I found it necessary to stop and have them cleaned out, a delay of twenty minutes being caused by this. The Era had scarcely passed the island when a battery of three guns opened upon us from the Louisiana shore. Forty-six shots were fired, but did no injury.
At Warrenton, the rebels opened fire upon the Era with two rifled 20-pounder guns. They fired twenty-four shots, but did not succeed in striking her. Extraordinary as it may appear, there is even reason to believe that no one was killed on the Queen. It is probably attributable to the fact that those below got into the hold through the numerous hatches, and thus escaped the effects of the steam. Mr. Taylor, one of the engineers, is reported by a deserter from the Webb to be badly scalded.
Twenty-four men were taken prisoners, 10 of whom were civilians employed on the boat. Assistant Surgeon Booth was the only commissioned officer captured.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHARLES RIVERS ELLET,
Commanding Ram Fleet.
Actg. Rear-Admiral DAVID D. PORTER,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
UNITED STATES Mississippi SQUADRON,
February 8, 1863.
Colonel CHARLES RIVERS ELLET,
Commanding Mississippi Ram Fleet:
COLONEL: When you have taken in your coal, you will proceed at night, after dark, with the De Soto and the coal barge, down the river, showing no lights. When you get near Red River, wait until daylight, above the mouth; from there you will be able to see the smoke of any steamer over the trees as she comes down Red River. When you capture them, do not burn them until you have broken all the machinery. Then let go the anchors, and let them burn under your own eyes at their anchors. There will be no danger, then, of any part of them floating down to the enemy.
There is one vessel (the Webb) that you must look out for. If you can get the first crack at her you will sink her, and if she gets the first crack at you she will sink you. My advice is to put a few cotton bales over your bow, about 15 feet abaft the stem, and if she strikes you then there will be no harm done. It is likely that an attempt will be made to board you. If there is, do not open any doors or ports to board in return, but act on the defensive, giving the enemy steam and shell.
Do not forget to wet your cotton before going int action. Do not lose sight of the De Soto, unless in chase, and under circumstances when it will be perfectly safe. When your coal is all out of the barge, you can take the De Soto alongside. You can help each other along. Destroy her at once when there is the least chance of her falling into the hands of the enemy. She is now, though, a Government vessel, and should be brought back if possible. Destroy all small boats you meet with on the river; also wharf-boats and barges. If you have a chance, and have plenty of coal, take a look at Port Hudson, and give them a few rifle-shots, but do not pass by. Communicate with the squadron below by signal, if possible. The great object is to destroy all you can of the