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.
“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.
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
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.
could not pursue the same tactics against her that