In 1862, the American Civil War was going on. The war had started in 1861. It was fought between the northern states which were collectively called the Union and the southern states which were collectively called the Confederacy.
The Confederacy wanted to separate from the United States of America while the Union wanted to force the southern states to remain a part of USA. It was at such a time that this battle took place.
Until 1862, the Union and Confederate armies had been using conventional ships made of wood during their naval fights. Wooden ships had a major drawback. If they were hit with cannons, they were easily damaged and it didn’t take them long to sink after being damaged significantly.
The Confederate armies found a solution to this problem by adding protective iron armor all over the body of one of their ships. The Union forces responded by creating an iron-armored ship of their own. During the subsequent battles, these two ships clashed with each other. And for this reason, the battle is often called the Battle of the Ironclads.
The battle was fought on March 8 and March 9, 1862. It took place in a waterway near Virginia called the Hampton Roads. The Union naval army was commanded by Captain John Worden. The Confederate naval force was commanded by Flag Office Franklin Buchanan.
The battle began on March 8, 1862. Initially, the Union naval force comprised of many wooden ships. The Confederate ironclad ship named the ‘Merrimack’ attacked these ships. The Union ships shot cannons at the Merrimack but these simply bounced off due to Merrimack’s iron armor. Merrimack was able to sink and damage many Union ships without incurring any damage by the time the day ended.
Next day, Merrimack returned to wreck more damage on Union ships. But by this time, the Union ironclad ship called the Monitor had arrived. So the two ironclad ships fought against each other. There cannons could not inflict much damage on each other, so by the end of the day, both ships were undamaged and left the battlefield.
Since the ironclad ships of both the Union and the Confederacy didn’t sink in the battle, the battle was essentially a draw. Neither side won it. But this battle had very important consequences on the Civil War.
This battle was the first time an ironclad ship was used in naval fighting. So it changed the history of naval warfare forever. It proved that one ironclad ship was better than dozens of wooden ships. So after this battle, ironclad ships came to be used more and more frequently in naval battles.
Although this development took place in the American Civil War, the use and importance of ironclad ships also became apparent on other countries as well. As a result, ironclad ships were eagerly developed by several other nations in Europe as well.