I cannot speak too highly of the officers and crew under my command. Not the least confusion occurred during the action. The wounded were taken below and the men returned instantly to their quarters. The powder DIVISION, under charge of Paymaster Richardson, was beautifully attended to; every charge and every shell was sent to the different guns without a single mistake.
I am, sir, respectfully, yours,
P. U. MURPHY,
Lieutenant-Commander, C. S. Navy.
Admiral F. BUCHANAN.
Numbers 20. Reports of Lieutenant John W. Bennett, C. S. Navy, commanding steamer Gaines.
MOBILE, ALA., August 8, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to submit a report of the part taken by the Gaines, under my command, in the action of the 5th instant off Fort Morgan, and the circumstances which led to the beaching and abandonment of the ship.
The Gaines was cleared for action about 6. 20 a. m., and in obedience to signal from the admiral to "follow his motions," waited for him to open upon the advancing enemy, advancing with four monitors in line ahead and fourteen wooden vessels by twos, each large ship having a smaller one lashed to her port side, the whole forming one compact line of battle. As soon as the Tennessee delivered fire, the Gaines, having placed herself next the admiral, commenced at about 2,000 yards' distance with her pivot guns upon the leading wooden ships, supposed to be the Hartford and her consort, at about 6. 50, as nearly as I can determine, and continued to deliver a raking fire upon the leading wooden ships until their passage past the fort. She then made one circle to prevent too close action, as she was lying nearly in the track of the advancing fleet, and afterward steered in nearly parallel lines with the enemy at distances gradually diminishing until she was within at least 700 yards and engaging with her port guns. The enemy being now clear of the fort was enabled to direct attention exclusively to our little squadron. Early in the action a shell exploded near the steering wheel, wounding the two men stationed at it and cutting the wheel rope. The ship was then steered with the relieving tackles until the after-wheel ropes could be rove. Shortly after this it was reported that the forward magazine was filled with smoke and thought to be on fire. This, on examination, luckily, proved a mistake. An 11-inch shot had entered the starboard bow, striking the deck above the magazine, had broken it in, and made so much dust that the gunner's mate, serving powder in that magazine, thought it smoke, and believed, from the shock and dust, a shell had exploded and fired that part of the ship. He reported accordingly. This occasioned a short delay in the serving of powder to the forward DIVISION. The firemen of this DIVISION, with hose and buckets, went promptly to the spot, under the executive officer, and soon discovered the mistake. About this time the ship was subjected to a very heavy concentrated fire from the Hartford, Richmond, and others at short range as the enemy passed me. Nearly their whole fire seemed for a time to be directed at the Gaines. The
29 R R-VOL XXXIX, PT I