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THE excitement which the stirring events of February

had created in the nation steadily increased with the opening of Spring

On the first of March, the southern papers announced the safe arrival of the rebel steamer Nashville at Beaufort, North Carolina. Hoisting the national colors, she steered boldly for the blockading fleet, and before her true character was discovered, had got so far in that she could not be stopped.

On the same day, Lieutenant Gwin attacked with his gun boats a battery at Pittsburgh landing, on the Tennessee, and clcared the shores, where it a short time was to be fought the first, great, pitched battle of the war.

On the third, Colonel Lander died of congestive fever at Paw Paw, Virginia, - --an officer of great promise, and destined, if he had lived, to become one of the leading military men of the nation. His last act was a brilliant cavalry dash on the enemy at Blooming Gap, on the fourteenth ultimo, in which seventeen commissioned officers were taken prisoners--five of whom surrendered to him alone. Two

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columns of two thousand men each, between four o'clock in the morning and eight o'clock at night, marched respective. ly thirty-two and forty-three miles, besides building a long bridge. What to other men seemed impossibilities, was to him the proper way to conduct a campaign. His bravery bordered on rashness; and whoever followed his lead, must reck little of life. General Shields was appointed to take his place.

On the same day, a body of Union cavalry entered Columbus, and hoisted over that stronghold of the enemy the national ensign. The rebels, after setting fire to it, and pitching the heavy guns they could not carry away with then into the river, retired to Island Number Ten, a few miles above New Madrid. The next day Captain Foote appeared before the place with his gun boats, and took possession.

On this same day, Dupont's fleet entered the old port of Fernandina, Florida, and hoisted the Federal flag on fort Clinch, the first of the national forts on which the ensign of the Union had resumed its proper place since the war commenced. Its strong works were uninjured; and the frightened garrison in its hasty flight left all the guns

behind. A scene occurred in approaching the town itself, entirely new in the annals of war. Captain Drayton, seeing a large

rail road train leaving the town, ordered Lieutenant Stevens of 2 foglie the Ottawa to stop it. The track for four miles lay directly

along the shore, and Stevens immediately crowded on all steam in pursuit of the train. But he soon saw that the race between a gun boat and locomotive was a hopeless one, and opened his guns upon the train. A shell struck a platform car, killing two men, when the conductor cut loose some of the rear cars, and escaped with the remainder. Many of the frightened passengers leaped from the train, among them ex-senator Yulee, and hid in the bushes.

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But the two most important events of the early part of the month, and which occurred on the same day, were the battle of Pea Ridge and the attack of the ram Merrimac on our fleet at Newport News. Though the Government had been frequently warned respecting this vesscl, it appeared to be incredulous, and made no preparations adequate for its reception. The fleet, however, better informed or possessing more sagacity, watched her appearance with the deepest anxiety

DESTRUCTIVE MISSION OF THE MERRIMAC.

The morning of the eighth dawned bright and beautiful, -not a ripple broke the still surface of the bay as it sparkled in the sunlight, and all was calm and peaceful when the ironclad monster left her moorings, and accompanied by two steamers, slowly started off on her mission of destruction. Past the wharves thronged with excited citizens waving their hats and cheering--past the batteries whose parapets were dark with soldiers gazing on the mysterious structure ---out into the placid bay, glided the ponde:o's thing and turned her steel prow towards the Congress and Cumberland, that lay quietly on the tide, with boats hanging at the booms and the wash clothes in the rigging, apparently unsuspicious of the approach of their powerful foe. A Sabbath stillness rested on sea and land, and those on board the Merrimac wondered what this strange apathy meant. But suddenly the heavy boom of a gun beyond Sewa!''s Point broke the stillness. The deep reverberations died away i:. the distance, but still the wash clothes hung in the rigging, and all seemed quiet on board the frigates. Soon after, another gun thundered over the water, and then they could see a tug start out from Newport News. In a few minutes, tivo black coluions of steam, darkening the air in the directiou of James

A FIERCE NAVAL COMBAT.

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river, announce the approach of the York and Jamestown to join their forces with her.

In the mean time, those on the look out at fortress Monroe, had caught sight of her, and the long roll sounded, and the flag-ship, lying in port, signaled the naval vessels to get under way. The Minnesota had her steam already up, and in a short time moved off towards Newport News, where the Congress and Cumberland lay on blockading duty. Five gun

boats and the Roanoke in tow followed. The gallant crew of the Cumberland, as they saw the uncouth monster come round Craney Island, instantly recognized her as the Merrimac. All hands were beat to quarters, and the vessel swung across the channel so as to bring her broadside to bear. As the commanding officer scanned her through his glass, she looked to him like a solid mass of iron plowing its way through the water. The slanting roof appeared to rise about ten feet from the surface, while not an opening was anywhere visible, except the narrow ports from which the guns pointed. In front, her long iron prow combed the water as she came steadily, and in grim silence,

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When she had got within about a mile, the Cumberland commenced firing with her pivot guns, to which the Merrimac deigned no response. As soon as they could be brought to bear, the whole broadside of thirteen nine and ten-inch guns opened on her. The heavy metal fell like hail on the approaching vessel, but made no more impression than so many peas, shot from a child's blow gun. Broadside followed broadside in quick succession, but still the Merrimac maintained her onward course. At length one of her shot crashed through the Cumberland, killing half a dozen in its passage. She, however, had no intention to make a broad. side engagement of it, mailed though she was, but dashed straight on the anchored vessel with her iron prong. The

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THE CUMBERLAND SUNK.

fated frigate could not get out of the way, and the huge mass of iron struck her with a shock that sent her back upon her anchors, and heeled her over till her top-sail yards almost touched the water. As she backed off, a hole was left in the Cumberland as big as a hogshead, through which the water poured in a torrent. Delivering a close and murderous broadside into the disabled vessel, she again came on, striking her amidships. She then lay off, and fired leisurely, but with terrible effect, while the broadsides of the Cumberland were delivered with a rapidity and precision that would have sent the Merrimac, had she been a wooden vessel, in twenty minutes to the bottom, Lieutenant Morris, in command--the Captain being on shore on business-saw that his vessel was rapidly filling, and knew that in a few min. utes she would be at the bottom; but he proudly refused to strike his flag, determined if he could do no better, to sink alongside. A nobler commander never trod the deck of a ship, and a more gallant crew never stood by a brave com. mander. One sailor, with both his legs shot off, hobbled up to his gun on the bleeding stumps, and pulling the lanyard fired it, then fell back dead. Deeper and deeper settled the noble frigate, yet her broadsides kept thundering on till the water poured into the ports, submerging the guns. Still the flag waved aloft, and as the vessel was disappearing below the surface, the pivot guns on deck gave a last shot at the enemy, and then the swift waves closed over ship and gallant crew together. Some came to the surface, and swam to the shore-others kept afloat till they were picked up by boats that put off from shore to their rescue; but of the four hundred gallant souls on board, only a little over half survived the disaster. The chaplain and the wounded be, low, went down together.

The work of destruction had occupied only about threequarters of an hour, and now the victorious Merrimac turned

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