were blown up, and the two transport-steamers were captured.
went down with all on board, her tops only remaining above water, but many of her people were saved by boats from the shore.
The flag of the Congress
and the sword of the officer commanding at the time of her surrender are at the Navy Department.
The report concludes as follows:
Letters and Narratives: statement of the pilot of the Cumberland.
Mr. A. B. Smith
, pilot on board the United States
, at the time of her battle with the iron-plated steamer Merrimac, gives the following authentic statement of the great naval battle in Hampton Roads
On Saturday morning, the United States
laid off in the roads at Newport News, about three hundred yards from the shore, the Congress
being two hundred yards south of us. The morning was mild and pleasant, and the day opened without any noteworthy incident.
About eleven o'clock, a dark-looking object was discovered coming round Craney Island
through Norfolk Channel, and proceeding straight in our direction.
It was instantly recognised as the Merrimac
We had been on the lookout for her for some time, and were as well prepared then as we could have been at any other time, or as we have been during the last six months. As she came ploughing through the water right onward toward our port-bow, she looked like a huge half-submerged crocodile.
Her sides seemed of solid iron, except where the guns pointed from the narrow potts, and rose slantingly from the water like the roof of a house, or the arched back of a tortoise.
Probably the extreme height of the apex from the water's edge, perpendicularly, was ten feet. At her prow I could see the iron ram projecting, straight forward, somewhat above the water's edge, and apparently a mass of iron.
Small boats were slung or fastened to her sides, and the rebel flag floated from one staff, while a pennant was fixed to another at the stern.
There was a smoke-stack or pipe near her middle, and she was probably a propeller, no side-wheels or machinery being visible.
She is probably covered with railroad-iron
Immediately on the appearing of the Merrimac
, the command was given to make ready for instant action.
All hands were ordered to their places, and the Cumberland
was sprung across the channel, so that her broadside would bear on the Merrimac
The armament we could bring to bear on the Merrimac
was about eleven nine and ten-inch Dahlgren
guns, and two pivot-guns of the same make.
The gunners were at their posts, and we waited eagerly for her approach within range.
She came up at the rate of four or five knots per hour.
When the Merrimac
arrived within about a mile, we opened on her with our pivot-guns, and as soon as we could bear upon her, our whole broadside commenced.
Still she came on, the balls bouncing upon her mailed sides like India-rubber, apparently making not the least impression, except to cut off her flag-staff, and thus bring down the confederate colors.
None of her crew ventured at that time on her outside to replace them, and she fought thenceforward with only her pennant flying.
She appeared to obey her helm, and be very readily handled, making all her movements and evolutions with apparent facility and readiness.
We had probably fired six or eight broadsides when a shot was received from one of her guns which killed five of our marines.
It was impossible for our vessel to get out of her way, and the Merrimac
soon crushed her iron horn or ram into the Cumberland
, just starboard the main chains, under the bluff of the port-bow, knocking a hole in the side, near the water-line, as large as the head of a hogshead, and driving the vessel back upon her anchors with great force.
The water came rushing into the hold.
then backed out and discharged her guns at us, the shot passing through the main bay and killing five sick men. The water was all the while rushing in the hole made by the ram, so that in five minutes it was up to the sick-bay on the berth-deck.
In the mean time her broadsides swept our men away, killed and maimed, and also set our vessel on fire in the forward part.
The fire was extinguished.
I cannot tell how many were wounded.
The sick-bay, berth-deck and gun-deck, were almost literally covered with men killed and wounded, but the surviving ones still fought well, and every one, officers and men, displayed the utmost heroism.
The fight lasted about three fourths of an hour, the Cumberland
firing rapidly, and all the time the water pouring in the hold, and by and by the ports as her bow kept sinking deeper and deeper.
Near the middle of the fight, when the berth-deck of the Cumberland
had sunk below water, one of the crew of the Merrimac
came out of a port to the outside of her iron-plated roof, and a ball from one of our guns instantly cut him in two.
That was the last and only rebel that ventured within sight, the rest remaining in their safe, iron-walled enclosure.
We fired constantly, and the Merrimac
occasionally, but every shot told upon our wooden vessel and brave crew.
Her guns being without the least elevation, pointed straight at us along the surface of the water, and her nearness, she being much of the time within three hundred yards, made it an easy matter to send each ball to its exact mark.
Probably her guns would be useless at a considerable distance, as it appears impossible to elevate them.
Finally, after about three fourths of an hour of the most severe fighting, our vessel sank, the Stars and Stripes still waving.
That flag was finally submerged, but after the hull grounded on the sands, fifty-four feet below the surface of the water, our pennant was still flying