HDQRS. NAVAL BRIGADE, DEPT. OF VA. AND N. C.
Point of Rocks, Va., July 17, 1864
Colonel J. W. SHAFFER,
Chief of Staff.
COLONEL; In forwarding the report of Captain Fitch I desire to express my approbation of the courage, zeal, and prudence exhibited by him on this occasion, as well as many others, and to call the attention of the major-general commanding to the neatness and efficiency of the steamer Parke and the thorough discipline which prevails on board of her. I likewise avail myself of this opportunity to renew the suggestion made to the major-general commanding several days since that no sailing vessel should be permitted to come up the river,but that all vessels should be obliged to take tugs in the Government employ, and be under the constant supervision of military officers from the time of leaving Fort Monroe to their arrival at City Point.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant.
CHARLES K. GRAHAM,
HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINIA,
July 17, 1864.
Respectfully forwarded to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding. The report of Brigadier-General Graham approved. The plaudits of Captain Fitch’s courage, conduct, and efficiency are concurred in by the major-general commanding the department. This expedition is but another evidence of the efficiency of the armed transports now in the service. The attention of the lieutenant-general is specially called to the suggestion that no sailing vessel be permitted to come up or go down the river without a tow; certainly not to come up, because of the ease with which smuggling can be carried on in this length of river, and the fact that aid and comfort may be furnished to the enemy, as undoubtedly was the case by the schooner with the torpedoes. Sutler’s schooners and others have been in the habit of coming up without these tows, and I have had numerous complaints of trading with the enemy by them; therefore I beg leave again to suggest that the chief quartermaster should give the directions required.
BENJ. F. BUTLER.
U. S. STEAMER (GUN-BOAT) PARKE.
GENERAL: In accordance with instructions received the 16th instant, I got under way and steamed down James River; went alongside the wharf at Herring Creek and taking Lieutenant Hart and Lieutenant Nelson with twelve men, went ashore to the late residence of Andrew Ellett, now in Richmond. Here we received information from a negro on the estate that the enemy had a force of cavalry and infantry about two miles and a half inland at a place called Rowland’s Mills, and on
the Malvern Hill road, near the locality where, on the 13th instant, I had before discovered them. He supposed their force to be about 100 men, with a force of 1,500 cavalry some miles farther back. I also learned from the negro that a white man, residing also on the estate, named Richard Bully, was in daily communication with the enemy. On questioning Bully, I had reason to believe the negro correct, and on his refusing to take the oath of allegiance I arrested him and took him on board the vessel. After scouting the neighborhood for some distance around without discovering the enemy, I, at 1.30 p.m., returned on board, and getting under way steamed down the river as far as Ward’s Creek. At 3 p.m. came about, and proceeded up the river again as far as Wilcox’s Landing, where I came to alongside the wharf, and taking Lieutenants Hart and Nelson, with a party of men, went ashore. After searching thoroughly the plantation, I discovered in the houses of the two Mrs. Douthat’s a number of sabers, saddles, bayonets, &c., which they asserted had been picked up at the old camping ground of the Army of the Potomac. Both these ladies’ husbands are prisoners at Point Lookout. At 4 p.m. I returned on board. At 6 p.m. got under way and started down the river, and at 7.30 came to anchor above Kennon’s Marsh. As I was desirous of effecting a landing during the night at Herring Creek, I remained at anchor here until 10.30 p.m., when I weighed anchor and started up the river. At 12.30 a.m. came to alongside the wharf above Herring Creek, and with Lieutenants Hart and Parkinson landed eighty men, consisting of fifty sailors and thirty marines. Immediately on landing I threw out a party of ten sailors as advanced scouts and skirmishers. Forming my main body I advanced cautiously after them. Immediately in front of the house the skirmish line, 200 yards in advance of the main body and 800 yards from the beach, encountered the enemy, consisting of about fifty cavalry, who received them with a brisk [fire] to which my men as promptly and as briskly replied. The moment I found my skirmishers engaged I ordered the marines to the right at double-quick, in order to take the enemy in flank, and with the sailors charged at a run in front. I am proud to say that on this occasion, as heretofore, my officers, and men seconded me with a zeal and alacrity beyond praise. On arriving at the scene of action I found the skirmish line falling back slowly. Reforming, we advanced down the road, the enemy retreating at full speed. They being all well mounted I was unable to come up with them, and I was reluctantly compelled to discontinue the pursuit. I regret to say that in the action with the skirmishers I had one man wounded in the foot. I now threw out pickets all around the building and roads leading from it, and, drawing my men up under shadow of the house, awaited the attack of the enemy. In this position I remained until 3 a.m., when I returned on board with all hands, and, getting under way, steamed over to the other side of the river and came to anchor opposite the plantation. At 5 a.m. I got under way and came to alongside the wharf, and sent Lieutenants Hart and Nelson ashore with a party to bring on board some refugee negroes and scout the neighborhood. While on shore they discovered two boats, containing twelve torpedoes, with their anchors and equipments, drawn up under the bushes on the beach. The oars in the boat were muffled, and from the fact that only two of the torpedoes had been landed, I am convinced that the party I had engaged the night previous had been engaged in the debarkation of the torpedoes when we interrupted them and drove them off. I immediately had the boats launched, the torpedoes that had been landed put on board, and
the whole towed to the vessel. While engaged in this we discovered a white signal waving from a point about a mile below. I immediately took the gig and with Lieutenant Nelson proceeded to learn the meaning of the signal. We found it was made by three white refugees from Richmond, named Sidney H. Jefferds. B. W. Jordan, and Frank D. Briquit. I took them on board the cutter, and on regaining the vessel immediately got under way.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. L. FITCH.
Captain, Commanding U. S. Steamer Parke.
Commanding Naval Brigade.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XL, Part 1 (Serial Number 80), pages 745-747 ↩