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[476] deck at the earliest moment. He found her partially filled with water, and rapidly filling — a block, which he threw from her lower deck into her hold, indicating by the splash that the water was already over her orlop deck. He returned immediately, and reported the fact to Capt. Paulding, who thereupon decided to desist from further attempts to save her, but to mutilate the guns in the Yard, fire the vessels, ship-houses, and other structures, and blow up the (stone) dry dock. Some of the old and relatively worthless guns were dismantled by knocking off their trunnions; but the new Dahlgren guns proved so tough that not one of them was or could thus be rendered useless. Capt. Paulding now recalled the order he had given Lieut. Wise to blow up the dry dock, and ordered trains to be laid instead, so that, at a signal, the ships might be fired. This was accordingly done; but the previous partial submersion of the ships, under Capt. McCauley's unaccountable order to scuttle them, of course prevented their destruction. Thus, when the Plymouth was reached in its turn by Lieut. Wise, she had sunk below her upper deck, so flooding the train that it could not be fired. Lieut. Wise, who narrowly escaped with a scorching from the inconceivably rapid combustion of the upper portion of the Merrimac, when he fired his train while on board of her, pulled down the channel in his small boat after the escaping vessels, and got on board the Pawnee below Craney Island, when seven or eight miles on her way. The Pawnee, towing the Cumberland, moved slowly down the river at 4 A. M. (high tide), brilliantly lighted on their course by the remaining vessels and all the combustible property left behind. The Cumberland, drawing seventeen feet of water, grounded in passing one of the vessels sunk in the channel, but was got off, an hour or two afterward, uninjured. No molestation was offered them by the Rebels, who, very naturally, thought themselves fortunate in so easily obtaining possession of what was left behind. Most of the vessels were destroyed; but the Merrimac, the best of them all, though badly burned above the water-line, was saved by the Rebels, and, in due time, metamorphosed into the iron-clad Virginia, with which such memorable havoc was wrought in Hampton Roads. A crowd from Norfolk and Portsmouth burst into the Yard, so soon as our ships had fairly departed, and saved for the uses of treason whatever they could, including the dry dock, which had been mined, but not fired, and was readily filled with water. At 6 o'clock, a volunteer company had taken formal possession in the name of Virginia, and raised her flag over the ruins. By 7, the work of unspiking cannon had commenced; and, by 9, several guns had been planted along the dock, where they might serve in resisting the return of the Yankees under some more intrepid leader than he who had just slunk away. It was said that Gen. Taliaferro was drunk throughout the night, and was with difficulty aroused at 6 in the morning to hear that all was over. Two officers of the Pawnee, who were left to fire the Navy Yard, were cut off or bewildered by the rapid spread of the conflagration, and compelled to cross, by skiff, to Norfolk, where they were instantly taken prisoners. No lives were lost.

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H. A. Wise (3)
Hiram Paulding (2)
Taliaferro (1)
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