JOSEPH B. JONES 1862
submitted by Ann Avery Hunter
[to his sister Elizabeth Jones Hayes]
Camp Irvington, March 8th, 1862
Dear Bettie --
I received the box by Pete, the things were very nice, I divided them with Ned.
Norfolk is under martial law & Lieut. Col. Card will appoint military govener, he is very strict. No one is allowed to be on the street after nine o’clock. The iron plated steamer
Merrimac has been finished some time and was expected down last night to attack Newport News. The Merrimac is thought to be impragnable by any guns made in Yankeedom. Some think it could pop Old Point with impunity.
From all I hear the people of Warren think we are in a very critical position here. They think we will be cut off and starved out. I have no feare of such a thing at all. We have supplies enough to last at least three months, and if the balance of the South could not relieve us in that time, we had better make peace on any tearms. We have no fears of being cut off or whipped. I think it would take three hundred thousand Yankees to take this place and their success would not be at all certain. There are a great many obstacles in their way to Norfolk, of which they are entirely ignorant and if the attack is deferred much longer, it will be almost impragnable as we are at work erecting rifle pits and musket batteries every day. I never saw men work more cheerfully. Men who never stuck a spade in the ground before in their lives, work like negroes.
I think this Reg. will reorginize before this term is out. Parts of all the Cos. have reinlisted and with recruits raised at home, they will be filled. Buck Davis has eighty men and his company will be orginized soon. An unarmed company came here from Nash County yesterday. I think they had better stayed at home or brought their shot guns with them.
10th March. You will see I commenced to write the 8th, but was disturbed by the report that the Merrimac had pulled down the river. I went immediately to the beach about one oclock. The Merrimac in company with the gun boats Raleigh and Beauford has passed Sewells Point and turned up the channel in the direction of Newport News and the blockaders of James River. They passed the blockade round the mouth of the river without firing or being fired on. At the mouth of the river they were met by two gun boats from Richmond and then the fight commenced. The Merrimac proceeded first to shell Newport News, which she did handsomely, silencing every gun which presumed to fire on her and burning every tent and house in sight. While she was engaged with the fort, two of the largest frigates in the U.S.N. and several gun boats started up from Old Point and in passing opened fire on Sewells Point broadside after broadside, but without any effect. Sewells Point returning the fire with rifles and disabeling one of the ships so much that she could never reach the scene of action, but had to draw off and wait for night to screen her retreat and it is not known whether she made good her retreat or went down after night.
In the meantime our fleet above was hotly engaged. The fire was encreasing and such
excitement I never saw before. The beach for a mile was covered with men. The Merrimac after satisfying herself with the battery turned her attention to the Yankee fleet which she managed as follows: she first attack an iron plated gun boat, her sides proving too hard for balls, the Commander gave the order to advance and sink her, at all hazards, which was done, sinking the Yankee and all on board instantly. Next sinking a smaller gun boat and then turning their attention to blockaders running in forty yards of the Cumberlane (the ship that burnt the Navy yard) and sinking it the first fire. You never heard such cheers as went thru the air when it went to the bottom. The next was the Congress which was disabled and silenced and raised a white flag. Our boats ceased
firing and sent on one boat to it. [one line unreadable] command to sink it. It was fired on but took fire instead of sinking. It now being night, our boats drew off and anchored near Sewells Point, thus ended the first days work with the exception of the burning ship which I saw, as I was on guard on the beach. It was a beautiful sight, it burnt steadily until about one oclock when the magazine took fire and such an explosion I neve saw before an emmense collumn of fire ascended, apparently a mile high, with the most terrific report I ever heard. Our fleet attact them again on yesterday morning which lasted three or four hours, but at long last after striking and injuring one of the enemys largest ships which is thought to be a complete ruin, our fleet drove off yesterday and returned to Norfolk. Our loss is thought to be 25 killed and 100 wounded that of the Yankees is not known, but is thought to be at least 1000. I hope the Militia will breath more freely as the attact on this place is indefinitely deferred.
write soon and let me know how affairs are getting on on the farm, whether the tobacco has been prized. Give my love to all.
Jos. B. Jones
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