Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 20.djvu/27

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The Merrimac or Virginia.


the presence of the Monitor and the Federal fleet. As our ships returned with their captures they passed near the stern of the Eng- lish Corvette Rinaldo, the officers and crew of which waved their handkerchiefs and hats in salute. We held our position in the Roads until sundown, and at night anchored off Sewell's Point. A day or so after this the Merrimac, again in need of repairs, went up to Norfolk. During the forty-five days she was under Commodore Tatnall's command there were but thirteen days in which she was not in dock or undergoing necessary repairs.


In consequence of the advance of McClellan's army upon Rich- mond, the wooden gunboats of the James River and Norfolk fleet, in the latter part of April, were ordered to run by the Federal bat- teries at Newport News and operate on the right flank of General Joseph E. Johnston. This movement was accomplished in due time by running the batteries at night and without disaster, though the Beaufort, in making the attempt, grounded and remained just oppo- site the battery in easy range until near daybreak. Our station henceforth being the James river, I must rely upon contemporary accounts for the remaining career of the Merrimac. The beleaguer- ment of Richmond, in the eyes of the Confederate Government, necessitated the evacuation of Norfolk, and though the Merrimac, now alone, was adequate to the defence of Norfolk on the water, it was possible to take the city in rear, now that Johnston's army was concentrated at Richmond, by landing a strong Federal force on the bay shore, and also west of Craney Island, and making a combined attack from the east and west. Valuable stores and materials were yet at the navy-yard, and General Huger, in command at Norfolk, was quietly engaged in shipping them to the interior by river and rail, when the desertion of a tug-boat captain in the service of the Confederacy much hastened matters.

Secretary Mallory, being advised of the probable abandonment of Norfolk, had sent Commodore Hollins to that place to consult with Commodore Tatnall, and such other officers as might be selected, as to the best disposition to be made of the Merrimac in this con- tingency. The conference was arranged for May 8th, but on that morning the Monitor, Naugatuck, and other United States vessels attacked our battery at Sewell's Point. The Merrimac got under