Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac

The Battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac (Virginia)

Animated sequence of images showing the Merrimac (Virginia), the Monitor, and the battle between them.

The battle between the ironclad ships the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac or Merrimack), took place on March 8 and 9, 1862. Also referred to as the Battle of Hampton Roads, it is significant in naval history because it was the first battle between ironclad ships. Afterwards, one news article concluded that "naval architecture of the world, for all purposes of war, must be changed, and iron-plated steamers take the place of all the wooden constructions now in use."

The Confederate States Navy constructed the CSS Virginia using the lower hull and steam engines of the USS Merrimac, which had been scuttled along with several other ships in an attempt to keep them out of Confederate hands. On March 8, the Virginia and supporting ships attacked several federal ships that were enforcing a Union blockade intended to cut Virginia off from international trade. The rebel ironclad was able to destroy two of the Union ships, the Cumberland and the Congress, while sustaining fairly minimal damage herself.

The Virginia returned the next morning, on March 9, intending to attack a third Union ship, the Minnesota, which had run aground the previous day. By then, however, the USS Monitor had arrived on the scene to defend the Minnesota. Designed by Swedish inventor John Ericsson and built in his Brooklyn shipyard, the Monitor was also an ironclad, commissioned by the U.S. Navy specifically in response to the Virginia. The two ironclads fought for several hours, but neither was able to damage the other significantly, and the battle eventually ended without either side being able to claim a decisive vistory: the Union's losses were far heavier, but the Confederates did not succeed in breaking the blockade.

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Thumbnail Caption/Description Source of Illustration Publication
Date
Thumbnail of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the Confederate ship Virginia (The Merrimac). Exact Picture of the Rebel Steamer Virginia (Merrimac). Harper's Weekly,
April 12, 1862,
page 235
1862-04-12
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the Union ship Monitor. The Ericsson Steel Clad Battery Monitor. Harper's Weekly,
March 22, 1862,
page 177
1862-03-22
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of diagram showing three views of the iron-clad Union ship Monitor. [Three Views of Monitor labeled]: A. Revolving Turret – B.,B. Smoke-pipe – C. Pilot-house – Anchor Well – E. Rudder – F. Propeller – G. Iron Armor – H. Braces for Dock Beams – K.,K. Water-line – L. Dahlgren Gun – M. Gun-carriage. Harper's Weekly,
March 29, 1862,
page 203
1862-03-29
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration composed of eight scenes from the Union ship Monitor and two portraits. The Monitor as She Is – Interior and Exterior. 1. Lieutenant Jeffers and Chief EngineerStimers; 2. Captain’s Cabin; 3. Engine-room; 4. Berth Deck; 5. Interior of the Tower; 6. Turret Machinery; 7. Ready for Action; 8. Wheel House; 9. Ward-room. Harper's Weekly,
April 12, 1862,
page 236
1862-04-12
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the Rebel ship Merrimac attacking the Cumberland. The Rebel steamer Merrimac running down the frigate Cumberland off Newport News. Harper's Weekly,
March 22, 1862,
page 184-185
1862-03-22
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the Cumberland sinking after being attacked by the Merrimac. Sinking of the United States Sailing Frigate Cumberland by the Rebel Iron-clad Monster Merrimac. New York Illustrated News,
March 29, 1862,
page [321]
1862-03-29
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the first naval battle of Hampton Roads, with the Cumberland sinking. The first naval battle in Hampton Roads, between the Rebel iron-plated steamers Merrimac, Yorktown and Jamestown, and the United States wooden sailing frigates Cumberland and Congress. Leslie's Illustrated News,
March 22, 1862,
pages 296-297
1862-03-22
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the second naval battle of Hampton Roads, showing the defeat of the Rebel ships Merrimac, Yorktown and Jamestown. The second naval battle in Hampton Roads – Fight between the national floating battery Monitor, of two guns, and the Rebel iron-plated steamers Merrimac, Yorktown and Jamestown, carrying twenty-four guns. Leslie's Illustrated News,
March 22, 1862,
pages 296-297
1862-03-22
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the battle between the Union ship Monitor and the Confederate's Merrimac. The Battle Between the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac," in Hampton Roads, March 9, 1862. [Ships and landmarks are labeled.] Harper's Weekly,
April 12, 1862,
page 237
1862-04-12
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the Union ship Monitor driving off the rebel Merrimac. The Ericsson battery Monitor driving off the Merrimac. Harper's Weekly, March 22, 1862,
pages 184-185
1862-03-22
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of the federal trrops moving about Hampton, Virginia. Federal Troops at Hampton, Virginia. Sketched by an officer of the topographical engineers. Harper's Weekly,
April 12, 1862,
page 245
1862-04-12
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white map of Virginia. General Map of the Seat of War in Virginia, Showing the Road to Richmond. Harper's Weekly,
April 19, 1862,
page 246
1862-04-19
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of Lt. John Worden, the commander of the Union ship Monitor. Lieutenant John Lorimer Worden, U.S.N., Commanding the "Monitor" Harper's Weekly,
March 22, 1862,
page 177
1862-03-22
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of Lt. John Worden, the commander of the Union ship Monitor. Portrait of Lieut. John L. Worden, U.S.N., commanding the Ericsson floating battery Monitor. Leslie's Illustrated News,
March 29, 1862,
page [305]
1862-03-29
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of Captain Ericsson, who designed and built the Union ship Monitor. Portrait of Captain John Ericsson. Harper's Weekly,
March 29, 1862.
page 205
1862-03-29
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of Captain Ericsson, who designed and built the Union ship Monitor. Portrait of Captain John Ericsson, the Designer and Builder of the Iron-clad Battery Monitor. New York Illustrated News,
March 29, 1862,
page 329
1862-03-29
Thumbnail image of a black-and-white magazine illustration of Captain Ericsson, who designed and built the Union ship Monitor. Portrait of Captain John Ericsson, inventor of the Monitor. Leslie's Illustrated News,
March 29, 1862,
page [305]
1862-03-29

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Last Updated: March 21, 2012