118 Southern Historical Society Papers.
critical time, and to confide to him the important information which was given to no other person.
(i.) That the Merrimac could have easily destroyed the Minne- sota on Saturday [March 8th], but they did not wish to harm her; she would be too valuable to them as a prize. They felt sure of her on the morrow, with all the other craft in the Roads and at anchor at Fortress Monroe.
Did Captain Byers get this valuable information from the com- manding officer of the Merrimac, or from whom ? He fails to en- lighten us on this subject. Not from the Secretary of the United States Navy, for he tells you in his annual report of December i, 1862, that the Minnesota
Which had also got aground in the shallow waters of the channel, be- came the special object of attack, and the Merrimac, with the York- town and Jamestown, bore down upon her. The Merrimac drew too much water to approach very near, and her fire was not, therefore, particularly effective. The other steamers selected their positions, fired with much accuracy, and caused considerable damage to the Minnesota. She soon, however, succeeded in getting a gun to bear on the two smaller steamers, and drove them away, one apparently in a crippled condition. About 7 P. M. the Merrimac also hauled off, and all three stood toward Norfolk.
(Van Brunt and Catesby Jones and others, make this same state- ment.)
Captain Byers further states, that " the Merrimac lay in dry-dock repairing and strengthening for six weeks ^ &c. Compare this with all of the other testimony and see how inaccurate it is. (Professor Soley says that she was out in less than a month. All the testimony shows beyond a doubt that Byers was incorrect.) Again Captain Byers says:
After the Merrimac was repaired and came out of dock, the only thing she did was to form part of an expedition to go out into the Roads to attempt to capture the Monitor.
The expedition was made up of the Merrimac and two tugs, manned by thirty volunteers on each tug-boat. They were all armed and provided with iron wedges and top mauls and tar balls. The plan was to board her, a tug on each side landing the men, and throwing lighted tar balls down through the ventilator, and wedge up the turret so it would not revolve. They took my steamer as one of the boats, but I refused to command her or go with her.