Hampton Roads, Battle of
The two vessels incorporated the latest naval advances: steam‐powered, screw‐propelled, and ironclad‐hull. The Virginia (Merrimack) carried ten major guns (four in each broadside, one bow and one stern gun) and an iron ram. The low‐silhouetted Monitor resembled a “cheesebox on a raft” with its rotating centerline gun‐turret, housing two 11‐inch guns.
On 8 March 1862, the Virginia sortied against the Union navy's blockade. It sank the USS Cumberland with its ram, burned the Congress with incendiary shells, but it disengaged when it could not approach the grounded Minnesota. The next day, Lt. Catesby ap Rogers Jones succeeded the wounded captain in command of the Virginia and found the waiting Monitor, which had just arrived with Lt. John L. Worden in command.
For four hours the two ironclads pounded each other at close range (at times only 15 yards apart). The larger Virginia tried without success to ram the Monitor and to board. Neither ship could sink the other, nor pierce the armor plate, but the Virginia, taking on water from hull damage, withdrew. Although the engagement between the two ships was inconclusive, the withdrawal of the Virginia for substantial repairs left the blockade in place and was proclaimed a victory by the Union. The “battles of the ironclads” presaged an eventual revolution in naval warfare. When the Confederates abandoned Norfolk in May, they destroyed the Virginia; the Monitor foundered off the Carolina capes later in 1862.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course; Confederate Navy; Union Navy; U.S. Navy: 1783–1865.]
James P. Baxter III , The Introduction of the Ironclad Warship, 1933;
Robert W. Daly , How the Merrimac Won, 1957;
William C. Davis , Duel Between the First Ironclads, 1975.
George E. Buker
"Hampton Roads, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hampton-roads-battle
"Hampton Roads, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved September 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hampton-roads-battle
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