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Austin Pendergrast was executive officer. As soon as the Merrimac was recognized, the ex-captain volunteered his services, which were accepted, and he was assigned to duty under the two officers whom formerly he had ranked. When the news was brought to Washington that the Congress had surrendered, the father of Joseph B. Smith, himself an old officer of the navy, made but one comment. “The Congress surrendered!” he exclaimed. “Then Joe's dead!” And so it was.

It must not be presumed that the Federal vessels down at Old Point Comfort lay idly by. As soon as the dreaded Merrimac hove in sight, everything had been commotion on board of them. The Minnesota and Roanoke were endeavoring to get up steam, and the St. Lawrence, as well as both of the former vessels, at last had summoned tugs that had made fast towing lines, and they were making every effort to gain the scene of active fighting. Near Sewell's Point, at the south of the James where the Elizabeth River flows into it, was a heavy Confederate battery, mounting, among its other pieces of ordnance, the only 11-inch gun the Confederacy possessed.

It was necessary for these three approaching vessels to come into range of this battery, and the Minnesota received a shot through her mainmast, while the others succeeded in passing without material damage. It may have been due to the eagerness of all three to get into the fight, or it may have been due to the mist of smoke that came drifting down the stream, that first the Minnesota, then the St. Lawrence, and lastly the Roanoke went aground, although the two last-named were soon afloat.

While the Congress and the shore batteries maintained a long and bitter fight of over an hour, the Minnesota fired a few broadsides at the Merrimac and the Confederate gunboats, and was replied to; the St. Lawrence, almost out of range, also endeavored to bring her guns to bear. But it was at the Congress that all the Confederate efforts were now directed. The Merrimac could not pursue the same tactics against her that

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