June 17, 1863: Going after Whistling Dick

Whistling Dick, ca. 1863

One of the cannons in the river-side defenses of Vicksburg, because of some peculiarity of the rifling of its barrel, threw shells that whistled in flight. While it’s not clear that this cannon was any more effective than others, its distinctiveness gave it a certain notoriety. The men called it “Whistling Dick”. Here the navy was taking some pains to try to silence the gun.


U. S. S. BENTON, Below Vicksburg, June 17, 1863.

SIR: I have respectfully to report that yesterday afternoon an officer from General Herron, who is advancing up toward Whistling Dick, came on board and informed me that our troops had possession of the lower battery, and that they were working toward Whistling Dick and a battery inland of it. He states that this morning one of the shells from this vessel struck the earthworks of the lower battery, throwing dirt on our own men and then, bounding on, burst beyond. Fortunately no one was hurt, and I, fearing that we might damage our own men, gave orders after the first shot not to fire in that direction. I had had no intimation by signal or otherwise that the enemy had abandoned that fort, and I claim that our fire (having the range so well) must, combined with the approach of our troops, have had something to do with the rebels leaving.

It is now hazardous to fire to the southward of Whistling Dick. Last evening signals were made from our forces, apparently to this vessel. Having no one on board who understands the system, I could not read them. Last night we cleaned boilers and now have steam up ready for service. I omitted to say in my report yesterday that the Price and Mound City went down the river on the 15th instant.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant JAS. A. GREER, Lieutenant- Commander.
Acting Rear-Admiral D. D. PORTER, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

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Report of Lieutenant-Commander Shirk, U. S. Navy, referring to the effect of a shot from Whistling Dick.

U. S. S. TUSCUMBIA, U. S. Mississippi Squadron, June 17, 1863. SIR: Enclosed* I send you a note just received from Major-General Herron. I have informed the general that I have no guns to spare, but that I would send his communication to you, and that perhaps you might direct Captain Greer to furnish him from the Benton. The staff officer who brought the note says that Whistling Dick knocked one of our 10-pound Parrotts about ten rods to the rear this morning.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant, JAMES NV. SHIRK, Lieu~tenant- Commander.

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