A half-hour after starting under convoy of the gun-boat, the Rebels once more opened fire. They paid no attention to the Neosho, but threw all their projectiles at the Von Phul. The first shell passed through the cabin, wounding a person near me, and grazing a post against which Colburn and myself were resting our chairs. This shell was followed by others in quick succession, most of them passing through the cabin. One exploded under the portion of the cabin directly beneath my position. The explosion uplifted the boards with such force as to overturn my table and disturb the steadiness of my chair.
I dreaded splinters far more than I feared the pitiless iron. I left the cabin, through which the shells were pouring, and descended to the lower deck. It was no better there than above. We were increasing the distance between ourselves and the Rebels, and the shot began to strike lower down. Nearly every shot raked the lower deck.
A loose plank on which I stood was split for more than half its length, by a shot which struck my foot when its force was nearly spent. Though the skin was not abraded, and no bones were broken, I felt the effect of the blow for several weeks.
I lay down upon the deck. A moment after I had taken my horizontal position, two men who lay against me were mortally wounded by a shell. The right leg of one was completely severed below the knee. This shell was the last projectile that struck the forward portion of the boat.
With a handkerchief loosely tied and twisted with a stick, I endeavored to stop the flow of blood from the leg of the wounded man. I was partially successful, but the stoppage of blood could not save the man’s life. He died within the hour.
Forty-two shot and shell struck the boat. The escape-pipe was severed where it passed between two state-rooms, and filled the cabin with steam. The safe in the captain’s office was perforated as if it had been made of wood. A trunk was broken by a shell, and its contents were scattered upon the floor. Splinters had fallen in the cabin, and were spread thickly upon the carpet. Every person who escaped uninjured had his own list of incidents to narrate.
Out of about fifty persons on board the Von Phul at the time of this occurrence, twelve were killed or wounded. One of the last projectiles that struck the boat, injured a boiler sufficiently to allow the escape of steam. In ten minutes our engines moved very feebly. We were forced to “tie up” to the eastern bank of the river. We were by this time out of range of the Rebel battery. The Neosho had opened fire, and by the time we made fast to the bank, the Rebels were in retreat.
The Neosho ceased firing and moved to our relief. Before she reached us, the steamer Atlantic came in sight, descending the river. We hailed her, and she came alongside. Immediately on learning our condition, her captain offered to tow the Von Phul to Red River, twenty miles distant. There we could lie, under protection of the gun-boats, and repair the damages to our machinery. We accepted his offer at once.