Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 20.djvu/11

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The Merrimac or Virginia. 5

in the matter, makes the possibility of a reversion apparently hopeless.

As early as 1847 Mr. Porter seems to have made model of a case- mated iron floating battery, and it is evident the matter was one of deep interest to him. His familiarity with the subject and his expe- rience, ability, and ingenuity, as attested by the Secretary of the Navy, was most potent in the construction of the Merrimac. I well remember at the time his unwearied, unflagging devotion to the work, and I much doubt whether we had within the limits of the Confederacy a man so well equipped to meet the necessities of the case.

CONVERSION OF THE MERRIMAC.

The hull of the Merrimac, when raised and put in the dry- dock, was found to be about two hundred and seventy-five feet in length. About one hundred and sixty feet of the central part of the hull was covered over with a roof of oak and pine wood twenty-two inches in thickness, inclined at an angle of thirty-five degrees. Upon this structure of wood four inches of iron, consisting of plates about eight inches wide and two inches thick, were bolted. The first course of iron was placed longitudinally, the outer course up and down. The forward and after ends of the roof were rounded and the apex of the roof was flat on top, about eight feet wide, and covered over with permanent gratings of two-inch square iron. The grating was pierced for four hatchways to permit egress from the gun-decks to the grating, or outside of the ship, where alone was there standing room on the outside. That part of the ship's bow and stern not covered by the casemate (about fifty-eight feet at each end) was covered with deck- ing planks and was under water. The vessel, when in fighting trim, had much the appearance of the roof of a house afloat. Her prow was of cast-iron, projected two feet from the stem, was under water two feet, and weighed one thousand five hundred pounds. Her battery consisted of four Brooke rifle-guns and six nine-inch Dahl- gren shell-guns. Her engines and steam power were inadequate. They were deficient in her best days. Time had not improved them, and with all our efforts they continued to be defective and a source of anxiety to the last. To the future historian of the South one of the most remarkable phases of our struggle will be, how a people so unused to arts and manufactures, so poorly equipped with tools and shops and materials, could have accomplished what they did. De-