full head of steam, and closely accompanied by the gunboat Patrick Henry
, headed directly for the Minnesota
that she counted already as a prize.
There is no doubt that despite the Minnesota's
heavy broadsides she would have become a prey to her reconstructed sister ship, for the original Merrimac
had been built on the same lines and was practically of the same tonnage and armament.
Only one thing prevented the carrying out of the program, and that was the sudden appearance of the strange little craft that, with her volunteer crew of old sailors, had started from New York on Thursday, the 6th of March, under the command of officers who were not sure whether they would ever reach their destination or not. No power of imagination could invent a more dramatic moment for the arrival of a rescuer than that of the Monitor's
appearance in Hampton Roads
Late in the afternoon of Saturday, March 8th, as she entered the waters of Chesapeake Bay
, there was heard the sound of heavy firing, and Lieutenant John L. Worden
, then in command, as he listened intently, estimated the distance to be full twenty miles and correctly guessed that it was the Merrimac
in conflict with the Federal fleet.
While she steamed ahead the Monitor
was made ready for action, although such preparations were of the simplest character.
Before long the flames and smoke from the burning Congress
could be easily distinguished.
At 9 P. M. the Monitor
was alongside the Roanoke
, whose commander, Captain Marston
, suggested that she should go at once to the assistance of the Minnesota
, which was still aground.
It was midnight before Lieutenant S. Dana Greene
, sent by Worden
, reached the Minnesota
and reported to Captain Van Brunt
While the two officers were talking there came a succession of loud reports, and the Congress
blew up, as if warning her sisters of the fleet of the fate in store for them.
There was little sleep for anyone that night.
At seven o'clock in the morning the crew were called to quarters.