The Battle of Hampton Roads (March 8-9, 1862)

August 30, 2008 at 1:38 am

First Battle Between Ironclad Warships

When the American Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, southern state militias took over federal armories and forts on their territory.
A week into the war, Virginia militia closed in on the Navy Yard at Gosport (today’s Portsmouth) on the southside of the Hampton Roads waterway. Union forces at the Navy Yard hastily destroyed their depots and set fire to the ships in drydock. They evacuated the Yard on April 20.

Building the CSS Virginia

Confederate forces entered the next day. Among the wreckage they found the frigate USS Merrimack. It was damaged, but not beyond repair.
They reconfigured the wooden frigate into an ironclad warship. The top decks were removed and replaced with an iron-covered casemate structure with ten guns. the freeboard was also covered with iron plates. An iron ram was installed at the prow.
The ship was commissioned as the CSS Virginia in February 1862. Captain Franklin Buchanan was appointed her commander.

The USS Monitor

Meanwhile the Union built its own ironclad vessel in New York. The USS Monitor was a unique design with a very low freeboard and a revolving iron turret mounting two 11-inch guns. The ship, built specifically as a response to the Confederate ironclad project, was launched on January 30, 1862.
On March 6 the Monitor departed New York in tow. Her destination: The confluence of the James River and Elizabeth River into Chesapeake Bay, known collectively as Hampton Roads, Virginia. Confederate held Norfolk sat on the southern side of Hampton Roads. The Union held cities of Hampton and Newport News were on the northern side.

Read the entire article at Hampton Roads Military History

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Entry filed under: American Military History, Modern Military History, Naval History. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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