Numbers 7. Report of Flag-Officer Franklin Buchanan, C. S. Navy.
Norfolk, Va., March 27, 1861.
SIR: Having been confident to my bed in this building since the 9th instant, in consequence of a would received in the action of the previous day, I have not it in power at an earlier date to prepare the official report, which I now have the honor to submit, of the proceedings of the 8th and 9th instant of the James River squadron, under my command, composed of the following-named vessels; Steamer Virginia, flag-ship, ten guns; steamer Patrick Henry, Commander John R. Tucker, twelve guns, steamer Jamestown, Lieutenant Commanding J. N. Barney, two guns; and gunboats Teazer, Lieutenant, Commanding W. A. Webb; Beaufort, Lieutenant Commanding W. H. Parker; and Raleigh Lieutenant Commanding J. W. Alexander, each one gun. Total, twenty-seven guns.
On the 8th instant, at 11 a. m., the Virginia left the navy-yard (Norfolk), accompanied by the Raleigh and Beaufort, and proceeded to Newport News, to engage the enemy's frigates Cumberland and Congress, gunboats, and shore batteries. When within less than a mile of the Cumberland the Virginia commenced the engagement with that ship with her bow gun, and the action soon became general, the Cumberland, Congress, gunboats, and shore batteries concentrating upon us their heavy fire, which was returned with great spirit and determination. The Virginia stood rapidly on toward the Cumberland which ship I had determined to sink with our prow if possible. In about fifteen minutes after the action commenced we ran into her on her starboard bow. The crash below the water was distinctly heard, and she commenced sinking, gallantly fighting her guns as long as they were above water. She went down with her colors flying.
During this time the shore batteries, Congress, and gunboats kept up this heavy concentrated fire upon us, doing us some injury. Our guns, however, were not idle; their fire was very destructive to the shore batteries and vessels, and we were gallantly sustained by the rest of the squadron.
Just after the Cumberland sunk that gallant officer Commander John R. Tucker was seen standing down James River under full steam, accompanied by the Jamestown and Teazer. They all came nobly into action and were soon exposed to the heavy fire of shore batteries. Their escape was miraculous, as they were under a galling fire of solid shot, shell, grape, and canister, a number of which passed through the vessels without doing any serious injury, except to the Patrick Henry, through whose boiler a shot passed, scalding to death four persons and wounding others. Lieutenant-Commanding Barney promptly obeyed a signal to tow her out of the action. As soon as damages were repaired the Patrick Henry returned to her stationed and continued to perform good service during the remained of that day and the following.
Having sunk the Cumberland, I turned our attention to the Congress. We were some time in getting our proper position in consequence of the shoalness of the water and the great difficulty of managing the ship when in or near the mud. To succeed in my object I was obliged to run the ship a short distance above the batteries on James River