Page images


according to act of Congress AD 1868 by Johnson. Fry & Co in the darks orlice et the distrut court of the southern district of NY


Cu XL)



angle of iron to pierce any adversary in and the confederate flag flying from a ber path. Her engines were stated to staff, she steamed directly for the frig. be 510 horse-power, and all her ma- ate Congress and the sloop-of-war Cum. chinery was below the water line. berland, which were stationed off James Armed with ten guns, 80-pounders, River to guard the blockade and prorifled; with a furnace for heating shot; tect the camp on the shore at Newport manned by ten lieutenants and 350 News. Both of these were sailing vespicked men; and presenting the appear- sels, and had consequently no opporance of a submerged house, with the tunity of manæuvring in presence of so roof oniy above water, the Merrimac, or formidable an adversary as this massive as the rebels re-named her, the Virginia, steam ram.

steam ram. The other vessels in the was a formidable antagonist indeed for Roads, at Fortress Monroe, were signalthe doomed vessels then blockading the ed to the aid of the Congress and entrance to Norfolk, and the mouth of Cumberland. They were the flag-ship the James River.* Buchanan, the com- Roanoke, the frigates Minnesota and mander, after forty-five years connection St. Lawrence, and suine half dozen with the navy, had deserted the flag of gun boats, which were employed in his country, and was now ready to do towing the frigates into position,—the all in his power for the new master Minnesota not having full steam on at whom he was serving.

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. panicd 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 twentygire aid and share in the confidently ex- four of heavy calibre. The Cumberdected 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 no

* 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 Merrimac was all prepared to do her work ; Gen. Wool had sent a carefully drawn up statement to the authori- sides of the Merrimac. Equally unaties at Washington respecting the monster ram, affirm. vailing were the shots fired from the ing as his conviction that nothing in the Roads could withstand her onset; and yet apparently no steps were

powerful battery at Newport News. taken to save the splendid vessels in the harbor, beyond Six or eight times the Cumberland re. ordering the Monitor to the scene of action. Providentially, the Monitor arrived

before it was quite

too late, peated these broadsides from her masand also proved equal to the fearful emergency. But sive guns, but to no purpose ; a single see, for a defence of the navy department, Boynton's shot, however, from the Merrimac killHistory of the Navy during the Rebellion,” vol. i., p.

ed five of her men.

317, etc


Then came the fearful moment of the Cumberland, and at three o'clock trial. The Merrimac, sure of her prey, in the afternoon, she was ready to complunged headlong into the side of the plete the destruction of the Congress helpless frigate. The iron horn or and the other vessels not far off. Sceram, striking her just forward the main ing the fate of the Cumberland, the chains, made a deep gash, knocking a commander of the Congress set the jib hole in the side near the water line as and topsail, and with the assistance of large as the head of a hogshead, and a gunboat, ran the vessel ashore. driving her back upon her anchors with The Merrimac took a position great force, while the water ran into her astern, at a distance of abo:t 150 hold. Slowly drawing back, the Mer yards, and raked the Congress fore and rimac poured a broadside into the sink- aft with shells, while one of the smaller ing ship. Still the Cumberland main- steamers kept up a fire on her starboard tained the unequal contest. Officers quarter. The two stern guns of the and men without a single voice of dis- Congress were her only means of de sent, resolved never to surrender to the fence. These were soon disabled, one rebels. They stood by their guns up being dismounted, and the other having to the last moment; the dead, and the its muzzle knocked away, by the ter dying, and the wounded, strewed all rible fire of the enemy. around; the shots of the enemy pour. Between four and five o'clock, Lieut ing in upon the sinking frigate; the Smith, in command, was killed, and vessel on fire in the forward part; all Lieut. Prendergrast, deeming it utterly Lupe gone; yet the Cumberland waved useless to protract the fight, where his no white flag of surrender. Down she men were being slaughtered, and not sank, her hull grounding fifty-four feet a single gun could be brought to bear below the surface; but her glorious against the enemy, hauled down his flag still streamed at the topmast above flag, and surrendered to the Merrimac. the waves, and remained there long A small tug came along side, and all after the ram had departed. At the were ordered out of the ship, as she last, the men saved themselves as best was to be burned directly. Some of they could; but many were drowned the troops on shore kept up a fire on the before a small steamer arrived from tug, and succeeded in driving her off; Newport News to their relief. Out of whereupon the Merrimac poured an376, officers and privates, 117 were other broadside into the Congress, known to be lost, about twenty-three although the white flag was flying at were missing, and the rest were saved.* her peak. With this inhuman act, the

The Merrimac had expended only Congress was left to her fate; hour about forty-five minutes in destroying after hour she burned, lighting up the

* Lieut. Morris and the brave officers and men under 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 and determination under the most disastrous and ap

There were 434, palling circumstances.”

every direction.

CH. XI.]




officers and men, on the Congress; 136 action; and providentially brought that were lost; the remainder were saved. help which none other was able to

The Minnesota, one of the first-class afford. vessels in the nary, was the next object Untried, unknown, regarded with of the Merrimac's attention. Late in much doubt by many who were thought the afternoon, accompanied by two to be wise in such matters, this remarksteam tugs, she bore down upon the able vessel arrived at Fortress Monroe, Minnesota. Fortunately, there was about ten o'clock in the evening. In not sufficient depth of water to allow every way a novelty; in appearance, of her coming very near; so, taking a not unlike what the Norfolk rebels position a mile distant, on the starboard termed her, “a Yankee cheese-box set bow, she opened fire, but did not ac- on a raft;" and with hardly anything complish much by the operation. The visible but a flat iron deck on the sur- . Minnesota lay aground about two face of the water, surmounted by a low miles from Newport News; and the round tower, pilot box, and smoke-pipe, St. Lawrence, also anxious to join in few supposed the Monitor capable of the contest, was grounded near by. performing what the next day fully As there was no chance of these vessels proved her ability to do. With a hull getting away that night, and as the impossible to be injured, and with a

evening had already set in, the Merri. tower only ten feet high and twenty in | mac steamed back to her anchorage, diameter, revolving readily, and mount. satisfied with what she had done, and ing two 11-inch guns, the Monitor

was, waiting for the next day's light to in fact, a bomb-proof fort, of immense prove further her powers of destructive


and effectiveness. * Two were reported to have The Monitor was now emphatically been killed; Buchanan, the commander, on her trial trip. She had just been and seven others wounded.

completed, had left New York under That was a gloomy Saturday night, orders, on the 6th of March, and bad not only to those in the vicinity of arrived in Hampton Roads on the even.

Fortress Monroe, but to every part of ing of the 8th. The passage was ex. | the country whither the electric tele- ceedingly rough and stormy, but the

graph conveyed the astounding news Monitor proved to be a capital sea boat, of the Merrimac's doings. The Cum- and all on board of her were eager to berland was sunk in the waters, the test her capabilities in a deadly grapple Congress lay wrapped in flames, the with the Merrimac. Captain Worden Minnesota was helplessly imbedded in was directed to lay the Monitor along che sand, nothing appeared to be safe, side the Minnesota, which he accordfor nothing on land or water seemed to

* For a full and carefully prepared account of ironed be able to meet the terrible assaults of

or armored vessels, in referenco both to our own and the Merrimac. . It was at this point, to the navies of other nations, see Appleton's "Ameriwher, hope was well nigh gone, that can Annual Cyclopædia,” pp. 604-628. See also the

first volume of Boynton's " History of the Navy during the Monitor appeared on the scene of the Rebellion.




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 At daylight, the Merrimac was astir a severe one, it was thought that it again, ready to sweep from her path would probably answer for the present.* every obstacle, and expecting probably The Merrimac was seriously injured, to clear the Roads entirely of the block. but to what extent was not made pub. ading fleet, if not to bombard and take lic; the Monitor came out of the contest Fortress Monroe itself. She had numer- unharmed, except by a tremendous ous attendants, even those who came blow from a shot striking the pilot merely to look on, and enjoy the sight house. Capt. Worden, who was in the of what the monster ram was to do in pilot house, directing the movements of the way of ruin. The Monitor took the vessel, was stunned by the concusher position at once in front of the sion, and for a time partially blinded. Minnesota, and discharged one of her On rallying, he was greeted with the 11-inch Dahlgrens upon the Merrimac. cheering news that the Minnesota was It was an astounding challenge, like a safe, and the Merrimac driven off to lier pigmy assaulting a giant; but a hund- rebel home.t red and sixty-eight pound shot was not Gen. Shields, with his division at to be despised, come from where it Winchester (sce p. 131), having ascermight, and so the Merrimac prepared tained, March 19th, that Jackson was to make short work of her diminutive strongly posted near Mount Jackson, assailant. It was soon found, however, resolved to try and draw him out by a that the Monitor was not casily to be feigned retreat, and thus fight beaten. Broadside after broadside pro. him to greater advantage. duced no effect upon her; it was of no The troops were sent off towards Cenavail to attempt, as the Merrimac did,

* Mr. A. C. Stimers, chief engineer of the United to run her down, and crush her in that States service, was on board the Monitor as governway; the active Monitor, with her re- ment inspector. He wrote a spirited letter on the day

of the fight to Captain Ericsson, the inventor, lauding volving battery ever pointing full upon the Monitor in high terms :-“I congratulate you," he the ram, poured forth shot incessantly said, “ upon your greet success. Thousands have this upon the sides, at the bow and the day blessed you. I have henrd whole crews cheer you.

Every man feels that you have saved this place to the stern, seeking some vulnerable spot. nation by furnishing us with the means to whip an The contest raged for hours, when the iron-clad frigate, that was, until our arrival, having it

all her own way with our most powerful vessels.” For Monitor withdrew for a space to hoist an interesting account of Mr. Ericsson’s life and labors, more shot into her turret. This being see Duyckinck's “ War for the Union,” vol. ii., pp. done, the fight was renewed; but the

+ In order to complete the history of the Merrimac's Merrimac was glad ere long to retire career, we may mention here, that, on the 11th of April, towards Sewall's Point. It needed no she appeared again in Hampton Roads, and captured

a few small vessels; and on the 11th of May, she was words to express the fact that she was blown up by her officers in the Elizabeth River, to pre badly beaten, and compelled to stop in vent her falling into the hands of the Union forces. her career.

The Monitor, to the deep regret of all loyal men, was The Monitor did not pur- lost in a violent gale off the coast of North Carolina, sue the fleeing vessel; she was under Dec. 31st, 1862.



« PreviousContinue »