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A look at the naval battle between the uss monitor and css merrimack

In Brooklyn, the Union ironclad Monitor was completing her sea trials before heading south to Hampton Roads to counter the threat of the Confederate ironclad Virginia formerly Merrimack. He hoped that the Virginia could then continue on and ravage the coastal cities of the Union. Washington, New York, and Boston were desired targets.

The Monitor saved the fleet from further destruction and kept the Virginia trapped in Hampton Roads.

  1. Confederates who had been following the Northern newspapers knew that this cheesebox must be the anticipated Union ironclad.
  2. On May 9, 1862, following the Confederate evacuation of Norfolk , the Virginia was destroyed by its crew. Thus the stage was set for the dramatic naval battle of March 9, with crowds of Union and Confederate supporters watching from the decks of nearby vessels and the shores on either side.
  3. Wool to dine with him, but no officer is allowed to leave the ship until we sink the Merrimac. Enraged at Union shore batteries which continued to fire upon the white flag, Buchanan ordered the Congress to be set afire, and then began personally firing back at the shore with a rifle.
  4. He told me to take charge of the ship and use my own descretion. We loaded and fired as fast as we could.
  5. They also found that while the turret turned well, it proved difficult to stop revolving once in motion. No one was affected by the concussion in the Tower, either by our own guns or the shots of the enemy.

However, the significance of March 8 and 9, 1862 went far beyond the immediate needs in Hampton Roads. This first meeting of two ironclad warships in battle forever changed naval architecture, battle tactics, and the very psychology of the men who served within them. The rigging of the wooden vessels was festooned with blue and white clothing, drying in the late winter sun.

  • Greene, Under the extraordinary circumstances of the contest of yesterday, and the responsibility devolving upon me, and your extreme youth, I have suggested to Captain Marston, to send on board the Monitor as temporary Comdg;
  • But her officers reported low ammunition, a leak in the bow, and difficulty in keeping up steam;
  • They also found that while the turret turned well, it proved difficult to stop revolving once in motion;
  • Monitor and the C;
  • I was busy all day, making out my Station Bills and attending to different things that constantly required my attention;
  • It came up with tremendous force through our anchor-well and forced the air through our hawse pipe where the chain comes and then the water would come through in a perfect stream clear to our berth deck over the Ward Room table.

Shortly after noon, the quartermaster of the USS Congress, which was anchored off Newport News Point, saw something strange through his telescope. The Confederates had been converting the burnt-out hull of the steam screw frigate Merrimack into a casemated ironclad ram at Gosport Navy Yard on the Elizabeth River.

It had taken nine months for the conversion, and Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, was impatient to strike at the blockading fleet. The men of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, who had grown weary of waiting for the Virginia to come out, now scrambled to prepare for battle. With his guns firing at the wooden ship, Buchanan rammed the Cumberland on her starboard side.

The hole below her waterline was large, and the ship immediately began to sink, nearly taking the Virginia with her. Scores of Union sailors from the Cumberland died at their guns, or went down with their ship; guns still firing and flags still defiantly flying. The Virginia broke free, and steamed slowly into the James River. The men on the stranded Congress began to cheer, thinking they had been spared the same horrific fate.

That cheer was cut short, however, when they saw that the Virginia had made her ponderous turn. With most of the crew dead or wounded, including the commanding officer, the remaining men of the Congress surrendered. Enraged at Union shore batteries which continued to fire upon the white flag, Buchanan ordered the Congress to be set afire, and then began personally firing back at the shore with a rifle.

He quickly became a target on the exposed top deck of the Virginia. Wounded, he turned command over to his Executive Officer, Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones, who returned the Virginia to her moorings that evening.

Falling darkness and a receding tide had saved the steam frigate USS Minnesota from the same fate as the Congress and Cumberland. The mood in Hampton Roads was one of disbelief and for some, resignation. The Monitor, a radical vessel designed by Swedish-American genius John Ericsson, had been built in just a little over 100 days, thanks to the combined muscle of the Northern iron industry.

Battle of Hampton Roads

Launched in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this strange little ship had only two guns—XI-inch Dahlgrens—housed in her most distinctive feature: A storm very nearly sank her before they arrived at their destination on the evening of March 8.

The distant sound of booming guns greeted the Monitor as she approached the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Union crews struggled in vain to tow the Minnesota to safety. Exploding munitions from the Congress pelted the Minnesota throughout the evening.

U.S.S. Monitor battles C.S.S. Virginia

It was felt for miles around. Just after dawn on March 9, the men of the Virginia tucked into a hearty breakfast made all the more festive by two jiggers of whiskey for each man. Many of them had been awake for well over 24 hours. Confederates who had been following the Northern newspapers knew that this cheesebox must be the anticipated Union ironclad.

  1. It had taken nine months for the conversion, and Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, was impatient to strike at the blockading fleet.
  2. With his guns firing at the wooden ship, Buchanan rammed the Cumberland on her starboard side.
  3. Though the March 9 battle itself was largely uneventful, the long-term effect of the action was significant. That cheer was cut short, however, when they saw that the Virginia had made her ponderous turn.

Worden moved the Monitor directly towards the Virginia, placing his ship between the Virginia and her prey. The gunners quickly realized that both they and the turret were unharmed. They also found that while the turret turned well, it proved difficult to stop revolving once in motion.

ADDITIONAL MEDIA

The conventions applied to traditional naval tactics soon went by the wayside as well. With the tide receding, Jones made a course for Gosport in order to repair the damage done to his vessel. Both sides claimed victory. Though the March 9 battle itself was largely uneventful, the long-term effect of the action was significant.

  • Both sides claimed victory;
  • We still continued firing, the Tower being under the direction of Stimers;
  • Wise saw the fight and was along side immediately after the engagement;
  • Three firemen were in the same condition as the Engineers;
  • The Virginia, on the other hand, tried unsuccessfully to lure the Monitor into another battle in Hampton Roads harbour;
  • But no sleep did I get that night, owing to my excitement.

The Monitor saved the Minnesota outright so much so that one Minnesota crew member had his tombstone designed to look like the Monitor—the ship that saved his lifeand helped keep the Virginia forever trapped in Hampton Roads until the Confederate vessel was destroyed by her own crew on May 11, 1862, following the fall of Norfolk to Union forces. The long-term impact of the battle was more profound, however. Both the Monitor and the Virginia served as prototypes for classes of vessels that drew upon their innovative designs.

  • He said very well and I went to my room and hoped to get a little nap;
  • Well I believe I have about finished;
  • Our pilot house is nearly completed;
  • Hampton Roads, March 14, 1862 My dear Mother and father, I commence this now, but I dont know when I shall finish, as I have to write it at odd moments, when I can find a few minutes rest;
  • We still continued firing, the Tower being under the direction of Stimers.

The ironclad rams of the Confederacy and the turreted monitors of the Union saw action in the Atlantic, Gulf, and Western rivers.

The monitor design continued as the principal coastal and riverine warship in North and South America as well as Europe until the turn of the century. While ironclads had certainly existed before the Monitor and Virginia, their meeting on March 9, 1862 ushered in the next phase of naval warfare, where machine and armament become paramount and the graceful wooden sailing ships of the age of fighting sail became forlorn relics of the past.

The author Herman Melville summed it up rather gloomily: