FLOTILLA STEAMER FREEBORN,
Potomac River, June 1, 1861.
Sm: I have the honor to report a renewal of the bombardment at Aquia Creek, commencing 11: 30 a.m. this day and terminating from fatigue of the men–the day being very warm and the firing on our side incessant–at 4:30 p.m., making a duration of five hours.
The firing on shore was scarcely as spirited at any time as yesterday. The heights were abandoned, the guns apparently having been transferred to the earth works at the railroad terminus in replacement of the battery silenced there by us yesterday. During the last hour of the engagement only two or three shots were thrown from the shore, by a few individuals seen stealthily now and then to emerge from concealment and hastily load and fire a single gun. The bulk of the party bad left a half hour before, and squads were observed from time to time taking to their heels along the beach with a speed and bottom truly commendable for its prudence and highly amusing to the seamen. It did not seem ad visable to permit so feeble a fire to wear out my men, therefore discontinued the engagement.
Several shots came on board of us, causing the vessel to leak badly, and beside other injuries crippling the port wheel, the wrought-iron shaft being gouged by a shot which would have shattered it if of cast iron, a point considered by me in selecting this vessel for purchase. Fortunately, I have again neither killed nor wounded to report, though the shot at times fell thick among us, testing the gallantry and steadiness of my people, which I consider of st and ard proof for any emergency.
I proceed to Washington to repair damages and refill my exhausted magazines. The Pawnee remains meantime below to supply my place in the blockade. Captain Rowan, of that ship, joined me last night, replenishing my exhausted stores, and most gallantly opened the fire this morning, having followed my lead inshore toward the batteries. His ship received numerous wounds both below and aloft, inflicted by the enemy’s shot, appearing from her size–therefore most easily hit–to be their favorite mark, and was herself often a sheet of flame owing to the rapidity of her discharges.
I have instructed Captain Rowan to report circumstantially direct to the Department.
The enemy set fire to the large passenger and freight depot on the end of the long pier as we were approaching, probably to remove it as an obstruction to their aim, but were not permitted to extinguish the flames during the whole five hours’ cannonade, consequently nearly the whole pier was destroyed, only the charred piles remaining above the water to mark its former position.
My gun carriage endures its continued test admirably. The pivoting arrangement of the after one gave out in the last hour of the action, when the gun was fought on its trucks, which had neither been removed nor in any manner interfered with in the construction.
The recoil, however, became severely racking to the vessel; the gun was served slower and with less accuracy, and with greatly increased awkwardness as well as fatigue to the men.
Though not assuming to be proper judge of my own invention, it is possible the officers and men, especially the gun’s crews, are competent to speak after the several cannonades in which we have been engaged, amounting altogether in the two weeks we are commissioned to ten hours, nine of it under fire returned upon us with more or less vigor and effect.
More than 100 shots have fallen aboard and around us, any one of which would have struck a frigate. We have had more than 1,000 shots discharged at us within range, and have ourselves fired upward of 300 shots and shells, with 1,700 pounds of powder. What damage we have inflicted remains to be seen. That we have received none not easily repaired is truly remarkable.
The Anacostia and Reliance were not permitted to come under damaging fire, their support having been necessary to embolden those engaged by giving them confidence that if disabled in the machinery, assistance was at hand to drag them out.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. H. WARD,
Commander, Senior Officer on the Potomac.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
Secretary of the Navy.
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Series I, Vol. 4. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896.