ORN Series 1, Vol. X: Letter from Acting Rear-Admiral Samuel P. Lee to Major General Benjamin F. Butler, June 21, 1864

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in Naval Volume X

[Engagement of Federal fleet with Confederate ironclads and shore batteries at Howlett’s, June 21, 1864.]

Letter from Acting Rear-Admiral Lee, U. S. Navy, to Major-General Butler, U. S. Army.

Flagship Agawam [sic, Malvern?]1,
James River, Virginia, June 21, 1864.

General: The enemy operates against us with heavy guns from the battery at Howlett’s and from their vessels in Dutch Gap. Our wooden vessels can not remain in Trent’s Reach under their cross fire, and they are very much exposed by it in the reach below, and the ironclads can not maintain a protracted fire for the purpose of silencing Howlett’s Battery. The life of the guns, the endurance of the men, and the supply of XV-inch ammunition and fuel will not admit of a protracted firing on the battery.

These vessels, unless to support and cooperate with some army movement, must be reserved for the rebel ironclads.

I would respectfully suggest such batteries of heavy guns, to be placed in the most commanding positions, as will keep Howlett’s Battery in subjection.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, yours,

S[amuel]. P. Lee,
Actg. Rear-Admiral, Comdg. North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Major-General B[emjamin]. F. Butler,
Commanding Department of Virginia and North Carolina.2

Source/Notes:

  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: I rarely comment on the Official Records, because they are almost always correct. In this case, the flagship is listed as Agawam, even though every other report, telegram and order from this time frame shows the flagship had shifted from Agawam to Malvern. Also, Lee sent several messages throughout June 21, 1864 from Malvern and listed her as his flagship.  So was this a typo, or did Lee switch flagships during an active fight? It seems pretty clear the reference to Agawam as the flagship was a typo, and Malvern should be listed instead, but I do not suggest corrections to the ORs lightly.
  2. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, p. 177

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