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Amongst the vessels then at the navy-yard, out of commission, which the United States forces set on fire and scuttled, was the United States frigate Merrimac. She belonged to the new class of forty-gun frigates of 3,500 tons, with auxiliary steam power. She was built at Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1855, had made several cruises, and upon returning from her last cruise was put out of commission at the Norfolk yard and moored alongside the dock. In her best days her speed under steam power had not exceeded seven miles, and had run down to four or five miles per hour at the close of her last service. Her machinery and boilers had been further damaged at the time she was burned and scuttled.

On May 30th she was floated and docked by the Confederates, and became in time an ironclad vessel (christened the Virginia—more widely known as the Merrimac).

The Projector of the Merrimac and the plan.

There are two claimants to the honor of the plan—Lieutenant John M. Brooke, Confederate States Navy, and Constructor John L. Porter, Confederate States Navy.1 I have no personal acquaintance with either of these gentlemen, and I desire above all things to do injustice to neither. The record in the matter is made up. We look for, we can hope for, no new, no additional evidence. Upon the statements before us we must make our judgment and give our award, with a desire to know the truth and proclaim it.

On the 18th of March, 1862, ten days subsequent to the action in Hampton Roads, the Confederate House of Representatives passed and sent a communication to the Hon. S. R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy, which reads as follows:

‘That the Secretary of the Navy be requested to make a report to this House of the plan and construction of the Virginia, so far as the same can be properly communicated, of the reasons for applying the plan to the Merrimac; and also what persons have rendered especial aid in designing and building the ship.’

On the 29th of March, 1862, Secretary Mallory replied to this message in a communication of some length, the most material portions of which I shall here set forth:

1 The Editor would refer the reader to the dispassionate statement of Colonel Brooke, ‘The Virginia or Merrimac.’ Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XIX, pp. 3-34.

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