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[12] got under way to give aid to their sorely-stricken consorts. By a coincidence, which is the more singular from its repetition, the Minnesota grounded one and a half miles to eastward of Newport News, the St. Lawrence grounded in rear of the Minnesota, and the Roanoke further to the eastward still. In this isolation they could give no aid, and only at the close of the day came under fire. Lest it should be thought that I purpose a reflection upon the courage of the officers in command of these stranded vessels, I here take occasion to say that their character as officers of skill, experience, and bravery was well established at the time, and suffered no diminution then or thereafter. ‘To point the moral and adorn the tale,’ let me use the language of Lieutenant John Taylor Wood upon a like occasion: ‘All officers, as far as possible, should learn to do their own piloting.’

The Merrimac having given the coup de grace to the Congress, now, about five P. M., with the Beaufort, Raleigh, and James River fleet, moved down to do battle with the three remaining frigates ashore, and the gunboats. To do this it was necessary to place the Merrimac in the north channel, so that close range might be had. The Minnesota was a sister ship to the Merrimac and drew about as much water. It was therefore hoped that, without danger of putting the Merrimac ashore, she could yet get at such close quarters as to compel a surrender within a short period of time. When, however, this was attempted the pilots of the Merrimac declined to take the risk of putting the ship nearer, stating that the condition of the tide and the approach of night made it both difficult and dangerous. At long range, therefore, the Merrimac and her attendants opened fire on the Minnesota and continued the action until the approach of night.

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