Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
CONFEDERATE TORPEDOES IN THE YAZOO.
NOTE TO THE FOREGOING ARTICLE.- The condition of the Carondelet in the fight with the Arkansas is exhibited by the following extracts from the log of the vessel, here printed from the original manuscript :
"July 15th. Commences and until 4 A. M. clear and warm. At 3: 30 called all hands and hove up our anchor.-EDW'D E. BRENNAND.
" From 4 to 8 : At 4 got under way and proceeded up the river, gun-boat Taylor [Tyler] and ram Queen of the West following us; at 4:30 entered Yazoo River; at 5 Taylor and Queen of the West passed us ; at 6 discovered a boat coming down the river; immediately went to quarters and cleared the boat for action. Rebel ram opened fire upon the Queen of the West and gun-boat Taylor, and they immediately rounded to. We found the advancing rebel boat to be a powerful gunboat and ram. We rounded to and headed down-stream, at the same time firing upon her with all our batteries as we brought them in range. Captain Walke hailed the Taylor as she passed, and ordered Lieutenant-Commander Gwin to go ahead and inform the commodore of the Arkansas's approach.
The ram made for us, and for an hour we continued a running fight (she gaining on us); distance, 500 to 50 yards. Our wheel ropes were shot away, steam-escape pipe cut, exhaust pipe cut, cold-water supply pipe riddled with pieces of shot, and steam-gauge shot away; the boat becoming unmanageable.
" Our tiller ropes and box being shot away, the Carondelet was unmanageable, and ran upon a small stump after tho Arkansas passed by us. As she passed by us we called the boarders up on deck, and we gave her our starboard broadside and bow guns, firing therm as the enemy came in range. At this time the Arkansas's flag was down, and not hoisted again while in sight. Our backing-bell and speaking-trumpet being shot away, the pilot could not communicate readily with the engineer. By this time the ram had passed by us, and was following the Taylor. After remaining at the bank for a short time to repair damages we made our way down the river, and found that the rebel boat had succeeded in passing by the whole of the flotilla and rams. We received five shots in the captain's cabin and three in the ward-room, three of tho shots passing clear through the wheel-house, one lodging in the steerage mess-room, one going through wheel-house carrying away deck-pump, passing through bulkhead aft of steam drum, glancing up, passing over steam drum, striking carlines, carrying away four of them, and falling into fireroom. One going through wheel-house, carrying away steam escape pipes, going through two coppers on the galley , through smoke-pipe, through ventilators, through bulkhead forward of fire-room, through loose timbers placed upon the bulkhead, and entering four pieces of 4-inch iron. One coming in captain's cabin on starboard corner, carrying away twelve carlines, striking chambers of side pipe, glancing upward and cutting exhaust pipe, and striking upper deck over engine-room and falling to the main deck. One coming in ward-room just amidships, cutting away eight carlines, passing through the chief engineer's, surgeon's, and gunner's rooms, carrying away bulkheads, and striking the deck and fetching up against the after stanchion on port side. Another shot camp through starboard quarter, passing through 2d and 1st masters' room and through the captain's cabin out of the after-port. Another shot came through the iron on starboard side, breaking in casemate, and the shot breaking in pieces ; two shots carrying away iron, and coming through the iron into the wood on the inside. Both cutters shot away; two boats' davits carried away ; all boats' falls on starboard side shot away; three awning stanchions shot away. One shell burst on starboard side of upper deck, cutting awning in pieces and setting starboard hammock netting on fire. We expended during the engagement one 32-pound gun, weight 43 hundred-weight, struck on tho lower part of the muzzle, splitting the gun in two places ; six boarding pikes, one musket, three revolvers, and four cutlasses, belts, and accouterments were lost and shot to pieces during tho engagement. Robert Letty, Charles A. Wiggins, Charles Schraw, and Oliver Greggs were killed. There were also 15 wounded and 16 missing. Expended ninety rifle and solid shots. . . . EDW'D E. BRENNAND, 1st Master."
The reader is also referred to Admiral Walke's statement on p. 555.-EDITORS.
CONFEDERATE TORPEDOES IN THE YAZOO.BY ISAAC N. BROWN, CAPTAIN, C. S. N.IT was rather by inference than by any direct orders that after the sacrifice of the Arkansas I was left to guard the Yazoo River. At this juncture Messrs. McDonald (or McDonough) and Ewing, acting masters in the Confederate navy, offered to aid me with torpedoes. So poor in resources were we, that in order to make a beginning I borrowed a five-gallon glass demijohn, and procuring from the army the powder to fill it and an artillery friction tube to explode it, I set these two enterprising men to work with a coil of small iron wire which they stretched from bank to bank, the demijohn filled with inflammable material being suspended from the middle, some feet below the surface of the water, and so connected with the friction tube inside as to ignite when a vessel should come in contact with the wire. Soon after it was put in position the iron-clad Cairo came up the river [December 12th, 1862], and, keeping the middle of the stream, hit the demijohn, and within twelve minutes went to the bottom in thirty feet of water.
In this way a belligerent vessel was " neutralized" by an enemy's torpedo. The moral strength thus added to our defenses may be inferred from an anecdote reported to me soon after. One of our Confederate people went, on board a Union gun-boat off the mouth of the Yazoo, under flag of truce, and met there an old messmate and friend, and said banteringly to him, " Tom, why don't you go up and clean out the Yazoo ?" " I would as soon think of going to at once," was the answer, " for Brown has got the river chock-full of torpedoes." I also made a contract with Dr. Fretwell and Mr. Norman, then at Yazoo City, for fifty or more of these destructives on Dr. Fretwell's plan- automatic action on being brought in contact with a vessel or boat. But the difficulty of procuring materials prevented the completion of the contract for the whole number in time.
On the morning of the Union advance upon Yazoo City [July 13th, 1863], I had myself placed two of these " Fretwells" half a mile below our land battery of one rifle 6-inch gun-handled by the same men-the same gun, in fact, that had aided in the defense of Fort Pemberton. The De Kalb had there felt this gun, and it came twice within its range on this day,- retiring both times without unreasonable delay,-but when our sailor crew found themselves uncovered by our land force, and a whole division of Union men within rifle range, they withdrew under orders, and the De Kalb, seeing our gun silent, advanced for the third time, getting as far as the torpedoes, and there suddenly disappearing beneath the waters of the Yazoo. [See also pp. 559 and 570.]