COMMANDER RADFORD'S REPORT
FORTRESS MONROE VA., March 10, 1862.
SIR: It is my painful duty to have to report the loss of the United States
ship Cumberland, under my command, on the eighth inst., at Newport News,
Va. I was on board the United States frigate Roanoke, by order of the Hon.
Secretary of the Navy, as member of a Court of Inquiry, when the Merrimac
came out from Norfolk. I immediately procured a horse, and proceeded with
all dispatch to Newport News, where I arrived only in time to see the
Cumberland sunk, by being run into by the rebel iron-clad steamer
Merrimac. Though I could not reach the Cumberland before the action was
over, I have the satisfaction of reporting that, so long as her guns were
above water, every one on board must have done his duty nobly. I send with
this the report, by Lieut. George W. Morris, of the action, he being, in
my absence, the commanding officer, and also the Surgeon's report of the
wounded saved. The loss was very large in killed, wounded and drowned,
though the number cannot be ascertained. Enough is known, however, to make
the loss one hundred. I send also a list of the men known to have been
saved, but have no accurate means of giving the names of those lost or
killed, as no officer or man brought anything on shore save what he stood
in, consequently I have no muster roll of the crew.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
LIEUTENANT MORRIS'S REPORT
NEWPORT NEWS, VA., March 9, 1862.
SIR: Yesterday morning, at nine A.M., I discovered two steamers at anchor
off Smithfield Point, on the left-hand or western side of the river,
distant about twelve miles. At twelve meridian I discovered three vessels
under steam, standing down the Elizabeth river toward Sewall's Point. I
beat to quarters, double-breeched the guns on the main deck, and cleared
ship for action.
At one P.M. the enemy hove in sight, gradually nearing us. The iron-clad
steamer Merrimac, accompanied by two steam gunboats, passed ahead of the
Congress frigate and steered down toward us. We opened fire on her. She
stood on and struck us under the starboard fore-channels. She delivered
her fire at the same time. The destruction was great. We returned the fire
with solid shot with alacrity.
At thirty minutes past three the water had gained upon us, notwithstanding
the pumps were kept actively employed to a degree that, the
forward-magazine being drowned, we had to take powder from the
after-magazine for the ten-inch gun. At thirty-five minutes past three,
the water had risen to the main hatchway, and the ship cantered to port,
and we delivered a parting fire--each man trying to save himself by
Timely notice was given, and all the wounded who could walk were ordered
out of the cockpit; but those of the wounded who had been carried into the
sick bay and on the berth-deck, were so mangled that it was impossible to
It is impossible for me to individualize. Alike, the officers and men all
behaved in the most gallant manner. Lieut. Selfridge and Master Stuyvesant
were in command of the gun-deck divisions, and they did all that noble and
gallant officers could do. Acting Masters Randall and Kennison, who had
charge each of a pivot-gun, showed the most perfect coolness, and did all
they could to save our noble ship; but, I am sorry to say, without avail.
Among the last to leave the ship were Sergeant Martin and
Assistant-Surgeon Kershaw, who did all they could for the wounded promptly
The loss we sustained I cannot yet inform you of, but it has been very
great. The warrant and steerage officers could not have been more prompt
and active than they were at their different stations. Chaplain Lenhart is
missing. Master's mate John Harrington was killed. I should judge we have
lost upward of one hundred men. I can only say, in conclusion, that all
did their duty, and we sank with the American flag flying at the peak. I
am, sir, etc.,
GEO. M. MORRIS,
Lieut. And Executive Officer.