Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 20.djvu/14
Southern Historcial Society Papers.
THE GREAT NAVAL FIGHT.
At about 2.40 P. M. the Merrimac, having reached position, went into action. In passing the Congress she fired her starboard broad- side at this vessel, and, receiving hers in return without damage, made directly for the Cumberland, then in position off the upper end of the land battery. It appears that the Cumberland, to prevent being rammed or to ward off floating torpedoes, had endeavored to secure protection by placing a raft of a few heavy spars at her bow. Dashing through these, the prow of the Merrimac struck the side of the Cumberland, at right angles, under the fore-rigging, on the star- board side. Lieutenant Catesby Jones, the executive officer of the Merrimac, says: "The noise of the crashing timbers was heard above the din of battle. There was no sign of the hole above water. It must have been large, for the vessel soon began to careen. The shock to us was slight. Backing off from the sinking vessel, we headed up the James river to turn round and engage the Congress." To do this, a most tedious movement, the Merrimac had twice to pass within close range of the shore batteries. They opened a heavy fire upon her, but with little or no damage, as such shot and shell as struck her sides took the angle of inclination and went up in the air.
THE CUMBERLAND SUNK.
In the meantime the Cumberland, though visibly careening and settling in the water, continued her fire. As the advancing water drove the men from the gun-deck they took refuge on the spar-deck and opened fire upon us with her pivot-guns. Lieutenant George U. Morris, her executive officer in command (Captain Radford being absent on duty), says in his official report : " At 3.30 P. M. the water had gained upon us, notwithstanding the pumps were actively at work, to a degree that the forward magazine being drowned we had to take powder from the after magazine for the ten-inch gun. At 3.35 P. M. the water had risen to the main hatchway and the ship canted to port, and we delivered a parting fire, each man trying to save himself by jumping overboard. Timely notice was given and all the wounded who could walk were ordered out of the cock-pit, but those of the wounded in the sick bay and on the berth-deck were so mangled that it was impossible to save them. We have lost