Webb to prepare for action. Our order of approach was as follows: The Queen of the WEST about 500 yards in advance of the Webb, and the Beaty, Lieutenant-Colonel [F. B.] Brand commanding (who, I wrote you, had joined us with a force and steamer fitted out from Port Hudson), 2 miles in the rear, and lashed to my tender, the Grand Era. The moon was partially obscured by a veil of white clouds, and gave and permitted just sufficient light for us to see where to strike with our rams, and just sufficient obscurity to render uncertain the aim of the formidable artillery of the enemy. We first discovered him when about 1,000 yards distant, hugging the eastern bank of the Mississippi, with his head quartering across and down the river. Not an indication of life was give as we dashed on toward him-no Light, no perceptible motion of his machinery was discernible. We had also obscured every Light, and only the fires of the Era could be seen, 2 miles back, where she was towing the Beaty. The distance between him and us had diminished to about 500 yards. We could clearly distinguish the long black line of his two coal-barges, which protected his sides from forward of his bow to nearly abreast of his wheels. The impatience of our men to open fire could be scarcely restrained, but I was too sensible of the vast advantage to be obtained by traversing the distance to be passed over without drawing the fire of his powerful guns. At last, when within about 150 yards of him, I authorized Captain [James] McCloskey to open fire, which he accordingly did with his two Parrott guns and one brass 12-pounder. At the SECOND fire, the 20-pounder Parrott gun was disabled by the blowing out of its vent-piece. Our intention was to dash the bow of our boat in his larboard wheel-house, just in the rear of the coal-barge, but when about 150 yards from him he backed and interposed the barge between us and him. Our bow went crashing clear through the barge, and was not arrested until it shattered some of his timbers amidships and deeply indenting the iron plating of his hull. So tremendous had been the momentum of our attack, that for nearly five minutes we could not disengage ourselves, but remained stuck fast. In this position our sharpshooters opened fire on every light and crevice that could be seen, but no living men were to be seen on the enemy's decks. While thus adhering to the enemy, the Webb came dashing by us, and plunged, with terrific force, just in the rear of his bow. Some few iron plates were loosened, but this blow of the Webb produced no serious external injury to the enemy. The prisoners since report that it disabled, by the jar, the starboard engine. Urged forward by the Webb, the Indianola swung away. One end of the coal-barge that the Queen had cut in two sunk, and the other drifted down the current a little way, and immediately sunk, and the Queen, finding herself free, immediately rounded up stream to add to the impetuosity of her next charge the additional power obtainable from the descending current of the river. As the Webb approached on her first charge, the two 11-inch Dahlgren guns on the bow of the Indianola opened on her at 75 yards with solid shot, but fortunately she was untouched. The vigor of her onset pushed the enemy around, and carrying her froward, laid her across and under the very muzzle of these monstrous guns. Dashing safely around from this perilous position, the Webb swung on the starboard side of the enemy, between him and his coal-barge, breaking the fastenings and setting the barge adrift.
The result of our first onset was to strip the Indianola of her coal-barges, which protected her sides, and to injure her to some extent in her wheel, as was apparent from her subsequent want of rapidity and precision in her movements. As soon as the Webb swept away clear