Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/103

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Capture of the Federal Gunboat Underwriter. 9*7

ship to the wharf just under the guns of Fort Stephenson, while the marines in charge of their proper officers were stationed at the gang- ways guarding the prisoners. The lieutenants, midshipmen and others manned the guns, of which there were six eleven-inch, as it was the intention to convert her at once into a Confederate man-of- war, and under the captured flag to go out to sea, to take and destroy as many of the vessels of the enemy as possible. But all our well- laid plans were abortive ; the engineers reported the fires out, and that it would be futile to attempt to get up steam under an hour, and Lieutenant Loyall, too, after very hard work, reported it useless to spend any more time in trying to unshuckle the chains, as the ship had been moored to a buoy, unless he could have hours in which to perform the work. Just at this moment, too, to bring things to a climax, the Fort under which we found that we were moored bow and stem, opened fire upon us with small arms, grape and solid shot ; some of those who had escaped having reported the state of affairs on board, and this was the result.

In about fifteen minutes a solid shot or two had disabled the walk- ing-beam, and it then became evident to all that we were in a trap, to escape from which depended on hard work and strategy. How to extricate ourselves in safety from the thus far successful expedi- tion, was the question; but events proved that our commander was equal to the emergency.

Very calmly and clearly he directed me to remove all dead and wounded to the boats, which the several crews were now hauling to the lee side of the vessel, where they would be protected from the the shots from the fort. The order was soon carried out by willing hands. They were distributed as equally as possible. Each boat in charge of its own proper officer, and subjected under that heavy fire to that rigid discipline characteristic of the navy, manned by their regular crews, as they laid in double lines, hugging the protected lee of the ship as closely as possible, it was a splendid picture of what a a body of trained men can be under circumstances of great danger.

After an extended search through the ship's decks, above and be- low, we found that we had removed all the dead and wounded, and then, when the search was ended, reported to Captain Wood on the quarter-deck, where, giving his orders where the fire from the fort was very deadly and searching, he called up four lieutenants to him, to whom he gave instructions as follows : two of them were to go below in the forward part of the ship, and the other two below in the afterpart, where from their respective stations they were to fire the vessel, and not to leave her until her decks were all ablaze, and then at that juncture they were to return to their proper boats and report. 7