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    Jared G. Richards Eyewitness Account of the Monitor at the Battle of Hampton Roads. Four pages of a bifolium, 8.25" x 10.5" (sight), Newport News, VA; March 12, 1862. In a letter written to his sister, Mary, Richards describes his witnessing the battle between the Merrimack and the Monitor, along with a few other Union vessels. The engagement, also known as the Battle of Hampton Roads, occurred on March 9, 1862, in the harbor at the mouth of the James River, and is notable in history as being the first clash between ironclad ships. The battle would go on to change the way naval battles were fought.

    In this eyewitness account, Richards describes how the Confederate Merrimack, commanded by Commodore Franklin Buchanan, first engaged with and destroyed the Union wooden warships Congress and Cumberland. In part:

    "...we looked down the river around the signal point and we saw three vessels & coming with seceshion [sic] flags raised. two of them hung back while the other one advanced. She was built on the out like a house & roof that was all you could see of her. She had a smoak stack sticking out that is all about all you could see of her. We had a blockage in the James River opsite Newport News. Two boats called the one the Congress the other the Cumberland. This secesh boat her name is the Merrimack. She is covered with iron so that no ball will hurt her at all. She came up in sight of our boats and commenced firing at them. She went past the Congress they poured a broadside on her with there heavy guns and it had no more effect on her than if they had thrown peas on her...She had crippled the Cumberland so by this time that she turned over on her side and sunk to the bottom of the River about 40 feet deep. She can be raised again and repaired. she went to the Congress and shelled her and set her on fire and she went aground and burnt to the water. Before they left her they spiked the guns and left some of them loaded. They would go off as fast as they would when the magazine blew up. I thought that the house would come down on me."

    The Union Monitor arrived on the night of the 8th, and the battle between the two ironclads took place early on the 9th. The Monitor had fewer guns than the Merrimack, but it relied on its speed due to its smaller size. Richards describes the ensuing battle thusly:

    "...then there came a battery from New York the name of the Monitor. The Monitor carries only two guns. These guns cary a ball that one 350 pounds the other 250 pounds ball. There was some shell fired in this camp but there was only two men hurt they were in another Regt. I saw this fight most all the way through and we expect another fight soon. The Monitor is a stronger boat than the Merrimack. She sent the Merrimack off badly crippled to Norfolk or some other place."

    The letter is matted and framed in a double frame, so that both sides are visible, to the overall size of 26.25" x 20". Accompanying this incredible account is a beautiful Print of the Encampment of U.S. Troops at Newport News, VA 1861 & 1862. One sheet, 17" x 10" (sight), Baltimore, MD; circa 1862. The print was published by C. Bohn, and shows a colorful scene of the Union camp as well as the Hampton Roads harbor. The print is matted and framed to the overall size of 26.25" x 19.5".

    Condition: The letter is lightly toned with the usual mail folds. There are some areas of soiling at edges and folds, but overall very fine. The print is in very good condition, with the colors being clear and bright. A typed transcription of the letter has been included.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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