Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/136
130 Southern Historical Society Papers.
It was not necessary to " call all hands up anchor" on board the Patrick Henry, xh^ ^^chor wdiS "raised with a run," and under a full head of steam the vessel sped on her way to aid her powerful friend.
The Confederate vessels in James river formed " in line ahead" as they approached the batteries at Newport News. The Patrick Henry, lo, Commander Tucker, leading ; next C'diVCi^ \h& Jamestown, 2, Lieutenant-Commanding Barney ; and next the Teaser, 2, Lieu- tenant-Commanding Webb. The Virginia reached the scene of action first ; amidst the iron hail which fell harmlessly on her ar- mour, she ran into and sank the Cumberland; a hearty cheer from the James river vessels greeted her success, but there was no time to give up to exultation, the long line of the Newport News batte- ries were close at hand, and in order to reach the naval combat it was necessary to pass them. The guns of the Patrick Henry were elevated for a range of eight hundred yards, that being the distance at which the pilots expected to pass the batteries.
And now the hush which precedes the shock of battle settled alike on Federal and Confederate. Through the embrasures of the Fede- ral batteries glimpses could be caught of the men at their guns, but not a sound came from them. As the Patrick He?iry ranged up abreast of the first battery she delivered her fire, and the flash from her guns had scarcely vanished when the Federal works were wrap- ped in smoke, and their projectiles came hissing through the air. The first shots from the Patrick Henry went over the batteries, her guns having been elevated for a range of eight hundred yards, con- sequently she was passing the batteries at less than that distance, and to this circumstance is to be attributed her not having been sunk or disabled by them. The enemy supposed she would pass as far from them as the channel would allow, and had elevated their guns for that range ; the vessel passing closer than they thought she would, their shot for the most part passed over her. She was struck, however, several times during the passage ; one shot passed through the crew of No. 3 gun, wounding two men and killing one, a volun- teer from the army, who had come on board to serve only for the fight. His last words as he fell were, " Never mind me, boys."
Having passed the batteries with less damage than was expected, the Patrick Henry became engaged in the thick of the fight ; whilst the forward guns were engaging one enemy, the after-guns were firing at another. The situation of the Confederate wooden vessels at this time seemed desperate. The Newport News batteries were on one