having, under similar circumstances, fired into a small yawl-boat (which, desirous of avoiding continuous desultory warfare, leading to no results, I did not notice, although four shots were fired), and this going the first instance of a boat of any kind coming to the navy-yard or within the range of my guns since the last bombardment, I could only view it as bravado, or as done with an intention of drawing my fire. I therefore ordered her to be fired into, which was done three times while she lay at the what and was leaving it. A gun was fired from a neighboring battery at ours, which was returned, it being directly in range of the departing steamer, and here, as I supposed, the affair would rest; but in about three-quarters of an hour the enemy opened on me from most of his batteries, which was promptly returned, and a regular bombardment ensued, and which continued in our front until too dark to see, when I ceased, except an occasional fire from two or three mortars, the enemy continuing until about 9 o'clock, at which hour a bright light became visible from the yard, and in an hour the whole firmament was illuminated, several of the largest buildings being on fire. The fire continued to burn until towards morning, and the mortar firing continued on our part until 2 and on that of the enemy until 4 o'clock this morning.
I used only heaviest guns, and not all of them, with an occasional fire from an 8-inch columbiad and a 42-pounder rifled gun. Our firing was much slower than before, and was excellent. I have rarely or never seen better; the officers and men being cool and collected, and doing their duty manfully, such as Yankee soldiers should do. The enlisted men seemed to consider it a New Year's amusement.
Convinced by former experience of the great difficult of harming or burning his buildings at so great a distance I took the affair very coolly and deliberately, firing seldom, but with great care, and using freely rock-fire and carcasses, with both of which I have been supplied since the last bombardment, and to which I attributed our present success in firing the navy-yard, and the failure of my doing so before to the want of them. The firing of the rebels was not so good as before, very few shot or shell having struck our walls or entered the fort, although the latter burst continuously all around us. He probably expended very considerably more ammunition than on either of the previous days, and with less effect.
I am impressed with the belief that General Bragg was not present, and that a less experienced and more hot-headed officer commanded. If he was, he certainly did not in this affair display his usual prudence and caution.
I had two men slightly injured-one a zouave, by a splinter hitting the calf of his leg, and the other a regular, by a contusion-both trifling; and the injury to the fort is of the most unimportant kind-a few shot on the scarp-wall and some few holes, made principally by the explosion of shells inside, neither of any consequence; and not a gun was disabled or injured, with the exception of one carriage, and, except the 2 named, not a man hurt.
I am more than satisfied with the result, as it has again clearly demonstrated that the immense batteries with which we are nearly surrounded (and to the number of which four have been added since the last bombardment) are unable to do us any serious injury.
We have burned several large buildings in the navy-yard, and must have seriously injured those which are fire-proof, giving the best possible evidence of the superiority of our fire.
I respectfully and earnestly recommend to the executive justice the brave men who have now three times of faithfully defended their country's