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[6] and obstacles of all sorts impeded the construction of the vessel. All the plates of iron for the casemate had to be rolled at the Tredegar in Richmond and shipped to Norfolk. Each step towards completion seemed but to disclose new obstacles, not the least of which was to secure a crew. We had no merchant marine and but few sailors. Some few were secured after the defeat and dispersion of our gunboats at Roanoke Island; some as volunteers from our army, and a detachment from the Norfolk United Artilery brought the number up to three hundred and twenty men. They proved to be as gallant and trusty a body of men as any one would wish to command; but what a contrast they made to a crew of trained jack tars! The United States Government were duly informed by spies of the completion of the Merrimac, but to deceive them the Norfolk papers of March 6th gave out that the new vessel had proved to be a failure and a great disappointment to her projectors. I doubt much whether they relied upon our statements, for on March 7th Mr. Welles, Secretary of the United States Navy, wrote to Captain John Marston, United States Navy, commanding at Fortress Monroe: ‘Send the St. Lawrence, Congress, and Cumberland immediately into the Potomac river. Use steam to tow them up. Let there be no delay.’ This order was modified by telegram of March 8th from Secretary Welles to Captain Marston, as follows: ‘The Assistant-Secretary of the Navy will be at Old Point by the Baltimore boat this evening. Do not move the ships until further orders, which he will carry.’ Had the first order been executed and these vessels moved up the Potomac river the victory of the Merrimac would have been shorn of its chief triumphs.

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