Monitor Versus Merrimac

The estuarine Civil War naval engagement between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (also incorrectly called the Merrimac), in the waters of Hampton Roads, Virginia, marked the end of the age of wood and the beginning of the modern “iron age” of warship construction. The success of the CSS Virginia in destroying two capital Union vessels on March 8, 1862, demonstrated to the world that iron warships were the wave of the future. The following day’s naval engagement between the two iron ships, however inconclusive, demonstrated the importance of turrets over fixed batteries, and the critical value of ships’ maneuverability in future naval engagements. Interestingly, both sides, though attempting to preserve secrecy, were well aware of the existence of their opponents’ ships and progress ...

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