"Escaped by Port Hole, Experiences of Survivor of US Monitor Tecumseh"

PORTSMOUTH, N H, May 21 - It was recently stated that John J. P. Zettick of New Bedford, Mass, was the only living survivor of the US Monitor Tecumseh which was blown up in Mobile bay in August, 1864, but such is not the case.

There is living in this city a gray-haired man in the person of Mr. Frank Cousins, who was a member of the crew of the ill-fated monitor, and played an important part in the saving of the few survivors.

Mr Cousins was seen at his home on Islington road yesterday by The Globe correspondent. When asked about the loss of the monitor, he said:

"I remember that awful occurrence as though it occurred yesterday. If you would like to hear about it I will tell you the circumstances as I remember them."

Being assured that the story of this notable incident of the rebellion would be of interest, Mr Cousins related the following:

"I was born in France 58 years ago, but came to this country shortly before the breaking out of the war of the rebellion. In February, 1861, I enlisted at New York on the receiving ship North Carolina, and three months later was transferred to the USS Trenton at Philadelphia, and then to the USS Wachusetts.

"On May 9, 1862, I was taken prisoner by the confederates at City Point, James River. I was kept a prisoner for six months on Belle Island, off Richmond, Va. At the end of that time I was released, by taking the oath of allegiance not to fight against the confederate government or give any information against it.

"After my release, I immediately shipped again at New York and shortly afterward was transfered to the US monitor Tecumseh, Capt Craven commanding. Shortly after I joined the vessel we were ordered to join the fleet which was to proceed on the second James river expedition. The passage up the river was attended with great difficulty, as the enemy had sunk torpedoes in the channel, making it an extremely hazardous undertaking and one that loss the United States a gunboat before the scene of action was reached.

"We next placed obstructions off Howlett Heights to prevent the confederate vessels from coming to the assistance of the land forces. Vessels were sunk and chains run from one to another for this purpose, the work being done under heavy fire from the batteries on the heights.

"The Tecumseh was then ordered to Fort Tortuga, off Key West, but this was changed and we went to Mobile Bay, arriving there on the night of Aug 4, 1864, about 7 o'clock. The next morning the vessel was cleared for action, and with the Tecumseh leading the line, we started to engage the rebel fleet.

Capt Craven had orders to attack the rebel ram Tennessee, and we started for her. I was a member of the gun crew. When nearly opposite Fort Morgan our commander ordered the 15-inch shells to be discharged at the fort and the guns to be loaded with solid shot preparatory to engaging the ram.

"We fired one shot only. Lieut John Kelly, who was in charge of the gun's crew put his head out of the porthole and shouted to Capt Craven, who was in the turret: 'Captain, are you aware that there is a string of buoys ahead?'

"Capt Craven replied: 'Never mind them. Give her four bells and let her rip for the ram.'

"He had hardly gotten the words out of his mouth when the explosion of the torpedo under the monitor occurred. Such a sensation I never experienced before or never care to again. It seemed as if we were lifted right out of the water. At the same time a blinding flash like lightning came through the porthole.

"A large hole was stove in the vessel's side and the men below commenced to cry that the vessel was sinking. Lieut Kelly, who was in charge of the turret said: 'Everything is all right.' I was near the porthole and I saw that the monitor was sinking and I said: 'Everything is not all right, she is sinking and the water will be in the porthole in a minute.'

"I started out of the porthole and told Lieut Kelley to follow, but he stood there dazed and apparently unable to move. Just as I was climbing out of the porthole, the old Scotchman who was in charge of the gun, said: 'Lieutenant, shall I fire?' I said: 'For God's sake wait until I get out.'

"I was the first man to reach the deck and seeing that no time was to be lost I cut the painter that held the first cutter. The other two boats, the gig and dingy, went down with the monitor. I was followed by several more of the gun crew, who got out through the porthole.

"We got into the cutter and pushed away just before the monitor tipped over and sank. At this time there were three fires concentrated on the monitor, from Forts Morgan and Gaines and the rebel fleet, and we could not see more than 20 feet away. We expected momentarily to be blown out of the water.

"We hovered about for a time. We rescued acting master's Charles F. Langley and Gardner Cottrell; also gunner's mate Samuel S. Shinn. The latter was below in the magazine at the time of the explosion and could never tell how he got out of the monitor, except it was through the rent made by the explosion.

"He was nearly exhausted when we picked him out of the water. There were 11 of us in the cutter and we made our way to the tug Buckthorn, about 500 yards distance. The boats of the USS Metacomet saved four or five others, but not more than 15 of the entire crew of 165 were saved. The only ones were the two officers, members of the gun crew and a colored wardroom boy named Peter C. Parker. All of the firemen and coal heavers and those engaged in the lower part of the monitor went to the bottom with the ill-fated craft.

"The evening previous to the engagement, the paymaster of the Tecumseh told me that as we were going into battle the next morning, I had better take the money that was due me - $307 - as he did not know what might happen. I took my money and tied it in my silk neck handkerchief, and by my having it on my person, I saved it.

"If Lieut Kelley had followed my advice and gotten out of the porthole he might have saved his life.

"We were aboard the tug Buckthorn only a few hours when we were transferred to the USS Tennessee, a large side wheel steamer, and we conveyed the prisoners captured at Fort Morgan to New Orleans. They were a queer-looking lot, many wearing tall hats, and being armed with firearms of every description, double-barreled shotguns predominating."

"I was made master-at-arms while on USS Tennessee, and later, when transfered to the transport Fort Morgan, I served as quartermaster until Aug 5, 1865, just one year after the loss of the Tecumseh, when I was honorably discharged at New York."

Two more survivors of the Tecumseh are living, Mr. Chauncey P. Dean, who lives in Elton NJ and Peter C. Parker who lives at Sing Sing, NY.

After the war Mr Cousins went to Michigan for a short time, but then came to this city, where he has resided for the past 30 years, being employed a good portion of the time at the Navy Yard.

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