The following account is from the Baltimore American as recorded in the Putnam's The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, Vol 4, (1862) on pages 471-472. 


THE SECOND VISIT OF THE MERRIMAC.

APRIL 11, 1862.

The following is the account given by the Baltimore American's correspondent:

FORTRESS MONROE, Friday, April 11.

I said two days since, that we were looking for the Merrimac and sunshine together. Both are here this morning. The day opened bright and clear, with the broad expanse of Hampton Roads almost unruffled by a wave. About seven o'clock a signal-gun from the Minnesota turned all eyes toward Sewell's Point, and coming out from under the land, almost obscured by the dim haze, the Merrimac was seen, followed by the Yorktown, Jamestown, and four smaller vessels, altogether seven in number. There was instantaneous activity among the transports and vessels in the Upper Roads, to get out of the way. Steamboats, several of which were crowded with troops, moved down out of danger. Steam-tugs ran whistling and screaming, towing strings of vessels behind them, whilst sloops, schooners and brigs took advantage of what air there was, got up sail, and moved out of harm's way. In the course of an hour the appearance of the crowded Roads was greatly altered. The forests of masts between the Fortress and Sewell's Point disappeared, and the broad, open expanse of water only the rebel fleet, and two French and one English men-of-war, which, with steam up, still maintained their position.

Half-past eight o'clock.--For the last hour the manoeuvres of the rebel fleet have apparently been directed toward decoying our fleet up toward Sewall's Point. When the Merrimac first appeared, she stood directly across the mouth of the Elizabeth River, followed by her consorts, as if they were bound to Newport News. The Merrimac approached the English sloop-of-war, and after apparently communicating with her, fell slowly around, and moved back toward her consorts in the rear. The English and French vessels then moved up, as if they had been informed that the Lower Roads were to be the scene of conflict and they had been warned to get out of range. For an hour the rebel fleet kept changing position, without making any decided advance in any direction. On our part no movement was made. The Monitor, with steam up, and in fighting trim, lay quietly near her usual anchorage. The Naugatuck (Stevens's battery) came out and took position alongside the Monitor. Signals were made between our vessels, the Fort and Rip Raps, but no movement was made. Curiosity grew rapidly into suspense.

At length the Yorktown moved rapidly up, and after advancing well toward Newport News, steamed rapidly toward Hampton. The object was then seen to be the capture of three sailing vessels--two brigs and a schooner--transports which were lying either aground or had not been furnished with a steam-tug, in order to make their escape. The bold impudence of the manoeuvre, contrasted with the apparent apathy of our fleet, excited surprise and indignation. There was a rebel boat, not built for war purposes, leaving the protection of the Merrimac and her consorts, where it appeared to unprofessional eyes she could easily be cut off, and yet no attempt was made on our part to do it. Of course there were good reasons for this policy, though the crowd "could not see" them. The Yorktown then steamed rapidly along the beach from Newport News to Hampton, sent a boat to each of the vessels, which were apparently deserted by their crews and steamed toward the three. A small tug-boat, loaded with troops, followed, whilst the Jamestown laid off about a mile distant.

Nine o'clock.--The rebel tug-boat has made fast to the largest brig and is towing her off. The Yorktown is still in the bend above Hampton. The Naugatuck has moved up, and is apparently getting within range of the Yorktown. There is no other move on the part of our fleet. Our inaction seems unaccountable, except upon the supposition that the desire is to get the rebels still further down.

Half-past nine o'clock.--The rebels have accomplished the capture of three vessels, the Yorktown towing off two of them, and the tug taking hold of the third. Not a shot was fired on either side. The Merrimac maintains her position about half-way between Sewell's and Pig Points. One of the French steamers is coming down to the Lower Roads. She has a water schooner in tow, which was alongside her when the Merrimac appeared. One of our gunboats went up along the shore toward Hampton, but too late to prevent the capture of the three vessels, if that was the purpose. The Yorktown and tug towed the prizes well up toward Norfolk, when small tugs came out and took charge of them. Upon one of the brigs they hoisted the American flag at half-mast.

Half-past ten o'clock.-- There is no change in the position of affairs. The rebel fleet lies in line of battle, stretching from Sewell's Point up toward Pig Point. The Merrimac is black with men, who cluster on the ridge of her iron roof. The other vessels are also thronged with men, in all, the rebels show twelve craft--all, except the Merrimac, Yorktown and Jamestown, being insignificant tug-boats.

The Jamestown is armed with an iron prow, which can be seen protruding about six feet beyond the water-line of her bow. The position is simply one of defiance on both sides. The rebels are challenging us to come up to their field of battle, and we are daring them to come down. The French and English vessels still lie up beyond the rebels; the French vessels not more than a mile from the Merrimac, and the Englishman further up. Not a shot has yet been fired by either party.

Twelve o'clock M. -- No fight yet. The Merrimac occasionally shifts her position, but does not come further out. The Yorktown, and some of the smaller tugs, have gone up to Norfolk.

Two o'clock.--The position of affairs has not changed, and there seems to be little probability of any fight to-day. The Merrimac and all the rebel fleet keep their position, and so does our fleet. It is possible that the rebels may come down with the flood-tide, in an hour or two hence; but it looks as if both parties hesitated to assume the offensive.

The events of this morning are much commented on, and have caused considerable feeling of irritation, and some humiliation. Beyond the capture of three transports, the demonstration of the rebel fleet has been little more than a reconnoissance; it cannot be concluded, however, that the rebels have had the best of the affair. The capture of the three prizes was a bold affair, and we can well imagine the "hurrah" with which their arrival at Norfolk was greeted. Whether they might not have been saved and the rebels have been made to suffer for their temerity, is a point upon which I shall not venture a decided opinion. Their position was close into the beach, about half-way between Hampton and Newport News, and from four or five miles distant from the position of the Merrimac. A light-draught gunboat or two, sent up in time, might have saved them. The Naugatuck started, but a little too late to be of an effectual service.

Of course the naval authorities are acting upon some concerted plan, and under definite orders, the carrying out of which are considered of more importance than saving two or three small vessels. The capture was effected almost under the bows of the French and English cruisers, and we may be sure that our national prestige was not increased in their eyes by what they saw.

Half past four o'clock P.M.--For some hours the Merrimac has continued moving about, sometimes advancing toward the Monitor, as if challenging her to combat, and then falling back. About an hour since she moved over in the direction of Hampton and fired a shot toward the gunboat Octorora, lying in the bend near Hampton, and full four miles distant. The shot fell at least a mile short; the Octorora immediately replied, but her shots also fell short, though well in line; the Naugatuck then took part, and discharged her rifled gun, making a splendid shot, but the ball fell beyond the Merrimac full half a mile. The Naugatuck then fired at the rebel gunboats Yorktown and Jamestown, which were lying beyond the Merrimac; the practice was excellent and her guns showed extraordinary length of range. Turning her attention from the Merrimac, her shots were all directed at the rebel gunboats, and of four which were fired all appeared to strike near the object aimed at.

The rebel vessels fell slowly back, and firing soon ceased. The practice and prowess of the Naugatuck's rifled gun excited great admiration, and if brought into play this morning would probably have prevented the rebels from capturing any prizes. As I close at five P.M., the firing has ceased, and the Merrimac appeared to be returning to Craney Island. We look for warm work to-morrow.

Half-past five o'clock.--All the rebel fleet are moving off toward Norfolk.


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Transcription copyright 1997 by Mabry Tyson