USS Roanoke again, and made for the frigate Minnesota, which was lying close to the Federal ironclad Monitor. Minnesota had gone aground in Hampton's shallow waters; prevented by her deep draft from approaching, Virginia opened fire on her from a distance. Monitor steamed ahead to place herself between Minnesota and Virginia. Virginia's captain hoped to range close enough to deliver a full broadside against the approaching Monitor, but about half a mile from the frigate, Virginia struck bottom, and it took 15 minutes to free her. Finally, the ironclad was close enough to deliver a broadside. Virginia's shot ricocheted off Monitor, with little effect, while the Federal shot did no more than rattle a few of Virginia's plates.
For four hours the two ironclads slugged it out. Never more than 200 yards apart, often with barely 30 yards between them, neither vessel was able to gain the advantage.
When Monitor's captain was hit by a flying fragment and taken below, Monitor briefly withdrew. In that time, Virginia came about and steamed toward Norfolk. The battle ended with both sides simultaneously withdrawing, and both claiming victory. In reality, history's first battle between ironclads was a draw.
the atlas of the civil war
McClellan's Peninsula Campaign april5-junei6 1862
General McClellan believed the shortest and safest route to Richmond was up the Peninsula flanked by the York and James rivers. Advancing on April 4, McClellan halted abruptly before Major General John B. Magruder's fortifications around York-town. Believing Magruder's scant 10,000 men actually outnumbered his 105,000, McClellan elected to besiege Yorktown. This gave General Johnston's Confederate army a chance to join Magruder.
Fearing that McClellan could flank the Yorktown defenses, Johnston abandoned the line on May 4. On the following day, McClellan clashed with Johnston's rearguard at Williamsburg, but could not force the Confederate army to engage. McClellan tried to flank the retreating Confederates by disembarking Franklin's division at Eltham's Landing on the York River On May 7, Hood's Confederate brigade attacked Franklin, halting him in his tracks.
With Johnston's retreat, the Confederates abandoned Norfolk and scuttled their ironclad, Virginia (originally the Federal steam frigate Merrimac). On May 15, Federal ships sailed up the James River for Richmond, but were checked by the strong fortifications and obstructions at Drewry's Bluff. Johnston established a defensive line near the capital. Unable to flank Johnston, and lacking the confidence to attack him, McClellan prepared for another siege.
The threat of Federal reinforcements from Fredericksburg spurred Johnston's 65,000 Confederates into action. The sudden reversal of the Federal march from Fredericksburg - and a powerful squall - focused Johnston's attack on McClellan's weak left. Striking south of the Chickahominy River on May 31, Johnston's offensive crumbled at Seven Pines (called Fair Oaks by the Union). The Confederates lacked direction or coordination, and when Federal reinforcements poured across the raging Chickahominy, the Confederates retreated on June 1. The Federals suffered 5,000 casualties; the Confederates 6,134. Among the wounded Confederates was General Johnston. President Jefferson Davis replaced the fallen officer with General Robert E. Lee.
Though supremely confident when given command of the Union forces, Gen. McClellan (right) proved to be over-cautious. When commenting on his performance Secretary Stanton stated that "If he had a million men, he would swear the enemy had two millions, and then he would sit down in the mud and yell for three."
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