116                                HISTORY OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT O.V.V.I.


           The first shot was fired by the enemy at precisely 5:30 A. M., and passed over the Benton, dropping into the river half a mile beyond. Two more were soon after fired by the rebels, neither of which took effect.

           The distance between the opposing forces was now reduced to about a mile, when the stern guns on our boats opened upon the enemy in the liveliest manner, and the fight became general. Nearer and nearer together came the two fleets, and louder and quicker grew the sharp, crashing sound of the guns. The slumbering Memphians, who little thought when they lay down the night before to rest, that such a scene would be enacted before their eyes the following morning, were startled by the first report of artillery, and hastened to the bluff by thousands. All thought of danger, if any had existed among them, was forgotten in the excitement incident to so unusual and magnificent a spectacle. There lay the contending fleets in the broad bosom of the mighty river, vomiting forth fire and smoke, each doing its utmost to destroy the other. A gentle breeze swept up the stream, carrying away the clouds almost as soon as they were generated by the guns, and enabling spectators to get a very satisfactory view of the battle.

           About ten minutes after the fight began, when the fleets were not more than six or eight hundred yards apart, two of our rams, the Monarch and Queen of the West, which had been lying under the point just above Memphis, on the Arkansas side, where they were obscured from the enemy's view, shoved out, and sailing around the flotilla, the Queen of the West, the flagship of the ram fleet, in advance, they passed down on the Tennessee side, at their highest rate of speed, loudly cheered by the gunboat crews. The appearance of these vessels seemed to take the enemy entirely by surprise. Evidently they had not "reckoned" upon them, and not knowing what they were, thought it best to keep out of their way. First the rebel flotilla came to a sudden halt, and then it began to fall back. On went the Queen in splendid style, wearing a huge ruffle on her prow, and steering for the General Beauregard, the rebel boat nearest the Tennessee shore. When only a few rods distant, the latter fired a gun at her, but so excited were her gunners, that they missed the huge target entirely. The pilot of the Beauregard, however, understood his business better, and by skillful maneuvering succeeded in avoiding the blow.


           Nothing discouraged, the Queen turned her bow toward the General Price, the next nearest boat, and striking her a glancing blow on the port quarter, tore her side nearly off, and caused her to take water so badly, that she had to be run to the Arkansas shore to prevent her from going down in deep water. She now lies opposite Hopefield, partially submerged.

           As the Queen of the West was leaving the Beauregard, the latter fired a second shot at her, which struck her on the bulwarks, causing the splinters to fly pretty freely. One of these struck Colonel Ellet, the commander of the ram fleet, on the breast, stunning him severely. His flag-ship, after her collision with the General Price, was found to be disabled in some way, and could not be managed. The blow had probably started her machinery. She was also turned ashore, near where the General Price had sunk.

Intro Previous Next ToC Index