Brown, James H. (fl. 1861-1862) to Miss Brown
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03060.03
Author/Creator: Brown, James H. (fl. 1861-1862)
Place Written: Virginia
Type: Autograph letter signed
Date: 11 March 1862
Pagination: 2 p. ; 23.7 x 18.5 cm.
Summary of Content: Writes to his sister discussing previous correspondence, the need for more soldiers, and briefly describes the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Refers to the Monitor as ”a little infernal machine called the Erricson.” Mentions damage to the CSS Virginia, the sinking of the USS Cumberland, and the destruction of the USS Congress. Apologizes for not giving a better description of the ”glorious affair.” Written at ”Camp at Oak Grove.”
People: Brown, Jason H., fl. 1861-1862.
Historical Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877
Full Transcript: [Draft excerpts], No wonder you heard in Mobile that we had gone to Suffolk or Black Water. We thought we were going to one of these places ourselves - and the whole Rgt. felt certain of having a fight in twenty four hours at farthest - If they only show the same spirit in a fight that they do in the expectation of one, we won’t disgrace ourselves - You can imagine our disappointment, when we were halted here - especially when the change from our comfortable quarters to this dreary place was felt - I preferred my tent to cabins that had been used by other troops, and have been living in it ever since - , There is one part one part of your letter I wish was true - you hear that eight hundred of the 3rd have reenlisted - three hundred would be nearer the truth - , Only 30 of our Co. have signed the Muster Roll for two years or the war - a good many more say that they will join us after a while, but want to go home first - How foolish - we must organize before our first term of enlistment expires, and it is impossible for them to get furloughs before that time while the present state of things exist - All reenlisted men are entitled to thirty days at home, as soon as circumstances allow - but they can’t be granted now - no man ought to ask it - I could have gone home with Lt. Witherspoon the other day, but declined to do so and I have already been rewarded for my self denial., We were witnesses of a sight, on the 8th & 9th that few men see in a life time - About 11 o’clock a.m. on the 8th the Virginia (better known as the Merrimac) left her moorings at the navy yard and steamed down the river - Of course no restrain could keep this Regiment in camp - I walked about twelve miles to a point not over four miles from where the glorious after part was encacted - The frigates Cumberland and Congress were lying off Newport News, blockading the mouth of James River. Oh it was exciting to see the Virginia steam boldly in between them, not even noticing the broadsides after broadsides, that they fired into her - She never fired a gun until she got directly in between them, and not more than half a mile from either - when she gave such a broadside - Great heavens what a sight - her shot and shell went clear through their hulls, and were plainly seen to fall in the water on the other side - She then turned a steered straight for the illfated Cumberland, and ran into her - striking her & nearly cutting her in two - The Cumberland reeled once or twice and went down, but died game, still firing whilst going down, and her stars and stripes still flying at the Peak - Not so with Congress - after receiving the first broadside a few more broadsides ran up the white flag - It was whilst being boarde by one of our gunboats that the enemy from the shore used their musketry on the Congress, killing their own men, as well as ours - What a victory - in less than half an hour once of their first class vessels sunk and another - This was not the end of the fight though - The Minnesota, the St. Lawrence, the [St.] Roanoke, and several gunboats soon came up from fort Monroe, but upon seeing the havoc already made by the Virginia, turned back, with exception of the former - She was soon run ashore, unfortunately in too shallow water for us to follow and sink her - The fight between them lasted until night, when after setting the Congress on fire with hot shot, the Virginia lay off until next morning - This again was a splendid sight, to see the Congress burn and at last explode with a noise that seemed to shake the whole world - , The fight was again renewed Sunday morning, but a new actor had appeared upon the scene in the shape of a little infernal machine called the Ericson - where she came from is not known, but probably from Baltimore during the night - She showed nothing above water but a round barrel shaped house, which revolved by steam - This house contained her guns which were large, and two in No. After firing, she could turn this iron house, and load without any danger - As far as known the Virginia could not hurt this little steamer, which could run in shallow water and get out of the way when she chose - She would run up within a few hundred yards of our vessel, fire at her, making some awful ugly dents in her iron, and then run off like a scared rabbit - This lasted until about 2 o’clock Sunday, when the Virginia not being able to do any more damage steamed up to the City - She was a sight worth seeing when she came along side of the Wharf - Her chimney had upwards of 100 holes through it, and everything above her iron roof was shot away - She has had some hard knocks, but is not thought to be seriously hurt - She carried away her iron prow when she struck the Cumberland, and they say they could have sunk the Ericson, if it had not been for that, as they ran into her once - Thus ended the glorious fight of the 8th and 9th Mar. - The Cumberland sunk - the Congress burnt - three or four gunboats destroyed - & the Minnesota so badly injured, that she is reported sunk at the wharf at Fortress Monroe, when she was towed at high tide...
Keywords/Subjects: Soldier’s Letter;, Confederate States of America;, Monitor and Merrimac;, Civil War;, Military History;, Confederate Soldier’s Letter;, Battle, Ironclad;, Navy;, Infantry;
Sub Era: The American Civil WarOrder Image