Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/15

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9
The Real Projector of the CSS Virginia.

are due to a kind Providence whose blessings on my efforts I have many times invoked. I must say I was astonished at the success of the Virginia. She destroyed the Cumberland in fifteen minutes, and in thirty more the Congress was captured. The Minnesota would have shared the same fate, but she got aground, and the Virginia could not get at her."


In the Whig of March 22, appeared the following letter:


" THE VIRGINIA.


" RICHMOND, March 18, 1862.


" To the Editor of the Whig:

"As the brilliant success of the Virginia has attracted the attention of all the country, and is destined to cast much glory on our infant navy, it may be of general interest to publish some account of the origin of this magnificent ship.

"On the 23d of June a board consisting of W. P. Williamson, chief engineer; John M. Brooke, lieutenant; and John L. Porter, naval constructor; met in Richmond by order of the Secretary of the Navy to determine a plan for the construction of an iron-clad vessel. The Secretary of the Navy was himself present at the meeting of the board. After full consultation a plan proposed by Lieutenant John M. Brooke was adopted, and received the full approval of the Secretary of the Navy.

" The plan contemplated the construction of a light-draft vessel, but the means at our command being limited, many reasons induced them to take the Merrimac and alter her according to the plan adopted. Her boilers were good, and her engines only partially destroyed, and could be repaired in less time than would be required to construct an engine for a new vessel of light draft. It was found that the plan of Lieutenant Brooke could easily be applied to the Merrimac, and, in fact, no other plan could have made the Merrimac an effective ship. Her guns now command every point of the horizon.

" A report was made up by the above-named officers to the Secretary of the Navy on the 25th of June, in accordance with these facts, and the Secretary ordered the work to commence forthwith.

" Experiments to determine the mode of applying the armor and to fix the dimensions of its parts were conducted by Lieutenant Brooke.

" From the moment that the plan was adopted the Secretary of the