impossible for us to send them down, as everything afloat had been turned over to Captain Mitchell, by order of the major-general commanding, and the fire barges and the boats to tow them into the stream were exclusively under his control. In consequence of this criminal neglect the river remained in complete darkness throughout the entire night. The bombardment continued all night and grew furious towards morning.
April 24.-At 3.30 a. m. the larger vessels of the enemy were observed in motion, and, as we presumed, to take up the positions indicated by the small flags planted by them on the previous evening. I then made my last and final appeal to Captain Mitchell, a copy of which attached as document M.
The Louisiana was still in her old position above Fort Saint Philip, surrounded by her tenders, on board of which was the majority of her cannoneers and crew, and the other boats of the fleet were generally at anchor above her, excepting the Jackson, Captain Renshaw, C. S. Navy, commanding, which had been sent the day before at my suggestion to prevent the landing of forces through the canals above.
The McRae lay near and above the Louisiana, and the steam ram Manassas, with her tender, remained in her constant position above Fort Jackson, both with steam up and ready for immediate action.
The enemy evidently anticipated a strong demonstration to be made against him with fire barges. Finding, upon his approach, however, that no such demonstration was made, and that the only resistance offered to his passage was the expected fire of the forts (the broken and scattered raft being then so obstacle), I am satisfied that he was suddenly inspired for the first time to run the guntlet at all hazards, although not a part of his original design. Be this as it may, a rapid rush was made by him in column of twos en echelon, so as not to interfere with each other's broadsides.
The mortar fire upon Fort Jackson was furiously increased, and in dashing by each vessel delivered broadside after broadside of shot, shell, grape, canister, and spherical case to drive the men from our guns.
Both the officers and men stood up manfully under this galling and fearful hail, and the batteries of both forts were promptly opened at their longest range with shot, shell, hot shot, and a little grape, and most gallantly and rapidly fought until the enemy succeeded in getting above and beyond our range.
The absence of light on the river, together with the smoke of the guns, made the obscurity so intense, that scarcely a vessel was visible, and in consequence the gunners were obliged to govern their firing entirely by the flashes of the enemy's guns.
I am fully satisfied that the enemy's dash was successful mainly owing to the cover of darkness, as a frigate and several gunboats were forced to retire as day was breaking. Similar results had attended every previous attempt made by the enemy to pass or to reconnoiter when we had sufficient light to fire with accuracy and effect.
The passage by was of short duration, having been accomplished between 3.30 a. m. and daylight, under a very rapid and heavy pressure of steam.
Of the part taken in this action by the Louisiana, Manassas, and other vessels comprising the co-operative naval forces, I cannot speak with any degree of certainty, excepting that the Louisiana is reported to have fired but twelve shots during the engagement; but to the heroic and gallant manner in which Captain Huger handled and fought the MacRae we can all bear evidence.