Aftermath 1862: George Geer's Account

It was this fort that the Union flotilla encountered early on the morning of May 15, 1862. The voyage up the river and the unsuccessful attack on Fort Darling by ironclad vessels was recorded by Fireman George Geer of the Monitor:

U.S. Steamer Monitor: May 15, 1862

Dear Wife,

George Geer We have been fighting all day and have come off 2d best....We commenced Coaling as soon as we arived in the Roads, and it was most morning before we finished, and at four oclock we started up the James River to help the Galena and the two other Boats to fight their way to Richmond. About 10 oclock we met two steamboats flying the Rebel Rag coming, aparently, steight on to us. Our Guns was loaded with Grape and Aimed ready for the word to fire, when our pilot called out that it was a flag of truce. We left the Guns and went on deck, and when they passed us we gave them some harty cheers, as there was several hundred union prisoners on their way to the forte to be exchanged. Our Captain felt very much rejoyced to think he did not give the word to our gunners to fire, as we should have We steamed on untill 2 oclock, when a Rebel Batry opened on us, but the Captain did not think it worth fireing at, as the River was wide enough for us to keep out of their way. I did not think to say that the Naugituck was with us all the time.

About three oclock we came up with the Galena, Roostick, & Port Royal....We all lay at anchor untill the next morning at 4 oclock, when we all got under way an started up the river, expecting to meet some Batery about thirty miles up the River, but when we came to them we found them deserted, so we did not wate but put on some miles beyond to a good anchorage and Anchored for the night.

Wednesday morning we stared again at day light and about noon we saw a very large smoke some two miles in advance of us. Our pilot said it was City Point. When we got to it we found it as the Depot building...The cars had left with all the troops on and set the building on fire before they started. The Road runs to Petersburg and Richmond.

There was very few white people left there, but what there were all had the white flag flying. There was one Union White Woman who refused to leve and came on Board of the Galena and gave Captain Rogers a Petersburg Paper which had an account of the destruction of the Merrimack. They were very bitter against Jef Davis for Blowing her up.

Attack on Fort Darling

We left City Point and steamed up to here and found out by a Niger who came on board that there was a very strong Fort some two miles above, so we Anchored for the night. Soon after anchoring we spide a lot of Rebel Sharp Shooters skulking along the shore, but they did not come clost enough to do any damage. We all that is, all the Ships sent a gard of Pickets on shore and deep them there watching all the night, but they did not show themselves and this morning at day light the Pickets were called in, and soon after it was all a mans life was worth to go on deck. Every body kept below, and the Roostick & Port Royal opened fire with their Howitsers and kept firing untill we were all ordered to moove forward and attack the Batery. The Galena, being the Flag Ship, took the lead, and all the other ships followed her. It was necessary to keep a man throwing the Lead all the time, for they had filled up the River, and we had hardley started when their Sharp Shooters shot the man that was throwing the Lead on the Galena. Another man was put in his place and they soon picked him off, so the Ships all commenced to shell the Banks as we went along, and in that manner got with in rage of the Forts.

When the hot work commenced in good earness we found in place of one Fort there was any quantity of them, and worse than all, the Galena prooved a perfect failure and we were the only Boat that could get up clost to them. But they could have fought us for a week, as we, you know, have but two Guns while the Rebels had Guns as large as ours and any quantity of them, so it would be useless for us to fight them alone.

The Galena proved no better than a Wooden vesel. Every shot kept going through her sides. I was on deck before I commence to write, and I could count 17 Holes in her side as she lays near us. Out Boat has just come from her, and the men say there is 7 Killed and 20 Wounded. Our Doctor has gone to her to help dress the wounded. I am glad I was not on her; I don't think there will be any more Galenas built.

We were only struck 3 times. They seamed to know it was no use to fire at us, but we did not think so about them, as we kept a poring the shot in them as fast as we could.

Sence I commenced this Lettor we have got under way and are steaming down to City Point, where we will waste untill one of our vessels go down to Hampton Roads after moore Gun Boats....Our Doctor has come back from the Galena and he says there is Sixteen killed. I think she is rather a poor Iron Clad....I hear that there was one man Shot on the Naugituck.

This is a most beautiful River, and there is some very fine Plantations on it. I shall Learn something about the country on this Cruse.

Your Husband,

We're in a race to conserve history! Follow along as artifacts are uncovered and more facts are learned about the Monitor and the men who served aboard!

From the heart breaking accounts of life aboard the ironclads to thrilling descriptions of the battles recounted by those who witnessed them you're sure to learn something new!