Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/104

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98 Southern Historical Society Papers.

The remainder of us were lying on our oars while orders for firing the ship were being carried out; and soon we saw great columns of red flames shoot upward out of the forward hatch and ward-room, upon which the four officers joined their boats. Immediately, by the glare of the burning ship, we could see the outlines of the fort with its depressed guns, and the heads and shoulders of the men manning them. As the blaze grew larger and fiercer their eyes were so dazzled and blinded that every one of our twelve boats pulled away out into the broad estuary safe and untouched. Then we all realized fully our adroit and successful escape.

Some years after the affair I met one of the Federal officers who was in the fort at the time, and he told me that they were not only completely blinded by the flames, which prevented them from seeing us, but were also stampeded by the knowledge of the fact that there were several tons of powder in the magazine of the vessel, which when exploded would probably blow the fort to pieces ; so, naturally, they did not remain very long after they were aware that the ship had been fired. This all occurred as we had expected. We in our boats, at a safe distance of more than half a mile, saw the " Underwriter" blow up, and distinctly heard the report of the explosion, but those at the fort, a very short distance from the ship, sought a safe refuge, luckily for them.

Fortunately there was no causalities at this stage of the expedition. I boarded boat after boat in my capacity as surgeon, attending to the requirements of those who demanded immediate aid, and I wit- nessed many amusing scenes ; for among the prisoners were some old men-of-war's men, former shipmates of mine in the Federal navy years before, and of the other officers also. Their minds were greatly relieved when I made known to them who their captors were, and that their old surgeon and other officers were present, and as a natural consequences they would be treated well.

Continuing to pull for the remainder of the night, we sought and found by the aid of our pilot, a safe and narrow creek, up which we ascended, and at sunrise hauled our boats up on a beach, there we carefully lifted out our wounded men, placed them under the shade of trees in the grass, and made them as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Then we laid out the dead, and after carefully washing and dressing them, as soon as we had partaken of our breakfast, of which we were in so much need, all hands were called, a long pit was dug in the sand, funeral services were held, the men buried and each grave marked. We remained there all that day re- cuperating, and when night came again embarked on our return trip ; all through that night and the four succeeding ones, we cautiously