built and heavy craft, she would become a coffin for her three hundred and twenty men and officers.
When the beak did break off, the Merrimac
, leaking not a little at the bow, turned around with some difficulty and made for the Congress
. The latter had slipped her cable, set her foretopsail, and with a little tug-gunboat puffing and straining under her bows, was making for shoal water, endeavoring to beach herself under the protection of the Federal
batteries on the river bank.
It must not be forgotten that on this memorable day, when, owing to the subsequent interest and the doings of the main actors, much was forgotten, there came as near being a fleet-action as took place at any meeting of vessels on the Atlantic coast
during the whole course of the war. For, besides the great ironclad and her two little consorts that put out with her from the navy-yard, there was an entirely separate squadron that took part in the battle of the 8th.
A little flotilla that had been armed and outfitted at Richmond
and placed under the command of Commander Tucker
, had been waiting since daylight some ten miles above Newport News at Day's Point
, for the Merrimac's
appearance, for Commander Tucker
had been informed that she would try conclusions on the 8th.
The Patrick Henry, Teaser
, and Jamestown
, under command of Commander Tucker
, Lieutenants Webb
, came steaming down past the shore batteries, and the Congress
, stranded and able to use but a very small proportion of her guns, found herself under the concentrated fire of five vessels in addition to the heavy guns of the Merrimac
Many were the side-stories of this day. The brave old Cumberland's
captain, Commander William Radford
, was not with his ship when the attack was made, and it was Lieutenant George U. Morris
who managed and fought her so bravely.
On the Congress
a strange condition of affairs existed.
Commander William B. Smith
had just been relieved of the command but was still on board.
Lieutenant Joseph B. Smith
had been appointed to take command of her. Lieutenant