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ORN Series 1, Vol. X: Report of Commander Tunis A. M. Craven, USS Tecumseh, June 21, 1864

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

[Enclosure 1.]

U. S. Ironclad Tecumseh,
James River, June 23, 1864.

NH 61473: "Destruction of the Monitor 'Tecumseh' by a Rebel Torpedo, in Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864."

The Tecumseh and Captain Tunis Craven suffered a severe fate when she rolled over and sank in mere minutes at the Battle of Mobile Bay, only a month and a half after this report was written. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Sir: In compliance with your order I have to report the part this vessel took in the engagement of the 21st instant:

Early in the morning of the 21st we discovered that the enemy had during the night felled some trees to the north of Howlett’s barn and exposed a new line of works there. These works were covered with brush.

At 10:30 a. m., observing a gang busily occupied on the right of this new battery, I threw into it five XV-inch shells, two of which exploded in the right place, destroying a platform, throwing the plank and timber in every direction. At 11:30 the enemy commenced moving the brush and unmasked a battery of six embrasures, in four of which guns were mounted.

I immediately renewed my fire on the battery and ordered the Canonicus and Saugus also to open, on your previous instructions.

The enemy opened his fire upon us at meridian1 with four guns, two of them heavy caliber, and at 12:30 some ironclads near Dutch Gap commenced a wild cross fire which we would not reply to, as they were concealed by the trees.

Our fire was delivered slowly and with great precision, most of our shells exploding within the works of the enemy. At 1:30 p. m. I ceased firing and gave my crew a half hour to rest and eat their dinner. At 2 recommenced and continued firing slowly until 4 p. m., our last shell silencing one gun, the shell having traversed through the embrasure and disabled it. The estimated distance was 2,000 yards. This ship expended forty-six XV-inch shells, and was not hit. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T[unis]. Aug[ustu]s. [Macdonough] Craven,

Acting Rear Admiral S[amuel]. P. Lee,
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.2

Map of the June 21, 1864 Action at Howlett's Bluff

This map shows the June 21, 1864 Action at Howlett’s Bluff, covered in this report.


  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Noon.
  2. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, pp. 177178
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