Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Battle of Hampton Roads - US Civil War

March 8 & 9, 1862 Hampton Roads: Monitor vs. Virginia (Merrimack), Battle of the Ironclads

For reasons I never understood, the Confederate Ship Virgina, is usually referred to as the Merrimack. Sure, it was originally the USS Merrimack, but it had been recommissioned as the Virginia. Oh well... "A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet."

On March 8th, 1862, the Virginia sank the USS Cumberland and ran the USS Congress aground. There is a nice first person account of that first day.
The action commenced about 3 p.m. by our firing the bow gun at the Cumberland, less than a mile distant. A powerful fire was immediately concentrated upon us from all the batteries afloat and ashore. The frigates Minnesota, Roanoke and St. Lawrence, with other vessels, were seen coming from Old Point. We fired at the Congress on passing, but continued to head directly for the Cumberland, which vessel we had determined to run into, and in less than fifteen minutes from the firing of the first gun. we rammed her just forward of the starboard forechains. The noise of the crashing timbers was distinctly heard above the din of battle. There was no sign of the hole above water, but it must have been large, as the ship soon commenced to careen. The shock to us on striking was slight. We immediately backed the engines. The blow was not repeated. We here lost the "prow," and had the stem slightly twisted. The Cumberland fought her guns gallantly as long as they were above water, and she went down bravely with her colors flying
It goes on from there to describe the pounding given the Congress.

Unfortunately for the Confederates, the USS Monitor arrived that evening, and at 8:00 AM on March 9th, they battled. "Duel" might be a better term. Since while the USS Minnesota did receive and return fire, the Monitor and the Virginia concentrated on each other.
The first ironclad duel in history was a draw. Monitor took considerable damage, sufficient that she pulled into water shallower than Virginia could enter, but Virginia had also taken too much damage ... and she retired. She would never fight again;
Before she would have been catured by the union, she was burned.

1 comment:

Rich said...

The victors get to decide what things are called so it is the Merrimack.