The Monitor And The Merrimac Essay, Research Paper
The Monitor and the Virginia
The U.S.S Monitor and the C. S. S. Virginia were the first ironclads to grace
the waters of the American Civil War. Their battle in 1862 at Newport
News Point is still considered one of the best and most exciting naval
engagements of all times. The reason people think of it as the battle of the
“Monitor and the Merrimack” is because the Merrimack had been the
Virginia’s name when she was still a union ship. Since the Union won the
war, they wrote the history with their name for her.
When rebel forces were about to invade the port at Norfolk, the U.S.S.
Merrimack along with every other ship in the yard was set afire so not to be
captured by the enemy. But only her deck was destroyed. Her lower hull
was left intact. The Confederates took her and fitted her with an iron deck.
Each side carried 5 guns and one on the bow and on the stern. She was also
fitted with an iron ram submerged at the bow for ramming wooden union
Now named the Virginia , she ran amuk in Chesapeake Bay disposing of
Union warships. Her iron hull was almost impervious to cannon balls and
her ram made short work of the giant wooden targets.
The Union knew they had to build an ironclad of their own if they wanted
to win the war, and so the Monitor was born.
The Monitor rode almost completely submerged, with the bare minimum
of wood required, but with absolutly none of it showing. Unlike the Virginia,
the Monitors hull was only a foot or two above the surface of the ocean.
Centered on her hull was a two gun turret, complete with the ability to turn
a complete circle. The guns in the turret were known as “Soda-Bottle guns”
due to their unique shape, they were at that time the largest guns ever to be
placed on a active ship.
When the Monitor was first launched the turret had yet to be added to the
hull, but it was still a grand event.
Her double armor, 8 and a half inches thick, made her almost
Although she had a weakness, the elevated pilot house at the bow of the boat
made a deadly target for the Virgin’s cannon-balls.
The Union troops stationed at Hampton Rhodes, the destination of the
Monitor and the famous battleground, thought very little of their ironclad.
They wrote, “we all expect the Virginia to destroy her, just like all the
On March tenth news came that two days before the two ironclads
had battled at Newport News Point and that the Monitor had made it through
the days fighting without any major damage and was ready for another
But the Virginia had taken her toll in the hours before the Monitors arrival
she had destroyed two ships and crippled the U.S.S. Minnesota. To the
crew aboard the run-aground Minnesota the lights signaling the Monitors
arrival on the night of March 7th was a true gift from god.
After three days of fierce fighting, hull grinding and cannon shots the
Virginia was taken out of the action by a fire on-board. She was able to make
it to shore and off-load her crew but the burnt out wreckage proved
After visiting Washington the Monitor was steaming her way back along
the coastline when she was over taken by a storm, luckily her crew was
placed safely aboard a vessel close by, but she sunk clear to the bottom and
was never recovered.
Both the Monitor’s and the Virgin’s design was kept throughout the
Civil War, but not without improvements, another turret was added to the
Monitor’s hull and more guns to the Virginia.