No. 16. Report of Lieutenant Ebenezer P. Mason, First Connecticut Heavy Artillery, commanding Battery Sawyer, of operations January 23-24.1
James River, Va., January 29, 1865.
SIR: Pursuant to instructions from headquarters Siege Artillery, Line of Bermuda Hundred, dated January 28, 1865, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this battery in the engagement with the rebel rams on the 23rd and 24th instant:
About 8 p. m. the 23rd Fort Brady opened fire; the Cox Ferry batteries replied; I opened, hoping to draw the enemy’s fire from Fort Brady, in order to enable Captain Pierce to serve his guns more rapidly on the rebel rams, if they were in the river. I was partially successful, drawing the fire of two 10-inch columbiads and one 8-inch rifled gun. I expended five case-shot, six percussion-shell, 100-pounder, and five 10-inch mortar shell.
At 10 p. m. Lieutenant Reed, commanding navy picket detachment, reported to me that a high-pressure side wheel steamer lay at the obstructions and was attempting to remove them, and that two rams lay in the channel about 400 yards above. The night was so dark that I was unable to discover their exact positions excepting by the explosion of the shell from Battery Parsons. I fired at the rams three 100-pounder solid shot, at intervals of about fifteen minutes, with what effect I am unable to tell, and at the steamer nine 10 inch mortar shell, nearly all of which burst well, annoying the men at work on the instructions very much. At 12.30 a. m. the rams dropped down the river to the obstruction where my 100-pounder would not bear on them. At 3 a. m. the 24th one ram dropped down the stream opposite Sleepy Hollow, about 550 yards from the battery, and remained there at anchor about forty-five minutes. While she lay there one mortar shell, fired at 60 degrees elevation, charge twelve ounces, without bursting charge, struck her on the deck without any visible effect; immediately after, however, she hove up her anchor and changed her position. Thinking it might be her intention to land a force of marines and attack the battery and destroy the signal tower, I posted the supernumerary men (about thirty), with muskets, near the wharf, to prevent any boats landing. The ram, after dropping down stream bout 100 yards, changed her course and steamed up the river out of sight; not being able to discover her position I ceased firing daylight. While she lay opposite Sleepy Hollow I fired at her nineteen mortar shell, at 60 degrees elevation, without bursting charge; I cannot state positively that but one struck her. The firing was very accurate, all the shell striking within a radius
of ten yards. Soon after daylight I discovered the rams in the channel, about 2,000 yards distant, and partially covered by the bank of the river and a grove of trees. I again opened and fired from the 100-pounder six case-shot, three percussion, two case-shot, and two mortar shells struck the rams. From this point the only visible damage was by the case-shot, which perforated the smoke-stacks; the percussion-shell burst against her side. The solid shot did not appear to penetrate – some of them after striking rolled back into the water, others ricochetted beyond.
I also fired after daylight at the land batteries (not being able to bear on the rams), with the 100-pounder, eleven case-shot. At about 12 m. the rams succeeded in getting off the bar and steamed around the bend. During the morning of the 24th battery received the fire of three 10-inch columbiads, one 8-inch and one 7-inch rifled gun.
No casualties occurred.
The men behaved with the utmost coolness and served the pieces with skill and alacrity.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. P. Mason,
First Lieutenant, First Regiment Connecticut Arty., Commanding Battery.
Lieutenant CHARLES A. TRUESDELL,
Adjutant First Connecticut Artillery.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLVI, Part 1 (Serial Number 95), pages 181-182 ↩