First naval battle

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“First naval battle in Hampton Roads between the Confederate iron-plated steamers Merrimac, Yorktown, and Jamestown, and the Federal wooden sailing frigates Cumberland and Congress- sinking of the Cumberland by a blow from the Merrimac, March 8th, 1862- sketched by our special artist. About noon on the 8th, a suspicious-looking vessel, looking like a submerged house, with the roof only above water, was discovered, moving down from Norfolk, by the channel in front of Sewall’s Point batteries. There was nothing protruding above the water but a flagstaff flying the Confederate flag and a short smokestack. She moved along slowly, and turned into the channel leading to Newport News, and steamed direct for the wooden sailing frigates Cumberland and Congress, which were lying at the mouth of James River. As soon as she came within range of the Cumberland, the latter opened on her with her heavy guns; but the balls struck and glanced off without effect. In the meantime, as the Merrimac was approaching the two frigates on one side, the Confederate ironclad steamers Yorktown and Jamestown came down James River, and engaged the frigates on the other side. The batteries at Newport News also opened on the Yorktown and Jamestown, and did all in their power to assist the Cumberland and Congress, which, being sailing vessels, were at the mercy of the approaching steamers. The Merrimac, in the meantime, kept steadily on her course, and slowly approached the Cumberland, when she and the Congress, at a distance of one hundred yards, rained full broadsides on the ironclad monters without effect. After receiving the first broadside of the two frigates, she ran on to the Cumberland, striking her about midship, and literally laying open her bow, left her to sink, while she engaged the Congress, which lay about a quarter of a mile distant. The Congress, having no regular crew on board of her, and seeing the hopelessness of resisting the ironclad steamer, at once struck her colors.” — Frank Leslie, 1896


Frank Leslie Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War (New York, NY: Mrs. Frank Leslie, 1896)


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