|The C.S.S. Virginia, the former U.S.S. Merrimac, was hailed|
for making Naval history with its victory at Hampton Roads
by the Richmond press. (Naval History Center)
March 12, 1862
We have received several descriptive letters, from our special and occasional correspondents, of the great naval victory of Saturday and Sunday last, but the late hour of their arrival precludes the possibility of their publication this morning. The following is from the Norfolk Day Book, of the 11th inst:
It is said that the Captain of the Congress, on seeing the Virginia bear down towards his ship on saturday, mustered his men, and addressed them thus: "My hearties, you see before you the great Southern bugaboo, got up to fright us out of our wits. Stand to your guns, and let me assure you that one good broadside from our gallant frigate, and she is ours!" When that broadside was poured into the Virginia, the Captain in dismay witnessed its effects, and seeing it did not even raise the armor of the Virginia, he again addressed his crew, and said: "Well, my hearties, that was a terrific fire, but I have been mistaken. They have got us, unless we can give them Bull Run." This is said to be a positive fact, as reported by one of the prisoners on board the Congress.
On board the Cumberland, we learn that many of the crew were looking on the Virginia as she bore down upon them, and making all manner of derisive and contemptuous remarks, many of them aloud, and within the hearing of those on board the Virginia, such as: "Well, there she comes,""What the devil does she look like?""What in h--11 is she after?""Let's look at that great Secesh curiosity," &c. These remarks were cut short by a discharge from the Virginia's bow gun, which swept from one end of the Cumberland's deck to the other, killing and wounding numbers of the poor deluded wretches; and in a few minutes after, the most of the remainder of them found a watery grave from the effects of the terrible work of the object of their merriment and contempt.
This successful and terrible work of the Virginia on Saturday will create a revolution in naval warfare, and henceforth iron will be king of the sea. The nations of Europe have been discussing this principle for a number of years past, but it was left for the people of the South, battling for their independence, to develop its feasibility and success. The ingenuity of Southern mechanic will henceforth receive its proper meed of praise from the world at large, and the master mind that conceived and excused the plan of the Virginia will occupy a proud position among those whom the people delight to honor. He has, with his own hands as it were, created an engine of destruction against our enemies move possible far than an army of 100,000 men, has given his country the command of the enemy's navy, which has been our most terrible annoyance; and if our rulers are wise, they will hasten to avail themselves of the power thus tendered them by building at least a dozen more just such vessels, varying their draft so as to suit our various rivers and harbors.
The Virginia, it is intimated, while up here, has changed her forward and aft pivot guns for two of the celebrated Armstrong guns, which lately found their way into this vicinity. She is now ready, "cocked and primed," as the saying is, to do any little job of work our folks may conclude to put her at, with as much case, facility and dispatch as she did her admirable job of destroying those three first class Yankee men-of-war on Saturday and Sunday last. Long may she wave!