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[176]

When day dawned the officers of the Merrimac, who expected that the remaining vessels of the fleet would soon be at their mercy, were surprised to see a strange-looking craft lying close under the towering sides of the Minnesota. They had been well informed of the plans and progress and construction of the Monitor, but had received no intimation of her arrival. Her insignificant size did not make her appearance formidable; and, elated by the successes of the day before, the Merrimac's crew went cheerfully to quarters as she steamed down to the meeting.

Almost every phase of the battle that followed is familiar reading. Inside the turret, where Lieutenant Greene, First Master Stodder and Chief Engineer Stimers were in command of two 11-inch guns, each of which had a crew of eight stalwart seamen, all was anxiety. Worden was in the pilot-house with Acting Master Howard, who knew well the waters about him. Quartermaster Peter Williams was at the helm. Ericsson's little craft, whose crew had had no sleep and which had escaped shipwreck twice within the last thirty-six hours, made straight for the oncoming leviathan. The flotilla of gunboats that had taken part in the action of the previous day had been signaled to retire as soon as it had been perceived that the Monitor had arrived. It was to be a duel before an audience of fighting men — David against Goliath.

Captain Van Brunt, in his official report, has stated, “I . . .made signal to the Monitor to attack the enemy,” but, as Lieutenant Greene has said, in referring to this order, “The signal was not seen by us; other work was in hand, and Commander Worden required no signal.”

In a few minutes the battle was on. Shot after shot was hurled against the slanting sides of the Merrimac, and broadside after broadside delivered against the iron-clad tower on the Monitor's deck. From every source, as far as the fighting was concerned, it must be conceded that it was a drawn battle. But it must be remembered that the Merrimac drew twentytwo

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