When the CSS Virginia slowly steamed down the Elizabeth River on 8 March 1862, the tide of naval warfare turned from wooden ships to armored, internally powered vessels. Little did the ironclad’s crew realize that its makeshift warship would achieve the Confederacy’s greatest naval victory. The trip was regarded by many to be simply a shakedown cruise. Instead the Virginia’s aggressive commander, Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, made the voyage a trial by fire that proved the power of iron over wood.
Proving the Power of Iron Over Wood
Often overshadowed by her smaller, turreted nemesis, the ironclad CSS Virginia inaugurated a new era in naval warfare.
By John V. Quarstein