Served as pilot on board the U.S.S. Signal, Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the U.S.S. Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning their fire until the ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was ordered raised. Acting as pilot throughout the battle, Wilkes stood by his wheel until it was disabled in his hands by a bursting enemy shell.