previous next

[275] become prisoners whilst the least chance of escape remained. Some of the men, supposed to number about forty, thinking the tug was one of our vessels, rushed on board. At this moment the members of an Indiana regiment at Newport News, brought a Parrott gun down to the beach and opened fire upon the rebel tug. The tug hastily put off, and the Merrimac again opened fire upon the Congress. The fire not being returned from the ship, the Merrimac commenced shelling the woods and camps at Newport News, fortunately, however, without doing much damage, only one or two casualties occurring.

By the time all were ashore, it was seven o'clock in the evening, and the Congress was in a bright sheet of flame fore and aft. She continued to burn until twelve o'clock at night, her guns, which were loaded and trained, going off as they became heated. A shell from one struck a sloop at Newport News and blew her up. At twelve o'clock the fire reached her magazines, and with a tremendous concussion her charred remains blew up. There were some five tons of gunpowder in her magazines, and about twenty thousand dollars in paymaster Buchanan's safe.

The loss of life on board the Congress is not over one hundred and twenty, and possibly may not exceed a hundred. The crew consisted of two hundred and seventy-seven blue jackets, eighty-eight of the coast-guards, forty-seven marines, and twenty-two officers — in all, a total of four hundred and thirty-four. At the muster at Newport News, one hundred and ninety-six blue jackets and coast-guards and twenty-two marines appeared; about forty went on board the rebel tugs and are prisoners, and about forty, it is estimated, left before the muster, and made their way to Fortress Monroe. About one hundred are thus unaccounted for, and are undoubtedly killed.

After sinking the Cumberland and firing the Congress, the Merrimac, with the Yorktown and Jamestown, stood off in the direction of the steamfrigate Minnesota, which had been for some hours aground, about three miles below Newport News. This was about five o'clock on Saturday evening. The rebel commander of the Merrimac, either fearing the greater strength of the Minnesota, or wishing, as it afterward appeared, to capture this splendid ship without doing serious damage to her, did not attempt to run the Minnesota down, as he had run down the Cumberland. He stood off about a mile distant, and with the Yorktown and Jamestown threw shell and shot at the frigate. The Minnesota, though from being aground unable to manoeuvre or bring all her guns to bear, was fought splendidly. She threw a shell at the Yorktown which set her on fire, and she was towed off by her consort the Jamestown. From the reappearance of the Yorktown next day, the fire must have been suppressed without serious damage. The after-cabins of the Minnesota were torn away in order to bring two of her large guns to bear from her stern-ports, the position in which she was lying enabling the rebels to attack her there with impunity. She received two serious shots: one, an eleven-inch shell, entered near the waist, passed through the chief engineer's room, knocking both rooms into ruins, and wounding several men. Another shot went clear through the chain-plate, and another passed through the main-mast. Six of the crew were killed outright, on board the Minnesota, and. nineteen wounded. The men, though fighting at great disadvantage, stuck manfully to their guns, and exhibited a spirit that would have enabled them to compete successfully with any ordinary vessel.

About nightfall, the Merrimac, satisfied with her afternoon's work of death and destruction, steamed in under Sewall's Point. The day thus closed most dismally for our side, and with the most gloomy apprehensions of what would occur the next day. The Minnesota was at the mercy of the Merrimac, and there appeared no reason why the iron monster might not clear the Roads of our fleet, destroy all the stores and warehouses on the beach, drive our troops into the Fortress, and command Hampton Roads against any number of wooden vessels the Government might send there. Saturday was a terribly dismal night at Fortress Monroe.

About nine o'clock, Ericsson's battery, the Monitor, arrived at the Roads, and upon her performance was felt that the safety of their position in a great measure depended. Never was a greater hope placed upon apparently more insignificant means, but never was a great hope more triumphantly fulfilled. The Monitor is the reverse of formidable; lying low on the water, with a plain structure amidship, a small pilot-house forward, a diminutive smoke-pipe aft, at a mile's distance she might be taken for a raft, with an army ambulance amidship. It is only when on board that her compact strength and formidable means of offensive warfare are discoverable.

When Lieut. Worden was informed of what had occurred, though his crew were suffering from exposure and loss of rest from a stormy voyage around from New-York, he at once made preparations for taking part in whatever might occur next day.

Before daylight on Sunday morning, the Monitor moved up, and took a position alongside the Minnesota, lying between the latter ship and the Fortress, where she could not be seen by the rebels, but was ready, with steam up, to slip out.

Up to now, on Sunday, the rebels gave no indication of what were their further designs. The Merrimac laid up toward Craney Island, in view, but motionless. At one o'clock she was observed in motion, and came out, followed by the Yorktown and Jamestown, both crowded with troops. The object of the leniency toward the Minnesota on the previous evening thus became evident. It was the hope of the rebels to bring the ships aboard the Minnesota, overpower her crew by the force of numbers, and capture both vessels and men.

As the rebel flotilla came out from Sewall's Point, the Monitor stood out boldly toward them. It is doubtful if the rebels knew what to make of the strange-looking battery, or if they despised it. Even the Yorktown kept on approaching,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Sewell's Point (Virginia, United States) (2)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (2)
New York (New York, United States) (1)
Hampton Roads (Virginia, United States) (1)
Craney Island (Virginia, United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
J. L. Worden (1)
J. Ericsson (1)
F. Buchanan (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: