further from the fleet until about 11.30 p. m., when the sound of the mortars, followed almost immediately after by a heavy cannonade, announced that the Navy were engaged. The cannonade continued to be heard at times very indistinctly until after 2 a. m., the sound creeping slowly from left to right until that hour, when it apparently ceased. Between 2.30 and 3 o'clock a bright light was seen above the river at about the pints which the shells marked as the position of our mortar boats; the light seemed to come from a burning vessel, which apparently drifted down the stream. Very frequent explosions were heard, as if proceeding from the burning craft, until shortly after 5 o'clock, when a terrific explosion, as of a large magazine, told that her destruction was completed. The course followed by the sound of the firing satisfied me that at lest a portion of the fleet had succeeded in passing Port Hudson, but some fears were aroused for the safety of the large vessels, expedially lest the burning craft should have been the Hartford.
At about 7.30 a.m . to-day I received a dispatch,* of which a copy is inclosed, from the signal officer stationed at Springfield Landing, conveying definite information of the result of the engagement. The object of the expedition to create a diversion in favor of the Navy having now been obtained, not indeed so completely as I wished, but quite as much so as was possible under the circumstances, and an assault upon the enemy's works being, in view of our relative numbers, out of the question, I gave orders for the troops to move in and occupy the line of the Bayou Monte Serro, extending across the Bayou Sara, Clinton, and Greensburg roads. After seeing these orders in process of execution, I moved my headquarters, and went into camp at the fork of the Bayou Sara and Clinton roads, where I shall remain for the present.
I had made all the necessary arrangements to establish signal communication with the admiral on the west bank of the river, when I was reliably informed that the Hartford and Albatross had passed up the river, out of sight.
Colonel Clark, of my staff, was I regret to state, severely, but not dangerously, wounded while reconnoitering the enemy in front of our lines.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES FORCES,
Baton Rouge, March 15, 1863 - 12.15 p.m.
Lieutenant Col. RICHARD B. IRWIN,
Asst. Adjt. General, Hdqrs. Department of the Gulf:
SIR: I have the honor to state that the Iberville, dispatched this morning to collect the survivors of the Mississippi,has but a short time since returned, bringing 40 of the crew of the latter vessel, who confirm the reports previously forwarded to you. They state that five vessels of the fleet are above Port Hudson and the remainder below; that the Mississippi was slowly the course of the fleet when she grounded; that, on account of her precarious condition, she was finally fired and abandoned. Thirty of the crew are reported lost; 3 lieutenants wounded, one of whom had both legs shot away. Captain Smith,
*See p. 262.