Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/17

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Mtory of the Confederate Armored Ram Arkansas. 13

reinforced to fourteen vessels, and, headed by the 'Essex,' was slowly advancing up the river. We had not steamed any distance when the port engine broke. The ship was then headed for the shore, and in a few moments her starboard engine suddenly gave way and she drifted toward the enemy in a helpless condition, they opened fire upon us. Finally, however, she grounded near the river bank, stern down stream and Lieut. Read answered their fire with his stern rifles but the enemy having halted, the fire of our guns was ineffective. t

" The ' Essex ' continued to shell us at long range, but with no effect, her missiles falling short and out of range. Our engines were now beyond repair. In our present condition the ship was immovable and her guns could not be brought to bear upon the Federal fleet. Under the circumstances there was no alternative left Lieut. Stevens but to destroy the ' Arkansas ' to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy. The officers and crew were sent ashore with small arms and ammunition, and as one of our lookouts reported a force landing below us, our ship's company was marched off toward the interior of the country, only two men deserting, both mess room men from New Orleans. Lieut. Read, Mid- shipmen Bacot, Scales and Talbott, Gunner Travers and myself (acting as aid to Lieut. Commanding Stevens) were ordered to remain aboard, to assist in destroying the vessel. The machinery of the engine was broken up w r ith axes and the ward room bedding fired in several places; the cotton in the inside bulkheads between the guns was cut open and fired; the magazines opened, cartridges scattered about, and loaded shell placed on the gun deck between the guns. In this condition, with the ward room in a blaze, we abandoned the ship, assisting Lieut. Stevens ashore, he having had his hands badly burned by the premature explosion of a hand grenade whilst occupied in desroying the engine. We landed with our side arms and no other clothing than what we had on, which, being our fighting rig, was rather scanty."

The reports made by the commander of the "Essex," W. D. Porter, were found to be so little supported by the facts of the case (See Official Records, Vol. 19, pp 117-127,) that they called for contradiction by Rear Admiral Farragut and Lieut. Commander F. A. Roe. The language used by the latter is : "Any virtuous and brave man cannot fail to be shocked at the extraordinary assertions of Commander Porter in relation to the part both the 'Essex' and