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[168]

Smith surrendered the Congress to Lieutenant Parker of the Beaufort. The two Federal officers very nearly suffered death from the hail of bullets poured upon the Raleigh and the Beaufort after the surrender.

In view of the happenings of the subsequent day, which were even to be more startling, the comparative losses on the Federal and Confederate side make an interesting showing. The Merrimac lost twenty-one killed and wounded, including Flag-Officer Buchanan and his flag-lieutenant, Robert D. Minor. The casualties of the Patrick Henry were fourteen; the Beaufort, eight; the Raleigh, seven, including two officers; the total Confederate loss was in the neighborhood of sixty. The Federal officers made reports that accounted for nearly four hundred killed, wounded, and drowned.

The gunboats were compelled to draw off from their prize, but they brought along with them her battle-flag, stained and saturated with blood where it had been trailed across the deck. The stranded Minnesota now lay at the Merrimac's mercy; but the tide was lowering; night was coming on, and the further destruction of the fleet was only put off, it was supposed, until the morrow. The Merrimac and her consorts withdrew to anchorage off Sewell's Point. And so the curtain fell!

It would be impossible to exaggerate the feeling of elation on the one side and of consternation on the other that followed the Merrimac's first day of triumph. Prophecies and fears prevailed. “The Merrimac will sweep the Federal fleet from off the surface of the sea; she will exact ransom and levy toll on every Northern seaport;” thus predicted the oversanguine Southern believers in her powers and prowess. Secretary Stanton, at a cabinet meeting, became panic-stricken while discussing the news from Hampton Roads. He was for recalling General Burnside, and abandoning Port Royal. With a glance out of a White House window, he stated that he was sure the monster was at that moment on her way to Washington. “Not unlikely, we shall have a shell or cannon-ball from one of her ”

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