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The Battle of Hampton Roads

The Battle of Hampton Roads

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Published by Narendran Sairam

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Published by: Narendran Sairam on Mar 28, 2009
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09/15/2013

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THE BATTLE OF HAMPTON ROADS
 NARENDRAN SAIRAMHISTORY PAPER MARCH 19
th
, 2009
"The Navy has both a tradition and a future--and we look with pride and confidence in bothdirections." 
-Admiral George Anderson
, CNO, 1 August 1961.
 
“If it weren't for the Civil War, I could own you.” My college comments jokingly in relevanceto my color. But little does he understand that his statement is true at the core. I would be a slave inthis country was it not for the Civil War. That being said, it is safe to say that the Civil war was one of the most important wars in the history of the United States. Among the numerous battles of this war and hundreds of heroic acts, there is one particular battle that is very important to note. A battle thatchanged the face of naval warfare, modern trade and transportation. The Battle of Hampton Roads.The Battle of Hampton Roads was the first battle between the first ironclads war ships of theUS. It took place between the Confederate ship CSS
Virginia
and Union ship USS
Monitor.
Once theSouth had definitively established it's status as an enemy of the North, as a Confederacy instead of as part of the Union, The North put in place a stratagem. The plan was to cut off all communications andmodes of help for the South.(“Battle of Hampton Roads, Confederate Military History.”)At the time, the most profitable trade partner of the South at this time was Britain. The Southcreated most of its revenue by selling cotton to Britain. The North, planned to stop this trade by blockading the ships of the Confederacy and patrolling the coast so that no British ship could enter thesouth..This plan was put into effect immediately and numerous Union ships began monitoring the theConfederate coast. In response to this move, the Confederacy began making plans to defeat the Northin naval battles. The problem was that the south possessed neither the man power nor the technology todefeat the ships of the technologically advanced, industrial North.A feverish search began. A search for something to defeat the North. It was during this searchfor a new way to defeat the Union Navy, that a new idea emerged.One of the major Northern ports was Newport, Virginia. At this point in the war, Virginia wasstill a Union state but many people speculated that it would soon secede. And what happened? Virginiaseceded and along with it, the North lost its port. In the Newport shipyard, the North had stationed a
 
ship. A ship that had proudly been called the 'Best Union war Ship.' But as Virginia seceded, thenorthern troops in Newport, set fire to the shipyard, burning the 3200 ton ship. Two hundred andseventy five feet in length, armed with forty guns, the USS
Merrimac
burned. (Trotter, William R. TheFires of Pride A Novel.)In desperate need of ships, the Confederacy, raised the dead USS
Merrimac
and rebuilt it. Inthe July of 1861, Confederate Navy Secretary Stepehn Mallory, proposed a design for the rebuilding of the USS
Merrimac
and on the third of February, a year later, the CSS
Virginia
sailed out of Newport,two inch thick iron hulls shimmering and a battle ram sticking out of it's front. What had once been the pride of the North was now the savior of the South. Once out on the open ocean, the CSS
Virginia
initiated it's rampage, abrogating the Union ships that dared to cross its path, with ease.Meanwhile the North was making it's own changes to it's ships. As soon the North learned of the Confederacy's plans to make an armored ship, Federal Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles putforth a proposition to the Congress for the North to build its own ships. On August 3
rd
, 1861, theCongress approved the proposal and appointed a board, the Ironclad Board, to review and select adesign from the seventeen that were submitted. The Board selected the design of Swedish engineer andinventor, John Ericsson. (Trotter, William R. The Fires of Pride A Novel.)Ericsson's
Monitor 
, which was built at Ericsson's yard on the East River in Greenpoint,Brooklyn, incorporated many new and striking design features, the most significant of which were her armor and armament. Instead of the large numbers of guns of rather small bore that had characterizedwarships in the past, Ericsson opted for only two guns of large caliber. These were mounted in acylindrical turret, twenty feet in diameter, nine feet high, covered with iron eight inches thick. Thewhole rotated on ball bearings, and was moved by a steam engine that could be controlled by one man.By the time, the CSS Virginia sailed out from Newport, the USS Monitor sailed out fromBrooklyn.("Battle of Hampton Roads, Confederate Military History.")

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