War of the Rebellion: Serial 026 Page 0342 NORTH CAROLINA AND S. E. VIRGINIA. Chapter XXX.

Search Civil War Official Records

APRIL 16, 1863.- Affair on the Pamunkey River, near West Point, Va.

Report of Major Peyton Wise, Forty-sixth Virginia Infantry.


White House, Va., April 19, 1863.

GENERAL: I have just returned from Taylor's Quarter, 2 miles from West Point, to which place I was called on Thursday evening last by occurrences of which the following shall be a report. Permit me only to premise that this should have been sent to earlier, but that a dispatch which reached me at the place just named, and other reports which came to me tending to show that you had retired from Williamsburg, left me in ignorance of your whereabouts. On Thursday evening last a dispatch reached me by courier from Captain [G. W.] Abbitt (stationed at Taylor's Quarter, on the Pamunkey River, with his own company and that of Captain [G. D.] Huffman and a section of artillery under Lieutenant Hudgin) that two gunboats were descried in York River slowly approaching West Point. I immediately telegraphed this fact to General Elzey, and then, after sending an order to Captain Haynes (stationed at Canton, in King William County, near Mattapony River, with a company of cavalry) to scout the Mattapony River down to its mouth, with a view to watch out for and prevent, as far as possible, any attempted landing of the enemy above us on that river, or any raid of gunboats, I proceeded directly to Taylor's Quarter. This was the scene of the little action which I shall relate to you. The two gunboats referred to were stream propellers, one of large size, the other of dimensions not so great but respectable, and both conveying troops. The fact that they bore troops is distinctly vouched for by citizens at West Point, who were not only close enough to both to see with ease what was on board of them but were not so far removed from the smaller of the two as that they could not hear voices on it. the larger of the gunboats lay off abreast the point and near the opposite shore, on which is the "brisk house." The smaller one passed West Point up into the Pamunkey about half a mile At this distance she was opened upon by our artillery, which consisted of two small guns (of the Blakely pattern) with round shot. The first shot was ineffectual, but the second and third, following in quick secession, went rearing and crashing right through her. It is supposed that she was struck twice afterward, but certain it is that after an action of about three-quarters of an hour she retired, evidently with the greatest difficulty and very badly damaged. As she repassed West Point groans and screams of the most heart-rending description, heard with the utmost distinctness at the Point, told not only of damage done to vessel but that her crew had experienced the effect of the iron hail. When this gunboat rejoined her consort they both steamer down York River and have not been heard of since. Next day at as early an hour as possible General Elzey was informed of what had been done. Colonel [R. T. W.] Duke was informed of it with equal promptness by his pickets (Captain [J. C.] Hill's company) at Eltham, who were witnesses of the whole transaction. I shall leave you to judge, sir, what was the destination of the troops on board of these vessels, but to enable you to form as correct a judgment as possible permit me to state that I am now firmly convinced that the only object of the small gunboat in entering the Pamunkey River was the capture of a large schooner which was pushing its way down the river and was near Eltham. The larger one, too, went toward the Brick House Landing and lay near it. Can these troops have been destined to flank