Thursday Night, April 16, 1863

Warrenton, South of Vicksburg

Seven iron-clads led by Admiral Porter in person, in the Benton, with three transports, and ten barges in tow, ran the Vicksburg batteries by night. Anticipating a scene, my soldiers and I were out in four yawl-boats at the reach of the river below Vicksburg. We were ready to pick up any of the disabled wrecks as they floated by. I was out in the stream when the fleet passed Vicksburg, and the scene was truly sublime. As soon as the rebel gunners detected the Benton, which was in the lead, they opened on her, and on the others in succession, with shot and shell; houses on the Vicksburg side and on the opposite shore were set on fire, which lighted up the whole river; and the roar of cannon, the bursting of shells, and finally the burning of the Henry Clay, drifting with the current, made up a picture of the terrible not often seen.

Each gunboat returned the fire as she passed the town, while the transports hugged the opposite shore. When the Benton had got abreast of us, I pulled off to her, boarded, had a few words with Admiral Porter, and as she was drifting rapidly toward the lower batteries at Warrenton, I left, and pulled back toward the shore, meeting the gunboat Tuscumbia towing the transport Forest Queen into the bank out of the range of fire.

The Forest Queen, Captain Conway, had been my flag-boat up the Arkansas, and for some time after. I was very friendly with her officers. This was the only transport whose captain would not receive volunteers as a crew, but her own officers and crew stuck to their boat, and carried her safely below the Vicksburg batteries. In passing Vicksburg, she was damaged in the hull and had a steam-pipe cut away.

The Henry Clay was set on fire by bursting shells, and burned up; one of my yawls picked up her pilot floating on a piece of wreck, and the bulk of her crew escaped in their own yawl-boat to the shore above. The Silver Wave, Captain McMillan, the same that was with us up Steele’s Bayou, also passed safely.

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