while still at some distance from the enemy, against whom he discharged a series of futile broadsides.
Night was now approaching; and the St. Lawrence
slowly returned to her place in the roads below.
At seven o'clock the Merrimac
ceased firing, and withdrew to Sewall's Point
She had done a good day's work.
She had sunk one of her opponents, and burnt another.
Only daylight was needed to capture or exterminate the rest.
She saw her prey within her grasp; and by all human calculation the whole force must fall into her hands on the next day. The conflict had left her without any material injury; and she returned to her anchorage fully satisfied with the work of the day, and the prospects for the morrow.
But an event had already occurred which put a new aspect upon affairs in Hampton Roads
At four in the afternoon the Monitor
had passed Cape Henry
Her officers had heard the heavy firing in the direction of Fortress Monroe
, and the ship was stripped of her sea-rig and prepared for action.
A pilot-boat, spoken on the way up, gave word of the disastrous engagement that had just ended; and presently the light of the burning Congress confirmed the news.
At nine o'clock the Monitor
had anchored near the Roanoke
, and Worden
went on board to report.
In order to carry out the project of opening the Potomac River
, explicit orders had been given to Captain Marston
to send the Monitor
directly to Washington
Similar orders had been sent to Worden
, but they only reached New York two hours after he had sailed.
The state of affairs was such, however, that Marston
were more than justified in disregarding the orders.
No sane man would have done otherwise.
accordingly proceeded to the assistance of the Minnesota
, which was still aground off Newport News. Acting-Master Samuel Howard
volunteered to act as pilot.