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    "The Merrimac is also expected every night and we are prepared to give her a warm reception"

    USS Minnesota: Seaman Edwin Cornelius Stone Autograph Letters (two) Signed. Reports news about the "infernal machine" and the Merrimack ironclad to his fourteen year-old brother shortly before the Battle of Hampton Roads. The first letter, four pages, 5.25" x 7.75", November 11, 1861, was written from the "U.S.S. Frigate Minnesota, Hampton Roads, Virginia." After bestowing brotherly advice to the young Perley Stone, Edwin writes, "as regards the infernal machine you speak of. I can assure you it is a reality. Already have we had a narrow escape from it. It is now two or three weeks since it came down to us but by some mistake or other mistook the grappling (which is always hanging to the to the jibboom end on purpose to stop any such machines before they reach the bow) for he ships bottom. Finding out their mistake and thinking we might have discovered them they worked the machine ashore when it was carted up to Norfolk to make another trial. We are on the watch for it. 16 men are on the lookout at a time from the bow to the stern." Two years before the CSS Hunley became the first successful combat submarine, this "infernal machine" unsuccessfully attacked the USS Minnesota. The attack is reported and illustrated in the November 2, 1861, edition of Harper's Weekly, which describes "the Rebel Infernal Machine" as "built of iron, of a similar shape to the Ross Winans cigar boat, of a sufficient capacity to accommodate two persons who work it ahead by means of a small screw propeller . . . rudder . . . pump . . . compass. . . . A hazardous voyage." Concerning the Merrimack, the young sailor writes, "The Merrimac is also expected every night and we are prepared to give her a warm reception should she intrude upon us. Every night our pickets are stationed near Sewells Point." The armor-plated construction of the Merrimack had begun earlier in July 1861. The ironclad, which would not be finished until early February 1862, was obviously causing great concern among the U.S. Navy as early as November 1861. Beginning the war with no navy, the South quickly developed creative ways, such as submarines and ironclads, to contend with the Union Navy. This letter comes with transmittal envelope.

    The second letter, four pages, 5" x 8", February 22 [1862], was written from the "'Minnesota', Hampton Roads Va." Edwin reports the "rumor" to his younger brother "that Gen. [Benjamin] Huger (rebel military commandant) had sent down (by a flag of truce) proposals to Genl. [John] Wool to surrender Norfolk and vicinity on condition that private property should not be confiscated and they would lay down their arms and become loyal citizens again and inviting Genl. Wool to meet him and arrange terms for a surrender. . . . It is probably a hoax." It was. Two weeks later at the Battle of Hampton Roads, the Merrimack destroyed two Union ships and crippled the USS Minnesota, which was only saved from destruction by nightfall. The next morning when the Merrimack approached to finish off the Minnesota, the Monitor intercepted the ironclad. Out-maneuvering the larger vessel, the Monitor managed to fight to a draw, thus saving the Minnesota and ushering in a new form of naval warfare. With transmittal envelope labeled, "Ships Letter . . . from U.S.S. Frigate Minnesota/ Hampton Roads Va."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2009
    12th Saturday
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