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 Research ACW US War Dept. Official Records HTML Ser. I, Vol. 9, Ch. XIX–Reports.

THE
WAR OF THE REBELLION:
A COMPILATION OF THE
OFFICIAL RECORDS
OF THE
UNION AND CONFEDERATE ARMIES.

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CHAPTER XIX.
OPERATIONS IN SOUTHEASTERN VIRGINIA.
January 11-March 17, 1862.
(Hampton Roads)
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REPORTS, ETC.

SUMMARY OF THE PRINCIPAL EVENTS.

Jan.11, 1862.–The Burnside Expedition sails from Hampton Roads for the North Carolina coast.
Mar.8-9, 1862.–Naval engagement in Hampton Roads, Va., and destruction of the U. S. frigate Congress and sloop-of-war Cumberland by the Confederate iron-clad Virginia (formerly the Merrimac).
17, 1862.–Embarkation of the Army of the Potomac for the Peninsula commenced at Alexandria.

MARCH 8-9, 1862.– Naval engagement in Hampton Roads, Va., and destruction of the U. S. frigate Congress and sloop-of-war Cumberland by the Confederate iron-clad Virginia (formerly the Merrimac).

REPORTS.

No. 1.–Extract from Annual Report, December 1, 1862, of the Secretary of the Navy.
No. 2.–Maj. Gen. John E. Wool, U. S. Army, commanding Department of Virginia.
No. 3.–Brig. Gen. Joseph K. F. Mansfield, U. S. Army, commanding brigade.
No. 4.–Col. David W. Wardrop, Ninety-ninth New York Infantry.
No. 5.–Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger, C. S. Army, commanding Department of Norfolk.
No. 6.–Confederate Secretary of the Navy.
No. 7.–Flag-Officer Franklin Buchanan, C. S. Navy.
No. 8.–Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder, C. S. Army, commanding Department of the Peninsula, of his co-operation with naval attack.

No. 1.

Extract from Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy.

DECEMBER 1, 1862.

...

It was the intention and constant effort of the Department and contractors that the Monitor should be completed in the month of January, but there was delay in consequence of difficulties incident to an undertaking of such novelty and magnitude, and there were also some slight defects, which were, however, promptly remedied, and she left New York early in March, reaching Hampton Roads on the night of the 8th.

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Her arrival, though not as soon as anticipated, was most opportune and important. For some time the Department had heard with great solicitude of the progress which the insurgents had made in armoring and equipping the large war-steamer Merrimac, which had fallen into their hands when Norfolk was abandoned. On the afternoon of the 8th of March this formidable vessel, heavily armored and armed and fully prepared to operate both as a ram and a war steamer, came down the Elizabeth River, accompanied by several smaller steamers, two of them partially armored, to attack the vessels of the blockading squadron that were in and about Hampton Roads. When the Merrimac and her attendants made their appearance the Congress and the Cumberland, two sailing vessels, were anchored off Newport News, and the remaining vessels were in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe, some 6 miles distant. The Minnesota, the Roanoke, and the St. Lawrence got immediately under way and proceeded toward the scene of action.

The Congress, being nearest to the Merrimac, was the first to receive her fire, which was promptly returned by a full broadside, the shots falling apparently harmlessly off from the armored side of the assailant. Passing by the Congress, the Merrimac dashed upon the Cumberland, and was received by her with a heavy, well-directed, and vigorous fire, which, like that of the Congress, produced unfortunately but little effect. A contest so unequal could not be of long continuance, and it was closed when the Merrimac, availing herself of her power as a steam ram, ran furiously against the Cumberland, laying open her wooden hull, and causing her almost immediately to sink. As her guns approached the water’s edge her young commander, Lieutenant Morris, and the gallant crew stood firm at their posts, delivered a parting fire, and the good ship went down heroically, with her colors flying. Having thus destroyed the Cumberland, the Merrimac turned again upon the Congress, which had, in the mean time, been engaged with the smaller rebel steamers, and after a heavy loss, in order to guard against such a fate as that which had befallen the Cumberland, had been run aground. The Merrimac now selected a raking position astern of the Congress, while one of the smaller steamers poured in a constant fire on her starboard quarter. Two other steamers of the enemy also approached from James River, firing upon the unfortunate frigate with precision and severe effect. The guns of the Congress were almost entirely disabled, and her gallant commanding officer, Lieut. Joseph B. Smith, had fallen at his post. Her decks were strewn with the dead and dying, the ship was on fire in several places, and not a gun could be brought to bear upon the assailants. In this state of things, and with no effectual relief at hand, the senior surviving officer, Lieutenant Pendergrast, felt it his duty to save further useless destruction of life by hauling down his colors. This was done about 4 o’clock p.m. The Congress continued to burn till about 8 in the evening and then blew up.

From the Congress the Merrimac turned her attention to the remaining vessels of the squadron. The Roanoke had grounded on her way to the scene of the conflict; and although she succeeded in getting off, her condition was such, her propeller being useless, that she took no part in the action. The St. Lawrence also grounded near the Minnesota and had a short engagement with the Merrimac, but suffered no serious injury, and on getting afloat was ordered back to Fortress Monroe.

The Minnesota, which had also got aground in the shallow waters of the channel, became the special object of attack, and the Merrimac, {p.3} with the Yorktown and Jamestown, bore down upon her. The Merrimac drew too much water to approach very near; her fire was not therefore particularly effective. The other steamers selected their position, fired with much accuracy, and caused considerable damage to the Minnesota. She soon, however, succeeded in getting a gun to bear on the two smaller steamers and drove them away-one apparently in a crippled condition. About 7 p.m. the Merrimac also hauled off and the three stood toward Norfolk.

All efforts to get the Minnesota afloat during the night and into a safe position were totally unavailing. The morning was looked for with deep anxiety, as it would in all probability bring a renewed attack from the formidable assailant. At this critical and anxious moment the Monitor, one of the newly-finished armored vessels, came into Hampton Roads, from New York, under command of Lieut. John L. Worden, and a little after midnight anchored alongside the Minnesota. At 6 o’clock the next morning the Merrimac, as anticipated, again made her appearance, and opened her fire upon the Minnesota. Promptly obeying the signal to attack, the Monitor ran down past the Minnesota and laid herself close alongside the Merrimac, between that formidable vessel and the Minnesota. The fierce conflict between these two iron-clads lasted for several hours. It was in appearance an unequal conflict, for the Merrimac was a large and noble structure, and the Monitor was in comparison almost diminutive. But the Monitor was strong in her armor, in the ingenious novelty of her construction, in the large caliber of her two guns, and the valor and skill with which she was handled. After several hours’ fighting the Merrimac found herself overmatched, and, leaving the Monitor, sought to renew the attack on the Minnesota; but the Monitor again placed herself between the two vessels and reopened her fire upon her adversary. At noon the Merrimac, seriously damaged, abandoned the contest and, with her companions, retreated toward Norfolk.

Thus terminated the most remarkable naval combat of modern times, perhaps of any age. The fiercest and most formidable naval assault upon the power of the Union which has ever been made by the insurgents was heroically repelled, and a new era was opened in the history of maritime warfare.

...

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No. 2.

Report of Maj. Gen. John E. Wool, U. S. Army, commanding Department of Virginia.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, Fort Monroe, Va., March 9, 1862.

GENERAL: Two hours after I sent my hurried dispatch to the Secretary of War last evening the Monitor arrived, and saved the Minnesota and the St. Lawrence, which were both aground when she arrived.

The Merrimac, supported by the Yorktown and Jamestown, commenced an attack on the Minnesota (still aground) early this morning, and after a contest of five hours was driven off in a sinking condition by the Monitor, aided by the Minnesota, and towed by the Jamestown and Yorktown toward Norfolk, for the purpose, no doubt, of getting her, if possible, in the dry-dock for repairs.

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It is reported that Magruder is approaching Newport News with a large force of infantry. I have re-enforced that post with three regiments, a light battery of six pieces, and a company of dragoons. The command will consist altogether of over or about 8,000 men. My command consists altogether of 10,000 effective men.

The Cumberland was sunk, and we lost more than one-half of her crew. The Congress surrendered, but the crew was released and the officers taken as prisoners. The Minnesota has got off, but it is reported she is in a sinking condition.

It is to be hoped that I will be largely re-enforced, including two additional light batteries. The Monitor is far superior to the Merrimac. The first has only two guns, while the Merrimac has eight.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Commanding the Army, Washington, D. C.

[Similar report to Secretary of War.]

No. 3.

Report of Brig. Gen. Joseph K. F. Mansfield, U. S. Army, commanding brigade.

HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., FIRST DIV., DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, Newport News, Va., March 10, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to report that in the forenoon of Saturday, the 8th instant, the commanders of the Congress and Cumberland, at anchor in the stream, notified me that the iron-clad Merrimac steamer of the enemy was approaching from Norfolk to attack them, and I immediately telegraphed you to that effect. At about 2 o’clock p.m. she approached very near these vessels slowly, engaged first the Congress, and passed on to the Cumberland and ran into her, and all within a mile of our batteries. I immediately ordered Lieut. Col. G. Nauman, chief of artillery, to open our batteries of four columbiads and one 42-pounder James gun to fire on her. It was done with alacrity, and kept up continuously with spirit as long as she was in range, and although our shot often struck her, they made no impression on her at all. I also ordered three of our 8-inch siege howitzers from the land batteries hauled by hand and brought to bear on her from the bank of the river and two of Howard’s light battery rifled guns, but no visible serious damage to her from our guns was done, such was the strength of her mail.

As soon as the Cumberland was sunk three steamers, supposed to be the Yorktown, Jamestown, and a tug, came down the river from Day’s Point under full head of steam. Our guns were then turned on them, but they kept at a distance and moved rapidly past, and received but little damage from us.

During the sinking of the Cumberland the Congress slipped her cable and hoisted sail and ran ashore just above Signal Point, where many of her men escaped to the shore, and was there followed by the Merrimac, and after two raking shots she hauled down her flag and {p.5} hoisted a white flag and ceased action. The enemy then sent two steamers with Confederate flags flying and made fast on either side of her, with a view to haul her off or burn her. As soon as I saw this I ordered Colonel Brown, of the Twentieth Indiana Regiment, then close at hand, to send two rifle companies (A and K) to the beach. The two rifled guns, under Captain Howard, and a rifled Dahlgren howitzer, manned by Master Stuyvesant and 14 sailors of the Cumberland, went into action from a raking position on the beach, covered by sand banks and trees, against these steamers.

We here had them at about 800 yards to advantage, and immediately they let go their hold on the Congress and moved out of range with much loss. They endeavored to approach her again with a steamer and row-boat but were beaten off with loss, till finally the Merrimac, finding her prize retaken, approached and fired three shots into her and set her on fire. The remaining men escaped from the Congress over the bows of the ship to the shore, assisted by our boats, and the wounded were removed by dark.

Thus closed the tragedy of the day. The enemy retired at dark toward the opposite shore, and the Congress illuminated the heavens and varied the scene by the firing of her own guns and the flight of her balls through the air till about 2 o’clock in the morning, when her magazine exploded and a column of burning matter appeared high in the air, to be followed by the stillness of death. Through the whole day our troops were under arms, and the officers and men engaged at the batteries and as riflemen on the beach performed their duty well, and the enemy were beaten off wherever we could penetrate them. All was done that it was possible to do under the circumstances to save these ships from the enemy. Some officers and men from the Cumberland, as they escaped to the shore, came forward and volunteered their services at our guns and afforded aid. Toward the close of the day the enemy must have experienced considerable loss. There were none killed of my command, and but one man, private of the Seventh New York Volunteers, severely wounded by a shell from the Merrimac, resulting in the loss of his leg.

The loss on the part of our Navy must have been great by the bursting of shells and the drowning by the sinking of the Cumberland, although our best efforts were made to save them. Our ships were perfectly helpless against the Merrimac, as their broadsides produced no material effect on her.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

JOS. K. F. MANSFIELD, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL, Commanding Department of Virginia.

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No. 4.

Report of Col. David W. Wardrop, Ninety-ninth New York Infantry.

HDQRS. UNION COAST GUARD, 99TH REGT., N. Y. V., Camp Hamilton, Va., March 20, 1862.

SIR: I have this morning received the official report of Capt. William J. McIntire, commanding Company D, of this regiment, who have {p.6} been doing duty on board of the U. S. frigate Congress from January 13 until March 8, when they were attacked by the rebel iron-clad gunboat Merrimac, or Virginia, and forced to surrender after the ship was ashore and helpless. Captain McIntire reports 9 killed, 10 wounded, 7 missing.*

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. W. WARDROP, Colonel, Commanding Ninety-ninth Regiment, N. Y. V.

Lieutenant CHARLES LORCH, Post-Adjutant, Camp Hamilton.

* Captain McIntire’s report not found.

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No. 5.

Report of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger, C. S. Army, commanding Department of Norfolk.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORFOLK, Norfolk, Va., March 10, 1862.

SIR: I telegraphed yesterday to the Secretary of War the fact of the naval engagement on the 8th and 9th instant. As the battle was fought by the Navy, Flag-Officer Forrest will no doubt report to the Navy Department the result of the engagement.

The batteries at Sewell’s Point opened fire on the steamers Minnesota and Roanoke, which attempted on the 8th to pass to Newport News to the assistance of the frigates attacked by the Virginia. The Minnesota ran aground before reaching there. The Roanoke was struck several times, and for some cause turned around and went back to Old Point.

The two sailing vessels (Cumberland and Congress) were destroyed-the first sunk and the other burned by the Virginia-and on the 9th the Minnesota, still aground, would probably have been destroyed but for the iron-clad battery of the enemy called, 1 think,the Monitor. The Virginia and this battery were in actual contact, without inflicting serious injury on either.

At 2 p.m. on yesterday, the 9th, all our vessels came up to the navy-yard for repairs. The Virginia, I understand, has gone into dock for repairs, which will be made at once. This action shows the power and endurance of iron-clad vessels; cannon-shot do not harm them, and they can pass batteries or destroy large ships. A vessel like the Virginia or the Monitor, with her two guns, can pass any of our batteries with impunity. The only means of stopping them is by vessels of the same kind. The Virginia, being the most powerful, can stop the Monitor; but a more powerful one would run her down or ashore. As the enemy can build such boats faster than we, they could, when so prepared, overcome any place accessible by water. How these powerful machines are to be stopped is a problem I cannot solve. At present, in the Virginia, we have the advantage; but we cannot tell how long this may last.

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

BENJ. HUGER, Major-General, Commanding.

General S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.

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No. 6.

Report of Confederate Secretary of the Navy.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, April 10, 1862.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate ,States:

I herewith transmit to Congress a communication from the Secretary of the Navy, covering a detailed report of Flag-Officer Buchanan of the brilliant triumph of his squadron over the vastly superior forces of the enemy in Hampton Roads, March 8 and 9 last.

JEFFERSON DAVIS.

NAVY DEPARTMENT, Richmond, Va., April 7, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to submit herewith [a] copy of the detailed report [No. 7] of Flag-Officer Buchanan of the brilliant triumph of his squadron over the vastly superior forces of the enemy in Hampton Roads, on March 8 and 9 last, a brief report by Lieutenant Jones of the battle of the 8th having been previously made.

The conduct of the officers and men of the squadron in this contest reflects unfading honor upon themselves and upon the Navy. The report will be read with deep interest, and its details will not fail to arouse the ardor and nerve the arms of our gallant seamen.

It will be remembered that the Virginia was a novelty in naval architecture, wholly unlike any ship that ever floated; that her heaviest guns were equal novelties in ordnance; that her motive power and her obedience to her helm were untried, and her officers and crew strangers comparatively to the ship and to each other, and yet, under all these disadvantages, the dashing courage and consummate professional ability of Flag-Officer Buchanan and his associates achieved the most remarkable victory which naval annals record.

When the flag-officer was disabled the command of the Virginia devolved upon her executive and ordnance officer, Lieut. Catesby Ap R. Jones, and the cool and masterly manner in which he fought the ship in her encounter with the iron-clad Monitor justified the high estimate which the country places upon his professional merit. To his experience, skill, and untiring industry as her ordnance and executive officer the terrible effect of her fire was greatly due. Her battery was determined in accordance with his suggestions, and in all investigations and tests which resulted in its thorough efficiency he was zealously engaged.

The terms of commendation used by the flag-officer in characterizing the conduct of his officers and men meet the cordial indorsement of the Department, and the concurrent testimony of thousands who witnessed the engagement places his own conduct above all praise.

With much respect, your obedient servant,

S. R. MALLORY, Secretary of the Navy.

To the PRESIDENT.

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No. 7.

Report of Flag-Officer Franklin Buchanan, C. S. Navy.

NAVAL HOSPITAL, Norfolk, Va., March 27, 1862.

SIR: Having been confined to my bed in this building since the 9th instant, in consequence of a wound received in the action of the previous day, I have not had it in my power at an earlier date to prepare the official report, which I now have the honor to submit, of the proceedings on the 8th and 9th instant of the James River squadron, under my command, composed of the following-named vessels: Steamer Virginia, flag-ship, ten guns; steamer Patrick Henry, Commander John R. Tucker, twelve guns; steamer Jamestown, Lieut. Commanding J. N. Barney, two guns; and gunboats Teazer, Lieut. Commanding W. A. Webb; Beaufort, Lieut. Commanding W. H. Parker; and Raleigh, Lieut. Commanding J. W. Alexander, each one gun. Total, twenty-seven guns.

On the 8th instant, at 11 a.m., the Virginia left the navy-yard (Norfolk), accompanied by the Raleigh and Beaufort, and proceeded to Newport News, to engage the enemy’s frigates Cumberland and Congress, gunboats, and shore batteries. When within less than a mile of the Cumberland the Virginia commenced the engagement with that ship with her bow gun, and the action soon became general, the Cumberland, Congress, gunboats, and shore batteries concentrating upon us their heavy fire, which was returned with great spirit and determination. The Virginia stood rapidly on toward the Cumberland, which ship I had determined to sink with our prow if possible. In about fifteen minutes after the action commenced we ran into her on her starboard bow. The crash below the water was distinctly heard, and she commenced sinking, gallantly fighting her guns as long as they were above water. She went down with her colors flying.

During this time the shore batteries, Congress, and gunboats kept up their heavy concentrated fire upon us, doing us some injury. Our guns, however, were not idle; their fire was very destructive to the shore batteries and vessels, and we were gallantly sustained by the rest of the squadron.

Just after the Cumberland sunk that gallant officer Commander John R. Tucker was seen standing down James River under full steam, accompanied by the Jamestown and Teazer. They all came nobly into action and were soon exposed to the heavy fire of shore batteries. Their escape was miraculous, as they were under a galling fire of solid shot, shell, grape, and canister, a number of which passed through the vessels without doing any serious injury, except to the Patrick Henry, through whose boiler a shot passed, scalding to death four persons and wounding others. Lieutenant-Commanding Barney promptly obeyed a signal to tow her out of the action. As soon as damages were repaired the Patrick Henry returned to her station and continued to perform good service during the remainder of that day and the following.

Having sunk the Cumberland, I turned our attention to the Congress. We were some time in getting our proper position in consequence of the shoalness of the water and the great difficulty of managing the ship when in or near the mud. To succeed in my object I was obliged to run the ship a short distance above the batteries on James River {p.9} in order to wind her. During all the time her keel was in the mud; of course she moved but slowly. Thus we were subjected twice to the heavy guns of all the batteries in passing up and down the river, but it could not be avoided. We silenced several of the batteries and did much injury on shore. A large transport steamer alongside the wharf was blown up, one schooner sunk, and another captured and sent to Norfolk. The loss of life on shore we have no means of ascertaining.

While the Virginia was thus engaged in getting her position for attacking the Congress the prisoners state it was believed on board that ship that we had hauled off. The men left their guns and gave three cheers. They were soon sadly undeceived, for a few minutes after we opened upon her again, she having run on shore in shoal water. The carnage, havoc, and dismay caused by our fire compelled them to haul down their colors and to hoist a white flag at their gaff and half-mast and another at the main. The crew instantly took to their boats and landed. Our fire immediately ceased, and a signal was made for the Beaufort to come within hail. I then ordered Lieutenant-Commanding Parker to take possession of the Congress, secure the officers as prisoners, allow the crew to land, and burn the ship. He ran alongside, received her flag and surrender from Commander William Smith and Lieutenant Pendergrast, with the side-arms of those officers. They delivered themselves as prisoners of war on board the Beaufort, and afterward were permitted at their own request to return to the Congress to assist in removing the wounded to the Beaufort. They never returned, and I submit to the decision of the Department whether they are not our prisoners. While the Beaufort and Raleigh were alongside the Congress, and the surrender of that vessel had been received from the commander, she having two white flags flying, hoisted by our own people, a heavy fire was opened upon them from the shore and from the Congress, killing some valuable officers and men. Under this fire the steamers left the Congress, but as I was not informed that any injury had been sustained by those vessels at that time, Lieutenant-Commanding Parker having failed to report to me, I took it for granted that my order to him to burn her had been executed, and waited some minutes to see the smoke ascending from her hatches. During this delay we were still subject to the heavy fire from the batteries, which was always promptly returned.

The steam frigates Minnesota and Roanoke and the sailing frigate St. Lawrence had previously been reported as coming from Old Point, but as I was determined that the Congress should not again fall into the hands of the enemy, I remarked to that gallant young officer Flag-Lieutenant Minor, “That ship must be burned.” He promptly volunteered to take a boat and burn her, and the Teazer, Lieutenant-Commanding Webb, was ordered to cover the boat. Lieutenant Minor had scarcely reached within 50 yards of the Congress when a deadly fire was opened upon him, wounding him severely and several of his men. On witnessing this vile treachery I instantly recalled the boat and ordered the Congress destroyed by hot shot and incendiary shell. About this period I was disabled, and transferred the command of the ship to that gallant, intelligent officer Lieut. Catesby Jones, with orders to fight her as long as the men could stand to their guns.

The ships from Old Point opened their fire upon us. The Minnesota grounded in the north channel, where, unfortunately, the shoalness of the channel prevented our near approach. We continued, however, to fire upon her until the pilots declared it was no longer safe to remain in that position, and we accordingly returned by the south channel {p.10} (the middle ground being necessarily between the Virginia and Minnesota, and St. Lawrence and the Roanoke having retreated under the guns of Old Point), and again had an opportunity of opening upon the Minnesota, receiving her heavy fire in return, and shortly afterward upon the St. Lawrence, from which vessel was received several broadsides. It had by this time become dark and we soon after anchored off Sewell’s Point. The rest of the squadron followed our movements, with the exception of the Beaufort, Lieutenant-Commanding Parker, who proceeded to Norfolk with the wounded and prisoners as soon as he had left the Congress, without reporting to me. The Congress, having been set on fire by our hot shot and incendiary shell, continued to burn, her loaded guns being successively discharged as the flames reached them, until a few minutes past midnight, when her magazine exploded with a tremendous report.

The facts above stated as having occurred after I had placed the ship in charge of Lieutenant Jones were reported to me by that officer.

At an early hour next morning (the 9th), upon the urgent solicitations of the surgeons, Lieutenant Minor and myself were very reluctantly taken on shore. The accommodations for the proper treatment of wounded persons on board the Virginia are exceedingly limited, Lieutenant Minor and myself occupying the only space that could be used for that purpose, which was in my cabin. I therefore consented to our being landed on Sewell’s Point, thinking that the room on board vacated by us could be used for those who might be wounded in the renewal of the action. In the course of the day Lieutenant Minor and myself were sent in a steamer to the hospital at Norfolk.

The following is an extract from the report of Lieutenant Jones of the proceedings of the Virginia on the 9th:

At daylight on the 9th we saw that the Minnesota was still ashore, and that there was an iron battery near her. At 8 [o’clock] we ran down to engage them (having previously sent the killed and wounded out of the ship), firing at the Minnesota and occasionally at the iron battery. The pilots did not place us as near as they expected. The great length and draught of the ship rendered it exceedingly difficult to work her. We ran ashore about a mile from the frigate, and were backing fifteen minutes before we got off. We continued to fire at the Minnesota, and blew up a steamer alongside of her, and we also engaged the Monitor, and sometimes at very close quarters. We once succeeded in running into her, and twice silenced her fire. The pilots declaring that we could get no nearer the Minnesota, and believing her to be entirely disabled, and the Monitor having run into shoal water, which prevented our doing her any further injury, we ceased firing at 12 [o’clock] and proceeded to Norfolk.

Our loss is 2 killed and 19 wounded. The stem is twisted and the ship leaks. We have lost the prow, starboard anchor, and all the boats. The armor is somewhat damaged; the steam-pipe and smoke-stack both riddled; the muzzles of two of the guns shot away. It was not easy to keep a flag flying. The flag-staffs were repeatedly shot away. The colors were hoisted to the smoke-stack and several times cut down from it.

The bearing of the men was all that could be desired; the enthusiasm could scarcely be restrained. During the action they cheered again and again. Their coolness and skill were the more remarkable from the fact that the great majority of them were under fire for the first time. They were strangers to each other and to the officers, and had bat a few days’ instruction lathe management of the great guns. To the skill and example of the officers is this result in no small degree attributable.

Having thus given a full report of the actions on the 8th and 9th, I feel it due to the gallant officers who so nobly sustained the honor of the flag and country on those days to express my appreciation of their conduct.

To that brave and intelligent officer Lieut. Catesby Jones, the executive and ordnance officer of the Virginia, I am greatly indebted for the success achieved. His constant attention to his duties in the equipment of the ship; his intelligence in the instruction of ordnance {p.11} to the crew, as proved by the accuracy and effect of their fire, some of the guns having been personally directed by him; his tact and management in the government of raw recruits; his general knowledge of the executive duties of a man-of-war, together with his high-toned bearing, were all eminently conspicuous, and had their fruits in the admirable efficiency of the Virginia. If conduct such as his (and I do not know that I have used adequate language in describing it) entitles an officer to promotion, I see in the case of Lieutenant Jones one in all respects worthy of it. As flag-officer I am entitled to some one to perform the duties of flag-captain, and I should be proud to have Lieutenant Jones ordered to the Virginia as lieutenant-commandant, if it be not the intention of the Department to bestow upon him a higher rank.

Lieutenant Simms fully sustained his well-earned reputation. He fired the first gun, and when the command devolved upon Lieutenant Jones, in consequence of my disability, he was ordered to perform the duties of executive officer. Lieutenant Jones has expressed to me his satisfaction in having had the services of so experienced, energetic, and zealous an officer.

Lieutenant Davidson fought his guns with great precision. The muzzle of one of them was soon shot away. He continued, however, to fire it, though the wood work around the port became ignited at each discharge. His buoyant and cheerful bearing and voice were contagious and inspiring.

Lieutenant Wood handled his pivot gun admirably, and the executive officer testifies to his valuable suggestions during the action. His zeal and industry in drilling the crew contributed materially to our success.

Lieutenant Eggleston served his hot shot and shell with judgment and effect, and his bearing was deliberate, and exerted a happy influence on his division.

Lieutenant Butt fought his gun with activity and during the action was gay and smiling.

The Marine Corps was well represented by Captain Thom, whose tranquil mien gave evidence that the hottest fire was no novelty to him. One of his guns was served effectively and creditably by a detachment of the United Artillery of Norfolk, under the command of Captain Kevill. The muzzle of their gun was struck by a shell from the enemy, which broke off a piece of the gun, but they continued to fire as if it was uninjured.

Midshipmen Foute, Marmaduke, Littlepage, Craig, and Long rendered valuable services. Their conduct would have been creditable to older heads, and gave great promise of future usefulness. Midshipman Marmaduke, though receiving several painful wounds early in the action, manfully fought his gun until the close. He is now at the hospital.

Paymaster Semple volunteered for any service, and was assigned to the command of the powder division, an important and complicated duty, which could not have been better performed.

Surgeon Phillips and Assistant Surgeon Garnett were prompt and attentive in the discharge of their duties. Their kind and considerate care of the wounded and the skill and ability displayed in the treatment won for them the esteem and gratitude of all who came under their charge, and justly entitled them to the confidence of officers and crew. I beg leave to call the attention of the Department to the case of Dr. Garnett. He stands deservedly high in his profession, is at the head of the list of assistant surgeons, and there being a vacancy in consequence {p.12} of the recent death of Surgeon Blacknall, I should be much gratified if Dr. Garnett could be promoted to it.

The engines and machinery, upon which so much depended, performed much better than was expected. This is due to the intelligence, experience, and coolness of Acting Chief Engineer Ramsey-His efforts were ably seconded by his assistants, Tynan, Campbell, Herring, Jack, and White. As Mr. Ramsey is only acting chief engineer, I respectfully recommend his promotion to the rank of chief; and would also ask that Second Assistant Engineer Campbell may be promoted to first assistant, he having performed the duties of that grade during the engagement.

The forward officers-Boatswain Hasker, Gunner Oliver, and Carpenter Lindsey-discharged well all the duties required of them. The boatswain had charge of a gun and fought it well. The gunner was indefatigable in his efforts. His experience and exertions as a gunner have contributed very materially to the efficiency of the battery.

Acting Master Parrish was assisted in piloting the ship by Pilots Wright, Williams, Clark, and Cunningham. They were necessarily much exposed.

It is now due that I should mention my personal staff. To that gallant young officer Flag-Lieutenant Minor I am much indebted for his promptness in the execution of signals; for renewing the flag-staffs when shot away, being thereby greatly exposed; for his watchfulness in keeping the Confederate flag up; his alacrity in conveying my orders to the different divisions, and for his general cool and gallant bearing.

My aide, Acting Midshipman Rootes, of the Navy; Lieutenant Forrest, of the Army, who served as a volunteer aide, and my clerk, Mr. Arthur St. Clair, jr., are entitled to my thanks for the activity with which my orders were conveyed to the different parts of the ship. During the hottest of the fight they were always at their posts, giving evidence of their coolness.

Having referred to the good conduct of the officers in the flag-ship immediately under my notice, I come now to a no less pleasing task when I attempt to mark my approbation of the bearing of those serving in the other vessels of the squadron.

Commander John R. Tucker, of the Patrick Henry, and Lieuts. Commanding J. N. Barney, of the Jamestown, and W. A. Webb, of the Teazer, deserve great praise for their gallant conduct throughout the engagement. Their judgment in selecting their positions for attacking the enemy was good; their constant fire was destructive, and contributed much to the success of the day. The general order under which the squadron went into action required that, in the absence of all signals, each commanding officer was to exercise his own judgment and discretion in doing all the damage he could to the enemy and to sink before surrendering. From the bearing of those officers on the 8th I am fully satisfied that that order would have been carried out.

Commander Tucker speaks highly of all under him, and desires particularly to notice that-Lieutenant-Colonel Cadwallader St. George Noland, commanding the post at Mulberry Island, on hearing of the deficiency in the complement of the Patrick Henry, promptly offered the services of 10 of his men as volunteers for the occasion, one of whom, George E. Webb, of the Greenville Guards, Commander Tucker regrets to say, was killed.

Lieutenant-Commanding Barney reports every officer and man on board of the ship performed his whole duty, evincing a courage and fearlessness worthy of the cause for which we are fighting.

{p.13}

Lieutenant-Commanding Webb specially notices the coolness displayed by Acting Master Face and Third Assistant Engineer Quinn when facing the heavy fire of artillery and musketry from the shore while the Teazer was standing in to cover the boat in which, as previously stated, Lieutenant Minor had gone to burn the Congress. Several of his men were badly wounded.

The Raleigh, early in the action, had her gun-carriage disabled, which compelled her to withdraw. As soon as he had repaired damages as well as he could Lieutenant-Commanding Alexander resumed his position in the line. He sustained himself gallantly during the remainder of the day and speaks highly of all under his command. That evening he was ordered to Norfolk for repairs.

The Beaufort, Lieutenant-Commanding Parker, was in close contact with the enemy frequently during the day, and all on board behaved gallantly. Lieutenant-Commanding Parker expresses his warmest thanks to his officers and men for their coolness. Acting Midshipman Foreman, who accompanied him as volunteer aide; Midshipman Mallory and Newton; captain’s clerk Bain, and Mr. Gray, pilot, are all specially mentioned by him.

On the 21st instant I forwarded to the Department correct lists of the casualties on board all the vessels of the squadron on the 8th; none, it appears, occurred on the 9th.

While in the act of closing this report I received the communication of the Department, dated 22d instant, relieving me temporarily of the command of the squadron for the naval defense of James River. I feel honored in being relieved by the gallant Flag-Officer Tatnall.

I much regret that I am not now in a condition to resume my command, but trust that I shall soon be restored to health, when I shall be ready for any duty that may be assigned me.

Very respectfully,

FRANKLIN BUCHANAN, Flag-Officer.

Hon. S. R. MALLORY, Secretary of the Navy.

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No. 5.

Report of Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder, C. S. Army, commanding Department of the Peninsula, of his co-operation with naval attack.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE PENINSULA, Young’s Farm, Va., March 10, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt, at 9 p.m. on the 8th instant, of your telegram announcing the glorious achievement of the Confederate States war-steamer Virginia, and to report that before daylight I had troops on the way to the immediate vicinity of Newport News, and proceeded in person to join them.

On my arrival I found my advance guard, of one regiment of infantry, Colonel Cumming, Tenth Georgia, and some 300 cavalry (of ours) drawn up in line of battle within 1 mile of Newport News and 600 yards of the enemy’s pickets of infantry and cavalry.

As I obtained from all quarters reliable information of the enemy’s great strength, which was verified by our observation of the fort and {p.14} vicinity, amounting to at least 12,000 infantry at Newport News alone, which at any moment could be increased to 18,000 from Fort Monroe, I saw that it was utterly impossible to do anything toward attacking the fort. My own troops, which are obliged to be divided to defend the two roads, Yorktown and Warwick, being when united only about 4,000 infantry, 450 cavalry, and a few pieces of light artillery, the larger number being too heavy to bring over the roads, which are recently worse than ever.

Finding, as I anticipated, that the naval attack produced no effect upon the fort except to increase its garrison, I contented myself with occupying the most advanced posts, Bethel and Young’s Mill, where the troops are now.

I believe the enemy’s plan was to ascend James River by land and water, to attack and capture, if possible, Jamestown Island, which would cause the fall of Yorktown, and then to occupy Suffolk, Jamestown, and West Point, and leaving Norfolk to fall with the fall of Richmond, if that could be accomplished, and to direct all his energies against the latter place. For the present his plans must be somewhat frustrated; but I consider that the Patrick Henry, Jamestown, and Teazer having gone to Norfolk, and the Virginia into the dock for repairs, affords the enemy an admirable opportunity of fully retrieving his losses by placing the Ericsson battery at the mouth of James River and ascending at once the left bank of that river, attacking, supported by the Ericsson battery, the works of Harden’s Bluff and Mulberry Island Point, which are weak, and thus forcing my troops to fall back to protect Jamestown and Williamsburg and isolating and reducing Yorktown. I therefore hope that the steamers Patrick Henry, Jamestown, and Teazer may without delay ascend the James River, and should they require repairs, have them done at Richmond. When the Virginia is repaired they could join her at any moment, as she would be the mistress of the Roads.

I have not had time to report that the troops ordered to Suffolk were embarked from King’s Mill wharf immediately after the reception of the orders, as I am informed. A considerable number of the regiments sent were on furlough, and I therefore sent a somewhat larger number than that called for, estimating the number by the aggregate present and absent. I presume those absent will join at once. I sent also two batteries, that of Cobb’s Legion and the First Company of Howitzers, the latter being asked for by General Randolph. I have sent 350 cavalry, that number being embraced in Cobb’s Legion.

I beg leave respectfully to invite the attention of the Secretary of War to my remarks in relation to the location of the three steamers.

I have at length assembled many negroes, and the defensive works begin again to progress satisfactorily.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER, Major-General, Commanding.

General COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.

Library Reference Information

Type of Material: Book (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Corporate Name: United States. War Dept.
Main Title: The War of the Rebellion:
a compilation of the official records of the
Union and Confederate armies.
Prepared under the direction of the Secretary of War
by Robert N. Scott.
Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1880-1900.
Published/Created: Washington : Government Pub. Off., 1880-1901 (70 v. in 128).
Description: 70 v. in 128. 24 cm.
Subjects: United States. Army--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources.
Confederate States of America. Army--History--Sources.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories.
LC Classification: E464 .U6