Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 32.djvu/365

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Historic Waters of Virginia. 353

hulk of the Congress. It was at this juncture that Admiral Buch- anan, fearlessly exposing himself on the roof of the Virginia, re- ceived the wound which cost him a limb, and which incapacitated him from further command. * * * Of this episode the Admiral, in his report to Secretary Mallory, says:

"Determined that the Congress should not fall again into the hands of the enemy, I remarked to that gallant young officer, Lieu- tenant Minor, ' that the ship must be burned.' He promptly vol- unteered to take a boat and destroy her, and the Teaser, Lieutenant Webb, was ordered to cover the boat. Lieutenant Minor had scarcely approached within fifty yards of the boat when a deadly fire was opened upon him, wounding him severely and several of his men. On witnessing this vile treachery, I instantly recalled the boat and ordered the Congress to be demolished by hot shot and incendiary shell. About this period I was disabled and transferred the command of the ship to that gallant and intelligent officer, Lieutenant Catesby Jones, with orders to fight her as long as the men could stand to their guns." * * *

An effort was made afterwards by Federal writers to convict Ad- miral Buchanan of wanton cruelty in firing upon a dismantled ship after the white flag had been hoisted, but the question is settled in his favor by the following extract from the report of General Mans- field, commanding the Federal forces at Newport News:

" The enemy then sent two steamers to haul the Congress off or burn her. As soon as I saw this I ordered Colonel Brown, of the 2oth Indiana Regiment, to send two rifle companies to the beach, while two rifled guns and a Dahlgren howitzer went into action from a raking position on the beach. We here had them, at about 800 yards, to advantage, and immediately they let go their hold on the Congress and moved out of range with much loss. They then en- deavored to approach her again with a steamer and rowboat, but were beaten off with severe punishment, until finally the Merrimac, finding her prize' retaken, fired three shots into her and set her on fire."

This is conclusive, and needs no comment. The Congress may now be disposed of in a few words. Far into the night the heavens were illuminated by the reflection from the blazing timbers, while from time to time, as the heat penetrated to her hold, her shotted guns were discharged. Her career closed towards the morning of the Qth, when, with a deafening report, her magazine exploded.