Transcribed from Confederate Veteran, v. 2, 1894, p. 86.


CAREER OF THE MERRIMAC

H. B. LITTLEPAGE, WASHINGTON, D. C.

Having been one of the Merrimac's officers, and with her during her whole career, I am somewhat familiar with her history. On March 8, 1861, the Merrimac, with ten guns, destroyed the Cumberland, twenty-four guns; Congress, fifty guns; riddled the Minnesota, forty-eight guns, and put to flight the St. Lawrence, fifty guns, and Roanoke, forty-eight guns. In the encounter with the Monitor on the following day, after a fearful combat of five hours, when they were frequently only a few yards apart, the Merrimac having only shell, which were not effective against the iron turret of the Monitor, succeeded in dislodging her pilot-house and blinding and otherwise disabling her commander. The Monitor then hauled over the bar into the shallow water, where the Merrimac could not follow her. The Merrimac returned to Norfolk and went into the dock for repairs, two of her guns having had their muzzles shot off, her armor considerably damaged, her prow wrenched off, and her steam pipes and smoke stack completely riddled.

On the 11th of April the Merrimac returned to Hampton Roads. The Monitor was plainly in sight, together with the iron battery Naugatuck and other war ships. Seeing no disposition upon their part to engage, the Merrimac, to provoke them, sent in two of her tenders, the Jamestown and Raleigh, and they cut out and brought away one brig and two schooners in plain sight of the Federal fleet and of the French warship Gapendi, and of the British Corvette Rinaldo.

On the 8th of May following, while the Merrimac was at the Gosport Navy Yard, a tremendous fire was opened upon the battery at Sewell's Point by the ironclads Monitor and Naugatuck, and the United States steamers Susquehanna, seventeen guns; Dacotah, six guns; Seminole, five guns, and San Jacinto, twelve guns. The Merrimac immediately got under way and proceeded to the scene of conflict, regarding the attack as an invitation to come out and fight. Upon getting in full view of the situation, we saw just beyond the attacking squadron the flag ship Minnesota, forty-eight guns; Cayuga, six guns; Jamestown, twenty-two guns; St. Lawrence, fifty guns, and the powerful steamers Vanderbilt, Baltimore, Illinois and Asago, especially arranged and equipped for running the Merrimac down. The Merrimac continued on at full speed, and when within about a mile of the nearest vessel, they all, with one accord, got under way and ran below Fortress Monroe.

The Merrimac continued the pursuit until the shots from the Rip Raps (Fort Wool) were flying away beyond her. She steamed slowly about the Roads until nearly dark, and then returned to her anchorage.

The above facts are matters of record. I challenge any one to show by any authentic record or statement that the Merrimac was ever defeated, that she ever declined an engagement, regardless of the number or strength of her adversaries, or that she ever lost an opportunity to bring on an engagement if possible.

In a personal letter Mr. Littlepage says: Please publish the inclosed regarding the career of the Merrimac. It seems to be so little understood, and yet no ship ever did as much to revolutionize naval warfare and to rebuild the navies of the world.


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Transcription copyright 1997 by Martha H. Tyson and Mabry Tyson