Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 32.djvu/72
60 Southern Historical Society Papers.
transaction cannot be wisely prescribed by the Secretary without a more thorough knowledge of all the circumstances.
J. J. PETTUS.
The proposed purchase of the stores, etc., at Helena thus failed, but as to the negotiations for the purchase of the United States gunboat Rattler and the results, the following correspondence will explain :
U. S. S. RATTLER. September 5, 1864.
Sir, It is with deep regret that I make the following report :
Receiving information that two Confederate officers were stop- ping at the house of one Mr. James, which is a short distance above this vessel, on the bank of the river, I resolved to make an effort to capture them. On the night of the 4th inst. , at about 8 o'clock, an officer left the vessel in the cutter, with twenty-two men, and landed on the shore abreast of the vessel. Two negroes, who were left in charge of the boat were attacked by the enemy and killed. The officer in charge of the expedition had nearly accomplished his mission, when, hearing the discharge of musketry, he immediately started for this vessel, and suddenly fell into an ambuscade of about 600 of the enemy; my men, being completely surrounded, were obliged to surrender. The guns of this vessel covered the parties during the whole time, but it was not prudent to fire, as we were in danger of killing our own men. In the meantime the enemy had manned the cutter and proceeded to capture this vessel and when more alongside became intimidated and started with all speed down the river. In the meantime I had slipped cable, but it was useless to chase the boat, as it had become lost to us in the darkness. I headed slowly up the river, keeping close to the bank, and was so fortunate as to pick up my officer and two of the men, who had escaped after they had surrendered to the enemy.
I am painfully conscious I have been the victim of negro duplic- ity, by trusting in their apparently truthful stories, which has been the cause of this unfortunate disaster. I have no excuse to offer in vindication of myself, and if I have erred it has been with the inten- tion of benefiting the good cause we are all mutually engaged in. I recovered twenty white men by the dispatch boat, who were the ones captured.
In conclusion, I would respectfully state that to-morrow I shall endeavor to recover my men, even if I am obliged to give myself in