Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/87

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Capture of the C. S. Ham Tennessee in Mobile Bay. 81

Buchanan's audacity. Signal to all frigates to get immediately under way and run the ram under, and to the monitors to attack at once.' "

The greatest injury done to the Tennessee was by the Chickasaw, commanded by Captain G. H. Perkins. Our pilot, in pointing it out to Captain Johnson, said: "That d d iron-clad is hanging to us like a dog, and has smashed our shield already. Fight him ! Sink him if you can !" The Chickasaw really captured the Tennessee.

Admiral Buchanan was in form and physique one out of many. Upright in his carriage, he walked like a game-cock, though halting in his gait in later years in consequence of having received a minnie ball in his right thigh when commanding the Merrimac in the first iron-clad fight in the world. It was while he stood on the deck, after sinking the Congress, that he was shot by some Federal infan- try on the shore, and from 1864 to his death in 1871, he was very lame in both legs the left one particularly which was terribly shat- tered in the fight when in the Tennessee. He always complained of his bad luck in his two great actions ; in the first he was struck down at the moment of victory, and in the last at the moment of defeat. At sixty-two years he was a strikingly handsome old man ; clean shaved, ruddy complexion, with a very healthy hue, for he was always remarkably temperate in all his habits ; he had a high fore- head, fringed with snow-white hair ; thin close lips, steel-blue eyes, and projecting conspicuously was that remarkable feature which im- pressed every one and marked him as one of a thousand, his wonder- ful acquiline nose, high, thin and perfect in all its outlines. When full of fight he had a peculiarity of drawing down the corners of his mouth until the thin line between his lips performed a perfect arch around his chin.

The Confederate torpedoes planted at the entrance to Mobile bay were the first, and were very primitive in their construction merely a lager beer keg filled with powder and anchored by chains to a big flat piece of iron called a mushroom. Projecting from the swinging top, some four feet under water, were tubes of glass filled with sul- phuric acid, and which, being broken, fell into sugar or starch, caus- ing rapid chemical combustion, and finally a mass of fire, thus ex- ploding the powder. They had been planted so long that many leaked, only one out of ten remaining intact, and this fact explains why so many were run over by the Federal fleet without exploding.

During the four months that we were guarding the entrance to Mobile bay we were not by any means safe from the danger of our own contrivances. One hot July morning we officers were up on the