Loss of the USS Covington, USS Signal and Transport Warner
USS Covington (Tinclad #25)
Photo courtesy Special
Collections Library at
USS Signal (Tinclad #8)
Photo from Naval Historical Center
of Acting Volunteer
SIR: It is with feelings of regret that I report the loss of the U.S S. Covington, and most respectfully submit the following report:
After proceeding about 1˝ miles farther Mr. McCloskey, a pilot belonging to the General Price, struck the stern of the vessel against a bar, thereby breaking the port rudder badly and shivering the tiller. I told him that hereafter Mr. Emerson, my other pilot, would
I tied up all night about a mile from the Red House and commenced repairing my rudder and tiller. At about 5 o’clock I was joined by the U.S.S. Signal. Both of us kept up through the night an irregular fire on the right-hand shore going down, as they had fired upon us with infantry while we were repairing.
At 4.30 o’clock in the morning we
all got underway, the Warner in the
At Dunn’s Bayou (on the right
going down) we were fired upon by two pieces of artillery and infantry. The
in the river, when she went into the bank. She had no sooner struck the bank when a rebel battery on the right shore going down, and from 4,000 to 5,000 infantry, opened upon her and my vessel.
After we had engaged the battery about three hours, the Warner hoisted a white flag. We still kept up our fire, and I sent a party from my vessel under a severe fire to burn her, but the colonel in charge sent me word that there were nearly 125 killed and wounded,
and requested that I would not burn her, which was granted. A short time after this I was informed that the Signal was disabled. I immediately rounded to and went alongside of her, took her in tow, and started upstream, but my rudder became disabled, and the Signal got adrift. It was impossible to pass the Warner, so Mr. Emerson, my pilot, informed me. Knowing that the Signal would drift down on the Warner and the rebels would immediately board her, I ordered the commanding officer to anchor her, which was done.
Finding it impossible to handle my vessel and fearing I should get on the side where artillery and infantry were, I went over on the other bank and made fast, head upstream.
I used my stern guns on the lower battery and my broadside on the infantry abreast of us and my bow guns on the battery that was ahead of us, which had been brought down from Dunn’s Bayou.
My escape pipe was cut while alongside of the Signal, causing a great deal of steam to escape and making the impression that the boilers had been struck; the men, however, soon rallied and kept up a brisk fire on the enemy. Most of the soldiers and officers,
amongst whom were Colonel Sharpe, of One Hundred and Fifty-Sixth New York Volunteers; Colonel Raynor, One Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Illinois [Fifty-Sixth Ohio] (wounded in both legs); Lieutenant Simpson, aid-de-camp to General Banks; and Acting
Assistant Paymaster Chester, went over on the Signal. The Signal getting adrift from’ us, they were not able to return to my vessel.
After I had been tied to the bank an hour or so, my steam drum was cut and a shell struck under the boilers, letting out all the water.
My ammunition gave out, my howitzers were all disabled by the bracket bolts drawing out, and every shot coming through us. With one officer and a good many of my men already killed, I determined to burn my vessel. I spiked the guns, had coals of fire strewn on the deck, and myself and executive officer set fire to the cotton, which was on the guards alongside of the engine. I saw it burning finely before I left, and feel sure she was destroyed.
While leaving the vessel to get up on the bank, a terrible fire of infantry was opened on us and some were killed in going up.
I collected my officers and men all together and found I had
with me 9 officers and 23 men. My crew was composed of 14 officers and 62 men,
and started through the woods for
The whole action lasted about five hours, and the
The officers and men behaved with great gallantry, and, with exception of a few, this was their first action. Acting Master’s Mate C. W. Gross was killed by a shot that came through the shell room.
The officers and men lost all of their personal effects, the only things that were saved being the signal book and the dispatches in-trusted to my care, which were returned to you. The arms that were brought with us I turned over to Acting Master H. H. Gorringe, of the Cricket, taking a receipt for the same.
In conclusion, I most respectfully beg that a court of enquiry may be called to determine whether the honor of our flag suffered in my hands. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEORGE P. LORD,