The Day Iron Ships Went to War

Detail of The Monitor and Merrimac: The First Fight Between Ironclads, 1886. (L. Prang & Co./Library of Congress)
On this day, a Civil War battle forever changed the nature of the navy.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE O ne hundred and fifty-nine years ago today in Virginia, on the second day of the Civil War Battle of Hampton Roads, something happened for the first time in the history of the world: Two ironclad ships fought each other. The Confederate CSS Virginia, a rebuilt version of the USS Merrimac, had participated in the battle’s first day and had its way against the wooden ships of the United States Navy. The USS Monitor, hastily dispatched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, arrived just in time to join the battle on the second day. News of the two ironclads’ clash was carefully

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