Monday, May 27, 2013

May 28, 1863 (Thursday): Sinking of the Cincinnati

USS Cincinnati

WALNUT HILLS, May 28, 1863.
Commanding Mississippi Squadron:
    DEAR ADMIRAL: I was on the hill to our extreme right yesterday morning, to take advantage of any success to be gained by the gunboat attack on the enemy's left flank. At 9 a. m. I saw four gunboats advance from below, and engage the enemy's lower batteries, and soon the Cincinnati came down from above, steering directly for the upper water batteries. From our position we could only see the hill which shielded them from the rear. As the gunboat approached, she was fired on from these points. We directed 30-pounder Parrotts, some 6-pounder guns, and our musketry opened one all points within reach, but these batteries were covered by the shape of the ground. As the Cincinnati neared, she fired several of her bow guns, but as the current would have carried her below, she rounded to, firing from her broadside guns, but soon presented her stern. The enemy's shot at first went wild, but soon got her range, and struck her several direct shots, and two right under her stern. She ran slowly up stream, keeping mid-channel, and, when about 1 1/2 miles up, she steered directly to the shore in the bend. I saw that her larboard quarter-boat was shot away, and her flag-staff, but otherwise she appeared uninjured. She ran to the shore and soon sank; her bow appeared down and her stern up, her upper decks out of water. The moment I saw her sunk, I sent a company of the Seventy-sixth Ohio to her relief. I could see by our glass that she was near shore, and her people on the bank. Waiting a couple of hours to hear more definite news from her, I came to the center of my line, and dispatched one of my aides, Lieutenant [Jacob C.] Hill, to see that all possible assistance should be afforded her crew, and received message that a boat had been sent to you, and that as soon as dark would make it safe, you would send down a boat with all the assistance required. I received the following official report. * Inasmuch as you must know all, I have no occasion to report more than that the style in which the Cincinnati engaged the batteries elicited universal praise, and I deplore the sad result as much as any man could. The importance of the object aimed to be accomplished, in my judgment, fully warranted the attempt. It has been unsuccessful, and will stimulate us to further efforts to break the line which terminates on the Mississippi in such formidable batteries.
     I am, &c.,

     W. T. SHERMAN.

Official Record, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Page 354.

The Cincinnati's mission was to destroy two batteries which were harassing Sherman's flank as he moved along the river.  There was, however, a Confederate eleven gun battery overlooking the river.  The Union forces believed it had been removed, but in fact its guns were merely concealed under brush.  When the Cincinnati came beneath the battery it opened, with the first shot penetrating the magazine and exiting the hull beneath the waterline.  The Union guns could not be raised enough to return fire and the ship was turned back upriver, sinking as it went.  Finally it was run aground and a hawser tied to a tree.  But it broke and the ship drifted into the channel and sank.  Many of the sailors could not swim, but their crew mates managed to get them all off safely.  For their efforts, six of the crew were awarded the Medal of Honor.


No comments:

Post a Comment