Friday, March 9, 2012


When the U.S.S. Monitor met the C. S. S.  Virginia (the former Merrimac)
met on March 9, 1862, Naval  history  was made with the first battle between
ironclad warships. Wooden warships were rendered obsolete and it was just
a matter of time before they would be replaced. (Library of Congress)
Richmond Daily Dispatch
March 11, 1862

     [March 9, 1862, Hampton Roads, Va.] Some detention occurred on board the Virginia on Sunday morning, we learn, or she would have commenced the engagement much earlier than 8½ o'clock; at which time she, together with the Patrick Henry and Jamestown, 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 Ericson Batters, 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 30 or 40 yards apart. Unfortunately, the Virginia ran aground, and the Ericson 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 full head of steam, ran her bow into the Ericson, 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 laying along-side the Minnesota had a shell thrown aboard 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 day's battle, is exceedingly large, and estimated at from six to twelve hundred. The scene around the Congress is represented as heart-stricken. The officers of the Beaufort, who ran alongside of her on Saturday night, and who boarded her for the purpose of removing the wounded, 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 literally covered with the dead and dying. One of them assures 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.
Lt. Catesby  Jones took command of the
Virginia when Captain Buchanan was
wounded at the  beginning of the
engagements. (Library of Congress)
     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, Capt Buchanan and Lt. Minor. These wounds, however, we are happy to state, are but slight.
     On the Raleigh, Midshipman Mutter was killed, and Captains Taylor and Alexander wounded, the first-mentioned quite severely.
     On the Seaport Gunner W Robinson and two seamen were wounded. This was all the damage sustained by this 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 Minnie 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 soon from the above, amounts to only seven killed and 17 wounded.
     This 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 flag-staffs 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 times 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, Esq., 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 re-enact 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 Captain Buchanan that during the thickest of the fight he remained on the deck of the Virginia, and that be 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.

Crewmen of the U.S.S. Monitor
(Library of Congress)

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