be prepared to come out in a very few days.
If she should overcome the Monitor we would lose Newport News, an important position, &c.
On March 15, 1862, six days after the engagement, Hon. John Tucker
, Assistant Secretary of War
, telegraphed Commodore C. Vanderbilt
at New York as follows:
The Secretary of War directs me to ask you for what sum you will destroy the Merrimac, or prevent her from coming out from Norfolk—you to sink or destroy her if she gets out. Answer by telegraph, as there is no time to be lost.
It has been stated in behalf of the petitioners that General Robert E. Lee
and General J. Bankhead Magruder
were doubtful of the success of the Merrimac
Let us see how this is. In volume 9 (series I) of the Official Records
of the War
of the Rebellion
, page 64, General R. E. Lee
, in a dispatch to General John B. Magruder
, dated March 13, 1862 (four days after the engagement), says:
As regards the steamer Virginia, the Secretary of the Navy informs me that she went into the dock upon her arrival at Norfolk, with orders that neither labor nor expense should be spared upon her repair.
It is hoped that she will be out at an early day.
In same volume, same page, will be found a dispatch from General J. Bankhead Magruder
to General S. Cooper
, Adjutant and Inspector General
, dated Yorktown
, March 13, 1862, as follows:
When will the Virginia be out?
The disposition of my troops and the nature of my operations depend upon the answer to this question.
Answer by telegraph.
To which Adjutant-General Cooper
replies (see same volume, page 65), under date of March 14, 1862, as follows:
It is impossible to say when the Virginia will be in position.
It is supposed in a day or two.
It is also said that ‘General Magruder
's apprehensions were shared by his superiors at Richmond
We have just shown the opinion of the adjutant and inspector general of the Confederate army, and we here give extract from a letter from General Benj. Huger
, commanding at Norfolk
, to Hon. Judah P. Benjamin
, Secretary of War
, dated March 13, 1862, as follows: