states that, “owing to the death of the late commanding officer
, Joseph B. Smith
, it becomes my painful duty to make a report to you of the part which the United States
took in the efforts of our vessels at Newport News to repel the attack of the rebel flotilla on the eighth instant.”
The report says that “when the Merrimac
, with three small gun-boats, was seen steaming down from Norfolk
, and had approached near enough to discover her character, the ship was cleared for action.
At ten minutes past two the Merrimac
opened with her bow-gun with grape, passing us on the starboard side at a distance of about three hundred yards, receiving our broadside and giving one in return.
After passing the Congress
, she ran into and sunk the Cumberland
The smaller vessels then attacked us, killing and wounding many of our crew.
Seeing the fate of the Cumberland
, we set the jib and topsail, and with the assistance of the gunboat Zouave
, ran the vessel ashore.
At half-past 2, the Merrimac
took a position astern of us, at a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards, and raked us fore and aft with shells, while one of the smaller steamers kept up a fire on our starboard quarter.
In the mean time, the Patrick Henry
and the Thomas Jefferson
, rebel steamers, appeared from up the James River
, firing with precision, and doing us great damage.
Our two stern-guns were our only means of defence.
These were soon disabled, one being dismounted, and the other having its muzzle knocked away.
The men were knocked away from them with great rapidity and slaughter by the terrible fire of the enemy.”
first learned of the death of Lieut. Smith
at half-past 4 o'clock. “The death happened ten minutes previous.
Seeing that our men were being killed without the prospect of any relief from the Minnesota
, which vessel had run ashore in attempting to get up to us from Hampton Roads
, not being able to get a single ”