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Fiered according to act of Congress 1868 by Johnson. Fry &C in the clerks office of the district court of the southern district of NY
NAIN HAMPTON ROADS ACTION BETWEEN THE MONITOR & MEKIR MAT
THE ONSET OF THE MERRIMAC.
angle of iron to pierce any adversary in her path. Her engines were stated to be 510 horse-power, and all her machinery was below the water line. Armed with ten guns, 80-pounders, rifled; with a furnace for heating shot; manned by ten lieutenants and 350 picked men; and presenting the appearance of a submerged house, with the roof only above water, the Merrimac, or as the rebels re-named her, the Virginia, was a formidable antagonist indeed for the doomed vessels then blockading the entrance to Norfolk, and the mouth of the James River.* Buchanan, the commander, after forty-five years connection with the navy, had deserted the flag of his country, and was now ready to do all in his power for the new master whom he was serving.
and the confederate flag flying from a staff, she steamed directly for the frig ate Congress and the sloop-of-war Cumberland, which were stationed off James River to guard the blockade and protect the camp on the shore at Newport News. Both of these were sailing vessels, and had consequently no opportunity of manoeuvring in presence of so formidable an adversary as this massive steam ram. The other vessels in the Roads, at Fortress Monroe, were signaled to the aid of the Congress and Cumberland. They were the flag-ship Roanoke, the frigates Minnesota and St. Lawrence, and some half dozen gun boats, which were employed in towing the frigates into position,—the Minnesota not having full steam on at starting, and the Roanoke being disOn a pleasant sunshiny day, Satur-abled by a broken shaft. day the 8th of March, the Merrimac Whilst these noble vessels were getleft Norfolk, and about noon was seen ting under way, the Merrimac moved coming round Craney Island, accom- slowly onward on her mission of des panied by two gun boats, and heading truction. The Congress and Cumberfor Newport News. Several other land, meantime, prepared to meet the armed steamers joined and followed in assaults of the Merrimac. The former her train, and were prepared both to mounted fifty guns; the latter twentygive aid and share in the confidently ex- four of heavy calibre. The Cumber pected victory of the Merrimac. With land opened fire at about a mile distant; nothing visible but her smoke-stack but the iron roofed monster gave nc * The navy department was quite freely censured sign, until within 100 yards of the frig. for not being more attentive to the critical condition of ate. The broadsides of both the ships affairs at Hampton Roads. It was well known that the bounded harmlessly from the mailed sides of the Merrimac. Equally unavailing were the shots fired from the powerful battery at Newport News. Six or eight times the Cumberland repeated these broadsides from her massive guns, but to no purpose; a single shot, however, from the Merrimac killed five of her men.
Merrimac was all prepared to do her work; Gen. Wool
had sent a carefully drawn up statement to the authorities at Washington respecting the monster ram, affirm
ing as his conviction that nothing in the Roads could withstand her onset; and yet apparently no steps were taken to save the splendid vessels in the harbor, beyond ordering the Monitor to the scene of action. Providen
tially, the Monitor arrived before it was quite too late, and also proved equal to the fearful emergency. But see, for a defence of the navy department, Boynton's "History of the Navy during the Rebellion," vol. i., p. 317. etc
Then came the fearful moment of trial. The Merrimac, sure of her prey, plunged headlong into the side of the helpless frigate. The iron horn or ram, striking her just forward the main chains, made a deep gash, knocking a hole in the side near the water line as large as the head of a hogshead, and driving her back upon her anchors with great force, while the water ran into her hold. Slowly drawing back, the Merrimac poured a broadside into the sinking ship. Still the Cumberland maintained the unequal contest. Officers and men without a single voice of dissent, resolved never to surrender to the rebels. They stood by their guns up to the last moment; the dead, and the dying, and the wounded, strewed all around; the shots of the enemy pouring in upon the sinking frigate; the vessel on fire in the forward part; all Lope gone; yet the Cumberland waved no white flag of surrender. Down she sank, her hull grounding fifty-four feet below the surface; but her glorious flag still streamed at the topmast above the waves, and remained there long after the ram had departed. At the last, the men saved themselves as best they could; but many were drowned before a small steamer arrived from Newport News to their relief. Out of 376, officers and privates, 117 were known to be lost, about twenty-three were missing, and the rest were saved.* The Merrimac had expended only about forty-five minutes in destroying
the Cumberland, and at three o'clock
Between four and five o'clock, Lieut. Smith, in command, was killed, and Lieut. Prendergrast, deeming it utterly useless to protract the fight, where his men were being slaughtered, and not a single gun could be brought to bear against the enemy, hauled down his flag, and surrendered to the Merrimac. A small tug came along side, and all were ordered out of the ship, as she was to be burned directly. Some of the troops on shore kept up a fire on the tug, and succeeded in driving her off; whereupon the Merrimac poured an other broadside into the Congress, although the white flag was flying at her peak. With this inhuman act, the Congress was left to her fate; hour after hour she burned, lighting up the harbor till past midnight, when the his command, received the special acknowledgments magazine exploded, and the fragments and thanks of the navy department for "their courage of the lost frigate were scattered in
*Lieut. Morris and the brave officers and men under
and determination under the most disastrous and ap
There were 434,
THE MONITOR MEETS THE MERRIMAC.
officers and men, on the Congress; 136 were lost; the remainder were saved.
The Minnesota, one of the first-class vessels in the navy, was the next object of the Merrimac's attention. Late in the afternoon, accompanied by two steam tugs, she bore down upon the Minnesota. Fortunately, there was not sufficient depth of water to allow of her coming very near; so, taking a position a mile distant, on the starboard bow, she opened fire, but did not ac complish much by the operation. The Minnesota lay aground about two miles from Newport News; and the St. Lawrence, also anxious to join in the contest, was grounded near by. As there was no chance of these vessels getting away that night, and as the evening had already set in, the Merrimac steamed back to her anchorage, satisfied with what she had done, and waiting for the next day's light to prove further her powers of destructive
Two were reported to have been killed; Buchanan, the commander, and seven others wounded.
That was a gloomy Saturday night, not only to those in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe, but to every part of the country whither the electric telegraph conveyed the astounding news of the Merrimac's doings. The Cumberland was sunk in the waters, the Congress lay wrapped in flames, the Minnesota was helplessly imbedded in he sand, nothing appeared to be safe, for nothing on land or water seemed to be able to meet the terrible assaults of the Merrimac. .It was at this point, when hope was well nigh gone, that the Monitor appeared on the scene of
action; and providentially brought that help which none other was able to afford.
Untried, unknown, regarded with much doubt by many who were thought to be wise in such matters, this remarkable vessel arrived at Fortress Monroe, about ten o'clock in the evening. In every way a novelty; in appearance, not unlike what the Norfolk rebels termed her, "a Yankee cheese-box set on a raft;" and with hardly anything visible but a flat iron deck on the surface of the water, surmounted by a low round tower, pilot box, and smoke-pipe, few supposed the Monitor capable of performing what the next day fully proved her ability to do. With a hull impossible to be injured, and with a tower only ten feet high and twenty in diameter, revolving readily, and mounting two 11-inch guns, the Monitor was, in fact, a bomb-proof fort, of immense power and effectiveness.*
The Monitor was now emphatically on her trial trip. She had just been completed, had left New York under orders, on the 6th of March, and had arrived in Hampton Roads on the evening of the 8th. The passage was exceedingly rough and stormy, but the Monitor proved to be a capital sea boat, and all on board of her were eager to test her capabilities in a deadly grapple with the Merrimac. Captain Worden was directed to lay the Monitor along side the Minnesota, which he accord
* For a full and carefully prepared account of ironed or armored vessels, in reference both to our own and
to the navies of other nations, see Appleton's "American Annual Cyclopædia," pp. 604-628. See also the
first volume of Boynton's "History of the Navy during
ingly did, reaching that position at two orders to act on the defensive; and as o'clock on Sunday morning.
the lesson just given to the rebels was a severe one, it was thought that it would probably answer for the present.
The Merrimac was seriously injured, but to what extent was not made public; the Monitor came out of the contest unharmed, except by a tremendous blow from a shot striking the pilot house. Capt. Worden, who was in the pilot house, directing the movements of the vessel, was stunned by the concussion, and for a time partially blinded. On rallying, he was greeted with the cheering news that the Minnesota was safe, and the Merrimac driven off to her rebel home.†
Gen. Shields, with his division at Winchester (see p. 131), having ascertained, March 19th, that Jackson was strongly posted near Mount Jackson, resolved to try and draw him out by a feigned retreat, and thus fight him to greater advantage. The troops were sent off towards Cen
At daylight, the Merrimac was astir again, ready to sweep from her path every obstacle, and expecting probably to clear the Roads entirely of the blockading fleet, if not to bombard and take Fortress Monroe itself. She had numerous attendants, even those who came merely to look on, and enjoy the sight of what the monster ram was to do in the way of ruin. The Monitor took her position at once in front of the Minnesota, and discharged one of her 11-inch Dahlgrens upon the Merrimac. It was an astounding challenge, like a pigmy assaulting a giant; but a hundred and sixty-eight pound shot was not to be despised, come from where it might, and so the Merrimac prepared to make short work of her diminutive assailant. It was soon found, however, that the Monitor was not easily to be beaten. Broadside after broadside produced no effect upon her; it was of no avail to attempt, as the Merrimac did, to run her down, and crush her in that way; the active Monitor, with her revolving battery ever pointing full upon the ram, poured forth shot incessantly upon the sides, at the bow and the stern, seeking some vulnerable spot. The contest raged for hours, when the Monitor withdrew for a space to hoist more shot into her turret. This being done, the fight was renewed; but the Merrimac was glad ere long to retire towards Sewall's Point. It needed no words to express the fact that she was badly beaten, and compelled to stop in her career. The Monitor did not sue the fleeing vessel; she was under Dec. 31st, 1862.
Mr. A. C. Stimers, chief engineer of the United
States service, was on board the Monitor as government inspector. He wrote a spirited letter on the day the Monitor in high terms:-"I congratulate you," he of the fight to Captain Ericsson, the inventor, lauding said, "upon your great success. Thousands have this day blessed you. I have heard whole crews cheer you.
Every man feels that you have saved this place to the
nation by furnishing us with the means to whip an iron-clad frigate, that was, until our arrival, having it an interesting account of Mr. Ericsson's life and labors, see Duyckinck's "War for the Union,” vol. ii., pp.
all her own way with our most powerful vessels." For
+ In order to complete the history of the Merrimac's
career, we may mention here, that, on the 11th of April, she appeared again in Hampton Roads, and captured a few small vessels; and on the 11th of May, she was
blown up by her officers in the Elizabeth River, to prevent her falling into the hands of the Union forces.
pur-lost in a violent gale off the coast of North Carolina,
The Monitor, to the deep regret of all loyal men, was