CSS Virginia (1862-1862), wash drawing by Clary Ray, 1898.
In only 100 days, the Union developed a ship that changed the face of naval warfare forever.
The Monitor was unlike any ship ever made: it was described as a cheese box on a raft, and was very slow in the water even though it was a bit faster than the Virginia. But what made the Monitor so remarkable was its revolving cannon turret. The turret could be turned 360 degrees, so that the two cannons inside could fire in any direction. In contrast, the Virginia's cannons could only be fired when the ship was facing its target.
On March 8, 1862, the Virginia attacked the Union fleet in the waters of Hampton Roads, Virginia, sinking two ships and killing 300 Union sailors. One of the Union uunui uniin oi nin ships had 50 cannons, and the Union army had pounded the know your slang
Virginia from the shore, as well. Nothing affected the mighty opening of the ball—nts ironclad, and an urgent message was sent from President Lin-
° coln to northern cities along the coast, warning them that the ship was coming. When night fell, the Virginia pulled close to the southern shore, determined to finish off the rest of the fleet the next day.
But when the Virginia pulled out into open water the next morning to fire on the rest of the Union fleet, the Monitor blocked its way. The Virginia opened fire on the Monitor, and the fire was returned. The two ships pounded each other for more than four hours, with neither winning. Then, with its crew in a state of confusion after the wounding of their captain, the Monitor pulled away. The Virginia then pulled away, too, assuming that the Monitor had given up.
While neither ship actually won the battle, the success of both ships under the assault of so many cannonballs immediately made every wooden warship obsolete.
From this point on, the seas were ruled by ironclad ships and the era of wooden ships was over.
civil war facts & trivia
H Both the Virginia and the Monitor were destroyed within a year of their historic battle. The Confederate navy destroyed the Virginia when the Union took over Norfolk, Virginia, in May 1862. They set fire to the ship so the Union navy couldn't use it, and the ship exploded when the fire reached gunpowder stored below deck. The Monitor was being towed from Virginia to North Carolina to help the Union navy when it was caught in a storm and sank.
H John Ericsson designed every single aspect of the Monitor, including the first flushing toilets on a ship.
H The cannons on the Monitor fired solid iron cannonballs that weighed 180pounds each.
H Both the North and South built several more ironclad ships during the course of the war, including the Confederate ship Manassas, which looked kind of like a giant egg with a cannon sticking out.
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