Transcribed from a photocopy at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

This is from a series of letters from George Weber, aboard the CSS Patrick Henry, to his brother Louis.



C. S. Steamer Patrick Henry
Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va. March 10, 1862
(Monday)

Dear Brother,

I hasten to write you a few lines and to relate to you an account of our great victory, on Friday and Saturday[E1], and especially to tell you that I am well. I suppose that by this time you are pretty well acquainted with everything posted up about our victory, but still I will give you some account of it. By the heading of my letter you will see that our gallant steamer is now lying at the Norfolk Navy Yard. If any one had told any of us that we would pass a run the blockade of a 52 gun land battery, 4 frigates and several gunboats, we would have laughed at him, but and if any one had told me that three of these frigates would be knocked to the devil in one afternoon we would have prounonced[sic] him as a maniac. But so it is. And the Merrimac; now called the Virginia was the great power that did it. But now to my account. I have told you in several of my last letters that we would soon be engaged. Everything started towards that end. We received two rifle guns about two weeks ago, which made our battery amount to 14 guns, Well although three were not used being too small. Well, on last Thursday our Captain received despatches to meet the Virginia at Newport News next morning. We hove anchor at 4 o'clock Friday morning and sailed down toward Newport News. We stopped at Day's Point the last of our batteries, which is 6 miles from Newp' News. Here a small boat, which had run the blockade during the night came alongside with despatches. One of the men told me that we need not expect the Merrimac (or rather Virginia) that day. We remained at Day's Point until she would come. The next day, Saturday afternoon at two o'clock we saw the frigates at Newport News engaged firing industriously at some object in their midst. It was the Virginia. We hove anchor in shorter time than it was ever done before, and down we steamed for the scene of action, with the Jamestown and Teazer in our rear. In the meantime the battle was raging with great fury. The Virginia piled shot after shot at the frigates, whilst they fired thier[sic] broadsides at her. Suddenly one of the frigates, the Cumberland, was seen to topple and then sink. Cheer after cheer was given on our ships. In about half an hour afterwards the we came on the scene of action, and then occurred one of the most daring feats that I was ever witnessed. We ran past the battery of Newport News, which carries 52 guns. We came within 1/4 of a mile of them without thier[sic] making any demonstrations. Then suddenly, they poured gun after gun on us, it was truly awful. The shot came whizzing around us in numbers, some also took effect. We returned thier[sic] shots with great ardor. The Jamestown only received two shots in her during this time. In a short time we were past the battery and then we took our positions alongside the Virginia, and commenced attacking the Minnesota. I had now chance to look around and saw that we were amongst several gunboats belonging to our fleet from Norfolk. The battle raged or several hours. The Merrimac, in conjunction with us poured broadsides into the frigates and the Newport News Battery. Our ship was in the hottest of the fight. The Frigate Congress ran aground and hoisted a white flag. The Commodore De Forrest[E2], who was on the Virginia, then signalized to the Beaufort, which came alongside of us, and received some combustible materials from us to set fire to the Congress. When she neared the Congress, she was fired upon with grape and canister. She afterwards steamed to the Congress again and boarded her. The Beaufort then came to us again, and her Captain (Parker) aboard. Then Captain (Parker) said that the scene on the Congress baffled all descriptions the decks of the Congress was strewn with the dead and wounded. Whole gun's crew's had been swept away by balls entering the Portholes. They were literally piled on each other. She took 33 prisoners. The rest of the men, that were not wounded, had escaped to the shore. A shell came through one of our portholes and killed one of the Volunteers who came aboard the day before to help us at our guns. His name was Webb. One of our men was mortally wounded and 2 others slightly. Another ball passed through our port boiler, which caused the steam to rush of[sic] in great force filling up the Fire and Engine Rooms. Some of the 4 of the firemen were scalded to death. A fifth one was scalded but is now better getting better. By this accident we were obliged to move off out of reach of the Enemy's guns, when we repaired what we could and then joined again in the fight. I beleive[sic] the Newport News Battery suffered much, as most of our guns were aimed at her. When it grew dark, we sheered off, and the Virginia, Jamestown, and our ship anchored off Sewells Point. The other gunboats went back to Norfolk, except the Beaufort, which steamed back to the Congress and set her afire. She was burning all night, and it was a sublime sight from where we lay. Every now and then we could see flashs[sic] of her guns as they exploded. The next morning (Sunday) the Virginia returned to the scene of action. The Minnesota had been run aground during the night, and the St. Lawrence was gone to fortress Monroe. When the Virginia neared the Minnesota, a little gunboat, which came there during the night, and which proved to be the Ericcson[sic] iron Battery, fired at her. The virginia returned the fire. The Minnesota now assisted the Ericcson[sic] with her broadsides. We then opened our guns at long taw. Thus the fight continued all morning, but the Virginia was unable to get up to the Minnesota as the latter was aground, and the water was too shallow for the former. At one o'clock we ceased firing and the Virginia returning we formed into line, the Jamestown leading, and thus we steamed into Norfolk. The wharves of Portsmouth and Norfolk was crowded with people who cheered so lustily as we sailed up Elizabeth River into the Navy Yard. And here we are now. The Virginia has gone into the docks to repair the little damage that was done to her. When she comes out, our ship will go in, and get a set of new boilers, &c. And now as I am about to close my account let me say a few words about that [? Gottnd Mcndman], the Virginia. She is the queerest looking thing I have ever seen. Looks like a house that is sunk with only the roof out of the water. All her decks are under water. She is thickly coated with iron, and she has a long ram on her bow, with which she sunk the hated Cumberland. She carries ten guns which can everlastingly fire away. In fact she is a floating devil as many a dead yankee can testify. Our guns worked beautifully, and did executions. We had only 5 killed as above mentioned. But, dear Louis, I will now close my long letter, which I have written to make you familiar with everything as it happened. I hope you and James are well. Give James my love and tell him I am well. In my next letter I will write to you about Norfolk Harbour. Direct your letter's: Steamship Patrick Henry, Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va, and answer this soon. Have you delivered those letters, which I sent in your care? But I will now close and remain

Your dear Brother, Geo. Weber

[In the margin of the first page:]

My gun did executions, I tell you.

[In the margin of the fourth and last page:]

My Best respects to all kind friends, acquaint [??-----] of this.


Transcription notes:

[E1] Actually Saturday and Sunday.

[E2] Actually this was Commodore Buchanan.


CSS Virginia
Transcription copyright 1997 by Mabry Tyson