Description

    Battle of New Orleans account: "A shell exploded on our deck... instantly killing one man blowing him all to pieces..."

    Assistant Paymaster Henry Wight Dinman Letter Graphically describing the Premier Naval Battle in the Civil War: The Battle of New Orleans, Together with a Carte de Visite of Dinman. An eight page letter written on two bifolia, 8" x 10", written on board the "U.S. Gun Boat 'Kineo' Below New Orleans", April 28, 1862. Dinman writes just three days after New Orleans surrendered. The USS Kineo was part of Admiral David Farragut's expedition against New Orleans, which included devastating bombardment from Forts Jackson and St. Phillip as they went up the Mississippi River. Here are the highlights of the content, which includes a hand drawn map of the engagement on page 2 of the letter:

    "The Rebel strongholds Fort Jackson and Fort Philip are ours, the stars and stripes float over New Orleans, the Rebel Navy has been destroyed and the Federal fleet have undisturbed possession of the Mississippi from the Balizi to New Orleans... Our victory has been complete, and its suddenness has cast terror through all Rebellion... On the 18th, the mortar fleet was anchored in position under the cover of a belt of trees, and commenced throwing their 13" shells at Fort Jackson at the rate of about 1,500 a day. The gun boats were kept up near the chain stretched across the river before the forts firing at the forts and batteries in order to draw off the fire from the mortar fleet. The masts of the gunboats were taken out and they were put in a shape to be as effectual as possible... the firing commenced, first from Fort Jackson and was quickly replied to from the fleet, and in a few minutes the roar of hundreds of cannon and the crashing of vessels was all that could be heard ... At one time we were run into by the 'Brooklyn',and so badly damaged that the vessel was reported to be sinking ... in the thickest of the fight an immense fire raft was sent adrift upon us. The ships continued firing their tremendous broadsides, the sound of which can hardly be imagined, much less described... It was dark and the smoke from between 5 and 6 hundred guns made it still darker. From the moment of the first firing the mortar fleet commenced throwing their shells with tremendous rapidity, and the only glimpse we could get of the forts were when they exploded on the ramparts... We passed close under the guns of Ft. St. Philip and so they fired their tremendous volleys I expected that certainly we should be blown to atoms... A shell exploded on our deck near a large pivot gun instantly killing one man blowing him all to pieces... the day had broke blood and pieces of human flesh was not only scattered over the deck but the clothes and faces of the men who were in the vicinity of the accident were red with the blood of one of their own comrades... The Ward room was used by the Surgeon as a cockpit, and it was a hard sight to see the poor fellows lying on the floor covered with blood and black with powder waiting their turn to be operated on... It was our intention to have taken her in tow and carried her as a trophy up the river; but a broad side from the steamer 'Mississippi' so disabled and damaged her that she drifted off and soon after sunk beneath the waters of the river she had so long disgraced..."

    After the Civil War, Dinman went on to become the U.S. Consul in Portugal. A large archive of his papers from the years 1842 to 1884 reside at the University of Rhode Island Library Special Collections.

    The letter has toning and a few areas of foxing, with some wear to the exterior folds. The last page of the letter is written on May 1, 1862. The letter is accompanied by a CDV of Dinman set in a period album page; a full standing pose in uniform next to a column. The picture is near fine, save a spot of discoloration on his coat. The album page has tearing at the opening on the lower left corner. Also present is the original transmittal envelope addressed to Dinman's uncle, Sidney Wolf of Bristol, Rhode Island. The cover has been sliced open at the top, with a bit of tearing and paper loss where the stamp was removed.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2015
    12th-13th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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