Report of Captain Marston, U.S. Navy, senior officer present, aboard the
screw frigate USS Roanoke.
Roads, March 9, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to inform you that yesterday at 1 o'clock one of the
lookout vessels reported by signal that the enemy was coming out. I immediately ordered the Minnesota to get underway,
and as soon as the two tugs appointed to tow this ship came alongside I slipped our cable.
The Merrimack was soon discovered passing out by Sewell's Point, standing
up toward Newport News, accompanied by several small gunboats. Every exertion was made by us to get all the speed on the Roanoke
that the two tugs were capable of giving her, but in consequence of our bad steerage we did not get ahead as rapidly as
we desired to do. The Merrimack went up and immediately attacked the Congress and Cumberland, but particularly
the latter ship, which was hid from us by the land. When about 7 or 8 miles from Fortress Monroe the Minnesota grounded.
We continued to stand on, and when we came in sight of the Cumberland we saw that she had careened over, apparently
full of water. The enemy, who had been joined by two or three steamers from James River, now devoted themselves exclusively
to the Congress, but she being aground could bring but few guns to bear on them, and at ten minutes before 4 o'clock
we had the mortification of seeing her haul down her flag. I continued to stand on till we found ourselves in 3½ fathoms water,
and was on the ground astern. Finding that we could go on no farther I ordered one of our tugs to tow us round, and as soon
as the Roanoke's head was pointed down the bay, and I found she was afloat again, I directed the tugs to go to the
assistance of the Minnesota, under the hope that with two others which had accompanied her they would be able to get
her off, but up to the time that I now write have not succeeded in doing so.
At 5 o'clock the frigate St. Lawrence, in tow of the Cambridge,
passed us, and not long after she also grounded, but by the aid of the Cambridge she was got afloat again, and
being unable to render any assistance to the Minnesota, came down the harbor. In passing the batteries at Sewell's
Point, both going and returning, the rebels opened their fire on us, which was returned from our pivot guns, but the range
was too great for them, while the enemy's shot [fell] far beyond us. One shot went through our foresail, cutting away two
of our shrouds, and several shells burst over and near the ship, scattering their fragments on the deck.
Between 7 and 8 o'clock we discovered that the rebels had set fire to the
Congress, and she continued to burn till 1 o'clock, when she blew up. This was a melancholy satisfaction to me, for
as she had fallen into the hands of the enemy it was far better to have her destroyed than that she should be employed against
us at some future day. It was the impression of some of my officers that the rebels hoisted the French flag, but I could not
make it out. At 8 o'clock I heard that the Monitor had arrived, and soon after Lieutenant Commanding Worden came on
board and I immediately ordered him to go to the Minnesota, hoping that she would be able to keep off an attack on
the Minnesota till we had got her afloat again. This morning the Merrimack renewed the attack on the Minnesota,
but she found, no doubt greatly to her surprise, a new opponent in the Monitor. The contest has been going on during
most of the day between these two armored vessels, and most beautifully has the little Monitor sustained herself showing
herself capable of great endurance.
I have not received any official account of the loss of the Congress and
Cumberland, but no doubt shall do so, when it will be transmitted to you.
I should do injustice to this military department did I not inform you that
every assistance was freely tendered to us, sending five of their tugs to the relief of the Minnesota, and offering
all the aid in their power.
I would also beg leave to say that Captain Poor, of the Ordnance Department,
kindly volunteered to do duty temporarily on board this ship, and from whom I have received much assistance. I did hope to
get this off by this day's mail, but I have been so constantly employed that I fear I shall not do so.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
and Senior Officer.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
of the Navy, Washington, D.C.
Source: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the
War of the Rebellion. Series 1, vol. 7 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1898): 8-9.
Reading: Ironclad Down: USS Merrimack-CSS Virginia from Design to Destruction (Hardcover). Description: The result of more than fifteen years
of research, Ironclad Down is a treasure trove of detailed information about one of history s most famous vessels. Describing
the fascinating people--Stephen Russell Mallory, John Mercer Brooke, John Luke Porter, et al.--who conceived, designed and
built one of the world's first ironclads as well as describing the ship itself, Carl Park offers both the most thoroughly
detailed, in-depth analysis to date of the actual architecture of the Virginia
and a fascinating, colorful chapter of Civil War history.
Recommended Reading: A History of Ironclads: The Power of Iron over Wood. Description: This
landmark book documents the dramatic history of Civil War ironclads and reveals how ironclad warships revolutionized naval
warfare. Author John V. Quarstein explores in depth the impact of ironclads during the Civil War and their colossal effect
on naval history. The Battle of Hampton Roads was one of history's greatest naval engagements. Over the course of two days
in March 1862, this Civil War conflict decided the fate of all the world's navies. It was the first battle between ironclad
warships, and the 25,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians who witnessed the battle vividly understood what history would soon
confirm: wars waged on the seas would never be the same. Continued below…
About the Author: John V. Quarstein is an award-winning author and historian. He is director
of the Virginia
War Museum in Newport News and chief historical advisor for The Mariners' Museum's new USS Monitor Center
(opened March 2007). Quarstein has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on American, military and Civil War history,
and has appeared in documentaries for PBS, BBC, The History Channel and Discovery Channel.
Reading: Confederate Ironclad vs Union Ironclad: Hampton Roads
1862 (Duel). Description: The Ironclad
was a revolutionary weapon of war. Although iron was used for protection in the Far East
during the 16th century, it was the 19th century and the American Civil War that heralded the first modern armored self-propelled
warships. With the parallel pressures of civil war and the industrial revolution, technology advanced at a breakneck speed.
It was the South who first utilized ironclads as they attempted to protect their ports from the Northern blockade. Impressed
with their superior resistance to fire and their ability to ram vulnerable wooden ships, the North began to develop its own
rival fleet of ironclads. Eventually these two products of this first modern arms race dueled at the battle of Hampton Roads
in a clash that would change the face of naval warfare. Continued below…
with cutting-edge digital artwork, rare photographs and first-person perspective gun sight views, this book allows the reader
to discover the revolutionary and radically different designs of the two rival Ironclads - the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor
- through an analysis of each ship's weaponry, ammunition and steerage. Compare the contrasting training of the crews and
re-live the horrors of the battle at sea in a war which split a nation, communities and even families. About the Author: Ron
Field is Head of History at the Cotswold School in
Bourton-on-the-Water. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1982 and taught history at Piedmont
High School in California
from 1982 to 1983. He was associate editor of the Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain, from 1983 to 1992. He is
an internationally acknowledged expert on US Civil War military history, and was elected a Fellow of the Company of Military
Historians, based in Washington, DC,
in 2005. The author lives in Cheltenham, UK.
Reading: Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads. Description: William N. Still's book is rightfully referred to as the standard of Confederate Naval history.
Accurate and objective accounts of the major and even minor engagements with Union forces are combined with extensive background
information. This edition has an enlarged section of historical drawings and sketches. Mr. Still explains the political background
that gave rise to the Confederate Ironclad program and his research is impeccable. An exhaustive literature listing rounds
out this excellent book. While strictly scientific, the inclusion of historical eyewitness accounts and the always fluent
style make this book a joy to read. This book is a great starting point.
Reading: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883 (The
U.S. Navy Warship Series) (Hardcover).
Description: Civil War Warships, 1855-1883 is the second in the five-volume US Navy Warships encyclopedia set. This valuable
reference lists the ships of the U.S. Navy and Confederate Navy during the Civil War and the years immediately following -
a significant period in the evolution of warships, the use of steam propulsion, and the development of ordnance. Civil War
Warships provides a wealth and variety of material not found in other books on the subject and will save the reader the effort
needed to track down information in multiple sources. Continued below…
size and time and place of construction are listed along with particulars of naval service. The author provides historical
details that include actions fought, damage sustained, prizes taken, ships sunk, and dates in and out of commission as well
as information about when the ship left the Navy, names used in other services, and its ultimate fate. 140 photographs, including
one of the Confederate cruiser Alabama recently uncovered by the author further contribute to this
indispensable volume. This definitive record of Civil War ships updates the author's previous work and will find a lasting
place among naval reference works.
Reading: Ironclad, by Paul Clancy (Hardcover). Description: The
true story of the Civil War ironclad that saved the Union Navy only to sink in a storm--and its remarkable salvage 140 years
later. Ironclad tells the saga of the warship USS Monitor and its salvage, one of the most complex and dangerous in history.
The Monitor is followed through its maiden voyage from New York to Hampton Roads, its battle
with the Merrimack, and its loss off Cape
Hatteras. At the same time, author Paul Clancy takes readers behind the
scenes of an improbable collaboration between navy divers and cautious archaeologists working 240 feet deep. Clancy creates
a memorable, fascinating read, including fresh insights into the sinking of the Union ship and giving the answer to an intriguing
forensic mystery: the identities of the two sailors whose bones were found in the Monitor's recovered turret. Continued below…
Its one great
battle in the spring of 1862 marked the obsolescence of wooden fighting ships and may have saved the Union. Its terrible end in a winter
storm off Cape Hatteras
condemned sixteen sailors to a watery grave. And the recovery of its 200-ton turret in August 2002 capped the largest, most
complex and hazardous ocean salvage operation in history. In Ironclad, Paul Clancy interweaves these stories so skillfully
that the cries of drowning Union sailors sound a ghostly undertone to the cough of diesel generators and the clanging of compression-chamber
doors on a huge recovery barge. The din and screech of cannonballs on iron plating echo beneath the hum of electronic monitors
and the garbled voices of Navy divers working at the edge of human technology and endurance in water 240 feet deep.
the letters and diaries of the Monitor's long-ago sailors, and he moved among the salvage divers and archaeologists in the
summer of 2002. John L. Worden, captain of the Monitor, strides from these pages no less vividly than the remarkable Bobbie
Scholley, the woman commander of 160 Navy divers on an extreme mission. Clancy writes history as it really happens, the improbable
conjunction of personalities, ideas, circumstances, and chance. The Union navy desperately needed an answer to the Confederacy's
ironclad dreadnought, and the brilliantly eccentric Swedish engineer John Ericsson had one. And 140 years later, when marine
archaeologists despaired of recovering any part of the Monitor before it disintegrated, a few visionaries in the U.S. Navy
saw an opportunity to resurrect their deep-water saturation diving program. From the breakneck pace of Monitor's conception,
birth, and brief career, to the years of careful planning and perilous labor involved in her recovery, Ironclad tells a compelling
tale of technological revolution, wartime heroism, undersea adventure, and forensic science. This book is must-reading for
anyone interested in Civil War and naval history, diving and underwater salvage, or adventures at sea.