Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/253

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Echoes from Hampton Rhodes. 247

out their deep diapason in a grand chorus of sound that rent the very heavens above. And no wonder. No vessel ever accomplished so great things before or since in so brief a time. For this first cruise of the " Virginia," it must be remembered, began on Saturday, the 8th of March, and ended Sunday afternoon ; scarce thirty-four hours! During that time she had been under the concentrated fire of more than a hundred guns for nearly twelve hours, and as a re- sult she was a sight to behold. The huge smoke-stack was per- forated like a pepper-box. Everything aloft was swept away like stubble. While her solid wrought-iron armor-plating was battered and scarred in nearly a score of places, the most serious of which came from the one hundred and eighty pound shots of the " Moni- tor." But for all this she was not disabled. She returned to the navy-yard chiefly for the purpose of taking on board a .supply of steel-pointed, armor-piercing shot for use against the " Monitor ;" which up to that moment was "an unknown quantity" in the an- nals of naval warfare.

In our first engagement with the " Monitor" our magazines con- tained only shell and a few round shots for heating ; as we were pre- pared to give battle to wooden vessels only, never once expecting to meet another " iron-clad " on our cruise around Hampton Roads. We went into the dry-dock at once. The one thing now for the ' Virginia" to do was to destroy the " Monitor." We believed it could be done. But how ? This was the question that occupied officers and crew on watch and off watch continually. What was to be done with the " Monitor ?" Well, I'll tell you what WE de- cided to do with her, capture her alive ! With this express object in view, and for this very purpose, we organized a boarding party, consisting of four divisions, and each division assigned to its own special part of the work. Volunteers were called for to join in the undertaking. So daring was the enterprise regarded that no one was compelled to join in it.

I can remember now, through the mists of thirty years, how we younsters in the midshipmens' mess confidently expected to return from our next engagement with the " Monitor" in tow as our pris- oner ! Then with our two iron-clads we would quietly proceed to capture New York and Boston, and everything else on the coast that dared to oppose us. Inspired by this hope, and full of confi- dence, we exerted ourselves to the uttermost, and spared no pains to make the expedition a success. The boarding party numbered