USS Monitor, USS Merrimack, CSS Virginia, and Battle of Hampton Roads
The ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (ex USS Merrimack) met for
their date with fate March 9, 1862 at the Battle of Hampton Roads. CSS Virginia had already decimated the Union Blockading
Squadron the day before. Once within range of each other, the two ships opened fire on one another. After two days of pounding,
battle was declared a tactical stalemate and the ships withdrew without either suffering much damage. It was the first time
iron ships clashed in naval warfare and signaled the beginning of the end of the era of wooden warships. It can be said that
these two iron warships were the predecessors to the battleship.
The Battle of Hampton Roads, often referred to as either the Battle of the
Monitor and Merrimack (or Virginia) or the Battle of Ironclads, was the most noted and arguably most important naval battle
of the American Civil War from the standpoint of the development of navies. It was fought over two days, March 8–9,
1862, in Hampton Roads, a roadstead in Virginia where the Elizabeth and Nansemond Rivers meet the James River just before
it enters Chesapeake Bay adjacent to the city of Norfolk. The battle was a part of the effort of the Confederacy to break
the Union blockade, which had cut off Virginia's largest cities, Norfolk and Richmond, from international trade.
The major significance of the battle is that it was the first meeting in
combat of ironclad warships: the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. The Confederate fleet consisted of the ironclad ram Virginia
(built from the remnants of the USS Merrimack) and several supporting vessels. On the first day of battle, they were opposed
by several conventional, wooden-hulled ships of the Union Navy. On that day, Virginia was able to destroy two ships of the
Federal flotilla, USS Congress and USS Cumberland, and was about to attack a third, USS Minnesota, which had run aground.
However, the action was halted by darkness and falling tide, so Virginia retired to take care of her few wounded — which
included her captain, Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan — and repair her minimal battle damage.
|Monitor, Merrimack, and Battle of Hampton Roads
|USS Monitor, CSS Virginia (ex USS Merrimack), and Battle of Hampton Roads
|CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) vs. USS Monitor
|U.S. Naval Historical Center
Determined to complete the destruction of the Minnesota, Catesby ap Roger
Jones, acting as captain in Buchanan's absence, returned the ship to the fray the next morning, March 9. During the night,
however, the ironclad Monitor had arrived and had taken a position to defend Minnesota. When Virginia approached, Monitor
intercepted her. The two ironclads fought for about three hours, with neither being able to inflict significant damage on
the other. The duel ended indecisively, Virginia returning to her home at the Gosport Navy Yard for repairs and strengthening,
and Monitor to her station defending Minnesota. The ships did not fight again, and the blockade remained in place.
The battle received worldwide attention, and it had immediate effects on
navies around the world. The preeminent naval powers, Great Britain and France, halted further construction of wooden-hulled
ships, and others followed suit. A new type of warship was produced, the monitor, based on the principle of the original.
The use of a small number of very heavy guns, mounted so that they could fire in all directions was first demonstrated by
Monitor but soon became standard in warships of all types. Shipbuilders also incorporated rams into the designs of warship
hulls for the rest of the century.
Both days of the battle attracted attention from almost all the world's
navies. The USS Monitor became the prototype for the monitor warship type. She thus became the first of two ships whose names
were applied to entire classes of their successors. The other was HMS Dreadnought. Many more were built, including river monitors,
and they played key roles in Civil War battles on the Mississippi and James rivers. The US immediately started the construction
of ten more monitors based on Ericsson's original larger plan, known as the Passaic-class monitors.
|Battle of Hampton Roads
|Casemate Ironclad Virginia and Ironclad Monitor during Battle of Hampton Roads
However, while the design proved exceptionally well-suited for river combat,
the low profile and heavy turret caused poor seaworthiness in rough waters. Russia, fearing that the American Civil War would
spill into Russian Alaska, launched ten sister ships, as soon as Ericsson's plans reached St. Petersburg. What followed has
been described as "Monitor mania". The revolving turret later inspired similar designs for future warships, which eventually
became the modern battleship.
The vulnerability of wooden hulls to armored ships was noted particularly
in Britain and France, where the wisdom of the planned conversion of the battle fleet to armor was given a powerful demonstration.
Another feature that was emulated was not so successful. Impressed by the ease with which the Virginia had sunk the Cumberland,
naval architects began to incorporate rams into their hull designs. The first purpose-built ram in the modern era was the
French armored ram Taureau (1863), whose guns were said to have "the sole function of preparing the way for the ram." The
inclusion of rams in warship hull design persisted almost to the outbreak of World War I, despite improvements in naval gunnery
that quickly made close action between warships almost suicidal, if not impossible.
USS Monitor, CSS Virginia, USS Merrimack, Battle
of the Ironclads, and Battle of Hampton Roads
Reading: The Battle of Hampton
Roads: New Perspectives on the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (Mariner's Museum). Description: On March 8 and 9, 1862, a sea battle off the Virginia coast changed naval warfare forever. It began when the Confederate States Navy’s
CSS Virginia led a task force to break the Union blockade of Hampton Roads. The Virginia
sank the USS Cumberland and forced the frigate Congress to surrender. Damaged by shore batteries, the Virginia retreated, returning the next day to find her way blocked by the newly arrived
USS Monitor. The clash of ironclads was underway. Continued below…
After fighting for nine hours, both ships withdrew, neither
seriously damaged, with both sides claiming victory. Although the battle may have been a draw and the Monitor sank in a storm
later that year, this first encounter between powered, ironclad warships spelled the end of wooden warships—and the
dawn of a new navy. This book takes a new look at this historic battle. The ten original essays, written by leading historians,
explore every aspect of the battle—from the building of the warships and life aboard these “iron coffins”
to tactics, strategy, and the debates about who really won the battle of Hampton Roads. Co-published with The Mariners’
Museum, home to the USS Monitor Center, this authoritative guide to the military, political, technological, and cultural dimensions
of this historic battle also features a portfolio of classic lithographs, drawings, and paintings. Harold Holzer is one of
the country’s leading experts on the Civil War.
Confederate Ironclad vs Union Ironclad: Hampton Roads 1862 (Duel). Description: The Ironclad was a revolutionary weapon of war. Although iron was used
for protection in the Far East during the 16th century, it was the 19th century and the American
Civil War that heralded the first modern armored self-propelled warships. With the parallel pressures of civil war and the
industrial revolution, technology advanced at a breakneck speed. It was the South who first utilized ironclads as they attempted
to protect their ports from the Northern blockade. Impressed with their superior resistance to fire and their ability to ram
vulnerable wooden ships, the North began to develop its own rival fleet of ironclads. Eventually these two products of this
first modern arms race dueled at the battle of Hampton Roads in a clash that would change the face of naval warfare. Continued
with cutting-edge digital artwork, rare photographs and first-person perspective gun sight views, this book allows the reader
to discover the revolutionary and radically different designs of the two rival Ironclads - the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor
- through an analysis of each ship's weaponry, ammunition and steerage. Compare the contrasting training of the crews and
re-live the horrors of the battle at sea in a war which split a nation, communities and even families. About the Author: Ron
Field is Head of History at the Cotswold School in
Bourton-on-the-Water. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1982 and taught history at Piedmont
High School in California
from 1982 to 1983. He was associate editor of the Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain, from 1983 to 1992. He is
an internationally acknowledged expert on US Civil War military history, and was elected a Fellow of the Company of Military
Historians, based in Washington, DC,
in 2005. The author lives in Cheltenham, UK.
Reading: A History of Ironclads: The Power of Iron over Wood. Description: This
landmark book documents the dramatic history of Civil War ironclads and reveals how ironclad warships revolutionized naval
warfare. Author John V. Quarstein explores in depth the impact of ironclads during the Civil War and their colossal effect
on naval history. The Battle of Hampton Roads was one of history's greatest naval engagements. Over the course of two days
in March 1862, this Civil War conflict decided the fate of all the world's navies. It was the first battle between ironclad
warships, and the 25,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians who witnessed the battle vividly understood what history would soon
confirm: wars waged on the seas would never be the same. Continued below…
About the Author: John V. Quarstein is an award-winning author and historian. He is director
of the Virginia
War Museum in Newport News and chief historical advisor for The Mariners' Museum's new USS Monitor Center
(opened March 2007). Quarstein has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on American, military and Civil War history,
and has appeared in documentaries for PBS, BBC, The History Channel and Discovery Channel.
Reading: Civil War Ironclads: The U.S.
Navy and Industrial Mobilization (Johns
Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology). Description:
"In this impressively researched and broadly conceived study, William Roberts offers the first comprehensive study of one
of the most ambitious programs in the history of naval shipbuilding, the Union's ironclad
program during the Civil War. Continued below...
Perhaps more importantly, Roberts also provides an invaluable framework
for understanding and analyzing military-industrial relations, an insightful commentary on the military acquisition process,
and a cautionary tale on the perils of the pursuit of perfection and personal recognition." - Robert Angevine, Journal of
Military History "Roberts's study, illuminating on many fronts, is a welcome addition to our understanding of the Union's
industrial mobilization during the Civil War and its inadvertent effects on the postwar U.S. Navy." - William M. McBride,
Technology and Culture"
Reading: Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads. Description: William N. Still's book is rightfully referred to as the standard of Confederate Naval history.
Accurate and objective accounts of the major and even minor engagements with Union forces are combined with extensive background
information. This edition has an enlarged section of historical drawings and sketches. Mr. Still explains the political background
that gave rise to the Confederate Ironclad program and his research is impeccable. An exhaustive literature listing rounds
out this excellent book. While strictly scientific, the inclusion of historical eyewitness accounts and the always fluent
style make this book a joy to read. This book is a great starting point.
Viewing: The First Ironclads - Into the Modern Era (DVD) (2008). Description: This is the story of the great vessels, the formidable
warships, the epic ironclads (early battleships), that changed forever naval ship design as well as naval warfare: the Monitor,
the Merrimack (later renamed the Virginia) and it presents a fascinating animated
reconstruction of their epic battle during the American Civil War. Continued below...
of Hampton Roads, aka Duel of the Ironclads, which made the world's navies tremble as well as obsolete, is handsomely depicted
in this video. The First Ironclads – Into the Modern Era is a welcome addition for the individual interested in the
Civil War, U.S. Naval Warfare, and shipbuilding and design. It also includes footage from aboard the world's most devastating
“sailing ironship” the HMS Warrior.
Reading: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883 (The
U.S. Navy Warship Series) (Hardcover).
Description: Civil War Warships, 1855-1883 is the second in the five-volume US Navy Warships encyclopedia set. This valuable
reference lists the ships of the U.S. Navy and Confederate Navy during the Civil War and the years immediately following -
a significant period in the evolution of warships, the use of steam propulsion, and the development of ordnance. Civil War
Warships provides a wealth and variety of material not found in other books on the subject and will save the reader the effort
needed to track down information in multiple sources. Continued below…
size and time and place of construction are listed along with particulars of naval service. The author provides historical
details that include actions fought, damage sustained, prizes taken, ships sunk, and dates in and out of commission as well
as information about when the ship left the Navy, names used in other services, and its ultimate fate. 140 photographs, including
one of the Confederate cruiser Alabama recently uncovered by the author further contribute to this
indispensable volume. This definitive record of Civil War ships updates the author's previous work and will find a lasting
place among naval reference works.
by Paul Clancy (Hardcover). Description: The true story of the Civil
War ironclad that saved the Union Navy only to sink in a storm--and its remarkable salvage 140 years later. Ironclad tells
the saga of the warship USS Monitor and its salvage, one of the most complex and dangerous in history. The Monitor is followed
through its maiden voyage from New York to Hampton Roads, its battle with the Merrimack,
and its loss off Cape Hatteras.
At the same time, author Paul Clancy takes readers behind the scenes of an improbable collaboration between navy divers and
cautious archaeologists working 240 feet deep. Clancy creates a memorable, fascinating read, including fresh insights into
the sinking of the Union ship and giving the answer to an intriguing forensic mystery: the identities of the two sailors whose
bones were found in the Monitor's recovered turret. Continued below…
Its one great
battle in the spring of 1862 marked the obsolescence of wooden fighting ships and may have saved the Union. Its terrible end in a winter
storm off Cape Hatteras
condemned sixteen sailors to a watery grave. And the recovery of its 200-ton turret in August 2002 capped the largest, most
complex and hazardous ocean salvage operation in history. In Ironclad, Paul Clancy interweaves these stories so skillfully
that the cries of drowning Union sailors sound a ghostly undertone to the cough of diesel generators and the clanging of compression-chamber
doors on a huge recovery barge. The din and screech of cannonballs on iron plating echo beneath the hum of electronic monitors
and the garbled voices of Navy divers working at the edge of human technology and endurance in water 240 feet deep.
the letters and diaries of the Monitor's long-ago sailors, and he moved among the salvage divers and archaeologists in the
summer of 2002. John L. Worden, captain of the Monitor, strides from these pages no less vividly than the remarkable Bobbie
Scholley, the woman commander of 160 Navy divers on an extreme mission. Clancy writes history as it really happens, the improbable
conjunction of personalities, ideas, circumstances, and chance. The Union navy desperately needed an answer to the Confederacy's
ironclad dreadnought, and the brilliantly eccentric Swedish engineer John Ericsson had one. And 140 years later, when marine
archaeologists despaired of recovering any part of the Monitor before it disintegrated, a few visionaries in the U.S. Navy
saw an opportunity to resurrect their deep-water saturation diving program. From the breakneck pace of Monitor's conception,
birth, and brief career, to the years of careful planning and perilous labor involved in her recovery, Ironclad tells a compelling
tale of technological revolution, wartime heroism, undersea adventure, and forensic science. This book is must-reading for
anyone interested in Civil War and naval history, diving and underwater salvage, or adventures at sea.