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[112]
I have expressed to you my opinion that iron-clad vessels can pass all our batteries with impunity. In barricading the approach to Norfolk it was necessary to leave a narrow passage for our vessels to go out. The Virginia passed through it to get into the Roads the other day. The question now is, should not this passage be stopped? * * *

To which Mr. Benjamin, from Richmond, Va., March 15, 1862, replied:

Sir:—I have the honor of acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 13th instant.

The question of closing the harbor of Norfolk, suggested by you, is decided against your views. None of us are of opinion that it would be proper to lose the vast advantages resulting from the enemy's fright at the bare idea of the Virginia reappearing among the wooden ships. The fact of her presence guarantees you against any attempt to blockade the river. * * *

On same page of same volume will be found a dispatch from General R. E. Lee to General John B. Magruder, dated March 15, from Richmond, as follows:

With your left resting on the batteries on York River, and your right defended by the batteries on James River, with the aid of the Virginia and other steamers, I think you may defy the advance of the enemy up the peninsula.

From which we feel assured that neither General Magruder nor any of his superiors had the slightest apprehension of any damage to be feared from the Monitor. So far from this, their dispatches show that they felt full confidence that the Virginia (or Merrimac) was master of the situation in the waters from Norfolk to Hampton Roads.

We have thus given all of the official testimony to be had bearing on this case. Comment on it seems unnecessary, as it shows clearly that the only serious injury received by the Merrimac was from the Cumberland; and this official testimony is fully sustained by affidavits made by Captains Catesby Jones, White, and Littlepage, and the statement of the latter was made here in Washington when the question was up and when all the surroundings seemed to favor the claim of the petitioners.

In corroboration of the official testimony which we have given, we add a statement of Midshipman H. B. Littlepage, who was an officer on the Merrimac during the engagement in Hampton Roads and

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