Sunday, September 8, 2013

Shelling of Sewall’s Point


The special correspondent of the American sends the following relative to affairs in Hampton Roads and the Peninsula:


This has been a most stirring and exciting day at Old Point, and all are anticipating the early fall of Norfolk.  At 11 o’clock the steamer Naugatuck was observed raising steam, and about 12 o’clock she moved out by the side of the Monitor, which vessel also cleared her decks for action, taking down her awning, and stood forth in full fighting trim.

11:30. – The gunboat Dacotah has just moved up on line of battle, together with the sloops of war Seminole and San Jacinto.  The flag ship Minnesota was also under steam.

12 o’clock. – The Naugatuck has moved up towards Elizabeth river, followed by the Monitor and Dacotah in line of battle.  The San Jacinto follows slowly.

Heavy firing can still be heard in the direction of James river, where, you have already been informed by telegraph, the Galena and other boats of gone.  The Susquehanna has just gone up in the meantime, the Dacotah, Monitor and Naugatuck have reached the channel and taken a position near Sewall’s Point.  The Dacotah fired a shot towards Craney Island.  A second shot from the Dacotah struck the beach at Sewall’s Point.

12:30 – The Susquehanna moves up and takes the lead of the San Jacinto and Seminole – no answer from either.  The Dacotah and Seminole are steaming up Elizabeth river.  The Naugatuck is lying off towards the mouth of the James River.

Presently, the Dacotah and Monitor approached Craney Island and Sewall’s Point.  The Dacotah fires every few minutes alternately at Sewall’s Point and Craney Island, the enemy making no reply, although the balls reached their intended destination. – The Monitor is taking the lead.  Meantime the Seminole and Susquehanna open upon Sewall’s point, and two shots are fired from the Point, the latter falling short of the Monitor, which is now a mile above the other vessels.

12:40. – The rebels are firing rapidly from Sewall’s Point, principally on the Monitor, while a succession of shells are being poured on the enemy from the Susquehanna, Dacotah, Seminole and San Jacinto, broadside after broadside.  The Rip Raps also threw occasional shells at Sewall’s Point.

12:50. – The Susquehanna, Dacotah, San Jacinto and Seminole are pouring shells and the Monitor threw her first two shells full a mile and a half from the Point.


Shortly before noon to-day the Monitor, Naugatuck, Seminole, Susquehanna, Dacotah and San Jacinto, in the order in which they are named, steamed up toward Sewall’s Point – Capt. Lardner, of the Susquehanna, in command of the expedition.

As soon as within range, fire was opened with a shot and shell against Sewall’s Point.  Most of the shots were good ones.  It was nearly half an hour before a reply was made from the Point.

The Rip Raps next opened fire, and then the Naugatuck for the first time.  Several shots were fired from the single gun on the extremity of the Point, when one from the Monitor struck in the vicinity, doubtless disabling the gun, as it has not been fired since.  The position of the Monitor was far in advance of the rest of the fleet, and she continued in motion until within a mile or two of the Point where considerable execution must have been done by here accurate firing.

The Naugatuck kept in the back ground, the range of her Parrot gun enabling her to do so.  Sewall Point battery replied briskly.  The Rip Raps fired occasionally.  A continual fire was kept up from the gunboats.  On account of the distance, no details can be given.  Nothing occurred till two o’clock, when the firing was very feeble from the Point.  The Monitor about this time returned from her advanced position and joined the fleet.

At 2:15 a very dense smoke arose rapidly from the Point, caused probably by the burning of the rebel barracks and other buildings.  At about half past two o’clock, the Merrimac made her appearance, when the fleet returned with the exception of the Monitor.  The Merrimac is still (5 o’clock) off the Point.  The Monitor is ready to attack her.

1 P. M. – The Monitor is now within a mile of Sewall’s Point, moving slowly forward and firing.  The enemy are also firing briskly from Sewall’s Point at the Monitor and shells are falling thickly around her.  Craney Island is also joining in the fight, and has thrown shells at the Monitor, one of which exploded directly over her.  The Monitor moved steadily forward, and occasionally firing, and receiving shells and shot from the rebel battery with perfect indifference.

2 P. M. – The monitor has fallen back, and lays alongside of the Susquehanna, probably for the purpose of communicating with her.  The Naugatuck in the meantime has been throwing shells into Pig’s Point, and the fleet has also thrown a number of shells in the same direction.

2:15 P. M. – The Monitor and Dacotah are moving along again slowly up the mouth of the Elizabeth river, and dense black smoke has commenced to arise from Sewall’s Point, indicating that our incendiary shells thrown there have fired the barracks.  The Dacotah continues to throw her shells directly into the point.  The vessels by constantly changing position destroy the range of the rebel gunners, but they are, however, making quite a determined fight, their works giving us almost shell for shell, shot for shot.  The Monitor has laid out of action for nearly an hour, and is probably cooling her guns.  The Rip Raps battery has the range of Sewall’s Point perfectly.

2:45 P. M. – The Merrimac now makes her appearance on the scene.  She has just passed from behind Sewall’s Point, and is slowly running down toward the Federal fleet.  Simultaneously with the appearance of the Merrimac the Monitor started from behind the wooden vessels and moved up to meet the enemy.  The larger vessels have drawn aside and left.  The Monitor and Naugatuck are now in the approaching path of the Merrimac.  The vessels of the fleet had been lying quietly at anchor for the last half hour, when the signal from the flag ship ordered them all to return.  The Susquehanna leads the way, followed by the San Jacinto, Seminole, Dacotah and Monitor, being all apparently using the greatest speed towards the fort.  To the spectator, this seemed rather mortifying, but as they moved down in line the Monitor was seen to halt, and the San Jacinto and Dacotah also followed her example, leaving the Susquehanna and Seminole moving ahead.  The four steamers and the Monitor having taken their position the Merrimac also halted, and the vessels stood there not more than a mile and a half apart – the Merrimac apparently unwilling to come further down and the Monitor unwilling to go further up.  The Minnesota also steamed up in front of the fortress wharf, followed slowly by the Vanderbilt, when both stopped.  After laying in this position the Minnesota turned round and steamed back, and the Vanderbilt turning slowly backed water down the river.  Whilst this maneuvering was going on firing had entirely ceased from all points.

3:30. – The Merrimac now turns round and steams back toward Norfolk with her rebel flag flying.  The Dacotah again proceeds up towards the Merrimac and the Monitor starts toward the mouth of the Elizabeth river.  The Dacotah is now within easy range of Sewall’s Point, but the batteries there do not open on the shore.  The Monitor has stopped and the Merrimac is lying stationary about a mile from the Craney Island Battery.  Here commenced an important movement, which cannot be made public just yet.  The Vanderbilt and Arago have now steamed in front of the wharf.  The Merrimac has run back under the guns of Craney Island, and the Monitor is steaming off towards here at full speed.  The Minnesota is also coming up again at full speed, the effort being to draw the rebels again.  For the past two hours the fleet has been moving back and forwards, but the Merrimac still lies under the guns of Craney Island.  The Minnesota, Arago and Vanderbilt have gone back to their anchorage, and there is no prospect of a fight to-night.  The troops are going on board the transports, and the war vessels, including the Monitor, have all returned to their anchorage.

The President viewed the action from a tug-boat lying about a mile in rear of the fleet.  He has just returned, and as he passed up the wharf was vociferously cheered by the troops.

Our fleet have retired.  The Merrimac is again steaming up.  An officer of the Seminole states that the rebel staff on the Point was twice shot away during the bombardment.  The first time it fell, it was picked up and a rebel in a red shirt jumped on the ramparts with a stump of the staff and flag, and waved it, when a shell struck him killing him and it is supposed others near him.

Of the many shots fired at the fleet by the rebels, not one struck our vessels. – Some went over their masts, but most fell short.  The rebels could be distinctly seen from the vessels carrying all of their wounded and dead.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Saturday Morning, May 10, 1862, p. 1

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