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Still she could go faster than an ordinary sailing
vessel, and her resistless momentum and iron prow enabled her to crush
any vessel afloat as if it were an egg-shell.

Great pains were taken by the Confederates to keep secret the
particulars of her building; but it was known in Washington that a
strange craft was in course of construction at Norfolk, with which it
was expected to capture Washington and devastate the leading cities
along the Atlantic seaboard. Ericsson, the famous Swedish inventor, was
engaged near New York in building a smaller vessel upon the same
principle, and he was pressed to make all possible haste in finishing
it; for, though the government did not suspect the terrible
effectiveness of the _Merrimac_, they meant to take all reasonable
precautions against it.


AWFUL WORK OF THE MERRIMAC.

There were lying at Hampton Roads at that time five Union vessels,
which, being so close to the dangerous craft, were on the alert day and
night for her appearance. About noon on March 8th a column of dark smoke
in the direction of the Norfolk navy yard, followed by the forging into
sight of the huge hulk, left no doubt that the long-expected _Merrimac_
was coming forth upon her errand of death and destruction. In her
company were three gunboats ready to aid her in any way possible. The
steam frigate _Minnesota_ and _Roanoke_ and the sailing frigates
_Congress_, _Cumberland_, and _St. Lawrence_ immediately cleared their
decks for action.

The _Minnesota_ and _Roanoke_ moved out to meet the _Merrimac_, but both
got aground. In the case of the _Minnesota_ this was due to the
treachery of the pilot, who was in the employ of the Confederates. The
_Cumberland_ swerved so as to bring her broadsides to bear, and opened
with her pivot guns, at the distance of a mile. The aim was accurate,
but the iron balls which struck the massive hide of the _Merrimac_
bounded off like pebbles skipping over the water. Then the _Congress_
added her broadsides to those of the _Cumberland_, but the leviathan
shed them all as if they were tiny hailstones, and, slowly advancing in
grim silence, finally opened with her guns, quickly killing four marines
and five sailors on the _Cumberland_. Then followed her resistless
broadsides, which played awful havoc with officers and men. Swinging
slowly around, the _Merrimac_ next steamed a mile up the James, and,
turning again, came back under full speed. Striking the _Cumberland_
under the starboard bow, she smashed a hole into her through which a
horse might have entered. The ship keeled over until her yardarms were
close to the water. The terrific force broke off the prow of the
_Merrimac_, but her frightful shots riddled the _Cumberland_ and set
her on fire. The flames were extinguished, and the _Cumberland_
delivered broadside after broadside, only to see the enormous missiles
fly off and spin harmlessly hundreds of feet away.

Lieutenant George U. Morris, of the _Cumberland_, ran up the red flag
meaning "no surrender," and with a heroism never surpassed maintained
the unequal fight, if fight it can be called where there was absolutely
no hope for him. Finally the _Cumberland_ went down to her cross-trees,
in fifty-four feet of water. Lieutenant Morris succeeded in saving
himself by swimming, but of the crew of 376, 121 lost their lives.

The _Cumberland_ being destroyed, the _Merrimac_ headed for the
_Congress_, which had run aground. She replied with her harmless
broadsides, but the _Merrimac_ held her completely at her mercy, raking
her fore and aft, and killing 100 of the crew, including the commander.
It being evident that not a man could escape, the white flag was run up
in token of surrender. The hot firing from the shore preventing
Commodore Buchanan from taking possession of the _Congress_, whereupon
he fired her with hot shot.

During the fighting, Commodore Buchanan fearlessly exposed himself on
the upper deck of the _Merrimac_, and was badly wounded in the thigh by
a Union sharpshooter, whereupon the command was assumed by Lieutenant
Jones. By that time it was growing dark and the _Merrimac_ steamed back
to Sewall's Point, intending to return the next morning and complete her
appalling work of destruction.


CONSTERNATION IN THE NORTH.

The news of what she had done caused consternation throughout the North.
President Lincoln called a special cabinet meeting, at which Secretary
Stanton declared, in great excitement, that nothing could prevent the
monster from steaming up the Potomac, destroying Washington, and laying
the principal northern cities under contribution. The alarm of the bluff
secretary was natural, but there was no real ground for it.


THE MONITOR.

The Swedish inventor, John Ericsson, had completed his _Monitor_, which
at that hour was steaming southward from New York. Although an ironclad
like the _Merrimac_, she was as different as can be conceived in
construction. She resembled a raft, the upper portion of which was 172
feet long and the lower 124 feet. The sides of the former were made of
oak, twenty-five inches thick, and covered with five-inch iron armor.

The turret was protected by eight-inch plates of wrought iron,
increasing in thickness to the port-holes, near which it was eleven
inches through. It was nine feet high, with a diameter of twenty-one
feet. She drew only ten feet of water, and was armored with two
eleven-inch Dahlgren guns, smooth bore, firing solid shot weighing 180
pounds.

The pilot-house was made of nine-inch plates of forged iron, rose four
feet above the deck, and would hold three men by crowding. The _Monitor_
was one-fifth the size of the _Merrimac_, and her appearance has been
likened to that of a cheese-box on a raft. She was in command of
Lieutenant John L. Worden, with Lieutenant S. Dana Green as executive
officer. Her crew consisted of sixteen officers and forty-two men, and
she left New York on the morning of March 6th, in tow of a tug-boat. The
greatest difficulty was encountered in managing her, the men narrowly
escaping being smothered by gas, and, had not the weather been unusually
favorable, she would have foundered; but providentially she steamed into
Hampton Roads, undiscovered by the enemy, and took her position behind
the _Minnesota_, ready for the events of the morrow.

[Illustration: JOHN ERICSSON.

The famous constructor of the Monitor.]

The _Merrimac_ was promptly on time the next morning, and was
accompanied by two gunboats; but while steaming toward the remaining
Union vessels the _Monitor_ darted out from behind the _Minnesota_ and
boldly advanced to meet her terrible antagonist. They silently
approached each other until within a hundred yards, when the _Monitor_
fired a shot, to which the _Merrimac_ replied. The firing was rapid for
a time and then became slower, with the intervening space varying from
fifty yards to four times that distance. A number of the _Merrimac's_
shots struck the _Monitor's_ pilot-house and turret, the crash doing no
harm except almost to deafen the men within. Most of the shells,
however, missed or skipped over the low deck of the smaller boat.

The latter was able to dodge the rushes of the larger craft and play all
around her, but the terrible pounding worked damage to both, the
_Monitor_ suffering the most. The iron plate of the pilot-house was
lifted by a shell, which blinded Lieutenant Worden, and so disabled him
that he was forced to turn over the command to Lieutenant Green. Worden,
who lived to become an admiral, never fully recovered from his injuries.
The firing, dodging, ramming, and fighting continued for four hours, but
the _Merrimac_ was unable to disable her nimble antagonist, and slowly
steamed back to Norfolk, while the _Monitor_ returned to her former
position, and was carefully kept in reserve by the government against
future perils of a similar character.


FATE OF THE MERRIMAC AND MONITOR.

Neither of the vessels was permitted to do further service. Some months
later, upon the evacuation of Norfolk, the _Merrimac_ was blown up to
prevent her falling into the hands of the Unionists, and the _Monitor_
foundered off Hatteras in December, 1862. The battle wrought a complete
revolution in naval warfare. The days of wooden ships ended, and all the
navies of the world are now made up mainly of ironclads.

More important work was done by the Union fleets during this year. The
government put forth every energy to build ships, with the result that
hundreds were added to the naval force, many of which were partial and
others wholly ironclad.


OTHER COAST OPERATIONS.

A month before the fight between the _Monitor_ and _Merrimac_, a
formidable naval expedition under Commodore Goldsborough and General
Ambrose E. Burnside passed down the Atlantic coast and captured Roanoke
Island. St. Augustine and a number of other places in Florida were
captured by troops from Port Royal. Siege was laid to Fort Pulaski, at
the mouth of the Savannah River, and it surrendered April 11th. The
advantage of these and similar captures was that it gave the blockading
fleets control of the principal harbors, and made it easier to enforce a
rigid blockade. There were two ports, however, which the Union vessels
were never able to capture until the close of the war. They were
Charleston and Wilmington, North Carolina. The latter became the chief
port from which the Confederate blockade-runners dashed out or entered
and were enabled to bring the most-needed medical and other supplies to
the Confederacy, while at the same time the owners and officers of the
ships reaped fortunes for themselves.


CAPTURE OF NEW ORLEANS.

One of the primal purposes of the war was to open the Mississippi, which
was locked by the enemy at Vicksburg and New Orleans. As a necessary
step in the opening of the great river, an expedition was fitted out for
the capture of New Orleans. Well aware of what was coming, the
Confederates had done all they could to strengthen the defenses of the
city. Thirty miles from the mouth of the Mississippi were the powerful
Forts Jackson and St.



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