Foreign and Colonial NewsThe Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1137, p. 304.
By the arrival of the Cunard steamer Arabia we have received New York journals to the 12th inst. The news is of more than usual interest.
On the morning of the 8th instant the much-talked-of iron-plated steam-ship Merrimac and the Confederate steamers Yorktown and Jamestown left Norfolk and attacked the Federal sailing-frigates Cumberland and Congress at the mouth of James River. The Merrimac received the broadsides of the Cumberland and Congress at one hundred yards without sustaining any damage. The Merrimac then ran into the Cumberland with her iron prow, literally laying open her sides. She then drew off, fired a broadside into the Cumberland, and again ran into her, knocking in her side, and left her to sink. The Congress, which had kept up a brisk engagement with the Yorktown and Jamestown, then surrendered. The officers and marines were taken prisoners, but the men were ordered to take to their boats and run ashore. About 150 of the crew of the Cumberland were drowned, and about 50 on board the Congress were killed. The Federal frigates Minnesota and St. Lawrence were being towed to the assistance of the Cumberland and Congress when the Minnesota got aground and could render no assistance. The St. Lawrence, being a sailing-vessel, prudently kept out of the fight. The Congress was burnt to the water's edge, and two Federal gunboats, the Oregon and the Zouave, were put hors de combat by the monster. When this news reached New York it was much feared that the Merrimac would shortly make her appearance in New York Bay and bombard the city. The Mayor was urged to sink ballast-laden ships in the channel to prevent the passage of the enemy. These fears were not destined to be realised, as, by a piece of great good fortune, the Federal Ericsson floating-battery Monitor arrived at Fortress Monroe that same night, and was ready to engage the Merrimac in the morning. The two vessels fought five hours, during which they nearly touched each other, the Monitor finally succeeding in forcing a hole in the port side of the Merrimac, which thereupon retired, with the rest of the Confederate fleet, to Norfolk, The Monitor was uninjured. Some of the Federal spectators assert that the Merrimac was injured, but others dissent from this opinion.
Commodore Dupont's naval expedition which left Port Royal captured and occupied Brunswick on the Georgian coast. The expedition then proceeded to Cumberland Sound, the entrance to the harbour of Fernandina, Florida, and took possession of Fort Clinch, which the Confederates had evacuated. The Federals captured twelve large guns.
On land the events are equally stirring. The Confederates have abandoned all their batteries and positions on the Potomac, the navigation of which is now entirely unimpeded, and the long siege to which Washington has been partially subjected has ceased.
A runaway negro brought the news to the Federal camp that the Confederates were abandoning their intrenched positions and moving southward. Accordingly, on the 10th, General M'Clellan ordered the main army to move on towards Centreville and Manassas. The former place was found deserted. They thence proceeded to Manassas, which the Confederates had entirely abandoned. The log huts in which they had been housed were left standing. Piles of bullets and cartridges were left in the tents, and an immense quantity of quartermaster's stores. The fields were everywhere silent and deserted, the country people having fled, and the fortifications were bare and blackened. All the railway bridges were destroyed and the track torn up. It is not positively known at what point north of Richmond the Confederates will make their next stand. General M'Clellan had established his head-quarters at Fairfax Courthouse. The evacuation of Manassas by the Confederates had caused great rejoicing through the Northern States.
From the Upper Potomac we learn that General Banks had occupied Leesburg without opposition.
From Tennessee the news is that the Confederates were about to make a stand at Chattanooga, a place of great natural strength on the borders of Georgia, and the point of junction of four railroads. General Beauregard's health has improved, and he is said to retain his old confidence in the ultimate success of the Confederate cause.
A Nashville correspondent of the Edinburgh Daily Review, who dates his letter Feb. 19, gives an inside view of the condition of the Confederate army in Nashville before its evacuation. The destitution and suffering, and consequent demoralisation of the soldiers, are painted as extreme. Without shoes, with only a single blanket per man, with few tents, drenched with rain, lying on a muddy swamp, with unfit food and unwholesome water, they died "without an arm to save or an eye to pity." The condition of the hospitals is described as "horrible and heartrending." Without nurses, equipments, medicine, or good food, "misery, hopeless, unalleviated, was everywhere." Of the cooking department it is written that it was in such a wretched condition that the food was eaten nearly raw. It consisted of salt pork, hard bread, hominy, and rice.
General Halleck officially reports that the Federal army of the South-west, under General Curtis, had gained a victory, after three days' hard fighting, at Sugar Creek, Arkansas, over the combined Confederate forces of Van Dorn, Price, and M'Culloch: guns, flags, and provisions were captured in large quantities. The Federal cavalry were pursuing the enemy. The Federal loss is estimated at 1000 killed and wounded. The enemy's loss is stated to be greater.
The territory of New Mexico has been invaded by the Texans, who were about to attack the Federals at Fort Craig. The invasion has caused the indignation of the New Mexicans, and 8000 have been enrolled to resist the invaders.
The House of Representatives has passed a resolution concerning pecuniary compensation to States willing to emancipate their slaves in accordance with Mr. Lincoln's Message by 88 against 31 votes.
The Senate has passed a bill to the effect that no Federal officer or soldier shall return fugitives.
The Constitutional Convention of the State of Illinois has adopted an article which prevents negroes and mulattoes from emigrating into that State by 45 against 13.
An emancipation meeting was held in New York on the 6th, at which Mr. Karl Schurz made an able speech in favour of immediate emancipation, and against the reconstruction of the Union on its old basis and the government by military rule of the Southern States, which, he contended, would inevitably lead to the subversion of the liberties of the North.
A man named Cornwall had been arrested at St. Catherine's on a charge of offering inducements to British soldiers to desert and join the American service. He was committed for trial.