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[20] and every opening, and cover them over with tarpaulin; No. 2 to wedge the turret to prevent its revolution; No. 3 to cover the pilot-house, smoke-stack, and other openings with wet sail-cloth, and ‘smoke the rascals out,’ as it were. Our calculation was that one of the four small steamers would be sure to get alongside. There was to be no stopping to help those disabled or sunk, and as each had a crew of thirty men this was sufficient for the purpose. If the occasion had been offered, the attempt would have been made beyond peradventure, but I have never yet decided whether they of the Monitor or we of the gunboats were the more fortunate that our purpose was not put to the experiment. April 10, 1862, the Merrimac, with the vessels of the Norfolk and James River fleet, got under way late in the evening and anchored inside of Craney Island for the night, to make an early start the next morning. At 6 A. M. of the 11th we were under way. The sun was clear, with the promise of a beautiful day. As we came in sight of Fort Monroe we beheld the Roads lined with a large fleet of transports, making a scene of beauty that is but rarely granted to a spectator. In a moment a sudden movement spread through the entire merchant fleet, and in less time than I can describe it each vessel had slipped her cable and, like a flock of wild fowl in the act of flight, spread her sails in the race for safety.

When the Merrimac had steamed within two miles of the fort we plainly made out the Monitor, the iron battery Naugatuck, and other war vessels at anchor under Fort Monroe. The French war vessels Gassendi and Catinet and English Corvette Rinaldo were visitors in the Roads at the time, and moved up towards Newport News to give us a clear field. The Merrimac steamed around in a large circle, which at one point brought her within one and one-half miles of her antagonists, offering battle in deep water and upon their own ground—vain endeavor!

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