An eye-witness account of the events on December 29, 1862, tells of the harrowing efforts in the middle of a storm. Just nine months after her epic battle with the Merrimac, the Monitor left port in tow after the Rhode Island.
Favorable weather turned to foul near Cape Hatteras. In roiling seas, the Monitor was suffering badly from the battering effects of the waves. As it was having a difficult time they slowed the engines and continued in the same direction.
Around 8 o'clock that evening, a red lantern was raised on the ship... a distress signal.
Three boats were dispatched to help evacuate the Monitor's crew. As they drew up alongside a wave tossed one ship that punctured a hole in the boat's side. With a mind to her damaged condition they had to alter the number of men taken aboard.
Some of the Monitor's crew were able to jump into the rescue boats and some jumped into the water and had to be hauled aboard.
Seeing an old quartermaster with a large bundle under his arm, the executive officer, thinking that it was his clothes-bag, told him that that was no time to be trying to save his effects. He said nothing, but threw it into the boat. When the bundle was passed up over the side of the Rhode Island it proved to be a little messenger-boy -- probably the smallest and youngest one in the service.
The Monitor and the Merrimac Both Sides of the Story, by: C.S.N. H. Ashton Ramsay
Cross-posted to my blog http://www.raydean.net