CHARLESTON, S.C., October 6, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to report that on Monday evening, 5th instant, Lieut. W. T. Glassell, Confederate Navy, in charge of the propeller David (a small submerged steamer), with the following crew, viz, James H. Toombs, acting first assistant engineer; Walker Cannon, pilot; James Sullivan, second fireman, started f 'ore the city and proceeded down the main ship-channel, passing through the entire fleet of the enemy's vessels and barges, until we arrived abreast of the U.S. frigate Ironsides, at 8.30 p.m. We then stood off and on for thirty minutes waiting for the flood tide to make.
At 9 p.m., everything being favorable and every one in favor of the attack, we headed for the Ironsides. When within 50 yards of her we were hailed, which was answered by a shot from a double-barreled gun in the hands of Lieutenant Glassell. In two minutes we struck the ship (we going at full speed) under the starboard quarter, about 15 feet from her stern-post, exploding our torpedo about 6 ½ feet under her bottom. The enemy fired rapidly with small-arms, riddling the vessel, but doing us no harm. The column of water thrown up was so great that it recoiled upon our frail bank in such force as to put the fires out and lead us to suppose that the little vessel would sink. The engine was reversed for backing, but the shock occasioned by the jar had been so great as to throw the iron ballast among the machinery, which prevented its working. During this delay the vessel, owing to the tide and wind, hung under the quarter of the Ironsides, the fire upon us being kept up the whole time. Finding ourselves in this critical position, and believing our vessel to be in a sinking condition, we concluded that the only means of saving our lives was to jump overboard, trusting that we would be picked up by the boats of the enemy. Lieutenant Glassell and the fireman (James Sullivan) swam off in the direction of the enemy's vessels, each being provided with a life-preserver, and were not seen afterward. The pilot stuck to the vessel, and I being overboard at the time and finding that no quarter would be shown, as we had called out that we surrendered, I concluded it was best to make one more effort to save the vessel. Accordingly I returned to her and rebuilt my fires; after some little delay, got up steam enough to move the machinery. The pilot then took the wheel and we steamed up channel, passing once more through the fleet and within 3 feet of a monitor, being subjected the whole time to one continuous fire of small-arms, the Ironsides firing two 11-inch shot at us.
The pilot (Mr. Cannon) has won for himself a reputation that time cannot efface, and deserves well of his country, as, without his valuable aid, I could not have reached the city.
The conduct of Lieutenant Glassell was as cool and collected as if he had been on an excursion of pleasure, and the hope of all is that he may yet be in safety.
The fireman (James Sullivan) acted in a manner that reflected credit upon himself, having remained at his post until relieved by me.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. H. TOOMBS,
Acting First Assistant Engineer, C. S. Navy.
Flag-Officer J. R. TUCKER,
Commanding Naval Forces Afloat, Charleston, S.C.
Note: This is the battle report of James Toombs an engineer on one of the famous Confederate "David" torpedo boats.