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[26] “The Congress sunk!” he exclaimed, at the same time buttoning up his coat, and looking me calmly and steadily in the face; “then Joe is dead.” I told him this did not follow; the officers and crew doubtless escaped, for the shore was not distant. “You don't know Joe,” said the veteran father, “as well as I do; he would not survive his ship.” And he did not; but, mortally wounded, perished with her.

Most of the Cabinet met again that sad Sunday at the White House, but not by appointment. A little time and reflection had brought a more calm and resolute feeling. Stanton, whose alarm had not subsided, said he had telegraphed to the North to take care of themselves; asked what I proposed to do to check the “Merrimac,” and prevent her from reaching Washington. I replied, nothing more till I knew more. I told him she could not get over Kettle Bottom Shoals and come to Washington; thought we ought not to be frightened; not to make a general panic, but act deliberately, and with a knowledge of what was best.

He spoke out with some fierceness, as if he thought my remarks were intended for him, and said he had no expectation of any formidable resistance from any little vessel of two guns against a frigate clothed with iron, nor much confidence in naval officers for such a crisis. If not old fogies, their training was not for this state of things. He would soon have good sailors from the merchant service, and had sent for Vanderbilt to come to Washington, and intended to consult him. Vanderbilt, he said, had large steamers, was a man of resources and great energy, and his opinion would be more valuable than that of any other person. He also proposed to make preparations to put a stop to the “Merrimac's” coming to Washington by obstructing the channel of the river, and wished that he might have Dahlgren, who was in command of the Navy Yard, to consult with. To this I assented, but objected to any obstructions to navigation.

At a late hour, I received a telegram from Mr. Fox, stating that the “Monitor” had reached Hampton Roads a little before midnight of the 8th, and had encountered and driven off the “Merrimac.” The submerged telegraph cable, which had been completed from Fortress Monroe to Cherrystone the preceding evening, parted on Sunday evening, and further communication ceased at this highly interesting crisis until the arrival of the mail, via Baltimore, on Monday.

It is not my purpose to narrate the particulars of the conflict, which has been so well and accurately detailed in the official reports of the officers, and are matters of record, and were published in the day and time of that remarkable encounter. Other and generally unpublished facts and incidents are here mentioned.

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