March 13, 1862
Father received a letter from Frank Jones giving an account of the fight in Hampton Roads & as I would like to keep it I transcribe part of it here:
I should have written you to inform you that I am unhurt by our recent engagement but that I was so tired & worn out that I could not. I had no sleep & did not eat a single meal from Sat morning until Sun night, so you can imagine what condition I was in for writing. I will endeavor to give you as good a description of the fight as I can. We left Mulberry Island at ½ past 2 o clock on Friday morning with the expectation of meeting the Va at Newport News, but the wind blew so hard & the tide was so low that she could not have worked to advantage in the Roads & therefore did not come out at all. So we stopped off Dey’s Point & lay there until Sat afternoon 2 ½ o clock when we saw the smoke of the Va’s guns as she was engaging the ships & batteries off Newport News. We weighed anchor & steamed down as quickly as possible but before we got down the Cumberland was sunk. We ran past the batteries receiving only three shot in doing so, none of them doing any material damage. We ran in very near them going within 800 yds of the Batteries. After we had passed them we backed up to them and commenced shelling the men out of their quarters. We made them scamper in all directions. It was whilst we were engaged protecting the Raleigh & Beaufort whilst they were removing the wounded from the Congress that we received a shot in our boiler. I was in the fire room at the time having gone down there a minute before to give some directions about the fires. As soon as the shot struck us the steam rushed out of the boilers & everything was enveloped in coal dust & Vapour. I made my way up the ladder and just managed to reach the top round when I should have fallen back & been killed but that some one caught me by the collar and pulled me out. I was very nearly suffocated as it was, but in half an hour I was all right. We lost four men by that one shot. They were scalded to death by the steam. I was in the same room with them when the shot struck us; there were six of us down there & only two escaped & one of them is scalded internally. I escaped entirely unhurt. After we received that shot we were disabled for a short time on account of all the Steam blowing off out of both boilers & whilst we were in this position the enemy piled shot and shell into us tremendously. But wonderful to say, they did not hurt us at all, nearly all of them being intended to sink us & consequently were fired at our bottom, but that being heavily plated with Iron was proof against their shot. We fought on until it got so dark that we could not see to aim & then withdrew and anchored under the guns of Seawell’s Point Battery. I was on watch that night from 12 until 4. About ½ past 12 I thought that I would go up & look at the Congress burning and I was just in time to see her blow up. I never saw such a splendid sight in my life! She threw her shell in all directions. One of them passed away over us & fell some where near the Rip Raps. I could see them bursting in the air almost every where it seemed to me.
At ½ 8 oclock on Sunday morning we commenced the action again, but on the appearance of the Monitor (Ericckson’s Battery) we came to the conclusion that it was best for us not to meddle with her, so we lay off in order to render any assistance which the Virginia might need & then these two went at it in fine style, lying right along side of each other & hammering away at each other—neither of them being in the least hurt by the other’s shot! The Virginia, after tearing the Minnesota all to pieces nearly, withdrew & we all came up here to the Gosport Navy Yard where we will lay until we can get sufficiently repaired to justify us in trying them again.
I did not feel so much excited during the engagement as I anticipated, though when I would hear a shell whistle pretty near us I could not help ducking down my head. I must close now as it is getting pretty late. Give my love to all and write soon to your affectionate
W F Jones
Heard today of the threatened attack by Burnside on New Berne. He is in force at the mouth of the River. Pray God he may be repulsed. What a hero Gen Branch will be. Am too dull to write more but must close with a wish that Tom Jones may distinguish himself & come off unhurt.
Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979). http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html