A Great Peril Averted.
The lesson taught by the Merrimac's performance, we fear is not generally appreciated. Had the foresight of her commander been equal to his opportunity he would never have stopped in Hampton Roads, but would have gone to sea to raise the blockade of Southern ports, or to raze New York city. The fact that no shots hurled at the Merrimac did her serious injury except those form little Monitor, proves conclusively that she could have steamed out to sea under the guns of Fortress Monroe on Saturday before the Monitor arrived, and even had she met her the Merrimac's superior speed would have enabled her to keep out of the Monitor's way. But in that want of foresight was our salvation. Naturally enough her Captain was anxious to speedily test the quality of his craft, and in so doing he lost his chance for greater achievements. Should he get out of Hampton Roads now, long before he can reach New York harbor a stone blockade will undoubtedly bar his approach, though the fate of our blockading squadron is not so well assured.
We make no predictions as to the future of the Merrimac. It should be remembered, however, in calculating the chances, that nothing definite is known respecting her supposed injuries. Even if the rebels concede that she is injured it may be only a ruse to put us off our guard again. They undoubtedly gave currency to the various stories concerning her previous failures, her unseaworthiness, and all that, and when she came out, even with the avowal that she was watched for, the guns of Fortress Monroe — so it is alleged — could not have opened upon her without destroying a great deal of our own shipping! One steamer was lying helpless without steam up, another ran aground (no secesh pilots, we hope,) and two old wooden sailing frigates were all that could go out to meet her, one of which also ran aground, and both were destroyed. Even then the rebel steamer might undoubtedly have gone out of the harbor, but she tarried over night, and in the morning met a repulse. If she leaves Norfolk again before the rebellion is put down she will probably improve on her past lessons, and try the strategy of speed and of a contest with foes less prepared for her shot than the Monitor. It behooves the government to use every possible means to speedily end the career of this formidable craft, and that at the earliest possible moment, as well as to be thankful that the want of foresight in her commander prevented him from injuring us a thousand times more than was actually the cause.