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Battle between the Ironclads

Hampton Roads, Va.

On March 8, 1862, the Confederate ironclad steamship C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the Merrimack) entered the Chesapeake Bay at Hampton Roads, Virginia to confront the Union blockade, which consisted of a number of wooden sailing ships. In only one day, the Virginia sank two Union frigates, drove three frigates into shallow waters, and exchanged fire with several other ships, without suffering any damage. But the next morning was a different story, because the Union ironclad the U.S.S. Monitor had sailed in from Brooklyn to defend the Union fleet.

The Monitor was a smaller craft, seen here on the right, with a low profile in the water and a single round turret in the center. It looked so strange that the Confederates dubbed it a "cheese box on a raft." The Virginia, on the left, was much larger and more difficult to maneuver. The two ships fired on each other for four hours, sometimes only a few feet apart, but neither did any significant damage to the other. Finally, the ships sailed away from each other, with both sides claiming victory.

Read about the ironclads in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

"Battle at New Madrid" (headlines); "No Particulars Yet" (article) (March 10, 1862)

"The Rebel Steamer Merrimac..." (March 11, 1862)

Yankee cheese box on a raft article (March 12, 1862)

"The Iron-Clad Gunboats." (March 13, 1862)

For more about the Monitor, see Documents 34, 36, and 37.

Citation - Document 35
March 9, 1862
Courtesy National Archives, no. 64-CC-63

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