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Washington Post

July 11, 1862

New Type of Ship Fights for North
By Elizabeth

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.--Officers of the U.S.S. Monitor displayed their new type of battleship as it lay anchored in the James River in Virginia on July 9, 1862. Four months ago it fought a battle that could change the course of naval warfare forever.

The twelve officers are posing in front of the ship's turret, one of the many new features of this vessel. It can turn allowing the ship's two cannons to be pointed in any direction. It gave the ship its nickname, "a tin can on a shingle."

Unlike the traditional battleship, which is made of wood, the Monitor is covered with iron. This kind of ship is called an ironclad. That makes it harder for cannon balls to sink the ship.

The ship fought a famous battle just four months ago, in March 1862, against the Merrimac. Both ships were ironclads.

The Merrimac was a Union ship at the beginning of the Civil War. But the Confederates captured it and turned it into an ironclad renamed the C.S.S. Virginia. But in common usage it was still called the Merrimac.

On March 8, 1862, the Merrimac won a victory at Hampton Roads, Va., against Union ships who were blockading the Confederate coast.

A Union officer watching the one-sided battle between the Merrimac and one of the Union ships, the Congress, said that the Merrimac "fired shot and shell into her with terrific effect, while the shot from the Congress glanced from her sloping sides without doing any apparent effect."

But the next day, March 9, the Union ironclad, the Monitor, arrived on the scene. The Merrimac and the Monitor fought each other for almost five hours.

Describing the first exchange of gunfire, Lt. Samuel Dana Greene, an officer on the Merrimac said, "The turrets and other parts of the ship were heavily struck, but the shots did not penetrate; the tower was intact and it continued to revolve. A look of confidence passed over the men's faces and we believed the Merrimac would not repeat the work she had accomplished the day before."

Neither ship was able to do much damage to the other ship. The battle was considered a draw.

Although there was no winner, the battle will be likely to change the course of naval warfare forever. It has brought worldwide attention to the importance of ironclad ships.

The Monitor was built in less than four months according to the design of a man who is not in the picture. His name was John Ericsson, a Swedish immigrant.

Ericsson's design was unusual and not everyone liked it. But when it was shown to President Lincoln, he said, "All I have to say is what the girl said when she put her foot into the stocking. 'It strikes me there may be something in it.'"

The Union has plans to build other ships designed by John Ericsson called "monitors." They will be ironclad, easy to maneuver, and will have revolving turrets.

The officers of the Monitor include Captain John Lorimer Worden, a young man of 24 with a long beard. He was blinded permanently in one eye by an explosion in the battle.

Lt. Samuel Dana Green, the second in command, is 22. He took over after Worden was wounded. Another officer was Lt. Thomas Oliver Selfridge Jr.

Sources:

Dekay, James Terius. Monitor: the Story of the Legendary Civil War Ironclad and the Man Whose Invention Changed the Course of History. New York: Walker and Company, 1997.

Freedman, Fred. Duel of the Ironclads, in Pictures. New York: Time-Life Books, 1969.

Miss Ridgway's Civil War Battlesheet.

"Monitor and Merrimack." World Book Encyclopedia, 1972.

Nobles School."The Monitor and the Merrimack: Battle of Hampton Roads." <http//www.noblesweb.org>. 10/25/98.

Pratt, Fletcher. The Monitor and the Merrimac. New York: Random House, 1951.

Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War. "Hampton Roads, the Battle of the Ironclads. <http://www.civilwarhome.com> 10/29/98

Still, William N. Ironclad Captains: the Commanding Officers of the USS Monitor. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988.

The U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865. "Warships: Monitor." <http://www.historyplace.com>. 10/25/98.