FORT BRADY, VA., October 23, 1864.
SIR: Pursuant to instructions, I have the honor to report that the three 30-pounder and the four 20-pounder Parrotts (the latter belonging to Ashby’s battery) were placed in position in the new work above Fort Brady during the night of the 21st, and everything put in order to open fire on the morning of the 22d. At daylight discovered what appeared to be one of the enemy’s wooden gun-boats lying quietly in plain sight from my pieces, distant 1,000 yards, according to Colonel Abbot’s computations. Fearing the distance might be greater or the powder prove weak (as it often does), ordered three and a half degrees elevation, which by the tables gives a range of 1,506 yards. The first shell (percussion) struck apparently about six feet from her hull and did not explode; added one-fourth degree to the elevation and worked all the pieces as rapidly as possible, concentrating the fire upon that single boat. Evidently taken by surprise, it took her some time to gen in readiness to move. Had the satisfaction of seeing sixteen shell strike
her and burst before she was fairly under way. Sent some six or eight shots after her with good effect while getting out of sight; consider her somewhat damaged. In the meantime the rebel rams and iron-clads, seemingly startled by the sudden attack, had got up steam and moved farther out into the stream for the purpose of following in the wake of the wooden vessel. Turned all my attention to them. Deeming the fire too hot to permit of their crossing the open space, they gave up the attempt and sought the shelter of the bank below as rapidly as possible, giving us one or two rounds as they went. The bank did not prove high enough, however, to hide their smokestacks into four or five feet, and we aimed at them, striking one. Not thinking it prudent to remain longer in that position, after steaming up and down the river several times seeking a safer hiding-place, but failing, they finally mustered courage sufficient to pass the open space. Paid strict attention to them as they sailed by. After the boats were out of danger the rebel heavy-gun batteries on the opposite shore opened on us with great vigor, bursting three 10-inch columbiad shell on the parapet, two inside the work, and the remainder far in rear. One of the shells which went over cut off a man’s foot and killed a horse belonging to Captain Ashby’s battery; all the casualties that occurred. Returned the fire of the land batteries with the only piece (a 30-pounder) that I could bring to bear. Expended 145 rounds of ammunition, all of which took the grooves and burst, but two.
Am happy to state that the affair was more successful than I at first expected. Deem it just to say that I am greatly indebted to Mr. Woodruff, of my company, for his valuable assistance.
I am, sir, very respectfully your obedient servant,
H. H. PIERCE,
Captain, First Connecticut Artillery.
Lieutenant PETER S. MICHIE,
U. S. Engineers, Acting Chief Engineer.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 215-216 ↩