150 years ago, the first battle between iron-fortified naval vessels took place in Hampton Roads, Virginia. This Battle of the Ironclads changed naval history forever, as ships began trading in their wooden frames for iron ones.
In the book, Strangling the Confederacy: Coastal Operations in the American Civil War, author Kevin Dougherty writes,
“The fact that the Union’s first ironclad arrived at the scene the very same day that the Confederacy’s first ironclad went into action must be considered one of the most remarkable coincidences of the war.”
“On the morning of March 9, the two ironclads presented an almost comical picture when they approached each other…the Virginia looked like ‘a barn gone adrift and submerged to the eves.’ The Monitor’s appearance was commonly described as ‘a cheesebox on a raft’ or ‘a tin can on a shingle’.” p. 99
While the outcome of the battle between these two ships was considered a draw, the Battle of the Ironclads is considered the most important naval battle in the Civil War.
In 1862, both of the ships met their end; the CSS Virginia was destroyed in an explosion and the USS Monitor sank during a storm. While the only remnants of the CSS Virginia are its “Stars and Bars” plus its anchor which is on display at the Confederate White House, the USS Monitor was discovered on the ocean floor in 1973. Since the Monitor‘s discovery, museums have created replicas of the ship, and most recently, scientist have been working on reconstructing the faces of two Civil War soldiers who perished in the ship when it sank.
Some addition titles on Naval operations in the Civil War: