Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19, 1863: Sherman reports on the passage of the transports

On this day 150 years ago, William Tecumseh Sherman reported to Grant's Assistant Adjutant General Lieutenant Colonel John A. Rawlins on the results of an attempt by three Union transports to run the batteries of Vicksburg the night before.
HEADQUARTERS Fifteenth ARMY CORPS, Camp near Vicksburg, April 19, 1863.

Lieutenant Colonel John A. RAWLINS, Asst. Adjt. General, Milliken's Bend;

SIR: As it may be a matter of interest to the general in command to know, I have to report that the fate of the three transports sent past the Vicksburg batteries during the night of April 17 is as follows:

Silver Wave, Captain McMillan, manned by officers and soldiers of General Ewing's brigade, passed the batteries safely without loss or damage.

Forest Queen, Captain Conway, manned by her regular crew, was struck in the hull, and was disabled by a round shot cutting a steam pipe. Wheel-rope and wheel also cut away, and otherwise cut up. She drifted down opposite our lower picket station, where the gunboat Tuscumbia, Captain Shirk, took her in tow, and landed her just above the crevasse on this shore. I have ordered all the materials and whatever needed for her repairs; and Captain Conway reports to me that he will move to-morrow night by the Warrenton batteries, and join the fleet at Carthage.

The Henry Clay, Captain Rider, became disabled, and was in a sinking condition soon after coming within range of the upper batteries. She had in tow a barge with some soldiers on, which was cast loose and floated down stream, and is supposed to be safe. The boat itself took fire and burned to the water's edge, and floated down stream a burning mass. I was, in person, in a boat out at Bigg's picket station, and my boat picked up the pilot, Taylor, floating near the burning wreck. He told a wonderful story, by no means consistent in all its parts, but asserted positively that every human being had left the boat, save himself, before he discovered her on fire. Several of the crew have some in, from I gather the following particulars: The boat had two yawls, which received on board the crew and hands, with certain exceptions, noted below, which yawls pushed off and landed at De Soto, where they landed and hid behind and old levee during the cannonade. After it had ceased, they began to make their way through the submerged swamps toward our camp, and all on board the yawls have reached camp, except the barkeeper and chambermaid (white) and one deck-hand, named Henry, also a white man.

First yawl; Luke, a white man, has come in; John a white man, has come in; Henry, barkeeper, and chambermaid landed at De Soto, not heard of since; William Gould, one black man, saved.

SECOND yawl: John Kennedy, Thompson Rowley, Jack Cook, all white men; one white boy, three blacks; all safe.

Captain Rider was last seen, by John Kennedy, on the hurricane deck, but is unaccounted for. Watchman Metz, same as Captain Rider. The boat's carpenter and the SECOND cook are represented to have gone into the hold and closed the hatches, in which case they are surely lost. This is the most accurate account I can obtain of their fate.

There was manifestly great consternation and confusion on board all the time.


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