Nonfiction > James Ford Rhodes > History of the Civil War, 1861–1865 > Page 112
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James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927).  History of the Civil War, 1861–1865  1917.
 
Page 112
 
 
with the necessity for speed. Ericsson’s ironclad was the Monitor; her keel was laid on October 25, 1861; she was launched on January 30, 1862, and on March 6 left New York for Fort Monroe.  45
  On Saturday, March 8, a fine day with a calm sea, the blockading fleet in Hampton Roads were on their usual watch; off Newport News the frigate Congress of fifty guns and the sloop of-war Cumberland of twenty-four, both sailing vessels, swung lazily at anchor. Soon after noon a monster, resembling “a huge half-submerged crocodile,” belching out smoke was descried coming from the direction of Norfolk. No such ship had ever before been seen in American waters; few, if any, of the Union men had ever looked upon her like elsewhere, but all knew at once that she was the Merrimac. The Congress and the Cumberland cleared their decks for action. The Merrimac opened with her bow gun on the Congress, received a broadside and gave one in return. The Cumberland and the shore batteries fired at the monster and their balls rebounded from her iron sides as if they had been of india rubber. Passing the Congress, the Merrimac steered directly for the Cumberland, brought her guns to bear upon the Union sloop-of-war, killing and wounding men at every shot, and, steaming on under full headway, rammed the Cumberland, opening “her side wide enough to drive in a horse and cart.” Water poured into the hold; “the ship canted to port,” the masts swaying wildly. She delivered a parting shot and sank “with the American flag at the peak.” 1 This action had lasted thirty minutes. Seeing the fate of her sister ship, the Congress slipped her anchor, set her jib and top-sails and, assisted by a tug, ran ashore, hoping in the shoal water to escape the Merrimac, which drew twenty-two feet. But she did not get beyond the Confederate range of fire. The
 
Note 1. B. & L., 698, 712; O. R., N., VII, 21. [back]
 

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