Item description: Report, dated 14 December 1863, from Lieutenant R.H. Lamson, United States Navy, regarding a fateful trip aboard the ship U.S.S. Nansemond.
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Item citation: Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.. Series I, Volume 9. Washington : G.P.O., 1899. C970.75 U58no Ser. I, Vol. 9. North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hampton Roads, Virginia, December 14, 1863.
SIR: I regret to be obliged to report the following disaster to this vessel in a gale off Cape Hatteras on the 12th and 13th instant:
At 4 o’clock on the morning of the 12th we passed Cape Henry and had fair weather and a smooth sea till 4 o’clock that afternoon, when a strong breeze came up from the S.S.E. which, by 10 that night, had increased to a heavy gale with a very heavy sea.
The ship made good weather, going slowly head to sea till 3:45 on the morning of the 13th, about 20 miles to the southward of the cape, when a heavy sea boarded us over the port guard, carrying away the forward part of the house on that side, the bulwarks, and the fire and engine-room bulkheads, and poured down into the fire room.
The concussion was so great that the engine stopped and could not be started again for some minutes, during which time we wore round under the jib and scudded before it.
Another sea boarded us on the starboard side, carrying away the bulkheads on that side.
There was no between 4 and 5 feet of water in the hold, the water coming up to the tops of the ash pans in the fire room.
A sea lifting her stern, the water ran forward; she settled very much by the head and refused to obey the helm. I then ordered the bow guns to be thrown overboard, which was done, and between 3 and 4 tons of shell were also thrown over and the anchor on the port bow was cut away.
This relieved her so much that she came up, and we succeeded in freeing her from the water.
We scudded before it until the gale abated so that we could haul in for Cape Henry, off which we anchored at 11 o’clock last night, it being too foggy to see the lights, and came in this morning.
My officers and men behaved entirely to my satisfaction during the time we were in such great danger.
Eight or ten persons were injured, some severely, by the first sea that came on board.
I regret exceedingly the unfortunate necessity for throwing our guns overboard, but I am confident that nothing else could have kept the vessel from foundering.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Rear-Admiral S.P. Lee,
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.