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USS Morning Light - Reports of Capture

Report dated January 26, 1863, by Lieutenant-Commander Read, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. New London, of his response to orders from Commodore Bell to recapture or destroy the U. S. S. Morning Light (Page 1 of 2 pages). This report is in Volume 19 of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.

Report of Lieutenant-Commander Read, 
U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. New London.

Report of Lieutenant-Commander Read, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. New London.

U. S. S. New London,

Off Sabine Pass, January 26, 1863

Sir: On the morning of the 23d instant I was ordered, in company with the gunboat Cayuga, to proceed with all possible dispatch to Sabine Pass, Commodore Bell having received information that the ship Morning Light and schooners Rachel Seaman and Velocity, blockading there, had been captured by the Rebels. We got underway about daybreak. At half past 12 m., on the 23d, we discovered the Morning Light, and soon after saw a steamboat leave her and stand into the Pass. Simultaneously, with the departure of the steamboat, saw a dense smoke rising from the ship. I ordered the Cayuga, being the fastest vessel, to go ahead with all speed and save the Morning Light if possible. On our nearer approach we discoverd that her sails were loosed, jibs up, the ship before the wind, and heading toward the Pass, and in flames fore and aft as high as the foretop. At twenty-five minutes before 3 the mizzenmast and main-topmast fell over the side.

At 3 p. m. arrived near the burning wreck, sent a boat to make examination, and found it utterly impossible to do anything to save the Morning Light. The fire was started in the after part of the ship. The enemy had towed her into 10 feet of water, perhaps with the hope of getting her over the bar into the Pass. Four of her guns were discharged by the heat, three on the port side and one on the starboard side, the latter having fallen into the hold and the shot coming out just above their copper, our boat being near at the time. Two of her shells exploded. The enemy had undoubtedly moved the powder from the magazine, as no explosion took place except the guns and shell. I do not think the enemy took any of her guns, as we saw seven, and the eighth may have fallen into the hold, as the deck was much caved in when our boat reached her.

The wreck of the Morning Light, showing nothing but her stem and sternposts, and a large iron water tank near amidships, now lies in 10 feet water on the outer edge of the bar, bearing from the light-house N.W., distant about 4 miles. Her bower anchors and chains can be got, also a large anchor, showing the ring, awash about the fore hatch. We saved one topgallant sail and one royal, also a topgallant and royal yard. Nearly all her spars are so charred or burned so badly as to be useless. All that can be I will have saved. Four of her boats which we saw were stove.

As to the schooners Rachel Seaman and Velocity, the former, I have learned, has escaped; the latter was captured with the Morning Light.

On Friday, the 23d, I saw four steamboats lying at Sabine City, and on Saturday, the 24th, six. Two of them, as I have learned, are barricaded with cotton and mount three guns each, one a 60-pounder. The pilot who accompanied us, and who has considerable knowledge of this place, informs me that there are five steamboats in Sabine River and one seagoing steamer. My intention was to cross the bar and go up to Sabine City and if possible destroy the enemy's steamboats or other vessels they may have in their possession, but on Saturday morning I sounded the bar in company with the pilot and did not find water sufficient to cross. I will watch the tide and make another attempt to go over, and if possible accomplish my (This report is continued on page 556)

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Last updated November 9, 2008