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NP: August 8, 1864 South Danvers (MA) Wizard: Naval Correspondence

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Bryce Suderow and is included in a collection of articles from the South Danvers [Mass] Wizard.  His transcription of this article is published here with his written permission.  Bryce had dated this article “June 8, 1864”, but clearly this article saw publication at a later date, probably in late July or early August 1864.


U.S. Steamer Mendota
James River, Va. Near 4 Mile Creek
July 21st, 1864

Dear Sir:
I send you the details of the engagement between this ship and the rebel battery off the mouth of Four Mile Creek for the columns of the “Wizard.”

While the U.S. Steamer Mendota was laying at anchor off the mouth of Four Mile Creek on the morning of the 16th, a rebel battery opened on her at a distance of 1,200 yards. The battery was posted on the right bank of the creek — the rebels had contrived to get it there during the night. At the time they commenced shelling us the watch was busily engaged in holystoning decks; the other watch and all the officers except the officer of the deck were below asleep. Acting Ensign Barnes had the deck at the time and as soon as the first shell was fired, he immediately beat to quarters, and in less than two minutes from the time they fired the first shell the men and officers were all at their respective quarters, and the steamer was in action. The steamer was at that time in such position that all her starboard battery would not bear on the rebels, owing to the short bend in the river and the nature of the ground the battery was placed on. Capt. Nichols seeing this, slipped and steamed down the river about 500 yards, coming nearer to them and giving us a better range, our whole broadside being brought to bear. We then commenced the engagement in earnest with them, using five second fuses.

During the action we fired both shell and shrapnell at them. The engagement lasted about 40 minutes. The rebels served their guns very lively, but most all their shot went too high; had they aimed lower they would have done us a great deal of damage, as all their shots were in line of the steamer. During the engagement we were struck twice, one shell striking just below the bulwarks, forward of No. gun, knocking out the fighting bolt and bursting just inside the bulwarks, sweeping away the whole of the gun’s crew on the left side of the gun, killing two and wounding seven others. The other shell struck our awning spreader at the main masthead over the crow’s next, placed there to protect the men on the lookout from the sun, carrying it away and passing through the awning, doing no further damage. The enemy fired at us in all about 40 or 50 shell. We could tell by the whistle that they were fired from rifle guns and the shell that struck us forward was a 20 pounder. We fired about 50 shots at them before we silenced their battery. The army officers on shore say it was the prettiest engagement they ever witnessed. They could see every shell we fired burst directly over them, and they must have suffered greatly as they withdrew their battery in great haste after we got the range of them. While we were steaming down the river, they shelled the camp of Gen. Foster, commanding the brigade on the left side of Four Mile Creek, throwing about a dozen shell into the camp, doing no further damage than killing one horse belonging to Capt. Davis, Assistant Adjutant General to Brigadier General Foster. The enemy left about 8 o’clock, and since that time we have had no fighting between Turkey Bend and Jones’ Landing.

Generals Grant, Butler and Graham came up the river at 10 o’clock the same day and inspected the defenses of Foster’s position, which is ten miles direct course from Richmond. I see by the New York papers that while Grant and Butler were inspecting the works, that the rebels were shelling the camp and that shell were bursting all around them; also that General Grant quietly smoked his cigar while the rebels were shelling him. I will here state that the whole story was false; there was not a shot fired after half past 8 o’clock, and the General did not come up the river till 10 o’clock. Such stories must annoy the General when everyone knows them to be false here.

The following is the list of killed and wounded on board this ship.
Killed — Thomas Kennedy, Landsman; William T. Pottle, Seaman
Wounded — Edgar McDonald, Acting Master’s Mate, slightly in the leg and hand; Charles Taylor, Quarter Master in the head, dangerously; Hugh Walch, in the leg, severely; Peter Flaherty, Landsman, in the leg, slightly, and one finger shot off; Prince Eldridge, Captain of the After Guard, in the leg, slightly; John Smith, 2nd Landsman, in the leg, slightly; Otta Estburg, Landsman, in the breast, slightly.

Yours Truly


  1. “Naval Correspondence,” South Danvers (Mass) Wizard, August 8(?), 1864, p. ? col. ?
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