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[199] The inclined roof; covered with railroad-iron, was pierced with port-holes for ten guns of very heavy calibre. The inclination of her plates, and their thickness and form, were determined by actual experiment. Her bow was armed with a strong projecting prow or beak of steel. When completed, she looked something like the roof of a house floating upon the water.

On the morning of the 8th of March, this strange, uncouth fabric is seen paddling along the calm waters of Hampton Roads, like some huge animal of the turtle-kind, making not more than five knots an hour. There the Cumberland and the Congress, two old-fashioned wooden frigates, were lying at anchor; and not far from them were the Minnesota and Roanoke, screw frigates, and the St. Lawrence, an old sailing-frigate. The Merrimac crawls by the Congress, delivering a broadside as she passes, and makes straight for the Cumberland. The sailors on board the latter vessel greet her with jokes and laughter; but the officers note with surprise and uneasiness that the shot of their heaviest broadsides rattle off the roof of the ominous craft like so many India-rubber balls, without making the slightest impression upon her iron ribs. In a few moments she crashes into the Cumberland, head on, drives her projecting prow into the starboard bow below the water-line, and knocks a hole in her side as big asa hogshead. The gallant frigate reels and shivers in every limb under the death-stroke, settles by the head, and begins at once to sink, carrying with her two hundred of her

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