Friday, May 20, 2011

May 19, 1861 (Sunday): The Roar of Guns Off Sewell's Point

The Monticello

May 20, 1861.
…..Early on the morning of the 19th, I hurried on the guns and equipment, and repaired to Sewell’s Point, to expedite the works for their reception, and by 5 p.m. succeeded in getting three 32-pounders and two small rifled guns into position, while detachments of infantry and artillery, ordered from neighboring posts, occupied the battery and contiguous points. During all this time the Monticello, apparently not suspecting the operations going forward, was engaged in preparing for another effort, by calculating the range and distance and adjusting her guns to suit. With instructions to Captain Colquitt, of Georgia, who I gave all the forces and guns at the post, to continue the preparations, reserving his fire until the enemy renewed the cannon-ade. I returned to Norfolk. At 5.30 o’clock the Monticello again opened fire from all her guns and with much greater precision than on the preceding day. It was instantly returned, and with such effect that she was driven off and returned to Old Point. The engagement continued for an hour and a half without intermission on either side, and, though the enemy’s fire was well directed, one shell bursting within an embrasure and several others directly over the battery, while solid shot repeatedly passed through the embrasures and struck the crest and sides of the merlons, hurling masses of earth from the outside among the gunners, I am happy to inform you that no casuality of moment occurred to the troops, nor was material injury done to the battery.
…..I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Major-General Lee,
Commanding Forces of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

A vivid account of what appears to have been a spirited exchange. The Monticello appears to have gotten the best of the exchange, although the Confederate fire was hot enough to drive her away. Colquitt, a Methodist Minister, was to go be under fire even more intense at places such as Antietam and Spotsylvania. After the war he served as Governor of Georgia and was also an early champion of the temperance movement.

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