Sep 17th, 64 Morganzia Bend, La
Dear Mother and family,
I sit down this morning to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and healthy. I hope you will excuse me for not writing before. I should have written to you before this, but I could write to the girls and made that do all. But I will write to you this time.
Well, Mother, I will tell you about our expedition from Algiers to Dauphin Island. Well, we got aboard of the steamer, St. Charles, and went down the Mississippi River. We came to the mouth of the river on Sunday morning and lay there till Monday morning. We made anchor and started for Ship Island. We came to Ship Island on Monday evening. We anchored off the island and lay there till the next evening. We made anchor and started for the fleet about 7 PM [until?] 3 AM came up with the fleet of gunboats and transports. 3 PM we all started for Dauphin Island. We came to the island and there we had to get in small boats to get ashore. We went as far as we could and there we had to make the balance of the way from knee-deep to ankle-deep [water]. Then, the 77th lay on her beach till 3 AM and then we started for Fort Gaines. We marched between 6 and 8 miles that morning and came up with our pickets. We advanced within 2½ miles of the fort.
The next morning our advance drove in the enemy pickets and then the fort opened [up] on us but done no harm. They threw solid shot. As soon as we got our guns in a position, we threw a few shells in the fort. That was the fifth of August. On that morning, Admiral Farragut run the blockade. That was the damnedest site I ever saw and the heaviest cannonading I ever heard. They kept up a continual roar of artillery. The rebs had 4 gunboats, besides the 2 forts, Fort Morgan and Gaines, to contend with. The flag ship was ahead and then the monitors were next and the balance of the fleet followed after them. The foremost monitor ran afoul of a torpedo and was sunk in five minutes with all on board but what was in the turrets. Some 8 or 10 were saved. The balance went through once she got aground and was disabled and burnt. I saw parts of the fleet pass Fort Morgan and then I was called to camp and afterward [departed?] on picket. By that time, the fleet had all but passed the fort.
Now, for the rebel fleet. The Ram Tennessee put at our fleet, as though she was going to tear them to pieces. Presently, she lost her smoke stack and got her rudder disabled. And then our boats grappled on her and fetched her to line rig with all on board. With her, [was] her admiral Buchanan, wounded in the leg. I can't say how many prisoners was on board. And the gunboat, Selmer, was also captured, with all on board. So ends that day's fight.
Now the siege on Fort Gaines commenced. We went to work digging rifle pits and planting [?] cannons. We got some of our 30 pounders in position. We [began?] driving in their pickets. About the time we got ready to go in on them in earnest, they gave up. On the morning of the 8th day, they came out with a flag of truce. And then about 10 AM, we marched down to the fort. When we got there, [we?] formed in line. The rebs marched out of the fort and stacked arms in front of us and surrendered their swords to our army and navy.
Then the Stars and Stripes went up and the Confederate flag came down. They met about half way. The Stars and Stripes went up proud and the Confederate [flag] came down drooping.
Well, the next morning, they set about [illegible, possibly crossing] the [illegible, possibly bay] to get in the rear of Fort Morgan. They landed some troops at Fort Gaines, 5 miles above the fort. Our regiment was on the James Battle. She got
aground and had to lay there all night.
Orders came to us to disembark and go ashore and stay at Fort Gaines. So our regiment stayed at Fort Gaines till Fort Morgan surrendered. So I was detailed as post carpenter. I was put in as foreman. I worked in that capacity till Saturday morning before the regiment left Fort Morgan. So we are on the Mississippi River, at Morganzia Bend.
I hope this will find you all enjoying yourselves the best you can. Time to close. I remain your affectionate son now and the rest of time.
John G. Vance