Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 21, 1862

Qr. Master Sergt. Howe:
From a Letter:
     Head Of Southwest Pass, Mississippi River, Miss.,
     April 21, 1862.
     My last was written the day before my departure. The following regiments comprise the expedition: the 26th, the 30th and the 31st Massachusetts, three Western, two Connecticut, and four batteries. Our regiment is on the ship North America, three on the Great Republic, one on the E. Wilder Farley, two on the Mississippi and one on the Matanzas. We were towed to sea by steamers and ordered to report to Pass A'Lutre, thence ordered to Southwest Pass. All crossed the bar with help of steamers, except the Great Republic. There is sixteen feet of water over the bar, and she draws nineteen. Going up with a fair wind, we enjoyed the scenery. The water is very muddy. The ground, as one enters the passes, is low and swampy, covered with tall grass, and reminds one of a western prairie, with a narrow river winding through it. The distance from the mouth of the river to the head of the Pass is fifteen miles. Pilot Town is situated about six miles from the mouth of the river. The buildings here have piazzas on each story and are very quaint looking. A vessel passed us on the way down, and stated that bombarding was to begin that day. Soon after, firing was heard, and smoke could be seen, which has continued ever since. We are anchored twenty miles distant, awaiting the reduction of Forts Jackson and Philip. This morning we heard from a gunboat that a breach had been made in the walls and a lot of cotton fired, inside the Fort. The gunboat brought down nine wounded seamen and conveyed them to Pilot Town, which is to be used as a hospital. They have sunk one mortar boat. They have a chain just above the Fort, supported by rafts and anchored boats, also fire-rafts, which are sent down on our fleet, if a near approach is made. Fort Philip is not so strongly fortified, but the one commands the other. Last night our boats were to advance and cut the chain, after which our fleet can surround the Fort and obtain a better position. Firing has been continued day and night and it is a hard fight. The army can do nothing until the Fort is captured and that cannot be stormed, as no landing can be made. Last night, at 11 o'clock, a row boat hailed us and called for a line. The river runs very fast here; the boat drifted astern onto another boat which was floating by a line from our ship. The row boat was rapidly filling with water and was in a very dangerous position, being run somewhat under the other. We soon found that it was General Butler and his Aid who were in the partially swamped boat, and all possible speed was made in lowering a third boat to take them aboard. It was a very narrow escape for them. And such confusion as there was on both ship and boat, I never saw. After the third boat was lowered, they scrambled aboard. I tell you, they shook and trembled like leaves. They had been going from one steamer above us to another alongside, and the water swept them down on us. I don't know how long we shall remain here, probably until the Fort is captured, and then we shall occupy and advance.

2d Lieut. Elliot:
     April 21-Monday
     Weather warm and pleasant to day.
     We are to day having a little target practice from Quarters Deck. the Col. having got a few rounds of Cartridges, to give the men some idea if estimating distance. and the use of sight. some make very good shots. and some make very poor there is a great chance for improvement in nearly all. besides instruction for the men it seems to relieve the monotony of ship life which is getting very irksome. in fact we are getting to think that we are attached to the marine Corps. I for one shall be glad when we get off Shipboard for good. and once more settled on land where we can live natural and seem like men and have some health for it uses up our men to be crowded on a ship so long. Firing continues as usual but we get no news.
     Services to night as usual. Dr. Cleaveland is getting along on to Abolition a little to strong to suit us. and is in my opinion should be stopped for we are not here to fight for the freedom of Slaves. when we come to that I for one will resign and go home.

Corpl. B. B. Smith:
     Monday 21
     A clear morn a great coat comfortable
     Maj Gen Butler come near being swamped
     Alongside our ship.  there has been firing at
     The fort all night we had a fine dinner
     Of seawater[?] & hard bread yesterday we
     Are all getting tired of the old[?] ship as
     We are all crowded together like a lot of
     Hogs.  the ship is old and dirty.  all we have
     Had to eat since we left the island is
     Salty water, Hard Bread, Beans & Peas
     Water & poor coffee.  the steamers
     Saxon & Lewis got in ship island
     There is a bark arrived here from Boston
     To night loaded with Shells &c. for
     Our fleet.  she has some other stuff
     Cakes, Nuts &c.

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