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One of the most revolutionary battles in naval historyoccurred on March 9, 1862, when for the first time armoredwarships engaged in a confrontation. In the previous weeksConfederate engineers had made major modifications tothe CSS Virginia (formerly the USSMerrimack) and on March 8 the ironcladVirginia steamed into HamptonRoads and destroyed two of the Union’smost powerful warships, the Cumberlandand the Congress. In the ensuingpanic, Union officials in Washingtonfeared that the CSS Virginia wouldattack the capital. On the following day,the Union’s ironclad, the USS Monitor,fought the CSS Virginia to a standstill.Despite the inconclusive result, theironclad technology had revolutionizednaval warfare, sounding the death knellfor wooden-hulled warships.
Civil War and naval historian Craig L. Symonds, professoremeritus at the U.S. Naval Academy, discusses the story behindthe ships’ creation, the personalities who shaped andcommanded each vessel, and the remarkable battle itself,which destroyed the Confederacy’shope of besting the Union navy.
Symonds’ books Decision at Sea:Five Naval Battles that ShapedAmerican History and Lincoln andHis Admirals (Oxford UniversityPress) are available for signingafter the program.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW
Metro: Smithsonian Mall Exit (Blue/Orange)