« PreviousContinue »
THE LAST OF THE MERRIMAC.
were left in excellent condition, as were which are still in position, except those also the extensive barracks, which had near the naval hospital. These are said accommodated during the winter a gar- to have been taken to Richmond during rison of over 2,000 men. Forty heavy the past week. On the opposite bank guns were mounted in different parts of of the river is another battery, with two the works, on the main front of the or three other small works. On all the island; the works commanding the ap- works the rebel flag has been lowered by proaches to the channel of the river. the fleet, and the stars and stripes subNine of these casemates were finished, stituted. The amount of powder found in each of which were 9 or 10-inch Dahl- in the magazines is estimated at 5,000 grens, and the work of erecting five more pounds, and the fixed ammunition taken casemates was in progress at the time of can only be enumerated by the cargo. the evacuation, in one of which a gun After cruising about for some time among was mounted. The fort at the head of the fleet, we landed at the wharf, and the island was called the 'Citadel.' It took a stroll through the city of Norfolk. was not casemated, but mounted five It being Sunday, of course, all business heavy guns. The whole number of guns places were closed, and the city presentmounted was thirty-nine, of which two ed a most quiet aspect. The wharfs were were Parrotts, and a number rifled Dahl- crowded with blacks, male and female, grens. There were also about six guns and a goodly number of white working in the works which had not been mount- people, with their wives and children,
After spending an hour on the were strolling about. Soldiers were staisland we proceeded to Norfolk.
the wharfs and picketed "Immediately at the upper end of the through the city, while the flag of the island we found a mass of blackened Union floated triumphantly from the wreck floating on the water, some of it cupola of the custom house. The houses proceeding from the sunken portions of through the city were generally closed, vessels. We had also passed large especially those of the wealthier classes. quantities of floating timber on our way Some of the females scowled at the horup, all of which had been torn into splin- rible Yankees, and some almost attemptters. From the men found on the island ed to spit upon them. But there was a we ascertained that the Merrimac had subdued quiet among the middle classes, lain during Saturday at a point nearly a their countenances implying a desire to mile below the position from which the wait and watch for further developments. fragments were observed. During the The secessionists talked boldly of the night, however, she bad been brought Southern Confederacy, declaring their back and run ashore. Her entire officers intention to receive nothing but Confedand crew were landed on the island, and erate money, and saying they would have a slow match applied to her magazine. nothing to do with Lincoln shinplasters. She was torn to fragments by the time They were fully confident that in twenty the crew were out of reach of her. Ne-days Norfolk would be repossessed, and groes state that the officers and crew the Yankees driven out. President Linpassed through the adjoining country on coln, who had accompanied Commodore the main land about eight o'clock in the Goldsborough and General Wool in the morning to the number of 200. They steamer Baltimore, on a visit of observasaid they were on their way to Suffolk. tion to Elizabeth river, did not disembark,
“On the line of the river leading from but remained on board for about an hour Craney island to Norfolk there are not in front of the city, and then steamed less than six heavy earthworks, mount- back to the fortress. Secretary Chase ing in all about sixty-nine cannon, all of returned with him, while Secretary Stan
ton remained until a late hour in consul- sota and Vanderbilt, which were anchortation with the military governors Gen- ed below Fortress Monroe, got under erals Viele and Wool. True to the way and stood up to that point, apspirit of secession, the fire, which threw parently with the intention of joining a broad, red glare across the heavens on their squadron in the Roads. Before, Saturday night, proceeded from the de- however, we got within gun shot, the struction of the Portsmouth navy yard, enemy ceased firing, and retired with all which was done by order of the rebel speed, under the protection of the guns commandant, scarcely anything being of the fortress, followed by the Virginia, left but black tall walls and tall chim- until the shells from the Rip Raps passed neys. Even the immense stone dry dock over her.” Commodore Goldsborough, was mined and damaged, and it is said as we learn from his report of this affair, the engine and pump belonging to it were had given orders to the Monitor, on the l'emoved to Richmond."
coming out of the Merrimac, to fall back The policy or necessity of the destruc- into fair channel way, and only engage cion of the Merrimac or Virginia was her seriously in such a position, that, toinuch discussed at Richmond, and the gether with the merchant vessels intendaffair was made the subject of investiga- ed for the purpose, she would run her tion by a special court of inquiry order- down. The Merrimac, le says, “ did not ed by the navy department. The official engage the Monitor, nor did she place report of Commodore Tatnall, who was herself where she could have been assailin command of the vessel at the time of ed by our ram-vessels to any advantage, her destruction, set forth that in the first or where there was any prospect whatweek of May he had received orders ever of getting at her.'* from Richmond to ascend and protect The next day the conference was held, the navigation of the James river ; but and it was determined that the Merrimac that on the remonstrances of General should remain to protect Norsolk, and Huger, at Norfolk, who entertained fears afford time for the removal of the public of the safety of his defences in that quar- property--the evacuation of the position ter, he was required to endeavour to being already decided upon. On the afford protection to Norfolk as well as following day, the 10th, General Wool the James river, which, of course, kept bad landed, and was before Norfolk with him in his position at Craney island. bis six thousand troops ; there was a Commodore Hollins was then sent from general flight from the land batteries, and Richmond to consult with the naval and the Confederate flag heretofore flying at inilitary officers, about Norfolk, concern- Sewell's point was no longer to be seen ing the best disposition to be made of from the deck of the Virginia. Commothe Merrimac, and the 8th of May was dore Tatnall dispatched a messenger appointed for the conference. On that to Craney island for information, who day the Monitor and other vessels, as al- brought him back word that the Union ready related, attacked the Sewell's troops were advancing, and that the Point battery, and the Merrimac lest her Confederates were retreating. The messtation to defend it. “We found,” says senger was then sent to Norfolk to conCommodore Tatnall, “six of the enemy's fer with General Huger and Captain Lee, vessels, including the iron clad steamers, when he found that those officers had left Monitor and Naugatuck, shelling the by railroad, the navy yard in flames, battery. We passed the battery, and and that the mayor was treating for the stood directly for the enemy, for the purpose of engaging him, and I thought an * Commodore Goldsborough, to his Excellency the Preaction certain particularly as the Minne- ton Roads, May 9, 1862.
sident of the United States. Flag Ship Minnesota, Happ.
COMMODORE TATNALL'S EXPLANATIONS.
surrender of the city. Craney island, moderate lightening of her draft, should and all the other batteries on the river have been taken up to Hog island, in were by this time abandoned.' It was James river, where she would have prenow seven in the evening, and the fate vented the larger Union vessels and of the Virginia must be promptly decid- transports from ascending. ed. The pilots gave the assurance that
The James river being now open by if the draft of the vessel were reduced to the abandonment of the land batteries at eighteen feet they could carry it to with its entrance, the destruction of the Virin forty miles of Richmond. All bands ginia and the disappearance of the rewere then set to work to lighten the mainder of the rebel vessels which essteamer, and in four or five hours she caped towards Richmond, a portion of was so lifted as to be unfit for action ; the Union fleet presently set out to rewhen the pilots declared their inability connoitre the river in its whole course to carry her with cigliteen feet above to the capital. A squadron composed Jamestown flats, giving as a reason for of the three powerful iron clads, the this discrepancy in their statements, the Monitor, Galena and Naugatuck, with fact that the westerly wind which had the steam ganboats Aroostook and Port been prevailing for the last two days Royal, cautiously pushed its way up the quite altered the circumstances. After river on the look out for obstructions ; easterly winds, eighteen feet could be but meeting with no other obstacles than carried, but'not now. This was, in fact, the occasional shoal navigation, till it the condemnation of the vessel. She arrived on the 14th of May within about had been rendered unfit for action with ten miles of Richmond. It was then asthe expectation of getting up the river certained that two miles ahead the enemy before the powerful Union fleet in the was prepared to resist the further proharbor could be made aware of his de- gress of the vessels. Heavy obstrucsigns, and now she could not pass a point tious of spiles and sunken vessels were on the river up to which the Federals placed across the stream, a number of bad command on both shores. There rebel steamboats, including the Jameswas but one course left, to set fire to the town and Yorktown, were at band, while ship and escape by land, which was ac- a powerful battery was erected on the cordingly done. " It will be asked," heights of the adjoining Ward's Bluff, on says Commodore Tatnall, “what motives the left bank of the river. A council the pilots could have had to deceive us. formed of the officers of the five vessels The only imaginable one (he replies) is was at once held on the flag-ship, the that they wished to avoid going into Galena, and an attack was resolved upon. battle. Had the ship not have been Accordingly, the next morning, the 15th, lifted so as to render her unfit for action, the vessels were brought up for action. a desperate contest must have ensued The result is briefly told by the flag offiwith à force against us too great to cer of the expedition, Captain John justify much hope of success, and, as Rodgers. “The Galena," says he, battle is not their occupation, they ad- within about six hundred yards of the opted this deceitful course to avoid it. battery, as near the spiles as it was I cannot imagine another motive, for I deemed proper to go, let go her anchor, had seen no reason to distrust their good and with a spring sprung across the faith to the Confederacy.” The court of stream, not more than twice as wide as inquiry, dissatisfied with the destruction the ship is long, and then at forty-five of the Virginia, was of opinion that it ininutes past seven o'clock A. M. opened was unnecessary at the time and place it was effected, and that the vessel, with a 1862.
Proceedings, Court of Inquiry, Richmond, June 11,
fire upon the battery. The wooden res- caused any damage beyond bending the sels. as directed, anchored about thirteen plates. I am happy to report no casualhundred yards below. The Monitor an- lies.” The letter from Lieutenant Conchored near, and at nine o'clock she stable, already cited, gives an interesting passed just above the Galena, but found account of the part borne by his vessel, her guns could not be elevated enough the Naugatuck, sometimes called the to reach the battery. She then dropped Stevens, from the name of its inventor, a little below us, and made her shots ef- the builder of the large steam battery at fective. At five minutes after eleven New York, by whom the Naugatuck was o'clock the Galena had expended nearly presented to the government.
"We all her ammunition, and I made signal opened fire," says he, “ upou the battery to discontinue the action. We had but with our heavy guns, and threw shell six Parrott charges, and not a single and canister from our broadside once infilled nine-inch shell. We had thirteen to the woods. Our station was abreast killed and eleven wounded. The rifled of their rifle-pits, and was only about 100-pounder of the Naugatuck burst; forty feet from the shore, so that their half of the part abast the truunions going sharpshooters had a fair chance at us. overboard. She is therefore disabled. During the fight, and while our heavy Lieutenant Newman, the executive offi- gun was performing splendidly, it burst; cer, was conspicuous for his gallant and but fortunately disabled but one man. effective services. Mr. Washburne, act. It burst from the vent to the trunnions ing master, bebaved admirably. These in two halves, throwing one balf overare selected from among the number. board on the port side, while the other The Aroostook, Naugatuck and Port half was landed on deck on the starboard Royal took the stations previously as- side. The muzzle, forward of the trunsigned them, and did everything that nions, remained entire, and was thrown was possible. The Monitor could not forward about two feet. The gun-carhave done better. The barrier is such riage was destroyed, the pilot-house that the vessels of the enemy even, if shattered, part of the upper deck crushthey have any, cannot possibly pass out, ed in, and some of the main deck beams and ours cannot pass in."
started. How I escaped, God only The Galena, an ingeniously constructed knows. I was within two feet of the vessel for light draft, good sailing quali- gun when it burst, baving just sighted ties, and power of resistance, it is stated, and trained it upon the battery. My was hit forty-six times ; twenty-eight speaking trumpet is completely crushed, shot entered her armor and completely and a fragment of the gun weighing pentrated it; five passed through her about one thousand five hundred weight, smoke-stack, and three passed through fell so closely to me that it tore my coat. deck-plating. One or two shot passed I was hit on the head by some part of entirely through her.* Lieutenant Jef- the gun or carriage (I think it was one sers, in command of the Monitor, says of the large rubbers), which stunned me “the fire of the enemy was remarkably for a moment, although I was able to well directed, but vainly, towards this keep the deck and superintend the fightvessel. She was struck three times- ing of our broadside guns (which were one solid 8-inch shot square on the tur- well handled under charge of Wilson), ret, and two solid shot on the side armor until the squadron fell back or want of forward of the pilot-louse. Neither ammunition, about an hour and a half
* Letter from Lieutenant D. C. Constable, commanding after our gun bursted. After heaving
being cupped behind the ears by the sur
CAMPAIGN IN TENNESSEE.
geon of the Aroostook, who came on board ful attack upon Fort Darling, as the rebel to look out for our wounded, I was able work on the heights was called, was the to resume the charge of the deck. chief incident of the naval operations at
“Our little broadside guns did splen- this period on James river. The Union did execution, driving the enemy out of gunboats continued to hold possession of their rifle-pits, and clearing the shore of the extended line of navigation below, every enemy within canister range. By but the advantage gained was for the keeping the crew under the protection present of less importance, while the of our “iron-clad' cabin, and only ex- York river, on the other side of the penposing them for a moment while loading, insula, was made the exclusive channel our loss by their fire was only two of communication with the advancing wounded." This spirited, but unsuccess- army of the Potomac.
CHAPTER L X VI.
GENERAL MITCHEL'S CAMPAIGN IN TENNESSEE. EVACUATION OF CORINTH,
CORINTH, to which the Confederate found before him, on his arrival at the army precipitately retired after the Union camp on the Tennessee, a few days battles at Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing, after the battle at Pittsburg Landing. was an inconsiderable village in northern In these operations he was greatly asMississippi, near the southern boundary sisted by the military achievements, in of Tennessee, and distant about twenty the central portion of the State, of Genmiles from the scene of the late conflict, eral Mitchel, who, on the departure of and the base of the Union operations on General Buel from Nashville, proceeded the Tennessee river. It derived its im- with his division, of about ten thousand portance at the present moment, from its men, by the direct southerly line of the strategic value, being at the junction of Nashville and Stevenson railroad toward the Mobile and Ohio, and Memphis and the main stations of the Memphis and Charleston railroads. With these lines Charleston railroad in Northern Alain their possession, the control of West- bama. The vulnerable points of the ern Tennessee was secured to the enemy, road in this direction were at Stevenson and Nashville might at any time be or Bridgeport on the east, and Decatur threatened by a superior force. To in- on the west, at each of which places the terrupt this communication, and cut off line crossed the Tennesee river in its supplies and reinforcements from the winding course. With the destruction rebel camps at Memphis and Corinth of the two bridges, the communication was an indispensable preliminary to the of the enemy with the eastward would capture of these two places ; aud without be effectually interrupted. To accomtheir capture nothing further could be plish this, General Mitchel set out from accomplished on the Mississippi, or in Nashville. Everywhere on his march he progress by land towards the Gulf. To found the enemy bad destroyed the railcut off the enemy's railway communica- way and turnpike bridges. As it was tions, and conquer their army at Corinth, necessary that he should keep open a was the work which General Halleck ready means of communication for his