naval constructors in the service expressed their want of confidence in the craft, and declared it would prove a failure.
It was predicted that she could not float, that she would plunge to the bottom when launched, and that to send her to Hampton Roads
would be recklessness amounting to crime.
As mentioned by me on another occasion, it was the misfortune of the Navy Department to encounter hostility and forebodings of failure with every improvement made during the war, and often from those of whom encouragement and support might have reasonably been expected.
A constant succession of struggles against prejudices, ignorance and fixed habits and opinions was the fate of the Department at every step which was taken in the extraordinary exigencies of the war, and the voyage and fighting qualities of the “Monitor” were now to be proved.
Full confidence was felt in her commander, Worden
— who had just returned from a captivity of several months at Montgomery-his subordinates, and the small but selected and gallant crew who were embarked in this experiment.
So great was the interest that the Assistant Secretary
, Mr. Fox
, Lieutenant Wise
, of the Ordnance Bureau, and some members of my family, left Washington
on Saturday, the 8th of March, for Fortress Monroe
, to meet and greet the “Monitor” on her arrival.
Doubts were entertained and freely expressed whether the battery could perform the voyage.
On Sunday morning, the 9th of March, while at the Navy Department, examining the dispatches received, Mr. Watson
, Assistant Secretary of War
, hastily entered with a telegram from General Wool
, at Fortress Monroe
, stating that the “Merrimac
” had come down from Norfolk
the preceding day, attacked the fleet in Hampton Roads
, and destroyed the “Cumberland
” and “Congress.”
Apprehensions were expressed by General Wool
that the remaining vessels would be made victims the following day, and that the Fortress itself was in danger, for the “Merrimac
” was impenetrable, and could take what position she pleased for assault.
I had scarcely read the telegram when a message from the President
requested my immediate attendance at the Executive Mansion
The Secretary of War
, on receiving General Wool
's telegram, had gone instantly to the President
, and at the same time sent messages to the other Cabinet officers
, while the Assistant Secretary
came to me. I went at once to the White House
. Mr. Seward
and Mr. Chase
, with Mr. Stanton
, were already there, had read the telegram, and were discussing the intelligence in much alarm.
Each inquired what had been, and what could be done, to meet and check this formidable monster, which in a single brief visit had made such devastation, and would, herself uninjured,