Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/105

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Capture of the Federal Gunboat Underwriter. 99

pulled up the rapid Neuse, doing most of our work in the darkness, until when nearing Kingston we could with impunity pull in daylight.

Arriving at Kingston, the boats were dragged up the hill to the long train of gondola cars which had been waiting for us, and then was presented an exhibition of sailors' ingenuity. The boats were placed upright on an even keel lengthwise on the flat cars, and so securely lashed by ropes that the officers, men, even the wounded, seated and laid in them as if on the water, comfortably and safely made the long journey of a day and two nights to Petersburg. ' Ar- riving, the boats were unshipped into the Appomattox river, and the entire party floated down it to City Point where it debouches into the James. It was contemplated that when City Point was reached to make a dash at any one Federal gunboat, should there be the slightest prospect of success; but learning from our scouts, on our arri- val after dark, that the gunboats and transports at anchor there equalled the number of our own boats at least, we had to abandon our ideas of trying to make a capture, and were compelled to hug the op- posite banks very closely, where the river is nearly four miles wide, and in that manner slip up the James pulling hard against the cur- rent. By the next evening we arrived, without any further adven- ture, at Drury's Bluff, where we disembarked; our boats shown as mementoes of the searching fire we had been subjected to for they all were perforated by many minnie balls, the white wooden plugs inserted into the holes averaging fourteen to each boat engaged ; they were all shot into them from stem to stern lengthwise.

Among the many incidents that occurred on the trip there were two which left a lasting impression on my mind, and to this day they are as vivid as if they had happened yesterday. As we were step- ping into the boats at the island that night, the lights of the gunboat plainly visible from the spot on which we stood, a bloody, serious action inevitable, several of the midshipmen, youth-like, were gaily chatting about what they intended to do joyous and confident, and choosing each other for mates to fight together shoulder to shoulder when one of them who stood near me in the darkness made the remark, as a conclusion as we were taking our places in the boats:

"I wonder, boys, how many of us will be up in those stars by to- morrow morning?" This rather jarred on the ears of we older ones, and looking around to see who it was that had spoken, I recognized the bright and handsome Palmer Sanders. Poor fellow, he was the only one who took his flight, though many of the others were se- verely wounded.