a strong frame-work, consisting of two heavy spars 65 feet in length, firmly secured by transverse and diagonal braces and extending 50 feet forward of the steamer's bow. A cross-pieces 35 feet in length was to be bolted to the forward extremities of these spars. Through each end of this cross-piece and through the center a heavy iron rod, 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 10 feet long, descended into the river, terminating in a hook. An intermediate hook was attached to each bar 3 feet from the bottom. The three bars were strengthened by a light piece of timber half-way down, through which they were passed and bolted.
I proposed to secure this rake tot he bow of the steam-ram Lioness and run her at full speed up the river. The torpedoes are sunk in the water, but the cords by which they are fired are attached to buoys floating ont he surface. My belief was that the curved hooks of the rake would catch these cords, and, driven by the powerful boat, would either explode the torpedoes or tear them to pieces and break the ropes, thus rendering them harmless to succeeding vessels. As there would be at least 45 feet of water between the point of explosion and the bow of my vessel I anticipated no damage would be done the boat. If the rake was destroyed a new one could be easily constructed. The design was to obviate the necessity of sending men out in small boats to fish for the torpedoes under a tremendous fire from regiments of rebel sharpshooters stationed in rifle-pits along either shore. This had been the plan hitherto pursued and found impracticable. The Cairo was blown up by a torpedo while protecting the men who were searching for them.
By Admiral Porter's order I commenced the construction of a rake on the night of December 30. It was finished on the following day. Great credit is due Mr. George W. Andrews, carpenter of the Monarch, for his exertions in getting it ready. He worked upon it all night, and the next day int he water, and its speedy completion was mainly due to his efforts. We experienced great difficulty in procuring material, and were compelled to cut and haul the green timber ont he bank at night. The wood was very heavy and sunk int he water. I was compelled to sustain the frame by the strongest chimney-guys I could find, bolting them through the bulwarks of the Lioness. When finished it worked to the greatest satisfaction, and the Lioness was in her place at the head of the feet on the night of the intended attack, awaiting orders to move. She carried alongside in an open barge fifteen barrels of gunpowder, which I was instructed by Admiral Porter to place on the raft and ignite after reaching it. During her whole passage up and at the raft itself the Lioness would have been under the fire of the enemy's batteries. The planks of the commanding officer were changed and the attack did not take place. I returned and destroyed, by Admiral Porter's order, such portions of the raft as could not be retained.
I think it is only just, however, to the 35 brave men who volunteered to accompany me on this expedition to send you their names. I hope, notwithstanding the probability that the Lioness would have been destroyed, that you will approve of my having proffered her and my men for the purpose required. The removal of the torpedoes was essential to the advance of the iron-clads and consequently to that of our army.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, your obedient servant,
CHARLES RIVERS ELLET,
Colonel, Commanding Ram Fleet.
Brigadier General ALFRED W. ELLET,
Commanding Mississippi Brigade.