Hampton Roads 1862
First Clash of the IroncladsBook - 2004
On March 9, 1862 the world's first battle between two ironclad warships took place in the confined waters of Hampton Roads, Virginia. The previous day the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, impervious to her enemy's guns, had sunk two Union warships. When she re-emerged from Norfolk to complete the destruction of the Union blockading squadron the USS Monitor steamed out to meet her. The four-hour duel that ensued was a stalemate, but the Virginia had failed to break the Northern blockade of the Southern ports. Nevertheless, the battle of Hampton Roads rendered wooden warships obsolete and transformed the face of naval warfare forever.
During the winter of 1861-62, Confederate engineers adapted an old wooden steam frigate, the former USS Merrimac, turning her into a steam-powered ironclad warship, capable of withstanding the fire of any warship afloat. Overnight the CSS Virginia had rendered the old wooden fleets of the world obsolete. The Federal response to this Confederate initiative was to build their own ironclad based around a twin-gun revolving turret. The USS Monitor was completed in record time and sent south from New York to counteract the threat of the Confederate Virginia. The result was one of the strangest naval battles of all time - a well-matched clash between two technically different and revolutionary warships. Hampton Roads was one of the most important naval battles in history, ushering in a new age of naval warfare and warship design. With the South unable to break the blockade which was slowly starving the Confederacy, the battle proved a decisive turning point of the war, marking as it did the end of southern hopes of re-establishing links with the outside world.