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[180]

Ground, but always keeping herself between the Minnesota and the vessel that had counted her as prey. In fear of running aground, the Merrimac did not follow, and at about two o'clock, turned her bow toward Sewell's Point.

It was a few minutes after noon when the Monitor made for the shallow water, and Lieutenant Worden had been stunned and almost blinded by the result of a shell striking the pilot-house. The Monitor did not run away, as Confederate papers of the time averred, but as a Southern eye-witness put it:

Much has been written and more said about this celebrated fight — the first encounter between ironclads in the world's history. Viewing it, as I did, at a distance of more than a mile, I will state that my impression at the time was that, after hammering away at each other for three hours, and finding that the men were wearied out without making much impression on either side, both vessels had simultaneously drawn off and decided to call it a drawn battle.

In Captain Van Brunt's report of the engagement he says: “For some time after this the rebels concentrated their whole battery upon the tower and pilot-house of the Monitor, and soon after the latter stood down for Fortress Monroe, and we thought it probable she had exhausted her supply of ammunition or sustained some injury. Soon after, the Merrimac and two other steamers headed for my ship, and I then felt to the fullest extent my condition. . . . On ascending the poop-deck, I observed that the enemy's vessels had changed their course and were heading for Craney Island.”

Captain Parker's candid and unprejudiced review of this action states:

Why the Merrimac did not persist in destroying the Minnesota, I never exactly understood. . .. Whatever the cause, candor compels me to say that the Merrimac failed to reap the fruits of her victory. She went out to destroy the Minnesota, and do what further damage to the enemy she could. The Monitor was there to save the Minnesota. The Merrimac did not accomplish her purpose. The Monitor did. She did it

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