« AnteriorContinuar »
The fight that followed was an extraordinary one, and was gazed on with intense interest by the throng of spectators who crowded the shores of the bay. The Merrimac had no solid shot, as she had ex. pected only wooden antagonists. Her shells were hurled upon the Monitor, but most of them missed their mark, and those that struck failed to do any injury. So small was the object fired at that the great shells, as a rule, whirled uselessly by, and plunged hissing into the waves. The massive solid balls of the Monitor were far more effective. Nearly every one struck the broad sides of the Merrimac, breaking her armor in several places, and shattering the wood backing behind it. Many times the Merrimac tried to ram her small antagonist, and thus to rid herself of this teasing tormentor, but the active “cheese-box" slipped agilely out of her way. The Monitor in turn tried to disable the screw of her opponent, but without success.
Unable to do any harm to her dwarfish foe, the Merrimac now, as if in disdain, turned her attention to the Minnesota, hurling shells through her side. In return the frigate poured into her a whole broadside at close range.
“It was enough,” said the captain of the frigate afterwards, “to have blown out of the water any wooden ship in the world.” It was wasted on the iron-clad foe.
This change of action did not please the captain of the Monitor. He thrust his vessel quickly between the two combatants, and assailed so sharply that the Merrimac steamed away. The Monitor
followed. Suddenly the fugitive vessel turned, and, like an animal moved by an impulse of fury, rushed head on upon her tormentor. Her beak struck the flat iron deck so sharply as to be wrenched by the blow. The great hull seemed for the moment as if it would crowd the low-lying vessel bodily beneath the waves. But no such result followed. The Monitor glided away unbarmed. As she went she sent a ball against the Merrimac that seemed to crush in her armored sides.
At ten o'clock the Monitor steamed away, as if in flight. The Merrimac now prepared to pay attention again to the Minnesota, her captain deeming that he had silenced his tormenting foe. He was mistaken. In half an hour the Monitor, having hoisted a new supply of balls into her turret, was back again, and for two hours more the strange battle continued.
Then it came to an end. The Merrimac turned and ran away. She had need to,—those on shore saw that she was sagging down at the stern. The battle was over. The turreted iron-clad had driven her great antagonist from the field, and won the victory. And thus ended one of the strangest and most notable naval combats in history.
During the fight the Monitor had fired fortyone shots, and been struck twenty-two times. Her greatest injury was the shattering of her pilot-house. Her commander, Lieutenant Worden, was knocked senseless and temporarily blinded by the shock. On board the Merrimac two men were killed and nineteen wounded. Her iron prow was gone, her armor broken and damaged, her steam-pipe and smoke-stack riddled, the muzzles of two of her guns shot away, while water made its way into her through more than one crevice.
Back to Norfolk went the injured Merrimac. Here she was put into the dry-dock and hastily repaired. After that had been done, she steamed down to the old fighting-ground on two or three occasions, and challenged her small antagonist. The Monitor did not accept the challenge. If any accident had happened to her the rest of the fleet would have been lost, and it was deemed wisest to hold her back for emergencies.
On the 10th of May the Confederates marched out of Norfolk. On the 11th the Merrimac was blown up, and only her disabled hull remained as a trophy to the victors. As to her condition and fighting powers, one of the engineers who had charge of the repairs upon her said,
“A shot from the Monitor entered one of her ports, lodged in the backing of the other side, and 80 shivered her timbers that she never afterwards could be made seaworthy. She could not have been kept afloat for twelve hours, and her officers knew it when they went out and dared the Monitor to fight her. It was a case of pure bluff; we didn't hold a single pair.”
The combat we have recorded was perhaps the most important in the history of naval warfare. It marked a turning-point in the construction of the monarchs of the deep, by proving that the future battles of the sea must be fought behind iron walls.
STEALING A LOCOMOTIVE.
On a fine day in April, 1862, a passenger-train drew out from Marietta, Georgia, bound north. Those were not days of abundant passenger travel in the South, except for those who wore the butternut uniform and carried muskets, but this train was well filled, and at Marietta a score of men in civilian dress had boarded the cars. Soldierly-looking fellows these were too, not the kind that were likely to es. cape long the clutch of the Confederate conscription.
Eight miles north of Marietta the train stopped at the station of Big Shanty, with the welcome announcement of “Ten minutes for breakfast.” Out from the train, like bees from the hive, swarmed the bungry passengers, and made their way with all speed to the lunch-counter, followed more deliberately by conductor, engineer, and brakesmen. The demands of the lunch-counter are of universal potency; few have the hardihood to resist them; that particular train was emptied in the first of its ten minutes of grace.
Yet breakfast did not seem to appeal to all upon the train. The Marietta group of civilians left the train with the others, but instead of seeking the refreshment-room, turned their steps towards the locomotive. No one noticed them, though there was a
Confederate camp hard by the station, well filled with raw recruits, and hardly a dozen steps from the engine a sentinel steadily walked his beat, rifle on shoulder.
One of the men climbed into the engine. The sentinel paid no heed to him. Another slipped in between two cars, and pulled out a coupling-pin. The sentinel failed to observe him. A group of others climbed quickly into an open box-car. The sentinel looked at them, and walked serenely on. The last man of the party now strode rapidly up the platform, nodded to the one in the locomotive, and swung himself lightly into the cab. The sentinel turned at the end of his beat and walked back, just beginning to wonder what all this meant. Meanwhile famine was being rapidly appeased at the lunch-counter within, and the not very luxurious display of food was vanishing like a field of wheat before an army of locusts.
Suddenly the sharp report of a rifle rung with warning sound through the air. The drowsy tenants of the camp sprang to their feet. The conductor burried out to the platform. He had heard something besides the rifle-shot,—the grind of wheels on the track,—and his eyes opened widely in alarm and astonishment as he saw that the train was broken in two, and half of it running away. The passengercars stood where he had left them. The locomotive, with three box-cars, was flying rapidly up the track. The sentinel, roused to a sense of the situation only when he saw the train in actual flight, had somewhat late given the alarm.
The conductor's eyes opened very wide. The