Online Library of Selected Images:
-- SHIPS of the CONFEDERATE STATES

CSS Virginia (1862-1862), ex-USS Merrimack

On 20 April 1861, when Virginia authorities took over the Norfolk Navy Yard after its evacuatuation by Federal forces, they found, among other valuable items, the hulk of the steam frigate USS Merrimack. Though burned to the waterline and sunk, the big ship's lower hull and machinery were intact. During the remainder of 1861 and the first two months of 1862, the Confederate States Navy raised, drydocked and converted her into a casemate ironclad ram, a new warship type that promised to overcome the Union's great superiority in conventional warships. Placed in commission as CSS Virginia in mid-February 1862, the ship's iron armor made her virtually invulnerable to contemporary gunfire. She carried ten guns of her own, a seven-inch pivot-mounted rifle at each end and a broadside battery of two six-inch rifles and six nine-inch smoothbores. Affixed to her bow was an iron ram, allowing the ship herself to be employed as a deadly weapon.

Virginia made her first combat sortie on 8 March 1862, steaming down the Elizabeth River from Norfolk and into Hampton Roads. In a historic action that dramatically demonstrated the superiority of armored steam-powered warships over their wooden sailing counterparts, she rammed and sank the big U.S. Navy sloop of war Cumberland and shelled the frigate Congress into submission. In Washington, D.C., many of the Federal Government's senior officials panicked, convinced that Virginia posed a grave threat to Union seapower and coastal cities. They were unaware that her serious operational limitations, caused by her deep draft, weak powerplant and extremely poor seakeeping, essentially restricted her use to deep channels in calm, inland waterways.

However, their worries were relieved the next day. When Virginia returned to Hampton Roads to attack the grounded steam frigate Minnesota, she found the Union's own pioneer ironclad, USS Monitor, waiting. A second historic battle ensued, with the two opponents firing away, without mortal effect, until the action ended in a tactical draw in the early afternoon of 9 March 1862.

Over the next two months, the two ironclads kept each other in check. Virginia, repaired and strengthened at the Norfolk Navy Yard, reentered the Hampton Roads area on 11 April and 8 May, but no further combat with the Monitor resulted. As the Confederates abandoned their positions in the Norfolk area, Virginia was threatened with the loss of her base. After a futile effort to lighten the ship enough to allow her to move up the James River, on 11 May the South's formidible ironclad was destroyed by her crew off Craney Island, some six miles from where she had electrified the World through her battles of 8 and 9 March. CSS Virginia's wreck was largely removed between 1866 and 1876.

This page features all our relatively accurate views of the Confederate Navy ironclad ram Virginia, ex-USS Merrimack, and provides links to other views of the ship and her actions.

For additional views of, or relating to, CSS Virginia, see:

Click photograph for larger image.

Photo #: NH 57830

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Wash drawing by Clary Ray, 1898.

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 78KB; 740 x 425 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 61676

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Photograph of a 19th Century artwork.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 76KB; 740 x 425 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 76386

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Colored outboard profile plan, originally in the files of the Bureau of Construction and Repair. Its origin is unknown, but it may be of Civil War vintage.

The original is plan # 81-12-2B in Record Group 19 at the U.S. National Archives.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 50KB; 900 x 380 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 58881

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Halftone reproduction of a line engraving, originally published in "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War", Volume I, page 695.
It is based on a drawing by Lt. B.L. Blackford, made on 7 March 1862, the day before Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack) engaged USS Cumberland and USS Congress.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 89KB; 740 x 365 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 45978

USS Monitor (1862)
and
CSS Virginia (1862)

Montage drawing featuring plans of the two ships, portraits of men responsible for building and operating them, and scenes of their histories. It is inscribed: "Dedicated to the Memory of Thomas Fitch Rowland, Builder of the Original Monitor.". Drawn by Charles H. Corbett, circa 1907 or later.
See Photo # NH 45978 (extended caption) for more extensive information.

Courtesy of Charles H. Corbett.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 278KB; 1200 x 825 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 314

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Engraving depicting the ship in drydock at the Norfolk Navy Yard, after the installation of her armor, circa early 1862. She was then nearing completion after conversion from the hulk of USS Merrimack.

Courtesy of of Mrs. A.W. Hasker.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 105KB; 740 x 455 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 42222

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Halftone of an artwork published in Fiveash, "Virginia-Monitor Engagement", Norfolk, Va., 1907. It depicts the ship in drydock at the Norfolk Navy Yard, circa February 1862, while nearing completion after conversion from the hulk of USS Merrimack.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 101KB; 740 x 530 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 58712

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Halftone reproduction of an artwork copyrighted by G.S. Richardson, 1906, depicting the ship drydocked at the Norfolk Navy Yard, circa early 1862, while nearing completion after conversion from the hulk of USS Merrimack.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 132KB; 700 x 610 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 42223

CSS Virginia (1862-1862)


Model by Alexander Lynch, 1939, on exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum, Los Angeles, California. Model's scale is 1/8" = 1'.

Courtesy of Arthur Woodward, Director of History and Anthropology, Los Angeles Museum, September 1939.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 66KB; 740 x 525 pixels

 




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