Loss of the U. S. S. Sallie Wood, off Island No. 82, July 21, 1862........................................Report of Commander Walke, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Carondelet.
.................................................. .................................................. ...................U. S. GUNBOAT CARONDELET,
.................................................. .................................................. ...................Memphis, July 30, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report the arrival of the Carondelet at this place. On the passage up, in the evening of July 23, I picked up Mr. Lucas, pilot of the steamer Sallie Wood, who informed me that that vessel was fired into by rebel light artillery at Carolina Landing and along the bend at Princeton and other points above, and that on the 21st instant the Sallie Wood was fired upon again at Argyle Landing, and again at Island No. 82, where the rebel shot took effect in piercing her steam drum and stopped the engine. The pilot ran her ashore on Island No. 82, the rebels continuing to fire upon the boat until all of her passengers, officers, and crew were driven on the island.
As the rebels, for want of a boat, did not board her immediately, Mr. Lucas, her pilot, returned to the Sallie Wood, launched her skiff, took his trunks, and descended the river as far as Island No. 84 and concealed himself at [sic] daylight, when he saw the light of his burning steamer. The following night he descended the Mississippi, and hid 7 miles below Carolina Landing. Mr. Lucas informed me that there were about 35 persons on board the Sallie Wood, 31 or 32 of which were captured, most of whom were sick soldiers; the chief engineers wife and servant being the only females on board.
I anchored below Carolina Landing until near daylight, when I got underway again and fired several shot and shell in and about the rebel masked battery, but perceiving no evidence of the enemy’s presence I continued on half a mile farther up to Princeton Landing, where the rebel battery halted and fired at the steamer passing. I fired four or five shot at the house, but receiving no answer I passed on to the next point and fired about the same number of 10-second shell at a house on Mr. Flournoy’s plantation, where the rebels were seen to halt and rendezvous.
But as this place seemed to be deserted also, I passed on a quarter of a mile farther, opposite a house from which a rebel picket ran to the river bank and fired four or five rifle shot at the Sallie Wood. I returned the compliment with four or five shell. This place also appeared to be deserted.
As we continued steaming up the river and passed Greenville no white people could be seen, except those who appeared to be very poor. The negroes, however, were very numerous, standing under the banks of the river and making signals to us at night, asking to be taken away.
As we passed the spot where the Sallie Wood was fired at a third time, I shelled the point and woods, and (as an intelligent deserter has since informed me) came very near annihilating the party before they made their escape. From this point the rebels crossed over a peninsula to another opposite Island No. 82, where they burned the Sallie Wood. I arrived at No. 82 after dark, landed, and sent a party to a woodman’s house on the island to enquire after the fate of the people who were on the Sallie Wood, but finding that the house, which was lit up for a few minutes before, was deserted, we passed on slowly (being very dark) by the remains of the ill-fated steamer and rebel batteries, blowing the steam whistle and stopping occasionally to hear if any of our people were still on the island, but not a sound was heard until we reached the upper part of the island, when the feeble voice of a man was heard calling to us to come quickly to his aid.
This was done immediately, the boat returning with one of the noblest specimens of an American soldier (First Lieutenant Wing, Company G, Fourth Wisconsin Volunteers), who had been three days without food, concealed in the driftwood, all of his companions except two others being captured by the close search of the rebels.
In our search the Carondelet approached too close to the island and ran ashore, where she stuck fast until daylight, when we succeeded in sparring and hauling her off. There were no batteries or firing on the Arkansas side of the river.
I picked up a deserter (a Mr. Montague, who was on picket) just above Island No. 82, who was an intelligent young gentleman, and I consider his word reliable. He informed me that their batteries were composed of four guns, two iron rifled 6-pounders and two brass 12-pounders. The negroes, he said, did not work the guns (as the pilot had told me), but they drove the teams and dug the rifle pits or trenches. He also informed me that I. N. Brown, formerly of our Navy, commanded the Arkansas, and talked of going to sea with his ram. He said that the Arkansas lost 8 men killed and 11 wounded in her fight with this vessel, by the bursting of one of our shell, which entered one of her ports. He also stated that a number of letters were taken from the Sallie Wood.
Lieutenant Wing informed that our mail was thrown overboard with a weight attached, and that he saw it sink. Lieutenant Wing and servant took passage to Cairo on the ram Queen of the West, which passed us on the 28th. On the 27th we ran aground, which detained us eighteen hours.
I called on General Curtis at Helena, according to your orders, and gave him all the information I had collected on my way up the river, for which he was very much gratified, as several boats had passed him without stopping. He said that he was in great want of the services of one or two small, fast gunboats to keep the river clear and prevent the enemy from crossing over to his rear. He expressed his readiness to go down to Vicksburg, but did not inform me of any contemplated movement at present. His army of about 25,000 at that place seems to be in a good condition.
Our sick are improving generally, although our number (20) is about the same. I will coal and proceed on my way to Cairo immediately, duly apprising you of my movements and circumstances. I sent Mr. Montague to Cairo, in charge of Lieutenant Wing. I picked up (afloat) one contraband and seven refugees from Arkansas and brought them to Memphis. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
..........H. WALKE, Flag-Officer
C. H. Davis,
Commander, U. S. Navy.