Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/80
74 Southern Historical Society Papers.
bed, and, shut up tightly as we were in our iron capsule, in another moment it might prove our coffin.
At this juncture the enemy's leading vessel " backed water" and steered on one side, which arrested the progress of the whole squad- ron. But at this supreme moment the second vessel, Admiral Far- ragut' s flag-ship, the Hartford, forged ahead, and Farragut, show- ing the nerve and determination of the officer and the man, gave the order: "Damn the torpedoes! Go ahead!" And away he went, crushing through their bed to victory and renown. Some of the officers told me afterwards that they could hear the torpedoes snap- ping under the bottoms of their ships, and that they expected every moment to be blown into high air.
The slightest delay at that time on the part of Farragut, subjected as he was to the terrible fire of the fort and the fleet, would have been disaster, defeat, and the probable loss of his entire squadron, but he proved to be the man for the emergency.
We, in the Tennessee, advancing slowly, at the rate of about two miles an hour, met the leading vessels of the enemy as they passed, and fought them face to face ; but their fire was so destructive, con- tinuous and severe that after we emerged from it there was nothing left standing as large as your little finger. Everything had been shot away, smokestacks, staunchions, boat davits, and in fact, fore and aft, our deck had been swept absolutely clean. A few of our men were slightly wounded, and when the last vessel had passed us and been fought in turn, we had been in action more than an hour and a half; and then the enemy's fleet, somewhat disabled, of course, kept on up the bay. and anchored about four miles away so ended the first part of the fight. Farragut had already won half the battle ; he had passed the fort and fleet, and had ten wooden vessels and three monitors left in good fighting trim.
Neither the officers or men of either fleet had as yet been to break- fast, and the order was given, " Go to breakfast ! " For us on the Tennessee to eat below was simply impossible, on account of the heat and humidity. The heat below was terrific; intense thirst univer- sally prevailed. The men rushed to the scuttle-butts, or water- tanks, and drank greedily. Soon " hard tack " and coffee were fur- nished, the men all eating standing, creeping out of the ports on the after deck to get a little fresh air, the officers going to the upper deck.
Admiral Buchanan, grim, silent and rigid with prospective fighting, was "stumping " up and down the deck, lame from a wound received