On the 8th of March at noon we heard heavy firing toward Newport News and the steam frigates Roanoke and Minnesota and quite a lot of gunboats went up that way engaging the battery at Sewall's Point though their fire fell far short of it. The old steam frigate Merrimac had been cut down and iron clad by the Confederates and was whipping our vessels, as they were all wooden ones and could make scarcely any impression on the ironplated monster. After about an hour's hard fighting the Merrimac ran her prow into the Cumberland, causing her to fill with water and rendering her useless. Commodore Morris would not surrender nor haul down the flag but kept at work at the guns till water covered the decks. Night coming on, the Merrimac anchored off Sewall's Point. That was a dark night for us, as with one exception nothing looked hopeful. We were cut off from help landward, the Congress was burned, the Cumberland sunk, the Minnesota was aground and the Roanoke helpless with a broken shaft, while nothing seemed to check the ram at all. About midnight the Congress blew up. Among the dark rumors that night came a grain of hope in the report that an iron cased battery, the Ericsson which had been expected had arrived and would engage the Merrimac in the morning. Still it was but a grain. Light on that Sabbath morning showed the new helper lying behind the Minnesota but looking rather insignificant. About eight o'clock the Merrimac came saucily out accompanied by the Jamestown and Yorktown, wooden steamers and evidently expecting to have it all her own way as on the
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