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[28] finish his work, but he must not destroy communication on the Potomac, or cripple Neptune. The boats purchased might be loaded and sent down the river, but not sunk in the channel until it was known that the “Merrimac” had entered the river, or was on its way hither. Whatever expense was incurred must be defrayed by the War Department. With this understanding, Dahlgren was authorized to supervise and assist Stanton's squadron.

In addition to his fleet of canalboats, scowboats and other craft, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who owned several large steamers, a man of well-known energy and enterprise, was invited by Stanton to Washington for consultation and advice. He was informed that the egress of the “Merrimac” must be prevented, and the vessel destroyed whenever she appeared; that the War Department did not rely upon the “Monitor,” but proposed to stop and destroy her independent of the navy, and that he had more confidence in the capability, suggestions and prowess of individuals like Vanderbilt, who depended on their own resources, than on naval officers, who were circumscribed by their education, and trained to a particular service. He concluded by asking the great steamboat chief if he could, in any way, destroy or overcome the “Merrimac.”

Gratified with the summons, and complimented by the confidence expressed in his superior ability by the Secretary of War, Vanderbilt responded that he could destroy the “Merrimac,” and was ready to do so, but he wanted the “Monitor” out of the way, and must be permitted to do the work subject to no control of naval officers, or any interference from them, or from naval vessels. If they would all get out of the way, he would run down the “Merrimac” with his big ship Vanderbilt. The employment of this great ship corresponded with Stanton's ideas of power and force. He was delighted, and went with Vanderbilt to the President, who assented to the scheme, but was unwilling to dispense with the “Monitor,” which had done so well, and suggested that an encounter of the large wooden steamer with the armored ship might result in the destruction of the Vanderbilt instead of the “Merrimac.” In that event a good sale would be made of the Vanderbilt, and the Government might be compelled to pay largely for the experiment, without being benefited. Vanderbilt replied that he would take the risk; that he was anxious to assist the Government; that he had already offered his vessel to the Secretary of the Navy on his own terms, and would have given her to him, but the Secretary wouldn't take her; he would make a present of her to the President, requiring, however, that the engineers and employes on board should be retained

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