During the Civil War, the Post ran a report on the terrifying power of the new ironclads.
The dullness of Old Point was startled at 10 o’clock today by the announcement that a mysterious vessel, supposed to be the Rebel steamer Merrimack, and looking like a submerged house, with the roof only above the water, was moving down from Norfolk by the channel in front of Sewall’s Point. There was nothing protruding above the water but the flagstaff, flying the Rebel flag, and a short smokestack.
She steamed direct for the Cumberland and Congress. As soon as the Merrimack came within range of the Cumberland, the latter opened on her with her heavy guns, but the balls struck and glanced off, having no more effect on her than peas from a popgun.
The Merrimack ran into the Cumberland, striking her about midship and literally laying open her side. She then drew off, fired a broadside into the disabled ship, and again dashed against her with her ironclad prow and knocking in her side, left her to sink.
The Monitor arrived at 10 o’clock that night. The battle renewed at seven o’clock the next morning when the Merrimack, accompanied by two wooden steamers and several tugs, opened fire.
The Monitor met them at once, and opened her fire. These two ironclad vessels fought, part of the time touching each other, from 8 o’clock till noon, when the Merrimack retired. Whether she is injured or not it is impossible to say.
–”Monitor Drives the Rebels Back,” March 15, 1862
This article is featured in the January/February 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
Featured image: Irons in the fire: The Monitor and the Merrimack face off in the Chesapeake Bay. The development of the ironclad changed the way warships were built round the world. (Shutterstock)
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