should be done. On the Yazoo, and until the "Arkansas" arrived at Vicksburg, we had a chief engineer who was a thorough mechanic and engineer, but at Vicksburg he was taken with the fever, and was at the hospital unable for duty when the steamer started for Baton Rouge. All of the other engineers were incompetent to run such engines as those of the "Arkansas," but they were the only ones to be had there at that time. They were mostly engineers who had served their time with the simple high-pressure engines of the Mississippi river boats; a few were navy engineers who had been in the service but a year or two, and had no practical experience. But they were all true, good men, and no doubt did their best.