| American History Stories, Volume IV|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of the great conflict from the time Lincoln became president and the southern states seceded, through the battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, until the close of the war. Includes poems, songs, and illustrations commemorating the events. Ages 8-12 |
THE MERRIMAC AND THE MONITOR
During the second year of the war, there appeared in the
ocean not far from Fortress Monroe, a strange looking
monster. Big, and black, and shining—what do you suppose
 It was an iron-clad war vessel which had once belonged to
the United States Navy. The Confederates at the beginning
of the war had sunk this vessel in the harbor; but afterwards
some one had thought it would be a good idea to raise the
hulk, and fit it up for a fighter.
They found, on raising this hulk, that it was firm and
strong; so they had put a great iron roof over the deck,
slanting it so that balls would glance off and so do no harm,
had plated her sides all over with iron, and put on a great
beak of iron and wood, making her indeed a most terrible
Down came this iron vessel straight upon the good old
"Cumberland." Of course, no wooden vessel could stand
an attack from this iron monster. For two hours these two
vessels fought, although the Cumberland knew there was no
hope. Bang went the cruel iron beak into the sides of the
wooden Cumberland; and at last she sank, carrying with her
her brave commander and his men, every one of whom
fought to the last, preferring to sink rather than surrender
to a Confederate ship.
Even when the vessel had sunk, it is said that the flag still
floated above the waves for many hours.
Without a moment's rest, this iron fiend turned upon
another Union vessel, and soon she, too, was a wreck. On
went the Merrimac, attacking other vessels, until fortunately
night came on and put a stop to this day's work; then she
 withdrew, to rest a while, chuckling no doubt over her day's
doings, and planning all sorts of wickedness for the coming
day. But to her great surprise, when the sun rose on the
following morning, there stood not far away, a funny looking
little vessel, dressed in fire-proof coat just like her own.
The Merrimac glared from all her port-holes at this funny
looking affair, and for a time couldn't seem to get it through
her stupid head what it was. It looked like an iron raft
with a round iron box in the middle.
What in the world that box could be, and what could be
inside the box were a wonder to the Merrimac.
"Does that little Yankee cheese-box on a raft think to
fight with me?" said the Merrimac, puffed up with her
But the Merrimac did not know that that cheese-box
could revolve on a big screw, and that it had within itself
some terrible guns which could be aimed almost as true as
Up came the little Monitor, much like a little hornet at a
great bull. The Merrimac really laughed to see her coming.
She did look so funny! But soon bang went one of the great
two-hundred pound balls from that little cheese-box, shaking
the Merrimac and denting in her iron sides as if she had
been made of tin.
The Merrimac stopped laughing now, and went to work.
Some one said that the whole affair made him think of the
 boy David with his little sling walking up to fight the giant
Goliah. But you remember Goliah was the one to fall, and
in this battle, too, the big Merrimac fell before the little
No matter what the Merrimac did, it seemed to harm the
Monitor not one whit. The balls from the Merrimac rolled
from her like raindrops from a duck's back.
Next, the Merrimac tried her game of running at her with
that great iron beak; but only found herself all the more at
the mercy of those great guns turning round and round in
For four long hours this battle went on. At last the
Merrimac quietly sailed away, not half understanding yet
what this little raft was, and how it had been able to drive
Cheer after cheer went up from the vessels lying about in
the harbor; and there was no cause for further dread of the
Confederate monster so long as the harbor was guarded by
"The Yankee Cheese-box."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics