US Civil War

Did the Monitor defeat the Merrimac at Hampton Roads in the first battle of the Civil War?

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2011-08-12 20:19:25
2011-08-12 20:19:25

No. The battle had no clear winner.

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It was a draw, neither sunk


It was really a stand-off - ending with the Confederate ship staying in harbour. So it might be called a Union victory. But the Confederates had undoubtedly given the Union a heck of a fright (in the best Confederate spirit), and the battle did make a dramatic start to the age of the ironclad.


The USS Monitor did not defeat the CSS Virginia (the new name for the USS Merrimack) in the Battle of Hampton Roads. The battle ended in a draw, with neither ship sinking the other.


Neither ironclad could completely defeat the other, but CSS Virginia (the Merrimac) withdrew after about three hours and the USS Monitor remained on station. The results of this battle are debatable to the present day, but the Virginia withdrew because it drew 22 feet of water, allowing it to operate only at high tide, and the tide was going out. The Monitor had only a ten-foot draught and could remain on station without being grounded. The Virginia was built from the captured Merrimac, and it was impossible to reduce its draught, while the Monitor was purpose-built as an ironclad. Both warships inflicted damage, but as stated above neither was able to defeat the other. Before the Monitor arrived, the Virginia destroyed two Union ships, but the Monitor prevented the destruction of the other three. This contributor would qualify it as a tactical draw and a strategic win for the North.


CSA ironclad Virginia attempted to defeat US fleet which was blockading Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862 succeeding in sinking the USNS Cumberland, forcing the USNS Congress to surrender and scattering others Union ships. In the evening Virginia retired, planning to resume the attack the following day. But during the night the US ironclad Monitor joined undetected the remains of the fleet, so when Virginia set out on the 8th it was engaged in a close combat with the Monitor. The fight remain undecided but Virginia didn't dare to set out to fight again and was destroyed by the Confederates when, on May 9th a Federal land attack forced them to evacuate Norfolk.


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