Doc. 82.-fight in Hampton roads, Va., March 8th and 9th, 1862.
states that, “owing to the death of the late commanding officer
, Joseph B. Smith
, it becomes my painful duty to make a report to you of the part which the United States
took in the efforts of our vessels at Newport News to repel the attack of the rebel flotilla on the eighth instant.”
The report says that “when the Merrimac
, with three small gun-boats, was seen steaming down from Norfolk
, and had approached near enough to discover her character, the ship was cleared for action.
At ten minutes past two the Merrimac
opened with her bow-gun with grape, passing us on the starboard side at a distance of about three hundred yards, receiving our broadside and giving one in return.
After passing the Congress
, she ran into and sunk the Cumberland
The smaller vessels then attacked us, killing and wounding many of our crew.
Seeing the fate of the Cumberland
, we set the jib and topsail, and with the assistance of the gunboat Zouave
, ran the vessel ashore.
At half-past 2, the Merrimac
took a position astern of us, at a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards, and raked us fore and aft with shells, while one of the smaller steamers kept up a fire on our starboard quarter.
In the mean time, the Patrick Henry
and the Thomas Jefferson
, rebel steamers, appeared from up the James River
, firing with precision, and doing us great damage.
Our two stern-guns were our only means of defence.
These were soon disabled, one being dismounted, and the other having its muzzle knocked away.
The men were knocked away from them with great rapidity and slaughter by the terrible fire of the enemy.”
first learned of the death of Lieut. Smith
at half-past 4 o'clock. “The death happened ten minutes previous.
Seeing that our men were being killed without the prospect of any relief from the Minnesota
, which vessel had run ashore in attempting to get up to us from Hampton Roads
, not being able to get a single
gun to bear upon the enemy, and the ship being on fire in several places, upon consultation with Commander William Smith
, we deemed it proper to haul down our colors, without any further loss of life on our part.
We were soon boarded by an officer of the Merrimac
, who said he would take charge of the ship.
He left shortly afterward, and a small tug came alongside, whose captain demanded that we should surrender and get out of the ship, as he intended to burn her immediately.
A sharp fire with muskets and artillery was maintained from our troops ashore upon the tug, having the effect of driving her off. The Merrimac
again opened upon us, although we had a peak to show that we were out of action.
After having fired several shells into us, she left us, and engaged the Minnesota
and the shore-batteries,” after which, Lieut. Pendergrast
states, the wounded were taken ashore in small boats, the ship having been on fire from the beginning of the action, from hot shot fired by the Merrimac
, He reports the death of the following officers: Lieut. Joseph B. Smith
, Acting Master Thomas Moore
, and Pilot Wm. Rhodes
Official reports to the rebel Congress, sent in March 13, 1862.
The official report of the naval battle in Hampton Roads
The accompanying letter of the Secretary of the Navy
states that Flag-Officer F. Buchanan
was disabled near the close of the engagement by a painful wound, though not very dangerous.
The report was made by the executive officer, upon whom thee command devolved, Lieut. Jones
The confederate vessels engaged were the steam-sloop Virginia
, of ten guns; the Patrick Henry
, Com. Tucker
, of six guns; the Jamestown
, Lieut.-Com. Barney
, of two guns; the Raleigh
; the Beaufort
; the Teazer
, each of one gun. With this force (twenty guns) Flag-Officer Buchanan
engaged the enemy's fleet, consisting of the frigate Cumberland
, of twenty-four guns; the Congress
, of fifty guns; the St. Lawrence
, of fifty guns; the steam-frigate Minnesota
, of forty guns; the enemy's batteries at Newport News and several small steamers, armed with heavy rifled guns.
The engagement commenced at half-past 3 P. M., and at four P. M. Capt. Buchanan
had sunk the Cumberland
, captured and burned the Congress
, disabled and driven the Minnesota
ashore, and defeated the St. Lawrence
, which sought shelter under the guns of Fortress Monroe
. Two of the enemy's small steamers
were blown up, and the two transport-steamers were captured.
went down with all on board, her tops only remaining above water, but many of her people were saved by boats from the shore.
The flag of the Congress
and the sword of the officer commanding at the time of her surrender are at the Navy Department.
The report concludes as follows:
Letters and Narratives: statement of the pilot of the Cumberland.
Mr. A. B. Smith
, pilot on board the United States
, at the time of her battle with the iron-plated steamer Merrimac, gives the following authentic statement of the great naval battle in Hampton Roads
On Saturday morning, the United States
laid off in the roads at Newport News, about three hundred yards from the shore, the Congress
being two hundred yards south of us. The morning was mild and pleasant, and the day opened without any noteworthy incident.
About eleven o'clock, a dark-looking object was discovered coming round Craney Island
through Norfolk Channel, and proceeding straight in our direction.
It was instantly recognised as the Merrimac
We had been on the lookout for her for some time, and were as well prepared then as we could have been at any other time, or as we have been during the last six months. As she came ploughing through the water right onward toward our port-bow, she looked like a huge half-submerged crocodile.
Her sides seemed of solid iron, except where the guns pointed from the narrow potts, and rose slantingly from the water like the roof of a house, or the arched back of a tortoise.
Probably the extreme height of the apex from the water's edge, perpendicularly, was ten feet. At her prow I could see the iron ram projecting, straight forward, somewhat above the water's edge, and apparently a mass of iron.
Small boats were slung or fastened to her sides, and the rebel flag floated from one staff, while a pennant was fixed to another at the stern.
There was a smoke-stack or pipe near her middle, and she was probably a propeller, no side-wheels or machinery being visible.
She is probably covered with railroad-iron
Immediately on the appearing of the Merrimac
, the command was given to make ready for instant action.
All hands were ordered to their places, and the Cumberland
was sprung across the channel, so that her broadside would bear on the Merrimac
The armament we could bring to bear on the Merrimac
was about eleven nine and ten-inch Dahlgren
guns, and two pivot-guns of the same make.
The gunners were at their posts, and we waited eagerly for her approach within range.
She came up at the rate of four or five knots per hour.
When the Merrimac
arrived within about a mile, we opened on her with our pivot-guns, and as soon as we could bear upon her, our whole broadside commenced.
Still she came on, the balls bouncing upon her mailed sides like India-rubber, apparently making not the least impression, except to cut off her flag-staff, and thus bring down the confederate colors.
None of her crew ventured at that time on her outside to replace them, and she fought thenceforward with only her pennant flying.
She appeared to obey her helm, and be very readily handled, making all her movements and evolutions with apparent facility and readiness.
We had probably fired six or eight broadsides when a shot was received from one of her guns which killed five of our marines.
It was impossible for our vessel to get out of her way, and the Merrimac
soon crushed her iron horn or ram into the Cumberland
, just starboard the main chains, under the bluff of the port-bow, knocking a hole in the side, near the water-line, as large as the head of a hogshead, and driving the vessel back upon her anchors with great force.
The water came rushing into the hold.
then backed out and discharged her guns at us, the shot passing through the main bay and killing five sick men. The water was all the while rushing in the hole made by the ram, so that in five minutes it was up to the sick-bay on the berth-deck.
In the mean time her broadsides swept our men away, killed and maimed, and also set our vessel on fire in the forward part.
The fire was extinguished.
I cannot tell how many were wounded.
The sick-bay, berth-deck and gun-deck, were almost literally covered with men killed and wounded, but the surviving ones still fought well, and every one, officers and men, displayed the utmost heroism.
The fight lasted about three fourths of an hour, the Cumberland
firing rapidly, and all the time the water pouring in the hold, and by and by the ports as her bow kept sinking deeper and deeper.
Near the middle of the fight, when the berth-deck of the Cumberland
had sunk below water, one of the crew of the Merrimac
came out of a port to the outside of her iron-plated roof, and a ball from one of our guns instantly cut him in two.
That was the last and only rebel that ventured within sight, the rest remaining in their safe, iron-walled enclosure.
We fired constantly, and the Merrimac
occasionally, but every shot told upon our wooden vessel and brave crew.
Her guns being without the least elevation, pointed straight at us along the surface of the water, and her nearness, she being much of the time within three hundred yards, made it an easy matter to send each ball to its exact mark.
Probably her guns would be useless at a considerable distance, as it appears impossible to elevate them.
Finally, after about three fourths of an hour of the most severe fighting, our vessel sank, the Stars and Stripes still waving.
That flag was finally submerged, but after the hull grounded on the sands, fifty-four feet below the surface of the water, our pennant was still flying
from the topmast above the waves.
None of our men were captured, but many were drowned as the vessel went.
We had about four hundred on board, and I suppose from one hundred and fifty to two hundred were killed during the engagement and drowned at the sinking.
Lieut. George M. Morris
was in command of the vessel, Capt. Radford
being absent on the Roanoke
at a court of inquiry.
Very few of our men swam ashore, most of those who were rescued from the water being saved by small boats.
seemed to be uninjured, although her small boats and flagstaff were shot away in the commencement of the action.
then turned to the Congress
, which lay probably two hundred yards to the south of where the Cumberland
was. The Merrimac
came up under her stern, and her crew fired their pistols into the ports of the Congress
as she approached.
I saw her fire on the Congress
The sailors of that vessel say that the Merrimac
struck her; but of this I am not sure.
The Congress had a good crew of fifty men from the Cumberland
, previously taken on board; fifty from the Minnesota
, fifty of the Naval Brigade
, fifty from the Roanoke
, and some others.
Lieut. Joseph Smith
, who was in command, was killed by a shot.
A great many of the Naval Brigade
were also killed.
The entire command seemed to have acted bravely during the engagement, which probably lasted not over a half an hour, when the white flag was run up. During that night, some sailors and men of the Congress
re turned and set fire to her, and she blew up about twelve o'clock. Neither the shot of the Cumberland
nor Congress appeared to have any effect on the Merrimac
, bounding off harmlessly, with a loud ringing sound from the iron plates.
The engagement with the Minnesota
resulted in the killing of four men on the latter vessel, which was aground.
did not seem to like to go near her, perhaps on account of her large armament of heavy guns, but more probably because she was afraid also of getting aground, the water being quite shallow in that neighborhood.
is not much injured.
She was off, and steaming down about six o'clock Sunday night.
The Monitor came in Saturday night and proceeded up past the Minnesota
The rebel steamers Jamestown
were not iron-plated, or at any rate, only partially so. They came down in the daylight, making for the Minnesota
, but to their surprise found the Monitor
ready to receive them.
On Sunday morning the Monitor
moved close up to the Merrimac
, and, side by side, engaged her for four hours and twenty minutes. Once the Merrimac
dashed her iron prow squarely against the Monitor
, but did not injure that vessel in the least.
The Monitor in turn determined to try her force in a similar operation, but in some unaccountable manner the wheel or other steering apparatus became entangled, it is said, and the Monitor
rushed by, just missing her aim. Capt. Worden
is confident that he put three shot through the hull of his antagonist — probably through the ports.
The Monitor fired one hundred and seventy-eight pound cast-iron shot.
The wrought-iron shot were not used, because their great weight and peculiar construction renders the guns much more liable to burst.
fired about forty shots on the Monitor
, which replied rapidly as possible, but, so far as it is known, neither vessel is damaged.
Those on board the Monitor
say the balls rattled and rang upon both vessels, and seemed to bound off harmless.
is probably not injured, at least more than the starting of a plate or so of her iron covering, and her machinery being uninjured, she is probably fit to come out again.
It is impossible to keep the Merrimac
from coming out. She can sail three knots an hour faster than the Monitor
From her evolutions, I should judge she can go at the rate of eight or nine knots per hour.
It is impossible to board the Merrimac
Should she come out again, she will be obliged to pass within range of the Union
gun at the Rip Raps
, and a shot from it might perhaps crush her sides, but it is very difficult to manage so heavy a piece of artillery, and the Union
gun, in all probability, might be fired fifty times without touching her. I do not think the Merrimac
is calculated to carry much coal, and that might have been a reason for her retiring from the contest.
The Monitor perhaps might follow up the rebel steamers and disable them, but if she gets among the rebel batteries a heavy fire might be concentrated on her from different points, and she be thus injured, or possibly she might be grappled to and towed ashore.
These and other reasons may suffice to show why the Monitor
did not follow among the batteries of Craney Island
, I understand, has ordered all the women and children away from Fortress Monroe
, in anticipation of the Merrimac
During all Sunday morning, while the battle was raging between the two iron-clad vessels, the high cliffs at Newport News and vicinity were crowded with spectators, earnestly watching the progress of the fight.
Baltimore American account.
made her appearance, coming out from Elizabeth River
about noon on Saturday.
She stood directly across the roads toward Newport News.
As soon as she was made out and her direction ascertained, the crews were beat to quarters on both the Cumberland
and Congress, and preparations made for what was felt to be an almost hopeless fight, but the determination to make it as desperate as possible.
kept straight on, making, according to the best estimates, about eight miles an hour.
As she passed the mouth of Nansemond River
, the Congress
threw the first shot at her, which was immediately answered.
passed the Congress
, discharging a broadside at her, (one shell from which killed and disabled every man except one at gun No.
Ten,) and kept on toward the Cumberland
, which she approached at full speed, striking her on the port side near the bow,
her stem knocking port No.
One and the bridleport into one, whilst her ram cut the Cumberland
Almost at the moment of collision, the Merrimac
discharged from her forward gun an eleven-inch shell.
This shell raked the whole gun-deck, killing ten men at gun No.
One, among whom was master mate John Harrington
, and cutting off both arms and legs of quarter-gunner Wood
The water rushed in from the hole made below, and in five minutes the ship began to sink by the head.
Shell and solid shot from the Cumberland
were rained on the Merrimac
as she passed ahead, but the most glanced harmlessly from the incline of her iron-plated bomb-roof.
As the Merrimac
rounded to and came up she again raked the Cumberland
with heavy fire.
At this fire sixteen men at gun No.
Ten were killed or wounded, and were all subsequently carried down in the sinking ship.
Advancing with increased momentum, the Merrimac
struck the Cumberland
on the starboard side, smashing her upper works and cutting another hole below the water-line.
The ship now began to rapidly settle, and the scene became most horrible.
The cockpit was filled with the wounded, whom it was impossible to bring up. The former magazine was under water, but powder was still supplied from the after-magazine, and the firing kept steadily up by men who knew that the ship was sinking under them.
They worked desperately and unremittingly, and amid the din and horror of the conflict gave cheers for their flag and the Union
, which were joined in by the wounded.
The decks were slippery with blood, and arms and legs and chunks of flesh were strewed about.
laid off at easy point-blank range, discharging her broadsides alternately at the Cumberland
and the Congress
The water by this time had reached the after-magazine of the Cumberland
The men, however, kept at work, and several cases of powder were passed up and the guns kept in play.
Several men in the after shell-room lingered there too long in their eagerness to pass up shell, and were drowned.
The water had at this time reached the berth or main gun-deck, and it was felt hopeless and useless to continue the fight longer.
The word was given for each man to save himself, but after this order gun No.
Seven was fired, when the adjoining gun, No.
Six, was actually under water.
This last shot was fired by an active little follow named Matthew Tenney
, whose courage had been conspicuous throughout the action.
As his port was left open by the recoil of the gun, he jumped to scramble out, but the water rushed in with so much force that he was washed back and drowned.
When the order was given to cease firing, and to look out for their safety in the best way possible, numbers scampered through the port-holes, whilst others reached the spar-deck by the companion-ways.
Some were incapable to get out by either of these means, and were carried by the rapidly sinking ship.
Of those who reached the upper deck, some swam off to the tugs that came out from Newport News.
sank in water nearly to her cross-trees.
She went down with her flag still flying
, and it still flies from the mast above the water that overwhelmed her, a memento of the bravest, most daring, and yet most hopeless defence that has ever been made by any vessel belonging to any navy in the world.
The men fought with a courage that could not be excelled.
There was no flinching, no thought of surrender.
The whole number lost of the Cumberland
's crew was one hundred and twenty.
being thoroughly demolished, the Merrimac
left her — not, to the credit of the rebels it ought to be stated, firing either at the men clinging to the rigging, or at the small boats on the propeller Whildin
, which were busily employed rescuing the survivors of her crew — and proceeded to attack the Congress
The officers of the Congress
, seeing the fate of the Cumberland
, and aware that she also would be sunk if she remained within reach of the iron beak of the Merrimac
, had got all sail on the ship, with the intention of running her ashore.
The tug-boat Zouave
also came out and made fast to the Cumberland
, and assisted in towing her ashore.
then surged up, gave the Congress
a broadside, receiving one in return, and getting astern, raked the ship fore and aft. This fire was terribly destructive, a shell killing every man at one of the guns except one.
Coming again broadside to the Congress
, the Merrimac
ranged slowly backward and forward, at less than one hundred yards distant, and fired broadside after broadside into the Congress
The latter vessel replied manfully and obstinately, every gun that could be brought to bear being discharged rapidly, but with little effect upon the iron monster.
Some of the balls caused splinters of iron to fly from her mailed roof, and one shot, entering a port-hole, is supposed to have dismounted a gun, as there was no further firing from that port.
The guns of the Merrimac
appeared to be specially trained on the after-magazine of the Congress
, and shot after shot entered that part of the ship.
Thus slowly drifting down with the current and again steaming up, the Merrimac
continued for an hour to fire into her opponent.
Several times the Congress
was on fire, but the flames were kept down.
Finally the ship was on fire in so many places, and the flames gathering such force, that it was hopeless and suicidal to keep up the defence any longer.
The National flag was sorrowfully hauled down and a white flag hoisted at the peak.
After it was hoisted the Merrimac
continued to fire, perhaps not discovering the white flag, but soon after ceased firing.
A small rebel tug that had followed the Merrimac
out of Norfolk
then came alongside the Congress
, and a young officer gained the gun-deck through a port-hole, announced that he came on board to take command, and ordered the officers on board the tug.
The officers of the Congress
refused to go on board, hoping from the nearness to the shore that they would be able to reach it, and unwilling to
become prisoners whilst the least chance of escape remained.
Some of the men, supposed to number about forty, thinking the tug was one of our vessels, rushed on board.
At this moment the members of an Indiana regiment at Newport News, brought a Parrott gun down to the beach and opened fire upon the rebel tug. The tug hastily put off, and the Merrimac
again opened fire upon the Congress
The fire not being returned from the ship, the Merrimac
commenced shelling the woods and camps at Newport News, fortunately, however, without doing much damage, only one or two casualties occurring.
By the time all were ashore, it was seven o'clock in the evening, and the Congress
was in a bright sheet of flame fore and aft. She continued to burn until twelve o'clock at night, her guns, which were loaded and trained, going off as they became heated.
A shell from one struck a sloop at Newport News and blew her up. At twelve o'clock the fire reached her magazines, and with a tremendous concussion her charred remains blew up. There were some five tons of gunpowder in her magazines, and about twenty thousand dollars in paymaster Buchanan
The loss of life on board the Congress
is not over one hundred and twenty, and possibly may not exceed a hundred.
The crew consisted of two hundred and seventy-seven blue jackets, eighty-eight of the coast-guards, forty-seven marines, and twenty-two officers — in all, a total of four hundred and thirty-four.
At the muster at Newport News, one hundred and ninety-six blue jackets and coast-guards and twenty-two marines appeared; about forty went on board the rebel tugs and are prisoners, and about forty, it is estimated, left before the muster, and made their way to Fortress Monroe
About one hundred are thus unaccounted for, and are undoubtedly killed.
After sinking the Cumberland
and firing the Congress
, the Merrimac
, with the Yorktown
, stood off in the direction of the steamfrigate Minnesota
, which had been for some hours aground, about three miles below Newport News.
This was about five o'clock on Saturday evening. The rebel commander of the Merrimac
, either fearing the greater strength of the Minnesota
, or wishing, as it afterward appeared, to capture this splendid ship without doing serious damage to her, did not attempt to run the Minnesota
down, as he had run down the Cumberland
He stood off about a mile distant, and with the Yorktown
threw shell and shot at the frigate.
, though from being aground unable to manoeuvre or bring all her guns to bear, was fought splendidly.
She threw a shell at the Yorktown
which set her on fire, and she was towed off by her consort the Jamestown
From the reappearance of the Yorktown
next day, the fire must have been suppressed without serious damage.
The after-cabins of the Minnesota
were torn away in order to bring two of her large guns to bear from her stern-ports, the position in which she was lying enabling the rebels to attack her there with impunity.
She received two serious shots: one, an eleven-inch shell, entered near the waist, passed through the chief engineer
's room, knocking both rooms into ruins, and wounding several men. Another shot went clear through the chain-plate, and another passed through the main-mast.
Six of the crew were killed outright, on board the Minnesota
, and. nineteen wounded. The men, though fighting at great disadvantage, stuck manfully to their guns, and exhibited a spirit that would have enabled them to compete successfully with any ordinary vessel.
About nightfall, the Merrimac
, satisfied with her afternoon's work of death and destruction, steamed in under Sewall's Point
The day thus closed most dismally for our side, and with the most gloomy apprehensions of what would occur the next day. The Minnesota
was at the mercy of the Merrimac
, and there appeared no reason why the iron monster might not clear the Roads
of our fleet, destroy all the stores and warehouses on the beach, drive our troops into the Fortress, and command Hampton Roads
against any number of wooden vessels the Government
might send there.
Saturday was a terribly dismal night at Fortress Monroe
About nine o'clock, Ericsson
's battery, the Monitor
, arrived at the Roads
, and upon her performance was felt that the safety of their position in a great measure depended.
Never was a greater hope placed upon apparently more insignificant means, but never was a great hope more triumphantly fulfilled.
The Monitor is the reverse of formidable; lying low on the water, with a plain structure amidship, a small pilot-house forward, a diminutive smoke-pipe aft, at a mile's distance she might be taken for a raft, with an army ambulance amidship.
It is only when on board that her compact strength and formidable means of offensive warfare are discoverable.
When Lieut. Worden
was informed of what had occurred, though his crew were suffering from exposure and loss of rest from a stormy voyage around from New-York
, he at once made preparations for taking part in whatever might occur next day.
Before daylight on Sunday morning, the Monitor
moved up, and took a position alongside the Minnesota
, lying between the latter ship and the Fortress, where she could not be seen by the rebels, but was ready, with steam up, to slip out.
Up to now, on Sunday, the rebels gave no indication of what were their further designs.
laid up toward Craney Island
, in view, but motionless.
At one o'clock she was observed in motion, and came out, followed by the Yorktown
, both crowded with troops.
The object of the leniency toward the Minnesota
on the previous evening thus became evident.
It was the hope of the rebels to bring the ships aboard the Minnesota
, overpower her crew by the force of numbers, and capture both vessels and men.
As the rebel flotilla came out from Sewall's Point
, the Monitor
stood out boldly toward them.
It is doubtful if the rebels knew what to make of the strange-looking battery, or if they despised it. Even the Yorktown
kept on approaching,
until a thirteen shell from the Monitor
sent her to the right about.
and the Monitor
kept on approaching each other, the former waiting until she would choose her distance, and the latter apparently not knowing what to make of her funny-looking antagonist.
The first shot from the Monitor
was fired when about one hundred yards distant from the Merrimac
, and this distance was subsequently reduced to fifty yards, and at no time during the furious cannonading that ensued, were the vessels more than two hundred yards apart.
It is impossible to reproduce the animated descriptions given of this grand contest between two vessels of such formidable offensive and defensive powers.
The scene was in plain view from Fortress Monroe
, and in the main facts all the spectators agree.
At first the fight was very furious, and the guns of the Monitor
were fired rapidly.
As she carries but two guns, whilst the Merrimac
has eight, of course she received two or three shots for every one she gave.
Finding that her antagonist was much more formidable than she looked, the Merrimac
attempted to run her down.
The superior speed and quicker turning qualities of the Monitor
enabled her to avoid these shocks, and to give the Merrimac
, as she passed, a shot.
Once the Merrimac
struck her near midships, but only to prove that the battery could not be run down nor shot down.
She spun round like a top, and as she got her bearing again, sent one of her formidable missiles into her huge opponent.
The officers of the Monitor
, at this time, had gained such confidence in the impregnability of their battery, that they no longer fired at random nor hastily.
The fight then assumed its most interesting aspects.
The Monitor ran round the Merrimac
repeatedly, probing her sides, seeking for weak points, and reserving her fire with coolness, until she had the right spot and the exact range, and made her experiments accordingly.
In this way the Merrimac
received three shots, which must have seriously damaged her. Neither of these shots rebounded at all, but appeared to cut their way clear through iron and wood into the ship.
Soon after receiving the third shot, the Merrimac
turned toward Sewell's Point
, and made off at full speed.
The Monitor followed the Merrimac
until she got well inside Sewall's Point
, and then returned to the Minnesota
It is probable that the pursuit would have been continued still further, but Lieut. Worden
, her commander, had previously had his eyes injured, and it was also felt that, as so much depended on the Monitor
, it was imprudent to expose her unnecessarily.
, at the time he was injured, was looking out of the eye-holes of the pilot-house, which are simply horizontal slits, about half an inch wide.
A round shot from the Merrimac
struck against these slits as Lieut. Worden
was looking through, causing some scalings from the iron, and fragments of the paint to fly with great force against his eyes.
The injury was necessarily very painful, and it was once feared that he would lose one of his eyes.
Before, however, he left Old Point
, it was thought this danger had been removed.
Norfolk day-book account.
At a quarter past eleven o'clock on Saturday, March eighth, the iron-clad steamer Virginia
cast loose from her moorings at the navy-yard, and made her way down to Hampton Roads
, toward the blockading fleet lying off Newport News.
She reached their neighborhood, after some detention at the obstructions below, at two o'clock. Here she found the two first-class sailing frigates Cumberland
With a determination to pay her respects to the Cumberland
first, the Virginia
bore down for that vessel, and while passing the Congress
she gave her a broadside by way of a salute.
Her operations on the Cumberland
were performed in the short space of fifteen minutes time, at the end of which the Cumberland
sunk just where she had been lying.
The Virginia, on approaching her and getting within point-blank range, fired her bow — gun several times, and ran into her, striking her fairly with her ram, which made her reel to and fro, and sent her speedily to the bottom; but while going down, we understand, the after-gun of the Cumberland
was discharged at the Virginia
, with what injury we know not.
The object in first getting rid of the Cumberland
was probably to destroy the very heavy armament which the frigate carried, it being the heaviest in the Yankee
The officers and crew of the Cumberland
made their escape as best they could, many of them being captured by our gunboats.
The wounded on board it is believed went down with the vessel.
The Virginia next turned her attention to the Congress
, which vessel, it is said, gallantly resisted her inevitable fate for nearly an hour, but finally, finding the ship rapidly sinking, she hauled down her colors and made for the beach, where she was run as high aground as possible.
Her officers and crew were taken off by our gunboats, and while she had her flag of truce hoisted and was being relieved of her killed and wounded by our boats, the Yankees
on shore at Newport News, disregarding the flag of truce, with Minie muskets fired into her and killed several of their own men and slightly wounded in the arm Mr. John Hopkins
, one of our pilots, attached to the Beaufort
While the Virginia
was engaged with the Congress
with her bow-gun, she poured broadside after broadside into the shore-batteries of the enemy at Newport News. One discharge from the bow-gun of the Virginia
, says one of the prisoners, capsized two of the guns of the Congress
, killing sixteen of her crew and taking off the head of a Lieut. Smith
, and literally tore the ship to pieces.
The enemy seemed entirely unaware of our intention to attack them, and, it is said, were so completely lulled into security that the Virginia
had got down to Sewall's Point
before they took the alarm.
While the engagement was going on between the two frigates and the Virginia
, the enemy's steam-frigate Minnesota
put out from Old Point
to their assistance.
She laid well over toward Newport News, but not entirely out of the range of our batteries on Sewall's Point
, which opened on her, with what effect we are unable to say, but she replied to them without any damage whatever.
got aground when within a mile or two of Newport News Point.
There she stuck, unable to get off, while the confederate steamers Patrick Henry
peppered her with their batteries, while the Virginia
was attending to the shore-batteries at Newport News.
The frigate St. Lawrence
then came up to the assistance of the Minnesota
, and she also got aground, and a steam-frigate, supposed to be the Roanoke
, put off from Old Point
with the same intention, it is supposed, but seeing the sad havoc which the Virginia
was playing with the Federal
vessels, she put back to Old Point
and St. Lawrence, we learn, are hard aground and in the power of the Virginia
, at high tide, as the latter vessel was at Sewall's Point
, after the engagement, where she remained on Saturday night, ready to commence on them on Sunday morning. She is between them and all assistance from Old Point
The frigate Congress
was set fire to on Saturday night, by a boat's crew from some of our vessels.
She illumined the whole Roads and river, and about midnight her magazine exploded with a tremendous noise.
Her conflagration afforded a rare sight to many thousands of spectators who lined the shores of our harbor to witness the spectacle of a ship on fire.
Many articles of value, we learn, were removed from her by our gunboats before being fired.
Tugs and steamers were sent to the assistance of the Minnesota
and St. Lawrence from Old Point
, after they grounded, but their efforts to haul them off were unavailing.
The first gun fired in the engagement is said to have been fired by the confederate gunboat Beaufort
at the frigate Congress
All of our steamers and gunboats are said to have been managed with the utmost skill and dexterity, tendering great assistance to the Virginia
in this magnificent and successful engagement.
We are without means of getting at the loss of the enemy in killed and wounded, though it is believed to have been very great.
Our total loss, in killed and wounded, as far as we can learn, is nine killed and twelve wounded, most of them slightly.
Twenty-three prisoners were brought up to this city on Saturday night. These were all taken off the frigate Congress
by the gunboat Beaufort
, while our other gunboats took off others.
One of these prisoners died while on his way to the city.
He and another one wounded were shot by their own forces while being saved from the sinking frigate Congress
The wounded prisoners were carried to the hospital.
The Virginia had two men killed and some five or six wounded. A shot entered the port-hole and struck the gun in the muzzle, knocking off a piece nine inches long.
This disabled the gun, which was immediately replaced by another of the same calibre.
and Lieut. Minor
, of the Virginia
, are said to be wounded, the former slightly, the latter severely.
On board the Patrick Henry
a shot entered one of her ports, we understand, and passed through one of her boilers, disabling it. She was compelled to haul off temporarily for repairs.
There were four men killed and three wounded on board of her. Other damage not material
On board the gunboat Raleigh
, Midshipman Hutter
was killed, we understand, though we did not learn of any other casualties.
The James River
steamers arrived at the scene of action, it is said, about one hour after the engagement commenced.
They easily passed the Newport News battery, and, after joining in the fight, rendered very efficient aid.
By this daring exploit we have raised the James River
blockade, without foreign assistance, and are likely, with the assistance of the Virginia
, to keep open the communication.
Several small prizes were said to have been taken by our gunboats from the Yankees
, one of which, the schooner Reindeer
, was brought up to the Navy-Yard
on Saturday night. Two others were said to have been carried over to Pig Point
Another report we hear says that but two persons were killed on board the Virginia
Andrew J. Dalton
, a printer, who left our office a few days since to join the Virginia
, and who was at the bombardment of Sumter
, and participated in several other engagements during the war, we learn, was one of the wounded on board that vessel on Saturday.
The engagement was renewed again on Sunday morning, about half-past 8 o'clock, by the Jamestown
and several of our gunboats firing into the Minnesota
and St. Lawrence.
At high-water we expect the Virginia
will pay her respects to these vessels.
Since the above was written we have been enabled to gather some additional particulars.
Some detention occurred on board the Virginia
on Sunday morning, we learn, or she would have commenced the engagement much earlier than half-past 8 o'clock, at which time she, together with the Patrick Henry
, and our other gunboats, opened fire on the Minnesota
, which still lies hard and fast aground.
The tide being at the ebb, the Virginia
did not take the channel where the Minnesota
lay, probably for fear of grounding, but getting within a good range of her, she opened fire with terrible effect, completely riddling her, and rendering constant exertion at the pump necessary to prevent her from filling.
Early in the morning, the Ericsson battery, now called the Monitor
, was discovered off Newport News Point, she having gone up there during the night.
A sharp encounter soon took place between her and the Virginia
, during which time they were frequently not more than thirty or forty yards apart.
Unfortunately, the Virginia
ran aground, and the Ericsson
, using her advantage, poured shot after shot into her, but without doing any serious damage.
In a short while, however, the Virginia
succeeded in getting off, and, putting on a full head of steam, ran her bow into the Ericsson
, doing, as it is thought, great damage.
We are rejoiced to say that, notwithstanding the firing was much heavier than on Saturday, there were no casualties on either of our vessels, not a man being in the least injured by shots from the enemy or otherwise.
Several of the enemy's gunboats being within range, they were favored with a shell or two from the Virginia
, with telling effect, and, in every case, disabling or sinking them.
One of these, lying alongside the Minnesota
, had a shell thrown on board of her, which, on bursting, tore her asunder and sent her to the bottom.
Having completely riddled the Minnesota
and disabled the St. Lawrence
and Monitor, besides, as stated above, destroying several of the enemy's gunboats — in a word, having accomplished all that they designed, and having no more material to work upon, our noble vessels left the scene of their triumphs and returned to the yard, where they await another opportunity of displaying their prowess.
The enemy's loss, killed and wounded, during the two days battle, is exceedingly large, and estimated at from six to twelve hundred.
The scene around the Congress
is represented as heart-sickening.
The officers of the Beaufort
, who ran alongside of her on Saturday night, and who boarded her for the purpose of removing the wounded aboard of her, and who were brutally fired upon by the enemy while engaged in this work of mercy to their own kith and kin, represented the deck of the vessel as being literally covered with the dead and dying.
One of them assured us that as he went from fore to aft his shoes were well-nigh buried in blood and brains.
Arms, legs, and heads were found scattered in every direction, while here and there, in the agonies of death, would be found poor deluded wretches, with their breasts torn completely out.
Of the crew of the Cumberland
but few survived to tell the tale.
As she went down her crew went with her, except some few who were taken as prisoners by us, and a few others who escaped to the shore.
Out of the five hundred aboard of her, it is estimated that not over a hundred at most escaped, the remainder either being killed by our shot or drowned as the vessel went down.
Of course, the greater part of those on board the gunboats were also drowned, as there was not sufficient time for them to have made their escape.
Added to this, very many in the camps of the enemy at Newport News were killed by the shells which the Virginia
threw among them.
On our side, the loss was indeed small, and when we consider the storm of shell to which at times they were subjected, we can but wonder, while we rejoice, that so few of them suffered injury.
On the Virginia
, there were two killed and eight wounded. Among the wounded we regret to mention Captain Buchanan
and Lieut. Minor
Their wounds, however, we are happy to state, are but slight.
On the Raleigh
, Midshipman Hutter
was killed, and Capts. Tayloe
wounded, the first mentioned quite severely.
On the Beaufort
, Gunner W. Robinson
and two seamen were wounded.
This was all the damage sustained by the vessel among her men. Two Yankee prisoners aboard of her were struck by the balls of their friends, one of them killed, and the other severely wounded.
The former was standing in the door of the wardrobe at the time the Beaufort
was alongside the Congress
, and one of the shower of balls sent by the enemy on shore from their Minie muskets struck him on the forehead, penetrating his brain, and killing him almost instantly.
On the Teaser
one man was wounded very slightly.
On the Patrick Henry
four men were killed and three wounded. While the loss of the enemy is counted by hundreds, ours, as will be seen from the above, amounts to only seven killed and seventeen wounded.
The loss on our part, as small as it is, was not the work of the enemy's shots from their vessels, but the result, for the most part, of the fire of muskets from shore.
During the contest the mainmast of the Raleigh
was carried away.
The flagstaffs of the Virginia
were also cut down.
The report that the Congress
was fired by the Federals
to prevent her falling into our hands is without a shadow of truth.
She was fired by hot shot from the Virginia
, for firing into our boats while she had a flag of truce at the time flying after she had struck her colors and surrendered to us.
Among the prisoners taken off the Congress
was the slave Sam
, the property of----Drummond
, of this city, who escaped to the enemy some time in October last.
He is now safe, having reached his home sooner and under different circumstances than he anticipated.
On the arrival of the Virginia
at the yard, her men were mustered and addressed by the commanding officer
in terms of praise for their noble bearing during the engagement.
They responded with hearty cheers, and expressed a desire to again reenact the scenes through which they had just passed whenever opportunity presented.
The injury sustained by the Patrick Henry
was not as great as at first supposed, being so trifling that a few hours' repairs were sufficient to place her in readiness for action.
The officers of the Virginia
are represented as
having acted with the utmost courage and bravery during the contest.
It is related of Capt. Buchanan
, that during the thickest of the fight he remained on the deck of the Virginia
, and that he discharged musket after musket at the enemy as they were handed up to him. It was while thus exposed that he received the wound of which mention is made above.
It is said that all of the batteries on Newport News were silenced except one, and that our shot and shell were thrown with such unerring aim and precision among the enemy, that great numbers of them were killed and wounded.
Raleigh standard account.
Who planned the Merrimac?