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[17]

Effect of the engagements of March 8 and 9, 1862.

Outside of the immediate results of these engagements, the destruction of the frigates Cumberland and Congress, and complete panic in the United States fleet at Fort Monroe, the indirect result of checking the advance of McClellan upon Richmond, by which we were enabled to complete the defences of that city and James river, was one of great moment to the Confederacy. The powerful navies of England and France were brushed aside in a moment. The London Times in a note of warning said: ‘Out of one hundred and forty-nine first class warships we have now but two vessels that it would not be madness to trust to an engagement with that little Monitor.’ Both nations, and other maritime powers, with a speed, ingenuity and lavish expenditure of money, which is unchecked even at this day, hastened to equip themselves to meet the requirements of modern naval warfare. The whole seaboard of the North went into a panic which lasted for weeks, and gave birth to fears which now seem ludicrous.

Taking with us the fact that the Merrimac was the hasty creation of an extreme necessity, the most unwieldly structure that ever was built, utterly inadequate to float outside the capes of Virginia half an hour in the least seaway, or to live through an ordinary easterly blow in Hampton Roads, one can scarcely repress a smile in reading the Federal telegrams of that day.


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