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The great naval fight.

At about 2.40 P. M. the Merrimac, having reached position, went into action. In passing the Congress she fired her starboard broadside at this vessel, and, receiving hers in return without damage, made directly for the Cumberland, then in position off the upper end of the land battery. It appears that the Cumberland, to prevent being rammed or to ward off floating torpedoes, had endeavored to secure protection by placing a raft of a few heavy spars at her bow. Dashing through these, the prow of the Merrimac struck the side of the Cumberland, at right angles, under the fore-rigging, on the starboard side. Lieutenant Catesby Jones, the executive officer of the Merrimac, says: ‘The noise of the crashing timbers was heard above the din of battle. There was no sign of the hole above water. It must have been large, for the vessel soon began to careen. The shock to us was slight. Backing off from the sinking vessel, we headed up the James river to turn round and engage the Congress.’ To do this, a most tedious movement, the Merrimac had twice to pass within close range of the shore batteries. They opened a heavy fire upon her, but with little or no damage, as such shot and shell as struck her sides took the angle of inclination and went up in the air.

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