Copyright, 1895, by Harper & Brothers. All Rights Reserved.
||NEW YORK, TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1895.
||FIVE CENTS A COPY.
|VOL. XVI.—NO. 811.
||TWO DOLLARS A YEAR.
HEROES OF AMERICA.
THE FIGHT AT HAMPTON ROADS.
BY THE HONORABLE THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
aval battles of the civil war have an immense importance, because they mark the line of cleavage between naval warfare under the old and naval warfare under the new conditions. From the days of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, for two centuries and a half, the fighting at sea was carried on in ships of substantially the same character—wooden sailing ships, carrying many guns mounted in broadside. Howard, Drake, Blake, Tromp, De Ruyter, Nelson, and all the other great admirals, and all the famous single-ship fighters—whose skill reached its highest expression in our own navy during the war of 1812—commanded craft built and armed in a substantially similar manner, and fought with the same weapons and under much the same conditions.
But in the civil war weapons and methods were introduced which caused a revolution greater even than that which divided the sailing ship from the galley. The use of steam, the casing of ships in iron armor, and the employment of the torpedo, the ram, and the gun of huge calibre, produced such radically new types that the old ships of the line became at one stroke as antiquated as the galleys of Hamilcar or Alcibiades. All of these new engines of war were for the first time tried in actual combat, and some of them were for the first time invented, during our own civil war, and the first occasion on which any of the new methods were thoroughly tested was attended by incidents which made it one of the most striking of naval battles.
In the Chesapeake Bay, near Hampton Roads, the United States had collected a fleet of wooden ships; some of them old-style sailing vessels, others steamers. The Confederates were known to be building a great iron-clad ram, and the wooden vessels were eagerly watching for her appearance when she should come out of Gosport Harbor. Her powers and capacity were utterly unknown. She was made out of the former United States steam-frigate Merrimac, cut down so as to make her fore and aft decks nearly flat and not much above the water, while the guns were mounted in a covered central battery with sloping flanks. Her sides and deck were coated with iron, and she was armed with formidable rifle guns, and, most important of all, with a steel ram thrust out under water forward from her bow. She was commanded by a very gallant and efficient officer, Captain Tattnall.
It was March 8, 1862, when the ram at last made her appearance within sight of the Union fleet. The day was calm and very clear, so that the throngs of spectators on shore could see every feature of the battle. With the great ram came three light gunboats, all of which took part in the action, harassing the vessels which she assailed; but they were not factors of importance in the fight. On the Union side the vessels nearest were the sailing ships Cumberland and Congress, and the steam-frigate Minnesota. The Congress and Cumberland were anchored not far from each other; the Minnesota got aground, and was some distance off. Owing to the currents and shoals and the lack of wind no other vessel was able to get up in time to take part in the fight.
As soon as the great ram appeared out of the harbor she turned and steamed steadily toward the Congress and the Cumberland, the black smoke rising from her funnels, and the great ripples running from each side of her iron prow as she drove steadily through the still waters. On board of the Congress