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ORN Series 1, Vol. X: Report of Commander Edmund R. Colhoun, USS Saugus, June 21, 1864

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

[Enclosure 2.]

U. S. Ironclad Steamer Saugus,
Trent’s Reach, James River, June 23, 1864.

Sir: In the engagement with the enemy’s battery near Howlett’s house, on the 21st instant, the Saugus was struck only once by a round shot, near the center of the deck, a few feet from the turret; thence glancing, it struck the turret, breaking six bolts, and fell into the water. I think it was a X-inch shot. In obedience to your order, I have directed Acting Chief Engineer John L. Peake to make a report of the injury to the deck and turret. His report is herewith enclosed.

We were engaged for three hours. The rebel ironclads gave us a cross fire, their shot sometimes coming quite near. I paid no attention to them, as they were out of sight. We fired thirty-six shell with 35-pound charges of powder and 10 second fuzes.

Estimated distance of the battery, 2,100 yards.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Edmund R. Colhoun,

Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee,
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.



U. S. S. Saugus,
James River, Va., June 23, 1864.

Sir: In obedience to orders, I herewith submit report and sketches of the position of the wound and effects produced by shot received [from] enemy’s guns June 21, 1864, at Trent’s Reach, James River.

Sketch No. 1 is a section of the deck and turret, forward side. A is where shot first struck deck, passing along deck, sinking at center of wound 2 ¾ inches, then taking an upward direction, leaving the deck after having passed along it 26 inches, then striking the turret at D, 3 feet 10 inches above the deck, making an indentation of seven-eighths inch on the outside of turret.


Beam E, directly under where shot struck, was driven down so as to slightly fracture the paint on it and remaining three fourths inch below its original position. One plank (oak) was broken and splintered badly, piece of which I enclose. The beam E is started from the deck 18 feet athwartships.


Sketch No. 2 is plan of top of deck and turret, showing the line of shot and the plates and bolts started, the figures in red ink giving the height they are lifted from their former places.

No. 3 is sketch of inside of turret, showing the number of bolts loosened, broken, and heads thrown off. The bolt shown broken on this sketch was broken off 7 7/8 inches from inside of turret (the bolt accompanies this report), consequently in the place where it was expected it would upset and be strongest, that sheet (the third from outside of turret) being left larger than the others to allow it to fill up in riveting the bolt to form shoulder, to prevent its driving through on the inside.

Five bolts have their heads thrown off, one of which I send. Thirty-eight are loose, some of them no doubt broken, but none of them started in, making in all forty-four bolts more or less affected by this shot. The broken bolt was started in from 2 ½ to 3 inches, not thrown entirely out.

The deck plates are fractured, but show much tenacity, and are of good quality of iron. The indentation on outside of turret shows no fracture; on inside, shows a fracture of 3 ½ inches in length and shaped as per sketch.


The iron in bolts I send samples of, and call it good quality. The broken bolts show it to have been overheated where broken, and not having fitted the hole, as its shape, will show, or formed a shoulder in large sheet, as claimed it would have done.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

John L. Peake,
Acting Chief Engineer.

Edm’d R. Colhoun,
Commander, U. S. S. Saugus, James River, Virginia.1

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. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, pp. 179181
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