Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/100

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94 Southern Historical Society Papers.

off the city of Newbern, now nearly sixty miles distant from where we then were by water. He said that she was to be captured with- out fail. Five boats were to board her on either side simultaneously, and then when in our possession we were to get up steam and cruise after other gunboats. It was a grand scheme, and was received by the older men with looks of admiration and with rapture by the young midshipmen, all of whom would have broken out into loud cheers but for the fact that the strictest silence was essential to the success of the daring undertaking.

In concluding his talk, Commander Wood solemnly said : "We will now pray;" and thereupon he offered up the most touching appeal to the Almighty that it has ever been my fortune to have heard. I can remember it now, after the long interval that has elapsed since then. It was the last ever heard by many a poor fellow, and deeply felt by every one.

Then embarking again, we now had the black night before us, our pilot reporting two very dangerous points where the enemy had out pickets of both cavalry and infantry. We were charged to pass these places in absolute silence, our arms not to be used unless we were fired upon, and then in that emergency we were to get out of the way with all possible speed, and pull down stream in order to surprise and capture one of the gunboats before the enemy's pickets could carry the news of our raid to them.

In one long line, in consequence of the narrowness of the stream, did we pull noiselessly down, but no interrupting pickets were dis- covered, and at about half past three o'clock we found ourselves upon the broad estuary of Newbern bay. Then closing up in double column we pulled for the lights of the city, even up to and close in and around the wharves themselves, looking (but in vain) for our prey. Not a gunboat could be seen ; none were there. As the day broke we hastened for shelter to a small island up stream about three miles away, where we landed upon our arrival, dragged our boats into the high grass, setting out numerous pickets at once. The re- mainder of us, those who were not on duty, tired and weary, threw ourselves upon the damp ground to sleep during the long hours which must necessarily intervene before we could proceed on our mission.

Shortly after sunrise we heard firing by infantry. It was quite sharp for an hour, and then it died away. It turned out to be, as we afterwards learned, a futile attack by our lines under General Pickett on the works around Newbern. We were obliged to eat cold food