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Then came the fearful moment of trial. The Merrimac, sure of her prey, plunged headlong into the side of the helpless frigate. The iron horn or ram, striking her just forward the main chains. made a deep gash, knocking a hole in the side near the water line as large as the head of a hogshead, and driving her back upon her anchors with great force, while the water ran into her hold. Slowly drawing back, the Merrimac poured a broadside into the sinking ship. Still the Cumberland main
'tained the unequal contest. Officers
I and men without a single voice of dissent, resolved never to surrender to the rebels. They stood by their guns up to the last moment; the dead, and the
I dying, and the wounded, strewed all around; the shots of the enemy pouring in upon the sinking frigate; the vessel on fire in the forward part; all Lope gone; yet the Cumberland waved no white flasr of surrender. Down she sank, her hull grounding fifty-four feet below the surface; but her glorious
i flag still streamed at the topmast above the waves, and remained there long after the ram had departed. At the
last, the men saved themselves as best
i they could; but many were drowned before a small steamer arrived from Newport News to their relief. Out of 37(5, officers and privates, 117 were known to be lost, about twenty-three were missing, and the rest were saved.* The Merrimac had expended only about forty-five minutes in destroying
* Lieut. Morris and the brave officers and men under Lis command, received the special acknowledgments and thanks of the navy department for "their courage and determination under the most disastrous and appalling circumstances."
the Cumberland, and at three o'clock in the afternoon, she was ready to complete the destruction of the Congress and the other vessels not far oft7. Seeing the fate of the Cumberland, the commander of the Congress set the jib and topsail, and with the assistance of a arunboat, ran the vessel ashore. The Merrimac took a position astern, at a distance of abov.t 150 j i yards, and raked the Congress fore and aft with shells, while one of the smaller steamers kept up a fire on her starboard quarter. The two stern gun? of the Congress were her only means of defence. These were soon disabled, one being dismounted, and the other having its muzzle knocked away, by the terrible fire of the enemy. i Between four and five o'clock, Lieut I Smith, in command, was killed, and Lieut. Prendergrast, deeming it utterly useless to protract the fight, where his. men were being slaughtered, and not a single gun could be brought to bear against the enemy, hauled down his J flag, and surrendered to the Merrimac, A. small tug came along side, and all j were ordered out of the ship, as she' was to be burned directly. Some of the troops on shore kept up a fire on the j tug, and succeeded in driving her off; whereupon the Merrimac poured another broadside into the Congress, although the white flag was flying at her peak. "With this inhuman act, the Congress was left to her fate; hour after hour she burned, lighting up the harbor till past midnight, when the magazine exploded, and the fragments of the lost frigate were scattered in every direction. There were 434,
officers and men, on the Congress; 136 were lost; the remainder were saved.
The Minnesota, one of the first-class vessels in the navy, was the next object of the Merrimac's attention. Late in the afternoon, accompanied by two steam tugs, she bore down upon the Minnesota. Fortunately, there was not sufficient depth of water to allow of her coming very near; so, taking a position a mile distant, on the starboard bow, she opened fire, but did not accomplish much by the operation. The Minnesota lay aground about two miles from Newport News; and the St. Lawrence, also anxious to join in the contest, was grounded near by. As there was no cnance of these vessels getting away that night, and as the evening bad already set in, the Merrimac steamed back to her anchorage, satisfied with what she had done, and waiting for the next day's light to prove further her powers of destructiveness. Two were reported to have been killed; Buchanan, the commander, and seven others wounded.
That was a gloomy Saturday night, not only to those in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe, but to every part of the country whither the electric telegraph conveyed the astounding news of the Merrimac's doings. The Cumberland was sunk in the waters, the Congress lay wrapped in flames, the Minnesota was helplessly imbedded in the sand, nothing appeared to be safe, for nothing on land or water seemed to be able to meet the terrible assaults of the Merrimac. .It was at this point, when hope was well nigh gone, that the Monitor appeared on the scene of
action; and providentially brought that help which none other was able to afford.
Untried, unknown, regarded with much doubt by many who were thought to be wise in such matters, this remarkable vessel arrived at Fortress Monroe, about ten o'clock in the evening. In every way a novelty; in appearance, not unlike what the Norfolk rebels termed her, "a Yankee cheese-box set on a raft;" and with hardly anything visible but a flat iron deck on the surface of the water, surmounted by a low round tower, pilot box, and smoke-pipe, few supposed the Monitor capable of performing what the next day fully proved her ability to do. With a hull impossible to be injured, and with a tower only ten feet high and twenty in diameter, revolving readily, and mounting two 11-inch guns, the Monitor was, in fact, a bomb-proof fort, of immense power and effectiveness.*
The Monitor was now emphatically on her trial trip. She had just been completed, had left New York under orders, on the 6th of March, and had arrived in Hampton Roads on the evening of the 8th. The passage was exceedingly rough and stormy, but the Monitor proved to be a capital sea boat, and all on board of her were eager to test her capabilities in a deadly grapple with the Merrimac. Captain Worden was directed to lay the Monitor along side the Minnesota, which he accord
* For a full and carefully prepared account of ironed or armored vessels, in referenco both to our own and to the navies of other nations, see Appleton's "American Annual Cyclopaedia," pp. 604-628. See also the first volume of Boynton's "Hiitory of the Jfary during the Rebellion."
THE MONITOR MEETS THE MERRIMAC.
ingly did, reaching that position at two o'cloc k on Sunday morning.
At daylight, the Merrimac was astir again, ready to sweep from her path every obstacle, and expecting probably to clear the Roads entirely of the blockading fleet, if not to bombard and take Fortress Monroe itself. She had numerous attendants, even those who came merely to look on, and enjoy the sight of what the monster ram was to do in the wa}r of ruin. The Monitor took her position at once in front of the Minnesota, and discharged one of her 11-inch Dahlgrens upon the Merrimac. It was an astounding challenge, like a pigmy assaulting a giant; but a hundred and sixty-eight pound shot was not to be despised, come from where it might, and so the Merrimac prepared to make short work of her diminutive assailant. It was soon found, however, that the Monitor was not easily to be beaten. Broadside after broadside produced no effect upon her; it was of no avail to attempt, as the Merrimac did, to run her down, and crush her in that way; the active Monitor, with her revolving battery ever pointing full upon the ram, poured forth shot incessantly upon the sides, at the bow and the stern, seeking some vulnerable spot. The contest raged for hours, when the Monitor withdrew for a space to hoist more shot into her turret. This being done, the fight was renewed; but the Merrimac was glad ere long to retire towards Sewall's Point. It needed no words to express the fact that she was badly beaten, and compelled to stop in her career. The Monitor did not pursue the fleeing vessel; she was under
orders to act on the defensive; and as the lesson just given to the rebels was a severe one, it was thought that it would probably answer for the present.*
The Merrimac was seriously injured, but to what extent was not made public; the Monitor came out of the contest unharmed, except by a tremendous blow from a shot striking the pilot house. Capt. Worden, who was in the pilot house, directing the movements of the vessel, was stunned by the concussion, and for a time partially blinded. On rallying, he was greeted with the cheering news that the Minnesota was safe, and the Merrimac driven off to her rebel home.f
Gen. Shields, with his division at Winchester (see p. 131), having ascertained, March 19th, that Jackson was strongly posted near Mount Jackson, resolved to try and draw him out by a feigned retreat, and thus fight him to greater advantage. The troops were sent off towards Cen
• Mr. A. C. Stimers, chief engineer of the United States service, was on board the Monitor as government inspector. He wrote a spirited letter on the day of the fight to Captain Ericsson, the inventor, landing the Monitor in high terms:—" I congratulate you," he said, " upon your great success. Thousands have this day blessed you. I have heard whole crews cheeryou. Every man feels that you have saved this place to the nation by furnishing us with the means to whip an iron-clad frigate, that was, until our arrival, having it all her own way with our most powerful vessels." For an interesting account of Mr. Ericsson's life and labors, see Duyckinck's " War for the Union" vol. ii., pp. 308-312.
f In order to complete the history of the Merrimac's career, we may mention here, that, on the 11th of April, she appeared again in Hampton lioads, and captured a few small vessels; and on the 11th of May, she was blown up by her officers in the Elizabeth River, to prevent her falling into the hands of the Union forces. I The Monitor, to the deep regret of all loyal men, was lost in a violent gale off the coast of North Carolina, Dec. 31st, 1863.
j treville, leaving Ashby's cavalry, who were on the lookout, to suppose that Winchester was being evacuated. On the 22d of March, a skirmish took place near Winchester, during which Shields was badly wounded in the left arm. During the night, a strong force was placed in advance, on the Strasburg road, in a masked, admirably protected position, near Kernstown. The next day, Jackson's troops made an attack upon our men, endeavoring to turn Shields's left flank; but they were repulsed after a severe struggle. An attack was then made on our right, with desperate energy and determination;
I it was, however, met with equal spirit and bravery; Tyler's brigade dashed forward to carry the enemy's batteries,
j and hurl his left flank back upon the centre. Jackson, with his supposed invincible stone-wall brigade and the accompanying brigades, were compelled to fall back upon their reserve. They made an attempt to retrieve the fortune of the day; but were not able to stand the fire of our men. They speedily fled in disorder, leaving Shields in possession
, of the field, the killed and wounded, 300 prisoners, two guns, four caisons, and 1,000 stand of small arms.
Too fatigued to pursue the enemy that night. Shields prepared for the
I next day's work, whether a renewal of the fight with Jackson reinforced, or a driving him into flight. On the 24th of March, the rebels retreated, and during the following week, were pursued to Woodstock, and thence to Edenburg, about twenty miles beyond Strasburg. Skirmishing was kept up byAshby's cavalry, which protected Jackson's retreat.
i i. .
This victory was highly commended by the authorities as "auspicious and decisive," and it served to elevate the spirits of the people in view of the campaign now just being entered upon. Gen. Shields's force was between 7,000 and 8,000; his loss was 103 killed, 440 wounded, twenty-four missing. The | rebels numbered about 10,000; their loss in killed and wounded was over 1,000. I
In carrying forward the plan of the campaign indicated on p. 129, troops were embarked, during the latter part of March, from Alexandria for Fortress Monroe. The transports supplied were found to be insufficient, and there was much delay in getting the troops to their destination. Heintzelman's corps led the way, and landed on the Peninsula, March 23d. Other detachments followed, as rapidly as means of transportation allowed. Gen. McClellan, expecting to have the support of the four army corps, directed that the first corps (McDowell's), be embarked last, intending to use it in mass on either bank of the York River, according as seemed best. He left Washington, April 1st, and arrived at Fortress Monroe the next day. Blenker's division of 10,000 men had been withdrawn, despite his protest, March 31st, to reinforce Fremont:* at the same time, McClellan was allowed to detain him a while at Strasburg, until Jackson was disposed of. As an offset
* Under date, March 31st, the president wrote to McClellan, "I felt constrained to order Blenker's division to Fremont;" and somo days later, April 9th, he wrote, "you know the pressure under which I withdrew Blenker's division.'* What the constraint or pressure was, in how far it was political, personal, or otherwise, is not explained. The reader must judge for himself.
SHIELDS'S SUCCESS OVER JACKSON.
to this, some 10,000 men, under Wool at Fortress Monroe, were placed at McClellan's disposal, at first; but on April 3d, he was forbidden to use them without Wool's sanction. "This order," McClellan remarks, in his report, "left me without any base of operations under my control, and to this day I am ignor
j ant of the causes which led to it."
Very little information was obtained
■ at Fortress Monroe as to the position of affairs on the Peninsula, and the topography of the region had to be learned by experience, rather than by previous surveys or maps. The navy also, it was found, was too busy in looking after the Merrimac and rebel gunboats, to be able to give any of that support on which McClellan had counted, in operating against Yorktown and Gloucester. His plan was, as he says, by rapid movements to
I drive before him or capture the enemy on the Peninsula, open the James River, and press on to Richmond, before the rebels should be materially reinforced from other quarters. But McClellan's plans were not carried out as he intended, because, as he asserts, the means necessary were taken away from him. The army was put in immediate movement against the enemy's works, at various points between Fortress Monroe and Yorktown. Heavy rains had made the roads bad, and although the rebels abandoned some points, yet, when Gen. Keyes reached Lee's Mills, he found the post too strong to be carried, as he had been directed, by assault. Heintzelman arrived in front of Yorktown on the afternoon of April 5th; both columns having been exposed to a warm artillery fire during the ad vance.
It was at this point, while thus engaged, McClellan received an order, dated April 4th, from the president, detaching McDowell's corps from his command. Although done under the impression that it was essential to the safety of Washington against rebel assaults, it proved a severe disappoint- j ment to McClellan; it rendered him powerless, as he says, to turn Yorktown by West Point, and left him no choice but to attack the place directly in front with such force as he had under his command.* In his report, McClellan affirms positively that Mr. Lincoln, when withdrawing Blenker's division, had assured him that no other interference of any kind would be made with the proposed operations on the Peninsula; and he goes on to say that he was shocked at this order, that it marred all his expectations, that, in short, "it was a fatal error" Careful reconnaissances were made for several days, and developed the serious difficulties in the way of our advance, as it had to be forced through dense forests, deep swamps, flooded roads, and the like. On examination by McClellan himself, it was concluded not to risk an immediate assault upon the extensive fortifications which protected so fully Yorktown and Gloucester. From the first arrival of our troops before Yorktown, there was
* There is a curious question as to a matter of fact, which one would suppose not difficult to settle. It is instructive as well as curious, and may give the reader an idea how hard it is to attain positive accuracy where numbers are concerned. The president and secretary of war said that McClellan, according to his own returns had, April 7th, 108,000 men for the peninsular campaign. McClellan declared that at that date, &Vi,000 was the extent of his force all counted. Rather a large difference that of 23,000!