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ORN Series 1, Vol. X: Report of Lieutenant-Commander Charles A. Babcock, U. S. S. Morse, June 20-24, 1864

[Report of Lieutenant-Commander Charles A. Babcock, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Morse, of cooperative engagements in Pamunkey River and Move to Yorktown, June 20-24, 1864]


U. S. S. Morse,
Off Yorktown, Va., June 25, 1864.

Charles A. Babcock, US Navy, Captain of the USS Morse. (MOLLUS Vol. 109, Page 5623)

Lieutenant-Commander Charles A. Babcock filed this report shortly after the engagements of June 20-21, 1864 on the Pamunkey River. (MOLLUS Vol. 109, Page 5623)

Sir: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 20th instant, while lying off White House, Pamunkey River, during a thick fog, at 6:30 a. m., some firing was occasionally heard on shore, at some distance off from this vessel, but after a short time ceased. At 9 a. m., the fog clearing up, three rebel batteries intrenched at the edge of the woods opened a brisk artillery fire on our wagon trains on shore, also on this vessel and Cactus. At once took position with this vessel and Cactus, opening fire on them, and by noon succeeded in driving them entirely from their position out of range of our guns. The wagon trains retreated slowly across the river. Made excellent shots both from this vessel and Cactus, and was informed afterwards from accounts of prisoners who were taken that Fitzhugh Lee and Wade Hampton’s Legion, consisting of 10,000 rebel cavalry, were intending to make an attack on our wagon trains, and that had it not been for the gunboats they would certainly have accomplished their purpose. At 5 p. m. General Sheridan’s command arrived, and at once followed up the rebel cavalry.

Expended from this vessel the following ammunition: One 40-second, 1 30-second, and 35 20-second shell from 100-pounders; 30 20-second shell from IX-inch Dahlgrens; 37 10-pound cartridges for 100-pounder Parrotts; 30 10-pound cartridges for IX-inch Dahlgrens.

On the morning of the 21st instant a party of these rebel cavalry fired on the transport steamer Eliza Hancox off Cumberland Point, but the Shokokon succeeded in driving them handsomely.

On the morning of the 23d instant, at 10 a. m., White House being entirely evacuated by our forces, gave orders to get underway and proceed down the river, bringing up the rear with this vessel. When down to West Point stopped there a short time and found that all our forces had left that place also; proceeded to Yorktown and arrived safely at 1 a. m. yesterday morning. At 9 a. m. dispatched the Shokokon, Cactus, Henry Brinker, and Cohasset to Hampton Roads with order to report to Captain Guert Gansevoort for further orders.

During the firing from this vessel on the morning of the 20th instant, at the second fire of my after 100-pounder Parrott, the socket of the elevating screw broke; afterwards worked the gun bed and quoin. The breeching of the 100-pounder Parrott parted, but caused no accident whatever.

Too much praise can not be given to the commanding officers of the Shokokon, Cactus, Henry Brinker, and Cohasset for the very efficient aid and support they afforded me at all times. Their officers and crews behaved well, also the officers and crew of this vessel.

I respectfully forward you the enclosed reports from the Shokokon and Cactus, also a copy of a letter received by me from General Abercrombie, who commanded the land forces at White House during the attack of the 20th instant, before the arrival of General Sheridan.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Cha[rle]s. A. Babcock,
Lieutenant-Commander and Senior Officer Present.

Acting Rear-Admiral S[amuel]. P. Lee,
Comdg. North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, James River.1


  1. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, p. 166
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