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ORN Series 1, Vol. X: Report of Lieutenant William H. Wall, CSS Drewry, June 21-22, 1864

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

Report of Lieutenant [William H.] Wall, C. S. Navy, commanding C. S. S. Drewry.

C. S. S. Drewry,
James River Squadron, June 22, 1864.


Although the Drewry would eventually be sunk at Trent’s Reach in January 1865, she was fully afloat and dangerous during the June 21, 1864 Action at Howlett’s Bluff.

Sir: In obedience to your orders of this date I have the honor of reporting to you the part borne by this vessel in the shelling of the enemy’s fleet and batteries in and on James River June 21, 1864. I got underway at 11 a. m.; proceeded down the river to obtain the position specified in your special order of yesterday’s date. Dropped into my position astern of Hampton at 12 o’clock. The firing from the battery at Howlett’s about this time commenced. Soon after from the Virginiashe was followed by the Hampton and other vessels of the fleet. Thinking that my gun could be used with effect at a distance of 3,000 yards with a 10-second shell and 10-pound cartridge, I had the gun trained and pointed; the shell exploded beautifully. I kept up the firing until ordered to cease by the flag-officer. The gun on board of the Drewry is a 6.4 Brooke rifle. The character of projectile used was 10-second shell and the charge 10 pounds. The number of shots fired by this vessel was four. The number of shots could easily have been augmented had I seen the effect of my firing. A great portion of the afternoon I spent in towing down the RichmondThe enemy fired occasionally from a boat near Aiken’s, which had our range very well.1 The enemy seemed inclined not to shell from their land battery, so far as I could ascertain.

I have no casualties, either accidental or by the enemy. The crew behaved very gallantly and with coolness. I am much indebted to Signal Officers Williamson and Burchette for their valuable assistance. The pilot, Acting Master’s Mate Skinner, showed great skill in handling the vessel while in action. I found the engineers, Messrs. Reams and Ahem, worked the engine knowingly and exerted every means in their power to handle the vessel quickly. This vessel was engaged from dark until this morning at 5 o’clock in towing the Richmond to Chaffin’s Bluff.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W[illia]m. H. Wall,
Lieutenant, Commanding Drewry.

Flag-Officer J[onathan]. K. Mitchell, Provisional Navy C. S.,
Commanding James River 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 by Lieutenant William H. Wall.



  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: As I discussed in prior reports, this was probably the double-ender USS Agawam, the only Union vessel which indicated it fired at the Confederate warships on June 21, 1864.
  2. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, pp. 189190
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