At Warrenton, a few miles below, the enemy had two batteries, of four pieces each, of which four are 20-pounder rifled guns. They opened upon us as we passed, but only struck us twice, doing no injury.
On reaching the Big Black River, I attempted to ascend it, but found it impossible from the narrowness of the stream. Passing it, we reached Natchez just at midnight. I landed at Vidalia, on the opposite shore, threw out some pickets, and went into the village, in the hope of picking up some rebel officers.
There can be no telegraphic line between Vicksburg and this point, for not a word of our coming had reached the place, and the people scarcely knew who we were. One rebel, Colonel [Z.] York, was halted, but made so rapid a retreat that he escaped the shots fired after him. Leaving this point, I kept on down the river. We passed Ellis' Cliffs at 3 a. m. There are no fortifications at that or any other point between Warrenton and Port Hudson.
We had got about 15 miles below the moth of Red River when we met a side-wheel steamer coming up. Her pilot blew the whistle for the Queen to take the starboard side, supposing her to be a Southern boat. Receiving no answer, and not liking the Queen's looks, as she bore straight down upon him, he ran his boat ashore. As we neared her, numerous rebel officers sprang into the water and made their escape. She proved to be the A. W. Baker; had just discharged her cargo at Port Hudson, and was returning for another. We captured on her 5 captains, 2 lieutenants, and a number of civilians, among them 7 or 8 ladies. I had just placed a guard on the boat, when another steamer was seen coming down the river. A shot across her bows brought her to. She proved to be the Moro, laden with 110,000 pounds of pork, nearly 500 hogs, and a large quantity of salt, destined for the rebel army at Port Hudson. I placed Captain Asgill Conner in command of the captured boats, and, as the Queen's supply of coal was very limited, I thought it best to return.
A short distance above our landing, I destroyed 25,000 pounds of meal, awaiting transportation to Port Hudson.
On reaching Red River, I stopped at a plantation to put ashore the ladies, who did not wish to go any farther. I also released the civilians. While doing so, another steamboat, the Berwick Bay, came out of Red River, and was immediately seized. She was laden with supplies for the rebel forces at Port Hudson, consisting of 200 barrels of molasses, 10 hogsheads of sugar, and 30,000 pounds of flour. She had also on board 40 bales of cotton.
I ascended Red River 15 miles in the hope of getting some more boats, but found nothing.
Night came on as we again started on our return. I found at once that the progress of the three prizes was so slow that our short supply of coal would not permit us to wait for them. I accordingly ordered them to be set on fire. We had not time to transfer their cargoes. We met with no interruption on our return until we reached Warrenton. Before arriving at this point, I ly prisoners around by land, under a strong guard, to avoid exposing them to the enemy's fire.
On passing Warrenton, we found another battery had been erected there, and the three combined opened a very heavy fire upon us. They struck us several times, but did no damage worth mentioning.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHARLES RIVERS ELLET.
Brigadier General ALFRED W. ELLET,
Commanding Mississippi Marine Brigade.