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“ [142] Monitor, that drew the parting line between the old navies of wood and canvas and the new navies of steel and steam.”

There has been rather a controversy as to who first suggested making use of the sunken Merrimac as a ram or armored cruiser. It is proved beyond doubt that after the Confederate occupation of the all-but-destroyed and abandoned Norfolk Navy-Yard, many of the vessels that had been sunk were raised, not for use but because they were possible obstructions in the way of navigation. Some of the sailing ships had not been very much injured by submersion — in fact, two, the Plymouth and the Germantown, could have been refitted and put into commission at no great expenditure of money. But sailing ships, especially of their class, were of no use to the Confederate naval authorities. The Merrimac, as soon as she had been raised, floated low, for her topsides had been entirely consumed by fire, and this suggested, apparently to more than one person, the idea of converting her into a floating battery or ram.

There are many claimants to the suggestion. The Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen R. Mallory, in a report made to the Confederate naval committee, wrote as follows:

I regard the possession of an iron-armored ship as a matter of the first necessity. Such a vessel at this time could traverse the entire coast of the United States, prevent all blockade, and encounter, with a fair prospect of success, their entire navy. If, to cope with them upon the sea, we follow their example and build wooden ships, we shall have to construct several at one time, for one or two ships would fall an easy prey to their comparatively numerous steam frigates. But inequality of numbers may be compensated by invulnerability, and thus not only does economy, but naval success, dictate the wisdom and expediency of fighting with iron against wood, without regard to first cost.

The suggestion here quoted was made two months before the above-mentioned paragraph in Secretary Welles' report

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