No. 8. Reports of Lieutenant Col. Alfred W. Ellet, U. S. Army, commanding Ram Fleet, of engagement with the Arkansas, July 22.
UNITED STATES RAM SWITZERLAND
Off Vicksburg, July 23, 1862-8 a.m.
I have the honor to inform you that, in accordance with preconcerted arrangements made with Flag-Officers Farragut and Davis, I, in the Queen of the West, made an attack upon the rebel ram and gunboat Arkansas, lying under the batteries at Vicksburg. I regret to say that, owing to failure upon the part of the parties who were to co-operate with me in the attack from some cause that is yet unexplained to me, I did not succeed as I expected in destroying the Arkansas. I did succeed, however, in striking a severe blow, and no doubt inflicted severe injury upon her; but being unsupported by the Essex and Sumter, as I had been led to expect, and exposed alone to the united fire of all the upper batteries I was obliged to draw off without accomplishing the full result anticipated. The position that the Arkansas occupies was a very unfavorable one for my attack. I could not reach her vulnerable side without rounding about, and thus lost much headway. The consequence was that she failed to receive the effects of a full blow. In making my retreat, most unfortunately for me our gunboats had retired, and I had the undivided attention of all the enemy's batteries and sharpshooters that lined the river bank. The consequence was the Queen was completely riddled with balls and very much damaged. Most fortunately no one was seriously hurt, although several were severely wounded. I had taken the precaution to reduce my crew upon the boat to the smallest possible number of men by which the boat could be handled, and to this cause I attribute the fact there was no loss of life.
I cannot close this communication without bearing testimony to the cool, heroic bravery of all the officers and men on the boat during this hour of severe trial. To Lieutenant J. M. Hunter, of the Sixty-third Illinois Volunteers, I attribute in an eminent degree the final escape of the boat and all on board. His dauntless behavior is worthy of all praise. The engineers and pilots all cannot be too highly praised. When the boat was full of steam, and of course so hot as barely to be endurable, with shells bursting, one in the pilot-house and another in the engine-room, with shot tearing the boat on every side of you, unflinching every man stood to his post. It is with the greatest pleasure that I bear this testimony to the heroic daring of these officers. I am compelled to send the Queen North to be repaired. She is so much damaged she cannot be put in order here. My force is greatly reduced by sickness, so that I find it exceedingly difficult to keep my boats at all times ready for that service.
I have in a previous dispatch requested authority to make a detail of a large military force so as to man my howitzers and increase my guard. It will be necessary to keep part of my boats constantly traversing this revery to disperse the guerrilla, bands that are beginning to infest its banks. I shall be glad to receive some instructions upon the subject from you.
ALFRED W. ELLET,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Ram Fleet.
Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.