[Engagement of Federal fleet with Confederate ironclads and shore batteries at Howlett’s, June 21, 1864.]
Report of Lieutenant Benton, C. S. Navy, commanding C. S. S. Roanoke.
C. S. S. Roanoke, June 22, 1864.
Sir: I have the honor to report that yesterday at 12:50 p. m. I commenced firing at the enemy in the lower part of Trent’s Reach from my position just above Signal Tower. After firing a few times from this position, using 15-second shell and two percussion shell, I was convinced that my shell were doing no good, and moved up to the ferry, whence I fired 1 percussion shell, but as the range was too great for my gun and there was no indication of the presence of gunboats, I dropped down to a position opposite Cox’s Mill. From this position at 4:55 I opened on a gunboat lying near Aiken’s, firing 1 10-second shell and 11 percussion shells. In obedience to a signal from the flagship, at 6:20 ceased firing. The lookout at the masthead reported these shells as falling near the enemy, two apparently striking him.
I am happy to report no casualties, as none of the enemy’s shot struck us.
My men and officers were in excellent spirits all day, displaying a spirit which promises well should they ever be placed in a position where there is warm work and real fighting.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M[ortimer]. M. Benton,
Flag-Officer Jno. [Jonathan] K. Mitchell,
Commanding James River Squadron.1