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Determined to destroy her.

It was then that Captain Buchanan determined that the Congress should be destroyed. Lieutenant Minor volunteered to burn the vessel, and he started for her with a small boat's crew. When the boat was within seventy-five yards of the Congress the crew opened fire, wounding Lieutenant Minor and several of his men. After this act of treachery the lieutenant and his men returned to the Virginia.

Then we did pour hot shot and shell into the Congress. She took fire and about midnight her magazine blew up. The report was heard sixty miles away and the fire could be seen for miles.

During all of this time the steam frigate Minnesota and Roanoke and the sailing frigate St. Lawrence had been firing broadsides into us. The Minnesota grounded, but as night came on the St. Law- [246] rence and Roanoke slipped away to safety under the guns of Fort Monroe. But we continued to fire on the Minnesota until darkness stopped the fighting.

Let me say right here that the gallant heroes of the Cumberland should be honored in the pages of history. On the other hand, however, the crew of the Congress and the men manning the shore batteries should be termed in history cowards. They not even respected their white flag and fired on us when we were conveying wounded prisoners of war to safety.

The following day, Sunday, we began the day with two jiggers of whiskey and a hearty breakfast. Then we steamed within a mile of the Minnesota and commenced firing on her again. We blew up a steamer alongside of the frigate, and shortly afterwards we first knew of the famous fighter, the Monitor. General Sherman's remark, “War is hell,” was amply illustrated when the Virginia and the Monitor met in Hampton Roads.

After the Minnesota incident, the Monitor hove in view and at once attacked.

We could see nothing but the resemblance of a large cheese box, and when the turret revolved we could see nothing but two immense guns. On firing thus the turret revolved and the guns could not be seen until they were ready to fire again. We could hardly get aim at the Monitor's guns, as they were in sight only when being fired, and would disappear immediately thereafter. At times the vessels were hardly twenty feet away from each other. Every officer and gunner on board the Virginia was puzzled to know how to disable the curious little craft. The truth, however, was that we could do nothing with her just then. After sparring to and fro for better position and looking for deeper water (the Virginia drew twenty-three feet and the Monitor only ten), we finally made our way into deep water and the Monitor tried to run across our bow or stern. Had she succeeded in these attempts the history of the famous fight would have been differently recorded, for we would sunk and lost all hands on board. After these failures, our executive officer, Captain Catesby P. Jones, deemed it best to ram the Monitor. We made two efforts to do this, but as we had lost our steel prow the day before in sinking the Cumberland, we could not harm the Monitor.

Neither vessel succeeded in accomplishing the other's ruin. While fighting the Monitor we were under heavy fire from the beached Minnesota, although it had no effect. We could not get [247] our guns to bear on the Minnesota properly, and, although we set her on fire and did considerable damage, we were too far away to make a clean sweep of her.

The fight between the Virginia and the Monitor was on for fully four hours, neither vessel seeming to suffer from the effects of the other's broadsides. Finally the Monitor ran off into shoal water, trying to coax us to follow her (a Yankee trick) and go aground. This we did not do, and from the ,Monitor's position neither vessel could reach the other with shot.

We now made an examination and found we had lost our prow, had two guns disabled and had sprung a leak. We remained, however, thinking that the Monitor would come out into deep water again and renew the engagement. She staid safely in shoal water though, and after some time we saw that no more fighting was in view. Our officers held a consultation and decided to return to Norfolk for repairs.

The Monitor remained in her position on the shoals until we had crossed the bar on our way to Norfolk.

The official report of the damage sustained by the Virginia from the time she left the Gosport navy-yard says: “ The Virginia's loss is two killed and nineteen wounded. The stem is twisted and the ship leaks. We lost our prow, starboard anchor and all the boats. The armor is somewhat damaged, the steam-pipes and smokestack riddled, the muzzles of two guns shot away. The colors were hoisted to the smokestack and were shot away several times. No one was killed or wounded in the fight with the Monitor.”

The only damage done by the Monitor was to the armor, the effect of shot striking obliquely on the shield, breaking the iron and sometimes displacing several feet of the outside courses and the wooden backing inside.

After being repaired at the Gosport navy-yard and having the disabled guns replaced, under the supervision of Commodore Josiah Tatnall, the Virginia steamed down Hampton Roads about the middle of April, expecting to have another fight with the Monitor. But there was no fight. The Monitor hugged the other shore under the protection of the guns of Fort Monroe. Our commander tried several times to persuade the vessel to come out and fight, but she never came.

On May 8th, a squadron including the Monitor, Galena and Nagatuck, bombarded our batteries at Sewall's Point. When our [248] commander heard of this, he started down to meet the enemy, but before the Virginia reached Sewall's Point the enemy's ships had drawn off and ceased firing, retreating to the protection of Fort Monroe and keeping out of range of our guns. The fact is, the Monitor was afraid of the Virginia, running away from her again and again.



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