Both of these letters are printed in series 1, volume 5, Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, pages 751 and 752. And in the same volume, page 55, will be found an account of a council of war held at Fairfax Courthouse, March 13, 1862: present, Generals Keyes, Heintzleman, McDowell and Sumner, at which it was decided that General McClellan's plan to attack Richmond by York River should be adopted, provided, first, ‘that the enemy's vessel Merrimac can be neutralized.’ We also give some extracts from the official report of the late Captain G. J. Van Brunt, United States Navy, who commanded the United States frigate Minnesota in the engagement of 8th and 9th of March, 1862. It has been formerly shown that the Minnesota got aground on the 8th, and remained so all that day and during the 9th, giving the Captain of that vessel an opportunity of observing the engagement. The following are the extracts:
As soon as she got off she (the Merrimac) stood down the bay, the little battery chasing her with all speed, when suddenly the Merrimac turned around and run full speed into her antagonist. For a moment I was anxious, but instantly I saw a shot plunge into the iron roof of the Merrimac, which surely must have damaged her. For sometime 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 though it probable she had exhausted her supply of ammunition or sustained some injury. Soon after the Merrimac and the two other steamers headed for my ship, and I then felt to the fullest extent my condition. I was hard and immovably aground, and they could take position under my stern and rake me. I had expended most of my solid shot. My ship was badly crippled and my officers and men worn out with fatigue; but even in this extreme dilemma I determined never to give up the ship to the rebels, and after consulting with my officers, I ordered every preparation to be made to destroy the ship, after all hope was gone of saving her. On ascending the poop deck I discovered that the enemy's vessels had changed their course, and were heading for Craney Island.