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Hunley the Confederacy Secrect Hope

The H. L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy
On the evening of February 17, 1864, the Confederacy  H. L. Hunley sank the USS Housatonic and became the first submarine in world history to sink an enemy ship. Not until World War I "half a century later” would a submarine again accomplish such a feat. But also perishing that moonlit night, vanishing beneath the cold Atlantic waters off Charleston, South Carolina, was the Hunley and her entire crew of eight

Union Navy Ship
USS Monitor

Ironclad Armored Turret Gunboat

War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor
The experience of the men aboard the Monitor and their reactions to the thrills and dangers that accompanied the new machine. The invention surrounded men with iron and threatened their heroism, their self-image as warriors, even their lives

USS Monitor , a 987-ton armored turret gunboat, was built at New York to the design of John Ericsson . She was the first of what became a large number of "monitors" in the United States and other navies. Commissioned on 25 February 1862, she soon was underway for Hampton Roads, Virginia. Monitor arrived there on 9 March, and was immediately sent into action against the Confederate ironclad Virginia , which had sunk two U.S. Navy ships the previous day . The resulting battle , the first between iron-armored warships, was a tactical draw. However, USS Monitor prevented the CSS Virginia from gaining control of Hampton Roads and thus preserved the Federal blockade of the Norfolk area.

Following this historic action, Monitor remained in the Hampton Roads area and, in mid-1862 was actively employed along the James River in support of the Army's Peninsular Campaign. In late December 1862, Monitor was ordered south for further operations. Caught in a storm off Cape Hatteras, she foundered on 31 December. Her wreck was discovered in 1974 and is now a marine sanctuary.

USS Monitor 'sUSS Monitor approaches the CSS Virginia  construction resulted from a study of ironclad warships mandated by the Congress in July 1861, as the Civil War moved rapidly from crisis to serious armed conflict. During August and September the study board's members, Commodores Joseph Smith and Hiram Paulding and Commander Charles H. Davis, reviewed seventeen proposals and selected three for construction. Two were relatively conventional designs and became USS New Ironsides and USS Galena . The third, unconventional in virtually every way, became the Monitor .

Swedish engineer John Ericsson was personally responsible for Monitor 's conception and the details of her design. Perhaps with Scandanavian coastal defense conditions in mind, he had been developing the concept on paper for several decades. What emerged was well-suited for the Civil War's inshore fighting: a relatively shallow-draft iron hull, topped by an armored raft that provided good protection against ramming and cannon fire. Freeboard was less than two feet, sufficient for coastal requirements, though a real problem when the ship went to sea. Engine power was modest, but again sufficient to the need, and a Navy requirement for masts and sails was quite appropriately ignored.

The most stunning innovation, on a ship whose design was dominated by innovations, was the method of carrying her guns: a thickly-armored round turret, twenty-feet in diameter, rotated by steam power to permit nearly all-around fire from a pair of eleven-inch Dahlgren smoothbore shell guns, the heaviest weapons then available.

Iron fabrication began even before the Monitor 's contract was issued in early October. Rapid construction was a necessity, as the Confederates were known to be pushing work on their own ironclad, which became CSS Virginia . The new ship's hull was built by the Continental Iron Works, at Greenpoint, Long Island, with iron stock, machinery and much equipment furnished by other firms. Launched on 30 January 1862, she was outfitted over the next month and placed in commission on 25 February, under the command of Lieutenant John L. Worden .

After trials and modifications, Monitor left New York on 6 March. The next day, she encountered stormy weather, which abundantly demonstrated both the inherent seakeeping problems of the design and some more-easily correctable technical difficulties. Late on 8 March, just a few hours after CSS Virginia had spread terror among the Union fleet , the weather-beaten Monitor arrived off Hampton Roads, where her exhausted crew spent a long night urgently preparing their ship for action.

Union Monitor Civil War Ironclads
Union Monitor 1861-65
The first seagoing ironclad was the USS Monitor, and its profile has made it one of the most easily recognised warships of all time. Following her inconclusive battle with the Confederate ironclad Virginia on March 9, 1862, the production of Union monitors was accelerated. By the end of the year a powerful squadron of monitor vessels protected the blockading squadrons off the Southern coastline, and were able to challenge Confederate control of her ports and estuaries

Year on a Monitor and the Destruction of Fort Sumter
Personal view of the Civil War Navy. The monitor saw action in several significant naval assaults by the Union's Squadron. It took part in the failed Federal attack on Sumter in April 1863. The "Nahant" also participated in the capture of the Confederate Ram "Atlanta," and in the assault on Fort Wagner

Action between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia , 9 March 1862

At dawn on 9 March 1862, CSS Virginia prepared for renewed combat. The previous day , she had utterly defeated two big Federal warships, Congress and Cumberland , destroying both and killing more than 240 of their crewmen. Today, she expected to inflict a similar fate on the grounded steam frigate Minnesota and other enemy ships, probably freeing the lower Chesapeake Bay region of Union seapower and the land forces it supported. Virginia would thus contribute importantly to the Confederacy's military, and perhaps diplomatic, fortunes.

However, as they surveyed the opposite side of Hampton Roads, where the Minnesota and other potential victims awaited their fate, the Confederates realized that things were not going to be so simple. There, looking small and low near the lofty frigate, was a vessel that could only be USS Monitor , the Union Navy's own ironclad, which had arrived the previous evening after a perilous voyage from New York. Though her crew was exhausted and their ship untested, the Monitor was also preparing for action.

Undeterred, Virginia steamed out into Hampton Roads. Monitor positioned herself to protect the immobile Minnesota , and a general battle began. Both ships hammered away at each other with heavy cannon, and tried to run down and hopefully disable the other, but their iron-armored sides prevented vital damage. Virginia 's smokestack was shot away, further reducing her already modest mobility, and Monitor 's technological teething troubles hindered the effectiveness of her two eleven-inch guns, the Navy's most powerful weapons. Ammunition supply problems required her to temporarily pull away into shallower water, where the deep-drafted Virginia could not follow, but she always covered the Minnesota .

Soon after noon, Virginia gunners concentrated their fire on Monitor 's pilothouse, a small iron blockhouse near her bow. A shell hit there blinded Lieutenant John L. Worden , the Union ship's Commanding Officer, forcing another withdrawal until he could be relieved at the conn. By the time she was ready to return to the fight, Virginia had turned away toward Norfolk.

The first battle between ironclad warships had ended in stalemate, a situation that lasted until Virginia 's self-destruction two months later. However, the outcome of combat between armored equals, compared with the previous day's terrible mis-match, symbolized the triumph of industrial age warfare. The value of existing ships of the line and frigates was heavily discounted in popular and professional opinion. Ironclad construction programs, already underway in America and Europe, accelerated. The resulting armored warship competition would continue into the 1940s, some eight decades in the future.

Click on pictures to enlarge

USS Monitor Officer Picture

USS Monitor Officer Picture

USS Monitor Crew Picture

USS Monitor Crew Pictures

Monitor Civil War Ironclad Ship
Notice the dents from cannon shells
Kindle Available

Glory in the Name: A Novel of the Confederate Navy
From Norfolk to Hampton Roads, from Roanoke Island to the nighttime battle on the river below New Orleans, Glory in the Name tells the story of the Confederate States Navy, and the brave men who carried forward against overwhelming odds

Life in Mr. Lincoln's Navy
A tantalizing glimpse into the hardships endured by the naval leadership to build and recruit a fighting force. The seaman endured periods of boredom, punctuated by happy social times and terrifying bouts of battle horror

Halls of Honor
The U.S. Navy Museum takes you on an informed and entertaining romp through one of North America s oldest and finest military museums. The museum has been in continuous operation at the Washington Navy Yard since the American Civil War

March 1862 -- Battle of the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia

In an attempt to reduce the North's great naval advantage, Confederate engineers converted a scuttled Union frigate, the U.S.S. Merrimack, into an iron-sided vessel rechristened the C.S.S. Virginia. On March 9, in the first naval engagement between ironclad ships, the Monitor fought the Virginia to a draw, but not before the Virginia had sunk two wooden Union warships off Norfolk, Virginia.

Submitted Material
The ship that was burned at Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk VA and made into the CSS Virginia was the "Merrimack," not the "Merrimac." The "Merrimack" was a 4,636 ton frigate while the "Merrimac" was a 684 ton iron-hulled gunboat that served in the East Coast Blockading Squadron and foundered in a gale off the Florida coast on 15 February 1865. The "Merrimack" was spelled correctly in most Navy reports, but a few mis-spelled it as "Merrimac." Some pre-1900 authors made the error. This error has been perpetuated for many years by many modern authors who fail to utilize original sources.
Wayne E. Stark, Baden, PA USA -

All Aboard Reading Station Stop 3
The Monitor: The Iron Warship That Changed the World

Grades. 2-4. From the All Aboard Reading series, this book tells a double story. The first part concerns the building of the ironclad ship the Monitor during the Civil War, its epic battle with the Virginia (formerly known as the Merrimac ), and its sinking during a fierce Atlantic storm. The second part describes twentieth-century efforts to find the Monitor on the ocean floor and to raise and restore its gun turret. Thompson's narrative relates the Monitor 's history in an exciting yet responsible way, and Day's attractive illustrations, evidently in ink and watercolor, enhance the drama and clarify details.

More Civil War Pictures of the Battle of the Ironclads
Monitor in action on the James River after the battle at Malvern Hill Virginia
Monitor at the Battle at Drewery's Bluff May 15, 1862

Raising the Alabama
Raise The Alabama
She was known as "the ghost ship." During the Civil War, the CSS Alabama sailed over 75,000 miles and captured more than 60 Union vessels. But her career came to an end in June of 1864 when she was sunk by the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Northern France

Rendezvous of the Union Fleet in James River, off City Point
Drawn on the Spot, May 29, 1862

Line engraving, published in "Harper's Weekly", Volume of January-June 1862, page 390.
It depicts the U.S. Navy ships (listed as shown, from left to right) Maratanza , Wachusett , Aroostook , Monitor , Mahaska and Galena operating on the James River, Virginia, in support of General McClellan's army.

Civil War Union Navy Fleet

Monitor Model
Monitor 21" Civil War Ship
Wood Model Fully Assembled
  • Dimensions 21" Long x 5" Wide x 3" High
  • Meticulously painted to the actual Monitor
  • Museum quality model. Fully assembled and ready to display.
  • The model rests perfectly on a polished marble base and 4 arched dolphins
  • Built with rare, high quality rosewood.

Civil War Submarines
Civil War Naval Ships and Battles
Civil War Picture Album
Documents of the War
Civil War Summary
Civil War Exhibits
State Battle Maps
Civil War Timeline

Cavalry Sabre
Cavalry Saber
This fine replica is 39 inches overall and features a highly polished 33 inch carbon steel blade. Its leather wrapped handle fits the hand perfectly and sports decorative brass accents and a shiny brass pommel.

Civil War Naval Book Titles
Kindle Available

Naval Strategies of the Civil War: Confederate Innovations and Federal Opportunism
Compare and contrast the strategies of the Southern Secretary of the Navy, Mallory, against his rival in the North, Welles. Mallory used technological innovation and the skill of individuals to bolster the South's seapower against the Union Navy's superior numbers

Confederate Ironclad 1861-65
Every aspect of Confederate ironclads is covered: design, construction, armor, armament, life on board, strategy, tactics, and actual combat actions.

Ironclads and Big Guns of the Confederacy : The Journal and Letters of John M. Brooke
Information about the Confederate Navy's effort to supply its fledgling forces, the wartime diaries and letters of John M. Brooke tell the neglected story of the Confederate naval ordnance office, its innovations, and its strategic vision.

Confederate Phoenix: The CSS Virginia
The CSS Virginia of the Confederate States Navy destroyed two of the most formidable warships in the U.S. Navy. Suddenly, with this event, every wooden warship in every navy in the world became totally obsolete
Kindle Available

Confederate Ironclad vs Union Ironclad: Hampton Roads 1862
The Ironclad was a revolutionary weapon of war. Although iron was used for protection in the Far East during the 16th century, it was the 19th century and the American Civil War that heralded the first modern armored self-propelled warships.
Release date Nov. 2008

Year on a Monitor and the Destruction of Fort Sumter
Personal view of the Civil War Navy. The monitor saw action in several significant naval assaults by the Union's Squadron. It took part in the failed Federal attack on Sumter in April 1863. The "Nahant" also participated in the capture of the Confederate Ram "Atlanta," and in the assault on Fort Wagner
Kindle Available

Glory in the Name: A Novel of the Confederate Navy
From Norfolk to Hampton Roads, from Roanoke Island to the nighttime battle on the river below New Orleans, Glory in the Name tells the story of the Confederate States Navy, and the brave men who carried forward against overwhelming odds

Ironclad Down: USS Merrimack-CSS Virginia from Design to Destruction
A treasure trove of detailed information about one of history s most famous vessels. Describing  Stephen Russell Mallory, John Mercer Brooke, John Luke Porter, et al.--who conceived, designed and built one of the world's first ironclads

USS Monitor on the left approaches broadside to the CSS Virginia
USS Monitoer attacks the CSS Virginia


U.S. National Park Service
U.S. Library of Congress
US Naval Archives