When the ironclad CSS Virginia first steamed down the Elizabeth River on 8 March 1862, she made for a scary sight: Here was a monstrous new kind of war machine, hard-shelled, heavily armed, a fleet-destroying futuristic-looking nightmare. After sinking two wooden U.S. Navy vessels and sounding the death-knell of the Age of Fighting Sail that day, the Virginia, of course, famously met her match on the 9th when the U.S. Navy’s own modernistic ironclad, the Monitor, showed up at Hampton Roads in the nick of time to stop the Virginia from getting past the James River environs. While their names remain forever intertwined in that turning-point moment, both the Monitor and Virginia were fated to be short-lived, the Monitor sinking in heavy seas—and the Virginia dying of self-inflicted wounds.
Pieces of the Past
By Eric Mills