Report of Second Assistant Engineer Stone, U. S. Navy, in temporary command of the U. S. S. Spuyten Duyvil.1
U. S. S. Spuyten Duyvil,
James River, Virginia, January 31, 1865.
Sir: I have the honor to report that several days previous to the 23d instant I had information from Commander Parker, commanding James River fleet, that the rebel fleet on the James River was about to descend, force their way through our obstructions of sunken vessels above Dutch Gap, if possible destroy our fleet, and capture City Point. On the morning of the 23d instant, while lying a few ships’ lengths below the U. S. S. Onondaga, Commander Parker ordered me to get the Spuyten Duyvil underway and go above his vessel, as I was no protection to him whatever while lying there. I obeyed the order, got up anchor, steamed a few yards above the steamer Onondaga and came to anchor. During the day I suggested to Commander Parker the necessity of taking a more advantageous position by moving farther up and more into the left bank of the river; received permission, and moved the vessel accordingly at 4 p.m., with everything ready for action. About 8 p.m. was hailed by Mr. Hays, executive officer of the Onondaga, to be prepared for immediate action. At 9:30 p.m. was again hailed by Mr. Hays, of the Onondaga, to go to quarters, which I immediately obeyed, and remained at quarters until 11:30 p.m., when I was hailed by Mr. Hays and again ordered to quarters. At this time a rocket was sent up in the direction of Dutch Gap. About this time the Onondaga got underway and dropped down the river out of our sight. At 2:30 a.m. of the 24th the torpedo boat No. 4, Second Assistant Engineer W. [F.] Fort in charge, came down the river. I hailed them while passing, but was unable to understand their reply. About 3 p.m. Mr. Fort returned with verbal orders for the Spuyten Duyvil and torpedo boat No. 4 to go to the obstructions and attack the rams. We immediately got underway. When about a mile up, the vessel ran aground ; backed her off and started again. While on our way met the U. S. S. Massasoit picket launch, who reported a boat of some kind moving up and down the river at the same time they moved. I then proceeded up the river to the obstructions, but was unable to discover any vessel; remained close to the obstructions until 5:30 a.m., when we dropped down the river a short distance and came to anchor. At 6 a.m. sent a boat on shore in charge of Acting Third Assistant Engineer B. S. Heath, who reported two steamers and steam coming from other vessels, all lying under the guns of rebel batteries. At 6:30 saw a terrific explosion take place in the vicinity of the rebel fleet and supposed it to be one of their vessels blown up. At 7 a.m. got underway, proceeded down the river, and came to anchor near Aiken’s Landing. At 10:15 a.m. the U. S. S. Onondaga came up the river. On coming near our stern Mr. Hays hailed and ordered us to get underway and prepare the vessel for action. We immediately got up anchor and steamed up the river astern of the Onondaga. On arriving near the obstructions, I saw a towboat coming from the Onondaga, and thinking they wished to communicate with this vessel, I sent Acting Third Assistant Engineer B. S. Heath on deck to ascertain ; received orders to go within hailing distance of the Onondaga, which order I obeyed and laid near her during the engagement between our vessels and the rebel steamers, which lasted about three-quarters of an hour. We then went alongside of the Onondaga and assisted in towing her down the river to Aiken’s Landing. I will here state that on several occasions previous to the rebel steamers coming down the river, I suggested to Commander Parker the necessity of having a pilot on board this vessel, but was unable to obtain one until the evening of the 24th instant.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. H. Stone,
Second Assistant Engineer, Commanding pro tem.
First Assistant Engineer John L. Lay,
Commanding Steamer Spuyten Duyvil.
- Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pages 653-654 ↩