Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/11

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5
The Real Projector of the CSS Virginia.

Mr. Porter said to me: "You had better let me do that. I am more familiar than you are with that sort of work." Accepting his offer I went with Williamson to the Tredegar Works, where we learned that no suitable engines could be had. Williamson then said that the engines of the Merrimac could, he thought, be put in working condition, but that the vessel would necessarily have as great a draught as the Merrimac, and that it would be useless to build a new hull, as the lower part of the old one had not been destroyed, and the plan could be applied to her. In view of these facts, Constructor Porter, who also knew what the condition of the vessel was, agreed with us that the plan could be carried out on her. We all thought the draught too great, but we could not do better. We reported verbally to the Secretary; the subject was discussed, and his opinion coincided with ours. He then, in order that a record might be reserved, directed us to make a written report in accordance with the results of the discussion.

As the plan proposed by me had been adopted, I thought it but proper that I should leave the wording of the report to Messrs. Williamson and Porter. I noticed that in designating the plan to be adopted the expression used was "the plan submitted for the approval of the Department." Which plan was not stated.

I now pass to a later period. The action in Hampton Roads had been fought. Among the gallant officers of the Virginia, whose names are now historic, was Lieutenant Robt. D.[Dabney] Minor—a very pink of honor. He had been associated with me in ordnance work, and was frilly informed as to the facts in this matter. From him I received the following letter. It has never been published and will, I think, be read with interest:

"NAVAL HOSPITAL, NORFOLK, VA., March 11, 1862.

"Many thanks, my dear Brooke, for your very kind letter, which reached me by to day's mail.

"You richly deserve the gratitude and thanks of the Confederacy for the plan of the now celebrated Virginia, and I only wish that you could have been with us to have witnessed the successful operations of this new engine of naval warfare, fostered by your care and watched over by your inventive mind.

"It was a great victory, though the odds were nearly seven to one against us in guns and in numbers. But the IRON and the HEAVY GUNS did the work, handled by such a man as glorious old Buchanan,


[Notes: The spelling of Merrimac and Merrimack were both used by Confederates even after she became the ironclad CSS Virginia. On her maiden voyage the CSS Virginia was captained by "Buck" Buchanan and the flag officer was Lt. Robert Dabney Minor. They were both wounded after trying to save Union men on a burning ship — from shots fired at them from shore. Thus both Buchanan and Minor were in the hospital the following day. The 2nd day Catesby ap Roger Jones was captain of the CSS Virginia vs. the Monitor. Source: "Civil War at Sea" By Virgil Carrington Jones.]