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[68] was favorable. We left the navy yard at 11 A. M, against the last half of the flood tide, steamed down the river past our batteries, through the obstructions, across Hampton Roads, to the mouth of James river, where off Newports News lay at anchor the frigates Cumberland and Congress, protected by strong batteries and gunboats. The action commenced about 3 P. M. by our firing the bow-gun1 at the Cumberland, less than a mile distant. A powerful fire was immediately concentrated upon us from all the batteries afloat and ashore. The frigates Minnesota, Roanoke and St. Lawrence with other vessels, were seen coming from Old Point. We fired at the Congress on passing, but continued to head directly for the Cumberland, which vessel we had determined to run into, and in less than fifteen minutes from the firing of the first gun we rammed her just forward of the starboard fore chains. There were heavy spars about her bows, probably to ward off torpedoes, through which we had to break before reaching the side of the ship. The noise of the crashing timbers was distinctly heard above the din of battle. There was no sign of the hole above water. It must have been large, as the ship soon commenced to careen. The shock to us on striking was slight. We immediately backed the engines. The blow was not repeated. We here lost the prow, and had the stem slightly twisted. The Cumberland2 fought her guns gallantly as long as they were above water. She went down bravely, with her colors flying. One of her shells struck the still of the bow-port and exploded; the fragments killed two and wounded a number. Our after nine-inch gun was loaded and ready for firing, when its muzzle was struck by a shell, which broke it off and fired the gun. Another gun also had its muzzle shot off; it was broken so short that at each subsequent discharge its port was set on fire. The damage to the armor was slight. Their fire appeared to have been aimed at our ports. Had it been concentrated at the water-line we would have been seriously hurt, if not sunk. Owing to the ebb tide and our great draft we could not close with the Congress without first going up stream and then turning, which was


1 It killed and wounded ten men at the after pivot gun of the Cumberland. The second shot from the same gun killed and wounded twelve men at her forward pivot gun. Lieutenant Charles C. Simms pointed and fired the gun.

2 She was a sailing frigate of 1,726 tons, mounting two ten-inch pivots and twenty-two nine-inch guns. Her crew numbered 376; her loss in killed and wounded was 121.

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