When the target comes in view, the gun captain (1) gives order, "Ready - Fire." He.then pulls the lock-string. The sponger (3) lets go port-tackle. The loader (5) closes the port. The engineer revolves the turret so as to point the gun abeam. This gets the scuttle clear for passing up more ammunition. Three members of the gun crew (?, 11 and 15) turn the crank and run the gun in. The compress man (9) eases the compressor with his lever. The gun is now ready for re-loading.
In terms of gunnery skills, the Virginia and Monitor were very well matched. According to the report of Chief Engineer Stimers to John Ericsson written immediately after the action, the Virginia struck the Monitor 22 times, hitting the "pilot house twice, turret 9 times, side armor 8 times, deck 3 times." Meanwhile, the Union vessel struck her adversary approximately 20 times out of 43 rounds fired during the battle. According to Eugenius Jack, "One shot struck directly over the outboard delivery. That was our weak spot. The shot broke the backers to the shield and sent a splinter into our engine room with about enough force to carry it halfway across the ship." In his recollections published in 1906, Acting Assistant Engineer E. V. White, who served on the gun deck in charge of the engine room bell and speaking tube during the battle, stated, "The balls from the Merrimac, especially those fired almost muzzle to muzzle, produced some results. Three cylindro-conical balls fired from the rifled guns made an indentation nearly four inches deep in the armor plating.
A Ammunition scuttle B Starting bar for revolving turret and training gun C Shaft on which turret revolves
0 Travelling bar on which shell whip moves
E Position of engineer stationed at bar to revolve turret and train guns F Compressor wheel to check recoil, hove taut before firing
G Crank for running gun in and out H Smoke box of XV-gun to protect crew from muzzle blast
1 Officer at sight hole J Port hole.
K Port stopper L Sight hole
Two of them made an equally deep indentation on the inside of the turret, and a man leaning against the inside walls at the place receiving the blow was thrown forward and wounded... . The other shots which reached the Monitor, and were for the most part round, did not appear to me to have produced a very great effect, those especially which struck the sides perpendicularly; two, however, struck the side at the edge of the deck, lifting and tearing it, causing the iron plating to give way and breaking three of them. The others only produced insignificant effects."
Monitor designer John Ericsson opined that had the guns of his vessel been aimed lower, they would have sunk the Virginia. As it was, the projectiles glanced off the sloping sides of the Confederate ironclad instead of penetrating as they would if they had struck closer to water level. The Confederates were also surprised that the guns of the Monitor did not inflict greater damage to their vessel. Commanding the stern gun at Hampton Roads, Lieutenant Wood commented, "Not a single shot struck us
A damaged Dahlgren gun from CSS Virginia photographed at the Washington Navy Yard, DC, on April 27,1933. Several other guns, relics of the Civil War and earlier conflicts, are seen beyond. The gun is inscribed, "One of the Guns of the Merrimac in the action with the U.S. Frigates Cumberland and Congress March 8th 1862 when the chase was shot off." The lower inscription reads, "The mutilation of Trunnions 8tc shows the ineffectual attempts to destroy the Gun, when the U.S. abandoned the Norfolk Navy Yard, April 20th 1861." (Naval Historical Foundation photo NH 1896)
at the water-line, where the ship was utterly unprotected, and where one would have been fatal."
Regarding casualties, the crew of the Virginia did not suffer significantly during the engagement with the Monitor, although two seamen were killed and three officers and five seamen were wounded during the action against the wooden ships and shore batteries on March 8, 1862. The crew of the Monitor suffered only three casualties during the battle of Hampton Roads. Lieutenant Worden lost his sight in one eye and was temporarily blinded in the other toward the end of the action. He would eventually recover sight in his right eye, but would remain permanently disfigured. Lieutenant Stodder and Seaman Peter Trescott were both temporarily concussed when a percussion shell from the Virginia hit the turret of the Union ironclad.
The lack of control of the revolving turret aboard the Monitor which, according to Lieutenant Greene, fired "on the fly," led to inaccurate gunnery by the Union gun crews. As William Norris, master-at-arms aboard the Confederate ironclad, noted, "The Virginia was so large a mark that almost every shot struck her somewhere; but they were scattered over the whole shield and on both sides, and were therefore harmless. To point her gun in our direction, and fire on the instant, without aim or motive, appeared to be the object. The turret revolving rapidly, the gun disappears only to repeat in five or six minutes the same hurried and necessarily aimless, unmeaning fire ..."
A major drawback in the design of the Monitor was the positioning of the pilothouse toward the bow of the vessel. This meant the guns could not fire ahead or within several points of the bow, as the blast would have carried the structure away and killed its occupants. In fact, Ericsson originally designed the pilothouse to top the turret of the Monitor, but costs and limitations of time had precluded this. Based on a subsequent recommendation of engineer officer Isaac Newton, made immediately after the battle of March 9, 1862, a modified pilothouse of lower dimensions with sloping sides replaced the damaged original one. The height of the smokestack was also raised to prevent waves from dousing her engines.
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