previous next

[268] successfully with iron-clad ones, for never before was anything like it dreamed of by the greatest enthusiast in maritime warfare. The Merrimac, finding that she could make nothing of the Monitor, turned her attention once more to me in the morning. She had put one eleveninch shot under my counter, near the water-line, and now, on her second approach, I opened upon her with all my broadside-guns and ten-inch pivot — a broadside which would have blown out of water any timber-built ship in the world. She returned my fire with her rifled bow-gun, with a shell which passed through the chief engineer's state-room, through the engineer's mess-room amidships, and burst in the boatswain's room, tearing four rooms all into one, in its passage exploding two charges of powder, which set the ship on fire, but it was promptly extinguished by a party headed by my first lieutenant. Her second went through the boiler of the tugboat Dragon, exploding it, and causing some consternation on board my ship for the moment, until the matter was explained. This time I had concentrated upon her an incessant fire from my gun-deck, spardeck and forecastle pivot-guns, and was informed by my marine officer, who was stationed on the poop, that at least fifty solid shot struck her on her slanting side, without producing any apparent effect. By the time she had fired her third shell, the little Monitor had come down upon her, placing herself between us, and compelled her to change her position, in doing which she grounded, and again I poured into her all the guns which could be brought to bear upon her. As soon as she got off, she stood down the bay, the little battery chasing her with all speed, when suddenly the Merrimac turned around, and ran full speed into her antagonist. For a moment I was anxious, but instantly I saw a shot plunge into the iron roof of the Merrimac, which surely must have damaged her, for some time after the rebels concentrated their whole battery upon the tower and pilot-house of the Monitor, and soon after the latter stood down for Fortress Monroe, and we thought it probable she had exhausted her supply of ammunition, or sustained some injury. Soon after the Merrimac and the two other steamers headed for my ship, and I then felt to the fullest extent my condition. I was hard and immovable aground, and they could take position under my stern and rake me. I had expended most of my solid shot, and my ship was badly crippled, and my officers and men were worn out with fatigue; but even in this extreme dilemma I determined never to give up the ship to the rebels, and after consulting my officers, I ordered every preparation to be made to destroy the ship, after all hope was gone to save her. On ascending the poop-deck, I observed that the enemy's vessels had changed their course, and were heading for Craney Island; then I determined to lighten the ship by throwing overboard my eight-inch guns, hoisting out provisions, starting water, etc. At two P. M. I proceeded to make another attempt to save the ship, by the use of a number of powerful tugs and the steamer S. R. Spaulding--kindly sent to my assistance by Captain Talmadge, Quartermaster at Fortress Monroe--and succeeded in dragging her half a mile distant, and then she was again immovable, the tide having fallen. At two A. M. this morning I succeeded in getting the ship once more afloat, and am now at anchor opposite Fortress Monroe.

It gives me great pleasure to say that, during the whole of these trying scenes, the officers and men conducted themselves with great courage and coolness.

I have the honor to be your very obedient servant,

G. J. Van brunt, Captain U. S. N., Commanding Frigate Minnesota. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, washington, D. C.

Commander Radford's report.

Fortress Monroe, Va., March 10, 1862.
sir: It is my painful duty to have to report the loss of the United States ship Cumberland, under my command, on the eighth inst., at Newport News, Va. I was on board the United States frigate Roanoke, by order of the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, as member of a Court of Inquiry, when the Merrimac came out from Norfolk. I immediately procured a horse, and proceeded with all despatch to Newport News, where I arrived only in time to see the Cumberland sunk, by being run into by the rebel iron-clad steamer Merrimac. Though I could not reach the Cumberland before the action was over, I have the satisfaction of reporting that, so long as her guns were above water, every one on board must have done his duty nobly. I send with this the report, by Lieut. George W. Morris, of the action, he being, in my absence, the commanding officer, and also the Surgeon's report of the wounded saved. The loss was very large in killed, wounded and drowned, though the number cannot be ascertained. Enough is known, however, to make the loss one hundred. I send also a list of the men known to have been saved, but have no accurate means of giving the names of those lost or killed, as no officer or man brought anything on shore save what he stood in, consequently I have no muster-roll of the crew.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,

Wm. Radford, Commander. The Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

Report of the Sick and Wounded of the United States sloop-of-war Cumberland, March 10, 1862:
Geo. W. Butt, seaman, Virginia, hospital of Seventh regiment, Camp Butler; burns and contusions of head and face.

John Grady, seaman, Ireland, hospital of the Seventh regiment, Camp Butler; lacerated wound of right arm, burns of face.

John McGwin, Providence, R. I., hospital at Fort Monroe; slight wound right side of head.

John Bates, New-York City, hospital at Fort Monroe; slight wounds on left arm and buttock.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Gideon Welles (2)
William Radford (2)
Talmadge (1)
George W. Morris (1)
John McGwin (1)
Ireland (1)
John Grady (1)
George W. Butt (1)
G. J. Brunt (1)
John Bates (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 10th, 1862 AD (2)
8th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: