DECEMBER 12, 1862.-Expedition up the Yazoo River, Miss.
Report of Colonel Charles R. Ellet, commanding U. S. Ram Fleet.
UNITED STATES RAM MONARCH, Off Cairo, Ill., December 20, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report to you that on the 12th instant Captain E. W. Sutherland, commanding steam-ram Queen of the West, was sent, at his own request, by Captain Walke, U. S. Navy, on an expedition up Yazoo River, in company with four gunboats, the Marmora, Signal, Cairo, and Pittsburg.
The object of the expedition was to remove some torpedoes which had been placed in the channel by the enemy. Captain Walke impressed upon Captain Sutherland the necessity of observing the utmost caution on this dangerous enterprise, instructing him particularly not to get too near to the other boats, and to avoid the middle of the channel.
According to the design of Captain Walke, the Marmora and Signal, being light-draught boats, were to hug the shores and take up the torpedoes; while the Queen, Cairo, and Pittsburg were to protect them with their guns. While the fleet, however, was on its way up the Yazoo, Captain Selfridge, who commanded the expedition, and who brought up its rear in the gunboat Cairo, frequently and peremptorily ordered Captain Sutherland to move faster-a command which periled the safety of the boats ahead of the Queen, for in that narrow and tortuous stream if the leading boats had been compelled by some unexpected danger, such as a battery or a torpedo, suddenly to stop or back, one of them would have been inevitably sunk by the ram.
The fleet arrived in sight of the enemy's fort and opened an irregular fire. Captain Selfridge came alongside of the Marmora with the Cairo and inquired why they did not go ahead. The answer was that they were right at the torpedoes; the buoys, in fact, were plainly visible just before them. Captain Selfridge then advanced himself with the Cairo, moving up the middle of the stream.
The unfortunate though natural consequence was that a torpedo immediately exploded under the Cairo, blowing her almost out of the water. She went down in about ten minutes, sinking nearly over her chimneys. Immediately after the explosion Captain Selfridge called for assistance. For some unexplained reason none of the gunboats volunteered to comply with his request. Disregarding the command of several of their officers to keep away, Captain Sutherland passed with the Queen to the side of the sinking vessel and removed her crew and the chief portion of their effects.
He and his officers and men deserve credit for their conduct on this occasion.
CHARLES RIVERS ELLET,
Colonel, Commanding Ram Fleet.
Brigadier General ALFRED W. ELLET,
Commanding Mississippi Marine Brigade.