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Why the Merrimac was Blown Up.

The rebel Commodore Tatnall, in a report to the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, states the reason and circumstances of the destruction of the iron steamer Merrimac. He says that his pilots having told him that eighteen feet of water could be found in the James river to a point within forty miles of Richmond, upon that assurance the steamer was so far lightened of its loading as to draw but eighteen feet of water, with the view of going up the river, capturing what Federal vessels could be found and aiding in the defense of Richmond. But when, after hours of hard labor, the loading was thrown overboard and the steamer ready to move, the pilots declared their inability to carry eighteen feet over the Jamestown flats. This left no time to be lost. The vessel was in no condition for battle, it being so far raised out of the water as to present vulnerable parts to the Federal guns, which were liable to open on her at any time. "I therefore determined," says Tatnall, "to save the crew for future services by landing them at Craney Island, the only road for retreat open to us, and to destroy the ship to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy. The ship was accordingly put on shore as near the main land in the vicinity of Craney Island as possible, and the crew landed. She was then fired, and after burning fiercely fore and aft upwards of an hour, blew up a little before five on the morning of the 11th."

Tatnall accounts for the deception practiced by the pilots upon the ground that they were averse to a battle with the Federal steamers, and took that plan to avoid it.