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

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

CHAPTER XIX.
OPERATIONS IN SOUTHEASTERN VIRGINIA.
January 11-March 17, 1862.
(Hampton Roads)
–––
UNION CORRESPONDENCE.

{p.15}

Abstract from return of the Department of Virginia, Maj. Gen. John E. Wool, U. S. Army, commanding, for January, 1862.

Command.Present for duty.Aggregate present.Aggregate present and absent.Pieces of artillery.
Officers.Men.Heavy.Field.
Department staff161617
Fort Monroe481,2801,5341,61422323
Camp Hamilton1644,3655,1595,941
Camp Butler1503,3014,1344,376
Fort Calhoun7150165184
Total3859,09611,00812,13222323

Organizations in the Department of Virginia, January 31, 1862.

  • FORT MONROE.
    Maj. JOSEPH ROBERTS, 4th U. S. Artillery.
    • 10th New York.
    • 99th New York (1 company).
    • 6th Massachusetts Battery.
    • 4th U. S. Artillery, Batteries D and L.
    • Wisconsin Light Artillery.
    • Mounted Rifles (2 companies).
  • CAMP BUTLER.*
    Brig. Gen. JOSEPH K. F. MANSFIELD.
    • 29th Massachusetts.
    • 1st New York.
    • 2d New York.
    • 7th New York.
    • 11th New York.
  • CAMP HAMILTON.**
    Col. MAX WEBER, 20th New York.
    • 1st Delaware.
    • 20th Indiana.
    • 16th Massachusetts.
    • 20th New York.
    • 99th New York (6 companies).
    • 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry.
    • Mounted Rifles (4 companies).
  • FORT CALHOUN.***
    Lieut. Col. G. B. HELLEDAY, 99th New York.
    • 99th New York (2 companies).

* Newport News.

** Across Mill Creek, near Fort Monroe.

*** Rip Raps; name changed to Fort Wool.

WASHINGTON, D. C., February 21, 1862-4 p.m.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL, Fort Monroe:

The iron-clad steam Monitor and a large frigate will be at Hampton Roads within the time you specify. Do you need troops to replace those intended for General Butler; if so, how many? With the cooperation of the Navy, how many additional troops do you need to take Yorktown, and how many by a subsequent operation to take Norfolk? Send me your best map of Norfolk and vicinity. Please communicate {p.16} fully. Let me hear from you every day. Can you take the Sewell’s Point Battery? If so, do it and spike the guns.

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General, Commanding U. S. A.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington City, D. C., February 22, 1862.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL, Commanding at Fortress Monroe:

GENERAL: Your dispatch of the 20th,* in relation to the expected attack on Newport News, has been received and communicated to the Secretary of the Navy and the General Commanding.

Accept my thanks for your prompt and vigilant attention. It will be the aim of this Department to support you in every particular you may deem essential to the good of the service. You have its perfect confidence and respect.

Yours, truly,

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

* Not found.

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HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, Fort Monroe, Va., February 23, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

SIR: ... Yesterday I had the honor to receive your telegram, by which I am informed that an iron-clad steamer and a large frigate would be in Hampton Roads within five days, the time stated when the Merrimac, Yorktown, and Jamestown would attack Newport News.

On land I will be prepared for them, and if the steamer and frigate arrive we will be well prepared for them on the water.

I have not time before the mail leaves to give you all the information you desire. I have only time to say, give me 20,000 men, including one regiment of regulars, in addition to those I now have with two companies of artillery, and four field batteries in addition to the two I now have, which are nearly complete, wanting only a few horses and harness, with boats sufficient to transport several thousand incur and I will, with Burnside’s co-operation, take Norfolk, provided I can have aid from the Navy and can be furnished with land transportation. All the boats we had at the post were given to the Hatteras expedition; consequently I have none that will answer for landing of troops.

I have a plan which will be presented to you by Colonel Cram, with a map, who will also be able to explain it to you in detail, and if I can be furnished with the means necessary and the co-operation of General Burnside I have no doubt of success against Norfolk, and, with aid from the Navy, against Yorktown. If we were prepared now it would be more readily accomplished than at a future day. I prefer to have my plan explained by the colonel, because it is less likely to become public.

{p.17}

Colonel Cram has a similar dispatch for Major-General McClellan, which is in accordance with his telegram.

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

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

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HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, Fort Monroe, Va., February 23, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

DEAR SIR: Colonel Cram, my senior aide-de-camp, will present you with a dispatch and a most excellent map, by which he will explain in detail my plans for taking Norfolk, Yorktown, and Richmond.

There has been no time in the last three months until recently that Richmond could not have been taken with 50,000 men, and even with a less force. At all events 50,000 men menacing Richmond would not have failed to have relieved Washington. Fifty thousand men menacing the enemy in the rear and 150,000 advancing in front, the rebel army would have been destroyed.

In conclusion, I would commend to your special attention Col. T. J. Cram. I am in want of another brigadier-general, having but one, who is at Newport News. Colonel Cram would make as efficient a brigadier-general as any other in service.

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

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

P. S.-A steamer has this moment arrived, bringing 372 returned prisoners from the South, of whom 345 are non-commissioned officers, privates, sailors, and citizens; also 10 negroes and 17 commissioned officers, 7 of whom were held as hostages, ranking as follows, viz: Colonels Lee, Cogswell, and Wood; Major Revere; Captains Bowman, Rockwood, and Keffer, all of whom go forward this evening by boat to Baltimore.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 6, 1862-4.10 p.m.

Commodore PAULDING, Comdg. Navy-Yard, New York:

Let the Monitor come direct to Washington, anchoring below Alexandria.

GIDEON WELLES, Secretary Navy.

[Indorsement.]

I never received the above telegram.

JOHN L. WORDEN, Rear Admiral, U. S. N.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington City, D. C., March 7, 1862.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL, Comdg. Fortress Monroe:

SIR: Your request to be furnished with two gunboats has been referred to the Secretary of the Navy, who informs me that-

Flag-Officer Goldsborough has withdrawn the class of vessels desired by Major-General {p.18} Wool for operations in the North Carolina waters. It is presumed he will soon return with most of them. Until that period arrives this Department has no other force to place at Hampton Roads.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 7, 1862-10-p.m.

Capt. JOHN MARSTON, Senior Naval Officer, Hampton Roads (via boat):

Send the St. Lawrence, Congress, and Cumberland immediately into the Potomac River.

Let the disposition of the remainder of the vessels at Hampton Roads be made according to your best judgment, after consultation with General Wool. Use steam to tow them up.

I will also try and send a couple of steamers from Baltimore to assist. Let there be no delay.

GIDEON WELLES, Secretary Navy.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 8, 1862.

Capt. JOHN MARSTON, Senior Naval Officer, Hampton Roads:

The Assistant Secretary will be at Old Point by the Baltimore boat et this evening. Do not move the ships until further orders, which he will carry.

GIDEON WELLES, Secretary Navy.

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HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, Fort Monroe, Va., March 8, 1862-9 p.m.

Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary Navy, Washington, D. C.:

Consulting with General Wool, I have ordered the frigates out of the Roads-the St. Lawrence to the Potomac, Roanoke and Minnesota to New York, the latter being disabled. The Monitor, of course, remains. If there are any of those 11-inch gunboats (I think there are two in Boston) please send them at once to this place. They can keep clear of the Merrimac and be of great assistance.

Nearly all here are of the opinion that the Merrimac is disabled. I was the nearest person to her, outside of the Monitor, and I am of opinion she is not seriously injured. I have sent a steamer for Commodore Goldsborough I cannot see that anything more can be done by the Navy.

G. V. FOX.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 9, 1862.

HENRY B. RENWICK, Esq., 21 Fifth Avenue, corner Ninth street, New York:

The Merrimac, an armor-clad vessel belonging to the rebels, issued from Norfolk yesterday, and captured several of the United States {p.19} blockading vessels, and threatens to sweep our whole flotilla from Chesapeake Bay. Under these circumstances it is of the last importance to capture or destroy the Merrimac, and the whole wealth and power of the United States will be at command for that purpose. As this movement was anticipated and the subject of discussion between you and myself last December, you have no doubt thought of various modes by which it could be met and overcome most promptly. The Secretary of War desires you quietly to call a meeting of from three to nine persons, at your discretion, of the best judgment in naval engineering and warfare, to meet immediately at your father’s house or some other convenient and suitable place, and to sit as a committee to devise the best plan of speedily accomplishing the capture or destruction of the Merrimac. I would suggest the name of Abram S. Hewitt as a member of the committee. You will bear in mind that every hour’s delay to destroy the Merrimac may result in incalculable damage to the United States, and that the plan or plans for her destruction should be submitted at the earliest hour practicable for the approval of this Department, to the end that their execution may not be unnecessarily delayed a moment. To enable you to communicate hourly with this Department, the telegraphic company is directed to transmit all messages from you at the expense of the Government.

Acknowledge this dispatch the moment you receive it. Spare no pains or expense to get the committee together immediately. Act with the utmost energy. You and each member of the committee will consider this whole matter confidential.

P. H. WATSON, Assistant Secretary of War.

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HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Washington, March 9, 1862.

COMMANDING OFFICERS Fort Delaware; Fort Muffin; New York Harbor, N. Y.; Newport, R. I.; Fort Trumbull, New London; Boston Harbor; Portland, Me.:

The rebel iron-clad steamer Merrimac has destroyed two of our frigates near Fort Monroe and finally retired last night to Craney Island. She may succeed in passing the batteries and go to sea, it is necessary that you at once place your post in the best possible condition for defense, and do your best to stop her should she endeavor to run by. Anything that can be effected in the way of temporary batteries should be done at once.

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General, U. S. A.

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HEADQUARTERS, Baltimore, March 9, 1862.

Col. GOUVERNEUR K. WARREN, Commanding Fort Federal Hill:

COLONEL: The Merrimac has come down from Norfolk and destroyed the Cumberland and the Congress. She may pass Fort Monroe and come here. You will have Forts Federal Hill and Marshall prepared for action, and take every precaution for their security against attack. This is especially necessary in regard to the latter, which has a very small garrison.

{p.20}

You will make the same arrangements which would be necessary if we were in the presence of an enemy.

Very respectfully, yours,

JOHN A. DIX, Major-General.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, March 9, 1862.

To the GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK, Albany; MASSACHUSETTS, Boston; MAINE, Portland:

The opinion of the naval commanders here is that the Merrimac will not venture to sea, but they advise that immediate preparations be made to guard against the danger to our ports by large timber rafts, protected by batteries. They regard timber rafts, guarded by batteries, as the best protection for temporary purposes.

General Totten says do not neglect the batteries.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 9 1862.

His Excellency E. D. MORGAN, Governor of New York, Albany, N. Y.

The Merrimac was beaten back by the Monitor to-day after a five hours’ contest, and is reported to be disabled.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

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NAVY-YARD, Washington, D. C., March 9, 1862-2 p.m.

Brig. Gen. HOOKER, Commanding:

Please have the following communicated to Captain Wyman as soon as possible:

The Merrimac has got out of harbor, and had pretty much used up our ships at Hampton Roads.

It is impossible to say what she may attempt, but as a proper precaution it is proposed to be ready to block the channel of this river in the event of an attempt to enter it.

By direction of the President it has been agreed on by General McClellan, General Meigs, and myself, the Secretary of War present, to fill some canal-boats and other craft and tow them down near the place where it would be advisable to sink them. I wish you therefore to send up some of the steamers to tow down.

You have no doubt received my dispatch to send a fast vessel to observe the mouth of the Potomac. Let this duty be well looked to.

Will General Hooker please to inform me of this reaching Captain Wyman.

JNO. A. DAHLGREN, Commandant, Navy-Yard.

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WASHINGTON NAVY-YARD, March 9, 1862-3 p.m.

His Excellency the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

I beg leave to inform you that upon consultation with such pilots as I have in the yard, I find them to be of opinion that a vessel drawing {p.21} 22 feet water can pass up the Potomac within a hundred yards of the Arsenal. As far as the light-house on Blackistone Island, some 30 miles, there is abundant water for any ship. About 5 miles higher up is the first obstacle-the Kettle Bottoms. The channel passes among these shoals for 5 miles, and the pilot says 24 feet can be had, which I doubt. The narrowest part about 300 yards wide. From this the channel continues good until just below Aquia, where it shoals, so that 23 feet is considered the best water at common high tide. Having passed this, the water deepens passing the batteries and shoals about Mattawoman Creek, where the depth at common high tide is 22 feet. This obstruction is less than a mile in extent, after which the channel deepens several feet; though it narrows, it runs nearly to the Arsenal, and perhaps some 3 miles from the Capitol.

The actual blocking of the river is only to be resorted to when the exigency arises, the means being at hand. There are three points where it can be done-the Kettle Bottoms, below Smith’s Point, and at Mattawoman. I would advise that some heavy ordnance be got ready for placing at the Arsenal, at Giesborough Point, and at Buzzard Point. Fort Washington should also have suitable cannon. I have telegraphed to the flotilla for some steamers to tow down the blocking vessels as soon as General Meigs has them ready. It happens unfortunately that the only two good steamers belonging to the yard are at Fortress Monroe.

JNO. A. DAHLGREN, Commandant

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MARCH 9, 1862-3.40 p.m.

General MCCLELLAN, Commander:

I am making arrangements to place an 11-inch gun and some 10-inch mortars on Giesborough Point, which will command at short range the nearest point that a vessel drawing 22 feet can approach the Capitol. The channel passes within 50 yards of this position.

As I have but a handful of men, it might be convenient to have some assistance from the neighboring regiments. If so, please authorize it.

JNO. A. DAHLGREN.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 9, 1862-5.30 p.m.

Captain DAHLGREN:

The steamer Sophia will leave G-street wharf in ten minutes, having in tow eight canal-boats loaded with sufficient stone to sink them. Another steamer, with eight more, will leave in the course of the night. The captain of the Sophia bears a letter to the officer in command of the flotilla, stating “that the boats are to be sunk if necessary.” This telegram is sent for your information.

By order of General Meigs, Quartermaster-General:

D. H. RUCKER, Quartermaster and Colonel.

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FORTRESS MONROE, March 9, 1862-6.45 p.m.

Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy:

The Monitor arrived at 10 p.m. last night and went immediately to the protection of the Minnesota, lying aground just below Newport News. At 7 a.m. to-day the Merrimac, accompanied by two wooden steamers and several tugs, stood out toward the Minnesota and opened {p.22} fire. The Monitor met them at once and opened her fire when all the enemy’s vessels retired excepting the Merrimac. These two iron-dads fought, part of the time touching each other, from 8 a.m. to noon, when the Merrimac retired. Whether she is injured or not,it is impossible to say. Lieut. J. L. Worden, who commanded the Monitor handled her with great skill, and was assisted by Chief Engineer Stimers. Lieutenant Worden was injured by the cement from the pilot-house being driven into his eyes, but I trust not seriously. The Minnesota kept up a continuous fire, and is herself somewhat injured. She was moved considerably to-day, and will probably be off to-night. The Monitor is uninjured and ready at any moment to repel another attack.

G. V. FOX, Assistant Secretary.

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WASHINGTON NAVY-YARD, March 9, 1862-9 p.m.

Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy:

The proposed measures for guarding the Potomac are in progress.

I am informed from the Quartermaster’s Department that eight canal-boats, loaded with stone were about to leave, and eight more would leave during the night. I have sent instructions to the commandant of the flotilla as to their disposition and use at the three places where the channel has the least depth of water.

The only 11-inch gun and 50-pounder which I have will be landed on Giesborough Point before midnight. The platforms will be laid and the guns in position to-morrow morning. The mortars will also be placed. Shot are being cast for all of them, and a full supply will be ready tomorrow.

The Secretary of War has visited the defensive points and given me authority to draw on any of the regiments or forts for men, guns, or munitions. He has also authorized me to take for the while the private steamers plying on the river for present use of the Government, and I have sent around for them. If there should be any use at all for a battery on Giesborough, there ought to be twenty of the heaviest cannon. Shot of 170 pounds at 50 or 100 yards will be apt to do something. A smart steamer has been dispatched to the mouth of the Potomac to observe it.

JNO. A. DAHLGREN, Commandant.

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BUDD’S FERRY, March 9, 1862-9.15 p.m.

Captain DAHLGREN:

I was absent when your telegram for Captain Wyman reached this office it was, however, duly communicated.

Captain Wyman is of the opinion that the Merrimac cannot ascend the Potomac.

HOOKER, Brigadier-General

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EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, March 9, 1862.

Colonel INGALLS, Quartermaster, Annapolis:

Should the Merrimac, which did so much damage at Newport News, attempt anything at Annapolis, it is believed that the best defense would be an attack by a number of swift steamers, full of men, who {p.23} should board her by a sudden rush, fire down through her hatches or grated deck, and throw cartridges, grenades, or shells down her smoke-pipes; sacrifice the steamers in order to take the Merrimac.

If an overwhelming force can be thus thrown on board there will be little loss of life, though the steam transports may be destroyed. Of course the steamers should be provided with ladders, planks, grapplers, and other means to board with. The Merrimac has iron sides, sloping above water to a deck about 9 feet wide. Said to be an iron-grated deck.

Promotion, ample reward, awaits whoever takes or destroys her.

By order of the Secretary of War:

M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster-General.

You, of course, have a swift steamer outside on the look out.

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WASHINGTON, D. C., March 9, 1862-1 p.m.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL Fort Monroe:

If the rebels obtain full command of the water it would be impossible for you to hold Newport News. You are therefore authorized to evacuate that place, drawing the garrison in upon Fort Monroe, which I need not say to so brave an officer is to be held at all hazards as I will risk everything to sustain you should you be attacked by superior force.

From indications here I suspect an intention of the enemy to fall back nearer to Richmond, that they may better concentrate their forces. An attack upon you is not improbable.

If the 15-inch gun is at Newport News I would suggest its immediate removal to either Fort Monroe or Fort Calhoun, unless it will enable you to retain possession of Newport News. By authorizing you to withdraw from Newport News I do not mean to give you the order to do so, but to relieve you from that grave sense of responsibility which every good officer feels in such a case. I would only evacuate Newport News when it became clear that the rebels would certainly obtain complete control of the water and render it untenable. Do not run the risk of placing its garrison under the necessity of surrendering.

You will also please inform me fully of your views and wishes, the practicability and necessity of re-enforcing you, &c. The performances of the Merrimac place a new aspect upon everything, and may probably change my old plan of campaign just on the eve of execution.

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General, Commanding.

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FORT MONROE, VA., March 9, 1862-10.45 p.m.

Major-General MCCLELLAN, Washington, D. C.:

Your telegram to Major-General Wool received. The performance of the Monitor to-day against the Merrimac shows a slight superiority in favor of the Monitor, as the Merrimac was forced to retreat to Norfolk after a four hour’s engagement, at times the vessels touching each other. The damage to the Merrimac cannot be ascertained. She retreated under steam without assistance.

The Monitor is all ready for her to-morrow, but I think the Merrimac may be obliged to lay up for a few days. She is an ugly customer, {p.24} and it is too good luck to believe we are yet clear of her. Our hopes are upon the Monitor, and this days’ work shows that the Merrimac must attend to her alone. Have ordered the large frigates to leave.

G. V. FOX, Assistant Secretary.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 9, 1862.

Capt. HIRAM PAULDING, Commandant Navy Yard, New York:

If the Oneida can go to sea, send her to Hampton Roads instantly. Send any vessels you have. Don’t delay a moment.

GIDEON WELLES.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 10, 1862.

HENRY B. RENWICK, Esq., New York:

Your dispatch of this morning received.* Why not take, say, three large and swift steamers, drawing not more than 16 feet of water when loaded, fill their bows, and strengthen them generally, and protect their machinery with timber? Could not three such vessels be fitted up and made ready for sea in three or four days, and would they not be sufficient for the destruction of the Merrimac by running her down, if managed by volunteer commanders and crews? Telegraph immediately for Carryall to return.

P. H. WATSON, Assistant Secretary of War.

* Not found.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 10, 1862.

Governor ANDREW, Boston:

The Merrimac is reported by General Wool as having returned to Norfolk in a sinking condition, but Assistant Secretary Fox, who is also at Fort Monroe, reports that it is not known whether she is disabled or not.

My telegram to you respecting your defenses was sent before it was known that the Monitor had reached Fort Monroe, and it was unknown what further mischief might be done by the Merrimac. All the information possessed by the War Department respecting affairs at Fort Monroe is allowed to pass by the telegraph for public information. Any special information important to public safety will be communicated to you.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

Above dispatch sent to-

Gov. E. D. Morgan, Albany, N. Y. Gov. John A. Andrew, Boston, Mass. Gov. Israel Washburn, jr., Augusta, Me.

{p.25}

HEADQUARTERS ARMY POTOMAC, March 10, 1862-1 a.m.

Capt. JOHN. A. DAHLGREN:

You wilt suspend operations for the present for sinking boats or placing obstructions in the Potomac.

GIDEON WELLES.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 10, 1862-10.27 a.m.

Capt. G. V. Fox, Assistant Secretary of Navy, Fort Monroe:

It is directed by the President that the Monitor be not too much exposed, and that in no event shall any attempt be made to proceed with her unattended to Norfolk. If vessels can be procured and loaded with stone and sunk in the channel it is important that it should be done. The San Jacinto and Dacotah have sailed from Boston for Hampton Roads, and the Sabine in tow of Baltic, and a tug from New York. Gunboats will be ordered forthwith. Would it not be well to detain the Minnesota until other vessels arrive?

GIDEON WELLES.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 10, 1862-3 p.m.

Capt. WILLIAM L. HUDSON, Commandant Navy Yard, Boston:

Send the Wachusett to Hampton Roads. Have the work on the other gunboats carried on day and night with all the force possible to put on them, and when ready send them to Hampton Roads.

GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.

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QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington City, March 10, 1862-3.50 p.m.

Major BELGER, Quartermaster, Baltimore:

Hold the steamer Commodore, which was sent to Baltimore from Annapolis yesterday, ready to carry a messenger with dispatches to General Burnside, who will be found in Pamlico or Albemarle Sound.

The messenger accredited from the Secretary of War or Adjutant-General will leave this place on the 5 o’clock train. Have a carriage and conveyance ready to put him on board the Commodore.

Acknowledge receipt of this and report progress. If the Commodore is unfit for the service, consult, by telegraph, Colonel Ingalls, Annapolis, who reports her as swift and drawing only 6 feet of water, as to a vessel for this service.

M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster-General.

–––

NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 10, 1862-9.45 p.m.

Capt. WILLIAM L. HUDSON, Commandant Navy Yard, Boston:

If Chocura and Penobscot have not sailed, send them to Hampton {p.26} Roads as soon as steam can be gotten up; also the Marblehead or any other gunboat ready.

Answer.

GIDEON WELLES.

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MARCH 11, 1862-9 a.m.

Brigadier-General MEIGS:

I am now ready to send the only 11-inch gun here to its position on Giesborough Point. It is probably the only heavy gun in this vicinity.

It blew so freshly yesterday that there was danger of the scow foundering on the way if sent. Is it still considered necessary to mount it?

Captain Wyman considers more barges necessary than those to be sent. He wrote me that none of them had reached him at midnight, but they were met going down.

JNO. A. DAHLGREN

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QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington City, March 11, 1862-12.27 p.m.

Capt. JOHN A. DAHLGREN, Commanding Washington Navy Yard:

I take it for granted that all measures of precaution ordered are to be carried out, having no orders to the contrary.

How many more canal-boats should be sent down? I will order eight more made ready and sent as soon as possible, and as many more as you desire.

M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 11, 1862.

General JOHN E. WOOL, Fort Monroe, Va.:

Let the name of the gun heretofore known as the “Floyd” be changed, and hereafter be called the “Lincoln.” What are you now doing with the two big guns? Can they be mounted on the beach so as to be available for defense? Do you want any aid in mounting them? If there is a carriage for the 12-inch gun, mount the 15-inch gun in that carriage, and let another carriage be prepared for the 12-inch gun.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

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FORTRESS MONROE, March 11, 1862.

Major-General MCCLELLAN:

Nothing of importance has occurred to-day. The enemy under the command of Magruder, in some force about 8 miles from Newport News, expecting, no doubt, that the Merrimac, called the Virginia, will again make her appearance.

The Fifty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiment arrived this morning. The First Michigan is expected this evening.

I sent this day a flag of truce to Craney Island. No information was attained in regard to the injury sustained by the Merrimac. She reached Norfolk on Sunday evening.

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

{p.27}

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MARCH 12, 1862-10.45 a.m.

Brigadier-General MEIGS, Quartermaster-General:

Captain Wyman informs me that the barges sent down have no arrangement for sinking them, and have so little stone in them that he thinks they would not be very efficient in blocking the channel.

JNO. A. DAHLGREN.

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FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, March 12, 1862.

Capt. G. V. FOX, Fort Monroe:

Can I rely on the Monitor to keep the Merrimac in check, so that I can make Fort Monroe a base of operations. Please answer at once.

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General.

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FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, March 12, 1862.

G. V. FOX, Assistant Secretary of the Navy:

The possibility of the Merrimac appearing again paralyzes the movements of this army by whatever route is adopted. How long a time would it require to complete the vessel built at Mystic River, working night and day? How long would Stevens require to finish his vessel, so far as to enable her to contend with the Merrimac? If she is uninjured, of course no precaution would avail, and the Monitor must be the sole reliance. But if injured so as to require considerable repairs, these things are important to be considered. The General would desire any suggestion of your own on this subject.

By order of Major-General McClellan:

J. G. BARNARD, Chief Engineer.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 13, 1862.

Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Fairfax Court-House:

The Monitor is more than a match for the Merrimac, but she might be disabled in the next encounter. I cannot advise so great dependence upon her. Burnside and Goldsborough are very strong for the Chowan River route to Norfolk, and I brought up maps, explanations, &c., to show you. It turns everything, and is only 27 miles to Norfolk by two good roads. Burnside will have New Berne this week. The Monitor may, and I think will, destroy the Merrimac in the next fight; but this is hope, not certainty. The Merrimac must dock for repairs.

G. V. FOX.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 13, 1862.

Captain DAHLGREN:

On Sunday I sent down fifteen boats. On Tuesday eight more, making {p.28} twenty-three in all. Do you want more? If so, notify Colonel Bucker by telegraph and also me.

M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster-General.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 13, 1862-5.20 p.m.

Captain DAHLGREN:

I ordered yesterday nine barges, and some men to load them, sent down. Does Captain Wyman need more yet? I believe in precaution. I would not trust this city and the fleet you see coming into the river to the strength of a single screw-bolt in the Monitor’s new machinery. If one breaks, the Merrimac beats her. The Merrimac, too, is reported able to outrun, neglect her, and pass her.

M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster-General.

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MARCH 13, 1862-6 p.m.

Brigadier-General MEIGS, Quartermaster-General:

I have your two telegrams. Captain Wyman writes me that he has placed eight barges on the Kettle Bottoms, eight off Smith’s Point, and seven off Mattawoman. He thinks there should be four or six more on Mattawoman, and asks for them, with their anchors.

If it is desired to put the matter beyond doubt, then it will be better to let the two frigates at the mouth of the Potomac enter and proceed to the Kettle Bottoms or Smith’s Point, anchor, and prepare to sink them as soon as the Merrimac reaches the Potomac. She cannot get by them. The telegraph at Fort Monroe should give twelve hours’ notice; and it would be well to send a fast vessel, like the Metamora, to the mouth of the Potomac to observe and to convey intelligence.

JNO. A. DAHLGREN

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HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Fairfax Court-House, March 13, 1862. (Received 9.40 p. m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

I would respectfully suggest that the Secretary of the Navy be requested to order to Fort Monroe whatever force DuPont can now spare, as well as any available force that Goldsborough can send up, as soon as his present operations are completed.

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General.

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NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 13, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

SIR: I have the honor to suggest that this Department can easily obstruct the channel to Norfolk so as to prevent the exit of the Merrimac, provided the Army will carry the Sewell’s Point Batteries, in which duty the Navy will give great assistance.

Very respectfully,

GIDEON WELLES.

{p.29}

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ADJUTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington, March 13, 1862.

Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy:

SIR: I am directed by the Secretary of War to say that he places at your disposal any transports or coal vessels at Fort Monroe for the purpose of closing the channel of the Elizabeth River to prevent the Merrimac again coming out.

I have the honor, &c.,

L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.

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FORT MONROE, VA., March 13, 1862-2 a.m.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

I have just sent the following to Major-General McClellan:

Major-General MCCLELLAN, Fairfax Court-House:

I have just received dispatch from the President, informing me that you are no longer General-in-Chief of the Army. You command the Army of the Potomac. My orders are hereafter to be received from the Secretary of War. I have urged for months Fort Monroe as a base of operations against the army of the rebels at Manassas and the South.

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

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FORT MONROE, VA., March 13, 1862-2 a.m.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

I received last evening a dispatch from the President that Major-general McClellan was no longer General-in-Chief of the Army, and that he was assigned to the Army of the Potomac. The Army of the Potomac is not included in my department-the Department of Southeastern Virginia. Since the above telegram I have received the following telegram from Major-General McClellan, viz:

Can I rely on the Monitor to keep the Merrimac in cheek so that I can make Fort Monroe a base of operations? Please answer at once.

I have answered that he could rely on the Monitor; but if he makes Fort Monroe the base of operations-which should have been done months ago-I will rank him, and must command, for I am now in command by the President according to my brevet rank. Please to answer.

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

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FORT MONROE, VA., March 13, 1862-3.5 p.m.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

In reply to Major-Genera] McClellan’s desire to know what I wanted for defense of my position, I replied, for immediate defense, as follows, viz: Two thousand regular infantry and 8,000 volunteer infantry; five batteries of light artillery (regulars, if possible); 1,100 horses for the five batteries, to complete the batteries I have here and to mount Dodge’s {p.30} cavalry. I have received only three regiments: First Michigan, Fifth Maryland, and Fifty-eighth Pennsylvania. I require several companies of regular artillery in Fort Monroe. I have only about 110 regulars for Fort Monroe and Newport News. Fort Monroe is too important a position to be neglected. I have never failed to so represent, and ask for troops and other means of defense.

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

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FORT MONROE, VA., March 13, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

Major-General McClellan desires by telegraph to know if the channel between Sewell’s Point and Craney Island could be blockaded. I reply that it would be impracticable without first taking the battery of thirty guns on Sewell’s Point and then sink twenty boats loaded with stone, exposed, however, to a fire of thirty guns on Craney Island. Flag-Officer Goldsborough agrees with me in this opinion. To take the batteries it would require the Monitor. Neither of us think it would do to use the Monitor for that service, lest she should become crippled. She is our only hope against the Merrimac

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

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WASHINGTON, D. C., March 13, 1862-9.15 p.m.

Major-General MCCLELLAN:

I have seen Fox. He says the Merrimac is not able to come into the Chesapeake, and is slower than the Monitor. The latter fought under very disadvantageous circumstances, is uninjured, and is capable of mastering her adversary. He seems to regard the operations of the Merrimac as confined to Hampton Roads above the fort. The Secretary has telegraphed concerning Burnside and Wool.* No troops ordered to Frémont from this army.

IRVIN MCDOWELL, Brigadier-General.

* See Series I, Vol. V, p. 750.

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WASHINGTON CITY, D. C., March 14, 1862-8.45 a.m.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL, Commanding at Fortress Monroe:

The following dispatch from General McClellan has been received by this Department:

FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, March 13-11.20 p.m.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

I would be glad to have instructions given to General Wool that the troops and stores now being sent down to Fort Monroe are of my command and not to be appropriated by him.

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General.

{p.31}

The request of General McClellan is approved, and you are instructed to act in accordance with it, and to acknowledge the receipt of this communication.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, March 14, 1862-10.10 a.m.

Major-General WOOL:

It is represented that a large number of visitors for pleasure, dealers in trade, and other persons not in the public service are now congregating at Fort Monroe, whose presence may embarrass the grave naval and military operations now in progress or in contemplation there. You are authorized, in your discretion, to require the immediate departure of all persons not in the service of the United States whose presence may incommode operations, and to exclude all unauthorized persons from stopping or remaining there, until further orders. You will, from and after this date, exercise the most rigid discipline and police within the territory under your command.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

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WAR DEPARTMENT-12 m., (Received March 14, 1862.)

Captain DAHLGREN:

Your telegram relative to barges received. I have ordered eight more sent down. I have seen nothing yet to satisfy me that in the next engagement the Monitor will not be sunk.

M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster-General.

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FORT MONROE, VA., (Received March 14, 1862-11.20 a.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

I beg you will send me more troops. The Merrimac is preparing and they are strengthening her weak points. It is thought she will be prepared to come out in a very few days. If she should overcome the Monitor we would lose Newport News-an important position-unless I have troops enough to meet and repel the rebels before they can reach Newport News.

JOHN E. WOOL, Major-General.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 15, 1862.

C. VANDERBILT, Esq., New York:

The Secretary of War directs me to ask you for what sum you will contract to destroy the Merrimac or prevent her from coming out from Norfolk-you to sink or destroy her if she gets out?

Answer by telegraph, as there is no time to be lost.

JOHN TUCKER, Assistant Secretary of War.

{p.32}

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NEW YORK CITY, March 15, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON:

Mr. Vanderbilt desires me to say lie can make no satisfactory reply to the inquiry made of him, but will be in Washington on Monday next to confer with the Department.

W. B. DINSMORE.

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WASHINGTON, March 15, 1862.

Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Seminary:

In reply to your dispatch to this Department of yesterday [13th], which was transmitted to the Secretary of the Navy, he replies as follows:

NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 14, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

SIR: Yours, inclosing the dispatch of Major-General McClellan, suggesting that the Secretary of the Navy be requested “to order to Fort Monroe whatever force DuPont can now spare, as well as any available force that Goldsborough can send up, as soon as his present operations are completed,” has been received. If a movement is to be made upon Norfolk-always a favorite measure of this Department-instant measures will be taken to advise and strengthen Flag-Officer Goldsborough, but unless such be the case, I should be extremely reluctant to take any measure that would even temporarily weaken the efficacy of the blockade, especially at the points under the command of Flag-Officer DuPont. The importance of capturing Norfolk is, I know, deemed most indispensable by Flag-Officer Goldsborough, who will be happy to co-operate in a movement in that direction, and will, I need not assure you, have the active and earnest efforts of this Department to aid him with all the force that can be placed at his disposal.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

GIDEON WELLES.

The foregoing letter was received late last night.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

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