Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/99

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Capture of the Federal Gunboat Underwriter. 93

[From the Winchester Times, June 3, 1891.]

Capture and Burning of the Federal Gunboat "Underwriter," in the Neuse, off Newbern, N. C., in February, 1864.

BY DR. DANIEL B. CONRAD, FORMERLY OF U. S. AND C. S. NAVY.

KANSAS CITY, Mo., June, 1891.

In January, 1864, the Confederate naval officers on duty in Rich- mond, Wilmington and Charleston were aroused by a telegram from the Navy Department to detail three boats' crews of picked men and officers, who were to be fully armed, equipped and rationed for six days ; they were to start at once by rail for Weldon, North Carolina, reporting on arrival to Commander J. Taylor Wood, who would give further instructions.

So perfectly secret and well-guarded was our destination that not until we had all arrived at Kingston, North Carolina, by various rail- roads, did we have the slightest idea of where we were going or what was the object of the naval raid. We suspected, however, from the name of its commander, that it would be nervous work," as he had a reputation for boarding, capturing and burning the ene- my's gunboats on many previous occasions.

Embarking one boat after another on the waters of the Neuse, we found that there were ten of them in all, each manned by ten men and two officers, every one of whom were young, vigorous, fully alive and keen for the prospective work. Now we felt satisfied that it was going to be hand-to-hand fighting; some Federal gunboat was to be boarded and captured by us, or we were to be destroyed by it.

Sunday afternoon, February i, 1864, about 2 o'clock, we were all quietly floating down the narrow Neuse, and the whole sunny Sab- bath evening was thus passed, until at sunset we landed on a small island. After eating our supper, all hands were assembled to receive instructions. Commander Wood, in distinct and terse terms, gave orders to each boat's crew and its officers just what was expected of them, stating that the object of the expedition was to, that night, board some one of the enemy's gunboats, then supposed to be lying