An Eyewitness Describes Maneuvers Between the Monitor and Merrimack
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In this wartime letter, Private J. H. Skelly writes to his wife on a variety of matters, including an eyewitness account of the maneuvers between the first two ironclad ships, the C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack) and the U.S.S. Monitor. [CIVIL WAR].
Autograph Letter Signed by Private J. H. Skelly, 101st Pennsylvania to his wife, Camp Parina [?], Apr. 15, 1862. On stationery with patriotic, “One Government One Flag” letterhead. 8vo., 4 pp.
Camp Parina April the 15 1862
My Dear Beth Ann,
I received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you were all well and to hear that Annie was so much better, for I was afraid that she would not get well—been sick so long. I wrote to you on Thursday and expressed fifty dollars to you and I expect to get your answer today. I should not have written to you today but as we have to leve [sic] tomorrow I thought I might not have time to wright to you, so I thought I had better wright to you when I had a chance. I had a very hard spell of rheumatism yesterday. We had taken down our tents and change the way we were standing and poleced [sic] all the grounds. We thought we would have <page 2> to stay here some time but oure orders is to leve at eight o clock in the morning. I don’t think I will be abel to march but I wont stay behind. they are sending the sick to the fort but I would not go I will go with the boys if I die by the roadside. I lie in the sun from nine o clock till six in the evening but I felt a great deal better the stitch in my breast is nearly gone, so by tomorrow I think I will be well. They wanted me to go with Bentley & Gilbert Adams too far tomorrow, but I could not think of leaving the company. We are going to Yorktown.
The Ball commences tomorrow and we will get there in time for a reserve. he hole Division is gone to Newport today. I cant tell what they went there for I was not abel to go. I will give you account of the Merrimack. She is an iron clad boat. She is the boat that sunk the Congress and Cumberlandand she is lying at Sewel’s Point and she <page 3> come out every day but sent them too far from her quarters. They took two of oure [?] vessels. One was laden with cole and the other was only the little. Monitor is watching hir verry close. The Monitor looks like two logs of wood. In the watter she is only about eighteen inches out of watter. I never seen anything like hir in my life she looks like a cheese box in the water. We past within about one hundred yards from hir when we April the 18 came down the river. She is kept at the fourt to keep the Meremeck from pasing down the river, for if she gets out she would do a great dele of harm, so they have to keep hir in hir quarters, although she comes up to Newport News on hir one side of the river. She don’t venture two nere here, for there is guns here throws balls that weys 62 lb and the[y] wasn’t come close to them, though the balls that hit the Marimack has no more impression on hir than throughing peas against a card board house but the little Monnitor opened hir bredbasket for hir. She had hard work to get to hir port But she has been fixt up and is out a gain he has spat at oure boats from this port yesterday for the critter was out and they would not venture so we had [?] no pappers, here I am at Newport News in the Hospital, altho my health is pretty good at this time and I have all the privileges that I want. I go where I please and am not stopt by the guards. I cant pass the pickets they are stationed about a mile from the river and I dont know how far they are stationed out. I am injoying my self as best I can under the circumstances. There is about five hundred in the Hospitle at this place. I will give you a full account of it in my next Your effectionate Husband, J. H. Skelly
April the 23
The battle between the C.S.S Virginia and the U.S.S. Monitor was the first engagement between ironclad ships during the Civil War. The battle itself was a two day long stalemate. The thick iron armor prevented any cannon balls from penetrating the hulls of either of the two ships. While the result of the battle was inconclusive, its significance cannot be overstated. Ironclads made wooden ships obsolete in naval combat, and these new ships would inspire the more sophisticated warships of the late 19th century and the 20th century.
Usual folds, else very good condition.