by the Rebel gunboats, and was battling them to the best of her ability, until, seeing the fate of the Cumberland
, she set her jib and topsail, and, with the assistance of the gunboat Zouave
, ran aground not far from our batteries at Newport News, where she was soon again assailed by the Merrimac
, which, taking position about 150 yards from her stern, raked her fore and aft with shell, while one of the smaller steamers from Norfolk
kept up a fire on her starboard quarter; while the Patrick Henry
and Thomas Jefferson
--Rebel steamers from up the James
— like-wise poured in their broadsides with precision and effect.
The hapless Congress could only reply from her two stern guns, whereof one was soon dismounted and the other had its muzzle knocked off. Her commander, Lt. Joseph B. Smith
, Acting-Master Thomas Moore
, and Pilot William Rhodes
, with nearly half her crew, having been killed or wounded, the ship on fire in several places, without a gun that could be brought to bear on her destroyers, Lt. Pendergrast
, on whom the command had devolved, at 4:30 P. M. hauled down our flag.
She was soon boarded by an officer from the Merrimac
, who took her in charge, but left shortly afterward; when a small Rebel tug came alongside and demanded that her crew should get out of the ship, as her captors intended to burn her immediately.
But our soldiers on shore, who had not
surrendered, and who regarded the Congress
as now a Rebel vessel, opened so brisk a fire upon her that the tug and her crew suddenly departed; when the Merrimac
again opened on the luckless craft, though she had a white flag flying to intimate her surrender.
Having fired several shells into her, the Merrimac
left her to engage the Minnesota
, giving opportunity for her crew to escape to the shore in small boats, with their wounded.
About dark, the Merrimac
returned and poured hot shot into the deserted hulk, until she was set on fire and utterly destroyed, her guns going off as they became heated — a shell from one of them striking a sloop at anchor at Newport News, and blowing her up. At midnight, the fire had reached her magazines, containing five tuns of powder, and she blew up with a tremendous explosion.
Of her crew of 434 men, 218 answered to their names at rollcall at Newport News next morning.
Capt. John Marston
, of the steamship Roanoke
, whereof the machinery was disabled, being off Fortress Monroe
, was in command of our fleet, when, at 1 P. M., one of his look-out vessels reported by signal that the enemy was coming.
Signaling the steam-frigate Minnesota
to get under way, and slipping his cable, he had the Roanoke
taken in tow by two tugs, and started for the scene of action; but, before lie reached it, he had the mortification of seeing the Minnesota
Continuing on his course, but unable to make tolerable headway, lie came in sight of the Cumberland
, only to find her virtually destroyed ; having soon after the further mortification of seeing the Congress
haul down her flag.
Continuing to stand on, he was soon himself aground astern, in 3 1/2 fathoms, and was obliged to be hauled off by one of his tugs; when he decided to come to the relief of the stranded Minnesota
, hoping with assistance to