The Civil War

Kamehameha Schools - The American Civil War Project

Hampton Roads
(Merrimac vs. Monitor)
Virginia - March 8, 1862

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The Battle of Hampton Roads
Historian Page

Who was involved?

Federal(North): Captain John Lorimer Worden, Lieutenant Dana Greene

Confederate(South): Captain Franklin Buchanan, Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones

The primary commander for the Union, on board the Monitor, was Captain John Lorimer Worden. He was later blinded during the battle. Lieutenant Dana Greene along with the many officers aboard the Monitor had to take over for him. The commanders for the Confederates, on board the Merrimac, were Captain Franklin Buchanan and Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones. Buchanan was also wounded during the battle and Lieutenant Jones had to take over.


When did the battle occur?

March 8-9, 1862

On the eighth of March, the Merrimac along with two other wooden vessels entered Hampton Roads at 12:30 p.m. These wooden ships accompanying the Merrimac were called the Beaufort and the Raleigh. The Merrimac immediately rammed the Cumberland (of the Union forces) and she sank at precisely 2:40 p.m. Then, all of the Confederate ships started firing upon the Federal ship, the Congress. The Congress finally had to surrender at 4:00 p.m. The Merrimac left Hampton Roads and planned to sink the Union ship, the Minnesota the next day.

The Monitor entered Hampton Roads after the Merrimac had left. Then next day, on the ninth of March, the Monitor and the Merrimac battled each other. They fought for four hours before the Merrimac finally left the place.


Where did the battle take place?

Hampton Roads, Virginia

Hampton Roads is right off the coast of Virginia. A fleet of Union ships and shore batteries had been set up there to hold off ships that tried to counterattack the attack on the Confederate capital. Hampton Roads is an inlet branching off from Chesapeake Bay.


What happened during the battle?

Ships Sunk: (North) Congress, Cumberland

(South) None

Main Ships involved: (North) Congress, Cumberland, Minnesota, Monitor

(South) Merrimac, Raleigh, Beaufort

The Merrimac entered Hampton Roads on the eighth of March. She sank the Cumberland by ramming a huge hole and the Congress was sunk by a fire which ignited the ammunition aboard the ship. The Merrimac then sailed out of Hampton Roads to return and sink the Minnesota the next day. The Monitor entered Hampton Roads after the Merrimac had left. She positioned herself next to the Minnesota to await the return of the Merrimac. The next day the Merrimac entered Hampton Roads and battled the Monitor for about four hours. While battling,, a shot struck the pilothouse of the Monitor partially blinding its captain. At this point, the Monitor broke off from battle for a moment. The Merrimac was going to attack the Minnesota but Lieutenant Catesby decided to leave Hampton Roads due to the receding tide. This ended the battle.


Why did the battle occur?

The Merrimac had attacked the fleet at Hampton Roads because this fleet held the way for Union General McClellan to attack Richmond, Virginia by way of the Peninsula. This way the Merrimac could defend Norfolk and the James River approach to Richmond which McClellan could use to attack Richmond. When the Federals heard that the Confederates were sending an ironclad ship to Hampton Roads, they panicked. They thought the Merrimac would be able to sail all the way up the Potomac and be able to shell the capital buildings until Lincoln was forced to surrender. To protect themselves, another ironclad was designed to defend against the Merrimac. The Monitor was made with a revolving turret and was small and quick. They fought basically to defend against each other.


The Outcome

Winner: Inconclusive (Both declared victory)

Both the Confederates and the Federals declared victory. Neither the Monitor or Merrimac had been seriously damaged during the battle. The Confederates had killed more people and had sunk two of the Union's ships. The Monitor was considered the tactical victor, though. The Monitor had defended the Minnesota successfully. The Merrimac had gained back control of Hampton Roads, though. By doing this, she delayed General McClellan's attempt to attack Richmond by the Norfolk and James River approach.


Events happening around the world in 1862

Europe: French composer Claude Debussy is born.

Australia: English cricket team tours Australia for the first time.

Asia: China was involved in the Taiping Rebellion.

Africa: Louis Botha, first president of South Africa, is born.

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