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Topics in Chronicling America - Civil War Ironclads

“There is now building at the Continental Iron Works a formidable iron battery, which will probably prove a novel and efficacious implement of war,” reported the December 24, 1861 Cincinnati Daily Press. The iron-clad proved to be a novel invention indeed as it displaced the wooden warships of previous years and ushered in a new era of naval warfare. Iron-clads were key in the various naval engagements of the Civil War. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Drawing of the Monitor's turret.

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Important Dates:

  • October 12, 1861. One of the first iron-clads deployed in combat, the CSS Manassas, fights Union warships on the Mississippi River at the Battle of the Head of Passes.
  • December 1861. Continental Iron Works begins the construction of a new iron-clad, by the design of Swedish inventor John Ericsson, which would later be name the USS Monitor.
  • March 9, 1862. The first battle between iron-clads, mainly the USS Monitor of the Union and the CSS Virginia (formally known as the USS Merrimack) happens at the Battle of Hampton Roads.
  • May 15, 1862. Battle at Fort Darling where 5 Union ships, including the USS Monitor sail up the James to test Richmond defenses. Gun batteries at Fort Darling force the ships to retreat.
  • April 15, 1863. Union ironclads attack Charleston but are turned back. At least one is sunk.
  • May 1864. A reported 20 European ironclads, built by the French and British, will arrive by late June in the South.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] iron-clad, ericsson battery, continental iron works, Monitor, Merrimack.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  August 22, 2014
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