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 The Yankees spoke of the ram as the ‘Second Merrimac,’ and they looked upon her as an unknown quantity, with unlimited capacity for destruction. In fact the Federal Government was laboring under much anxiety because of the changed condition of affairs in the sounds and rivers of North Carolina. A single boat, the Albemarle, had met the entire fleet, destroyed one vessel and defeated the others. Subsequently, she steamed into the open sound, fought seven gunboats and captured one (the Bombshell), severely damaged five others and compelled the entire squadron to seek a place of safety. During this engagement the little ram suffered no serious damage. On May 5, 1864, the Albemarle left Plymouth, followed by the Bombshell, to meet the Federal fleet, which was reported advancing from the sound, for the purpose of clearing the river of all Confederate boats. The Federal fleet had been overhauled, re-inforced and equipped with all sorts of guns and torpedoes, numerous enough to have alarmed several such crafts as the Albemarle, had she been manned by ordinary men and officers. The Yankee fleet consisted of (what they termed) four double-enders—the Mattabesett, Commander John C. Febiger; the Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander F. A. Roe; the Wyalusing, Lieutenant Commander W. W. Queen; the Miami, Lieutenant Charles A. French—and two gunboats, the Whitehead, Ensign G. W. Barrett, and the Ceres, Commander H. H. Foster. Also, two transports, carrying seven guns each. The double-enders were equipped with four nine-inch Dahlgren guns, two 100-pounder Parrott rifles and one 24-pounder howitzer each. Total, 36 nine-inch Dahlgrens, 8 100-pounder Parrott rifles and 4 24-pounder howitzers. The gunboats carried eight smoothbore and two rifle guns each, making a grand total of 82 cannon, while the Albemarle mounted four 6-inch rifle and two 8-inch smoothbore guns. The enemy left the sound with full determination to capture or sink the ram. After leaving the mouth of the Roanoke, the average width of which is about 150 yards, and the depth sufficient to float a vessel drawing sixteen feet of water as high up as Plymouth. Along the shores of Pamlico Sound that beautiful May morning the marsh was
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