The Battle of Hampton Roads is also called the Battle of Monitor and Merrimack. This was a naval battle during the American Civil War with the significance that it was the first fight between two ironclad ships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. The confrontation between the two occurred on March 8 and 9, 1862, off of Sewell’s Point which is near Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The battle lasted for two days with the first day seeing the CSS Virginia wreak havoc on the wooden Union ships blockading the harbor. The next day the USS Monitor showed up and initiated the famous duel of the ironclads. The battle, though inconclusive, received worldwide publicity. After the battle, it was clear that ironclad ships were the future of naval warfare.

The two vessels incorporated the latest naval advances: steam powered, screw propelled, and ironclad hull. The Virginia carried ten major guns (four in each broadside, one bow and one stern gun) and an iron ram. The low silhouetted Monitor had a rotating centerline gun turret, housing two 11 inch guns.

On 8 March 1862, the Virginia went up against the Union navy’s blockade. It sank the USS Cumberland with its ram, burned the Congress with incendiary shells, but it disengaged when it could not approach the grounded Minnesota. The next day, Lt. Catesby Rogers Jones succeeded the wounded captain in command of the Virginia and found the waiting Monitor, which had just arrived with Lt. John L. Worden in command.

For four hours the two ironclads pounded each other at close range. The larger Virginia tried without success to ram the Monitor and to board. Neither ship could sink the other, nor pierce the armor plate, but the Virginia, taking on water from hull damage, withdrew. Although the battle between the two ships was inconclusive, the withdrawal of the Virginia left the blockade in place and was proclaimed a victory by the Union.