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Battle of Hampton Roads


On March 8, the Confederate ironclad, C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimac, which had been captured by the confederates and fitted with iron plates) steamed into Hampton Roads to attack the ships of the Union blockade. Protected by its iron armor, and with its battering ram and cannon, the Virginia managed to destroy two Union ships, the Congress and Cumberland, and run three others aground.

The next day, when the Virginia headed out to finish its work, she found that she was facing the U.S.S. Monitor, a Union ironclad which had been built to answer the threat posed by the Virginia and which had just arrived at Hampton Roads. For four hours the two ships fought a fierce battle, but neither's ordnance could penetrate the other's iron protection. In the confusion, and after an exhausting and violent battle lasting hours, the ships disengaged, each believing it had won the day. The battle was essentially a draw, though as the Union was able to maintain its blockade, they had the better claim to "victory." The biggest result, however, was that this battle signaled a fundamental change in naval warfare. The days of the wooden navel ship was numbered and from thence both navies began to put their resources into armored ships.

Monitor and Merrimac
J. Hamilton. "The Engagement between the 'Monitor' and 'Merrimac.'" From Samuel M. Schmucker's The History of the Civil War in the United States.. Revised and completed by Dr. L. P. Brockett. Philadelphia: Jones Bros. & Co. and Chicago: Zeigler, McCurdy & Co, 1865, 4 x 6 1/4. Engraving.

In 1863, even before the Civil War ended, historian Samuel Mosheim Schmucker (1823-1863) produced A History of the Civil War: with a preliminary views of its causes, and biographical sketches of its heroes. It contained a series of terrific engravings of scenes from the Civil War mezzotinted by John Sartain and his son Samuel. This unusual image of the battle between the Monitor and Virginia is a good example of their work. JT OUT ON APPROVAL

First battle between iron clads
"First Naval combat between Iron Vessels." From The Great Rebellion. Connecticut: Hurlburt, Williams, & Co., 1862. 4 1/2 x 7. Engraving. NA

Battle of Hampton Roads
Alonzo Chappel. "Naval Conflict in Hampton Roads--Action Between Monitor and Merrimac." From Battles of the United States by Sea and Land. New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., ca. 1865. 5 x 8. Steel engraving. $85

Monitor and Merrimac
W. Momberger. "Naval Combat between the Monitor & Merrimac. Hampton Roads, March 9th 1862." From John S.C. Abbott's The History of the Civil War in America. New York: Henry Bill, 1866. 4 1/2 x 7 1/2. Engraving. NA

Prints from Harper's Weekly

Monitor and Worden
The terrific combat between the two iron-clad ships caused a sensation in both North and South, so it is not surprising that within two weeks Harper's Weekly had an issue with a story about the battle and a number of images. Even before the battle, news of the threat posed by the 'Merrimac' had reach the North, so an image of the ship was included as early as February 15th.

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