[Engagement of Federal fleet with Confederate ironclads and shore batteries at Howlett’s, June 21, 1864.]
Report of Lieutenant [Charles W.] Hays, C. S. Navy, commanding C. S. S. Nansemond.
C. S. S. Nansemond,
James River, June 22, 1864.
Sir: In compliance with your general order of the 21st instant this vessel weighed anchor at 1 p. m. and proceeded in company with the fleet down the river.
At 2 p. m. I was directed by Commander Rootes to return up the river and signalize the Richmond to join the flagship as soon as practicable. After executing this order I returned with a written communication from Lieutenant Commanding [William H.] Parker, after delivering which in person to you and delivering your orders to the Drewry and Beaufort to proceed to the assistance of the Richmond, I anchored this vessel in the position designated near the Fredericksburg. As this position was 2,700 yards from the enemy we were necessarily compelled to remain silent, as it was beyond the range of our guns. This vessel while near Cox’s Wharf fired but three guns, and I regret to report that the rifled 32 pounder burst at the muzzle ring at the first fire. I know not [to] what to attribute this accident; the gun was properly loaded, and every precaution taken to prevent accident. I respectfully request that this gun be replaced by another of improved make. I think it unsafe to use it in its present condition, and it can not be fought by the gun’s crew with any degree of confidence and security.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Cha[rle]s. W. Hays,
Flag-Officer Jno. [Jonathan] K. Mitchell,
Commanding James River Squadron.1