Westervelt, John H., Diary of a Yankee Engineer, Palladino, ed., pp. 207-209

[January, 1865] 22nd [sic] still raining, roads are awful. After dark heavy and rapid firing commenced in the vicinity of Fort Brady and Dutch Gap. Something unusual has occurred as it has been very quiet [207] there lately. The heavy guns fire so loudly I can hardly write. 24th The heavy firing still continues. All is excitement this morning. A powerful rebel ram came down last night and passed fort Brady and the gap. The object no doubt was to attract attention and engage our batteries while a boat they had sent down for the purpose was planting torpedoes. During the night one of our shot struck the torpedo boat and blew her up utterly destroying her., five of her men were taken prisoners. This morning the Ram is discovered to be aground. Our guns are hammering away at her but apparently without much effect. She will probably get afloat at high water when some hot work may be expected. Her heavy guns told badly on fort Brady last night dismounting a 100 pounder and ripping up things generally. No one on our side has been killed thus far. I await further news. 2 P.M. Two of Co B Engrs was killed in fort Brady about 11 A.M. by the bursting of a shell. The ram still lies below the Gap. I cannot tell if she is afloat yet. Lieut. Baldwin has just left here on his way to Bermuda to take charge of the depot. His time in the service expires about the time Talcott returns. It seems the Sergt in charge of the depot could not run the machine in the Lieuts absence. 3 P.M. The ram is afloat. The following diagram will show her position [sketch not included] No 1 Rebel, 2 Monitors, 3 Fort Brady, 4 Obstructions, 5 Dutch Gap, 6 Howlett house battery (rebel), 7 Torpedo boat, (two guns), The land between the Ram and Monitors is a low marsh. You will observe that the obstructions prevented them from getting around to the other so they lay and fired at each other all afternoon making the earth quake for miles, without any apparent damages to each other. A 9 P.M. All quiet. 25th Near daylight we were awakened by the renewal of heavy firing and this morning I hear the ram passed up the river again giving Fort Brady a few parting shots which was promptly returned, but without either affecting anything. The ram is probably the most powerful in the rebel navy, But she will scarcely dare venture down again. The two men killed yesterday met their death from a rebel shell a piece of it taking off the top of the head of one and when bursting throwing a piece of timber against the stomache of the other. I was talking with the first man mentioned an hour previous to his death. He came to the depot for some spikes to repair [208] works at the Fort. These two and three infantry at Fort Burnham are the only deaths I have heard of, while the rebs have lost in killing on the torpedo boat eight and five prisoners. -----------

The day is fine and freezing hard.

…27th and 28th Still severe cold. Last night a light snow fell half covering the ground, and this morning it is clear but bitter cold. Busy issuing stuff for repairing and strengthening Fort Brady. Details are hard at work building a new water battery between the fort and the river to destroy the Ram should she attempt to come down the river again. Fort Brady will also be in condition in a few days to repel a raid from that or any other class of vessels.

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