Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 40/The Merrimac and the Monitor
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The Merrimac and the Monitor
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MERRIMAC AND MONITOR.
Captain W. C. WHITTLE.
Grand Commander and Comrades of the Grand Camp of Con- federate Veterans of Virginia:
I have been honored by the Pickett-Buchanan Camp of Con- federate Veterans, in being selected to be their spokesman upon this interesting and inspiring occasion, to greet and welcome you as their guests, to our city and section of our grand old Com- monwealth of Virginia. I fully) appreciate the distinguished honor thus conferred upon me, but for your sakes I wish it had fallen to one better able than I to measure up to the require- ments of the occasion. When I was appointed, feeling my in- sufficiency, I urged them to choose some one else. They were indiscreet enough to decline. Upon which, I consented, saying, "Well, my comrades, I will charge that battery, and if I am repulsed, upon you must rest the responsibility." Thus the honor of welcoming you, upon your Twentieth Annual Reunion, is placed on me, and inspired by the memory of your courage and patriotism in time of war, your patience and fortitude since, I speak as to men who, during all the vicissitudes of life, have been tried and proven, and have never been found lacking in anything going to make up true and loyal manhood and citizenship.
- My friends, noble patriots, followers of the immortal Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, you, under God's benign and merciful wisdom, are spared a small remnant of a noble race of men. who with the courage of their convictions, unhesitatingly rushed, at the call of our dear old mother State, Virginia, to meet and battle with the invaders and despoilers of her sacred soil. Your noble deeds have not been surpassed in the annals of history.
We annually assemble, with no rancor in our hearts towards our late foes, but to keep in everlasting remembrance the fact
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that we have done our duty in war and in peace ; and that those who come after may emulate the courage, loyalty and sacrifice of true patriots. When the question is asked what the followers of Lee and Jackson fought for, let the ringing, unchangeable and ever true response be given, that they fought against in- vasion and subjugation, and for their wives and children, then- dear ones and their homes.
As followers of our immortal Lee, in war, and in compliance with his admonitions after the surrender at Appomattox, for peace, we have had it demonstrated, indisputably, that we have not failed in our duty. This was proved in war, on every battle field, and the phenomenal recuperation of our dear Southland since, proves its truth, in peace.
Our annual reunions are most salutary and peace-giving; they are like the satisfying assurances coming to ships, speaking each other while traversing stormy seas, dark and tempestuous, all aiming for the same port, the "Haven where they would be." It gives an opportunity to verify their position, and to take any course that may be found necessary to secure the desired con- summation.
The followers of Lee, I believe, are still following the principles of the greatest human leader that, take him all in all, was ever born in this or any other land ; and my dear comrades, his chief and most potent greatness, rested in the fact that in his every thought, word, deed and hope, he was always a consistent and faithful follower of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
Your assembling here now is most auspicious; for, three hundred years ago, the spirit of God moved over the face of the waters, and tabernacled in the minds, hearts and souls of brave men, who took to three frail vessels, which under the guidance and protection of ithe omniscient and omnipotent God, were safely brought across the Atlantic Ocean, and to our contiguous and historic waters, and established the first permanent English settlement on our continent. Their lives, under God, have hal- lowed the manhood and purity of our phenomenally great Republic. %
In commemoration of this great event, the Jamestown Ter- Centennial Exposition is now being held, and is supported by the best citziens all over our land.
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The leaders in this educational and inspiring enterprise, and many of the civic bodies of the City of Norfolk, unite with the Pickett-Buchanan Camp of Confederate Veterans, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, in receiving you as their guests.
I may well say then, that the time, place and occasion for your meeting are singularly auspicious. I trust, my comrades,, that you may, individually and collectively, avail of it to your edification in visiting our neighboring waters, the cradle of our Republic and of Protestantism on our continent.
In this connection, to perpetuate true history, I would state that Hampton Roads, so intimately associated with these historic events, was again made memorable in 1862, when the gallant Confederate Admiral, Franklin Buchanan, for whom our Camp is partly called, on the 8th day of March, 1862, in the trans- formed and untried iron-clad "Virginia," and a few improvised consorts from James River, boldly steamed down the Elizabeth River, to attack the large Federal Fleet in Hampton Roads. The Confederate vessels mounted 27 guns and the Federal vessels mounted over 200. The first victim of this bold dash, was the U. S. Ship "Cumberland," anchored near Newport News, which was sunk after a heroic defense, by the Virginia's guns, and by ramming with her iron prow.
Next came the U. S. Frigate "Congress," which ran ashore in attempting to escape, and under the Virginia's guns, hoisted the white flag of surrender. When Buchanan sent a small con- sort to receive the surrender, and rescue the drowning of her crew, his ship and that of the rescuers, were treacherously fired upon by the Federals. By his fusilade, the brave Buchanan was grievously wounded, and several of our officers and men were killed and wounded. Then it was that for this perfidy, he opened fire on the "Congress" with hot shot, set fire to and de- stroyed her.
The "Virginia" steamed up Elizabeth River to put her wounded Commander under hospital treatment. The brave Catesby ap Roger Jones, the efficient executive officer, succeeded to the command of the Virginia, and on the following day, March Qth, 1862, went down to renew the conflict. The U. S. iron-clad "Monitor" had arrivd in Hamtpon Roads the night
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before, and steamed out to meet the Virginia. It was known that the Monitor's guns were heavier than ours. A desperate battle, of some three hours, was fought between these leviathans of marine war, at the expiration of which the "Monitor" with- drew from the conflict, and sought safety in shoal waters, where, from her greater draught, the "Virginia" could not follow. The "Virginia" steatmed about, daring her to renew the conflict, but she declined. The Confederate iron-clad went up the Elizabeth River, and was docked, and her prow, injured in sinking the Cumberland, was replaced. When this was done, under the gal- lant Commodore Josiah Tatnall, who was appointed to command, she steamed down to Hampton Rtoads, and found the "Moni- tor" and a heavy Federal fleet bombarding a Confederate battery on Sewall's Point. Tatnll shaped his course for them, and they all, the "Monitor" included, ran for protection under the guns of Fortress Monroe and quietly remained there while Tatnall sent two of his consorts in and captured two Federal supply vessels and towed them to Norfolk, amid cheers from the foreign war- ships in view of this desperate courage.
The "Monitor" could never be induced to fight her vic- torious adversary again, and had no instrumentality in the "Vir- ginia's" subsequent destruction above Craney Island, by her officers, when Norfolk was evacuated. From this first battle between iron-clad vessels in the world's history, arose the entire revolution in the navies of the whole world.
Again, my comrades and friends, as spokesman of the Pickett-Buchanan Camp of Confederate Veterans, I extend to you a most heartfelt and cordial welcome ; a welcome which is also extended to your wives, who have been with you through all the vicissitudes of life; by sympathy, encouraging you, and by their counsels, aiding you in all the trials through which you have passed; and also, to your children, who, trained and en- couraged by your noble lives, will be qualified to emulate your illustrious example. Too much can never be said, in praise, of the fortitude and loyalty, in War and Peace, of our Southern women, the purest, the best and noblest of God's creation. May God bless us, my comrades, and make us worthy of their love and their confidence.