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CSSVirginia1862.2.ws
CSS Virginia
Career (CSA) CSA FLAG 4.3.1861-21.5.1861<tr valign=top><td>Ordered:</td><td>

1861</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Laid down:</td><td> 1862 (overlay USS Merrimack)</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Launched:</td><td> March 8, 1862</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Commissioned:</td><td> 1862</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Fate:</td><td> scuttled by crew, May 11, 1862</td></tr>

General characteristics

<tr valign=top><td>Type:</td><td> Ironclad Ram</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Displacement:</td><td> approx. 4500[1] tons</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Length:</td><td> {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} ft ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m)</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Beam:</td><td> {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} ft ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m)</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Draft:</td><td> {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} ft ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m)</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Speed:</td><td> 9 knots (17 km/h)</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Complement:</td><td> 320 officers and men</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Armament:</td><td> 2×7 inch (178 mm) rifles
2×6 inch (152 mm) rifles
6×9 inch (229 mm) Dahlgren smoothbores
2×12-pounder (5 kg) howitzers</td></tr><tr valign=top><td>Armor:</td><td> Double iron plating; 2 inch (51 mm) thick</td></tr>

CSS Virginia was a steam-powered battery design ironclad warship of the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War, built using the remains of the scuttled USS Merrimack in 1862.[2]

She was one of the participants in the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862 opposite the USS Monitor. The battle is chiefly significant in naval history as the first battle between two ironclads.

Ironclads were only a recent innovation, starting with the 1854 steam-powered ironclad battery Lave, which was designed for coastal warfare and had a speed of {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} knots ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} km/h), with a crew of 282 men. Throughout the war, the Confederacy built many ironclad steam-powered batteries, and like the CSS Virginia, they were not designed to be ocean cruisers. Due to the success of the CSS Virginia, the CS Navy tried to procure turreted ironclad cruisers, but only succeeded in procuring one ironclad frigate, the CSS Stonewall, which arrived too late to make an impact in the war.

USS Merrimack becomes CSS Virginia Edit

When the Commonwealth of Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, one of the important federal military bases threatened was Gosport Shipyard (now Norfolk Naval Shipyard) in Portsmouth, Virginia. Accordingly, the order was sent to destroy the base rather than allow it to fall into Confederate hands. Unfortunately for the Union, the execution of these orders was bungled. The steam frigate USS Merrimack sank before she completely burned. When the Confederate government took possession of the yard, the hulk of the Merrimack was raised and moved pierside to clear the main channel of the Elizabeth River of the obstruction. About two months later, Confederate Navy Lieutenants John Brooke and John Porter surveyed the hull and found the running gear satisfactory to base conversion of the hull to an ironclad ram.

File:Mariners Museum 2007 015a.jpg

Rebuilt under the supervision of Captain French Forrest, the new ship was named Virginia. The burned hull timbers were cut down to the waterline, and a new deck and armored casemate (fortress) were added. The deck was four inch (102 mm)-thick iron. The casemate was built up of 24" of oak and pine in several layers, topped with two 2-inch ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} mm) layers of iron plating oriented perpendicular to each other, and angled to deflect shot hits. The battery consisted of four single-banded Brooke rifles and six nine-inch (229 mm) Dahlgren smoothbore shell guns. Two of the rifles, bow and stern pivots, were seven-inch (178 mm) , of 14,500 pounds; the other two were 6.4 inch (32 pound calibre) of 9000 pounds, one on each broadside. The nine-inch (229 mm) gun on each side nearest the furnaces was fitted for firing hot shot. A few nine-inch (229 mm) shot with extra windage (slightly smaller diameter) were cast for hot shot. No other solid shot were on board during the fight. As Virginia’s designers had heard of plans by the North to build an ironclad, and figuring her guns would be unable to harm such a ship, they equipped her with a ram— at that time an anachronism in a warship[3]. Merrimack's engines, now part of Virginia, had not been in good working order, and the salty Elizabeth River water and addition of tons of iron armor and ballast did not improve the situation.

The commanding officer, Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, arrived to take command only a few days before sailing. The ship was placed in commission and equipped by the executive officer, Catesby ap R. Jones.

Battle of Hampton Roads Edit

File:Monitorvirginia.jpg
Main article: Battle of Hampton Roads

The Battle of Hampton Roads began on March 8 1862 when Virginia sortied. Despite an all-out effort to complete her, the ship still had workmen on board when she sailed. Supported by Raleigh and Beaufort, and accompanied by Patrick Henry, Jamestown, and Teaser, Virginia took on the blockading fleet.

The first ship engaged, USS Cumberland, was sunk after being rammed. However, in sinking, Cumberland broke off Virginia's ram. Seeing what happened to Cumberland, the captain of USS Congress ordered his ship grounded in shallow water. Congress and Virginia traded fire for an hour, after which the badly-damaged Congress surrendered. While the surviving crewmen of Congress were being ferried off the ship, a Union battery on the north shore opened fire on Virginia. In retaliation, the captain of Virginia ordered to fire upon the surrendered Congress with red-hot shot, to set her ablaze.

Virginia did not emerge from the battle unscathed. Shot from Cumberland, Congress, and the shore-based Union troops had riddled her smokestack, reducing her already low speed. Two of her guns were out of order, and a number of armor plates had been loosened. Even so, her captain attacked USS Minnesota, which had run aground on a sandbank trying to escape Virginia. However, because of her deep draft, Virginia was unable to do significant damage. It being late in the day, Virginia left with the expectation of returning the next day and completing the destruction of the Union blockaders.

Later that night, USS Monitor arrived at Union-held Fort Monroe, rushed to Hampton Roads in hopes of protecting the Union force and preventing Virginia from threatening Union cities.

The next day, on March 9, 1862, the world's first battle between ironclads took place. The smaller, nimbler Monitor was able to outmaneuver Virginia, but neither ship proved able to do significant damage, despite numerous hits. Monitor was much closer to the water, and thus much harder to hit by the Virginia's guns, but vulnerable to ramming and boarding. Finally, Monitor retreated. This was because the captain of the Monitor was hit by gunpowder in his eyes while looking through the pilothouse's peepholes, which caused Monitor to haul off. The Monitor had retreated off into the shoals and remained there, and so the battle was a draw. The captain of Virginia, Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones, CSN received the advice from his pilots to take the midnight high tide to depart back over the bar toward the CS Navy base at Norfolk until noon of the next day. Lieutenant Jones wanted, instead, to re-attack, but to "turn the ship and fight the starboard gun, was impossible, for heading up stream on a strong flood-tide, she would have been wholly unmanageable." The pilots emphasized that the Virginia had "nearly three miles to run to the bar" and that she could not remain and "take the ground on a falling tide." So to prevent getting stuck, Lieutenant Jones called off the battle and moved back toward harbor.[4]

In the following nine weeks, the crew of the Virginia were unsuccessful in their attempts to lure the Monitor out of the shallows. The Virginia made several sorties back over to Hampton Roads hoping to draw Monitor into battle. Monitor, however, was under orders not to engage. Eventually the Confederate Navy sent Lieutenant Joseph Nicholson Barney in command of the CSS Jamestown, along with the Virginia and five other ships in full view of the Union squadron, enticing them to fight. When it became clear that the US Navy ships were unwilling to fight, the CS Navy squadron moved in and captured three merchant ships, the brigs Marcus and Sabout and the schooner Catherine T. Dix. Their flags were then hoisted "Union-side down" to further taunt the US Navy into a fight, as they were towed back to Norfolk, with the help of the CSS Raleigh.

Neither ironclad was ever to fight again. On May 10, 1862, advancing Union troops occupied Norfolk. Virginia was unable to retreat further up the James River due to her deep draft, and since she was a steam-powered battery and not a cruiser, she was not seaworthy enough to enter the ocean. Without a home port, Virginia was ordered blown up to keep her from being captured. This task fell to Lieutenant Jones, the last man to leave CSS Virginia after all of her guns had been safely removed and carried to the CS Marine Corps base and fortifications at Drewy's Bluff to fight again. Early on the morning of May 11, 1862, off Craney Island, fire reached her magazine and she was destroyed by a great explosion.

Later that same year, despite the fact that the Monitor was essentially an armored raft designed for riverine warfare, the US Navy attempted to tow it out into the Atlantic Ocean and past the ship graveyard of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, where the Monitor sank and was added to the collection.

File:Destruction of Merrimac, May 11, 1862.png

Historical names: Merrimack, Virginia, MerrimacEdit

The name of the warship which served the Confederacy in the Battle of Hampton Roads has become a source of confusion, which continues to the present day.

When she was first commissioned into the United States Navy in 1856, her name was Merrimack, with the K. The name derived from the Merrimack River near where she was built. She was the second ship of the U.S. Navy to be named for the Merrimack River, which is formed by the junction of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee Rivers at Franklin, New Hampshire. The Merrimack flows south across New Hampshire, and then eastward across northeastern Massachusetts before emptying in the Atlantic at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

The Confederacy bestowed the name Virginia on her when she was raised, restored, and outfitted as an ironclad warship, but the Union preferred to call the Confederate ironclad warship by either its earlier name, "Merrimack", or by the nickname, "The Monster".

Perhaps because the Union won the Civil War, the history of the United States generally records the Union version. In the aftermath of the battle, the names Virginia and Merrimack were used equally by both sides, as attested by the newspapers and correspondence of the day. Some Navy reports and pre-1900 historians misspelled the name as "Merrimac," which is actually an unrelated ship.[5] Hence "the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac". Both spellings are still in use in the Hampton Roads area.

Memorial, heritageEdit

  • A gun recovered from the wreckage of the Virginia rests in Fredericksburg, VA next to the old city hall, now a museum.
    Wikisource-logo
  • Starting in roughly 1883, numerous souvenirs, made from recently salvaged iron and wood raised from Virginia 's sunken hulk, found a ready and willing market among eastern seaboard residents who remembered the historic first battle between ironclads. Various tokens, medals, medalets, sectional watch fobs, and other similar metal keepsakes are known to have been struck by private mints in limited quantities. Known examples still exist today, being held in both public and private collections, rarely coming up for public auction. Nine examples made from Virginia's iron and copper can be found catalogued in great detail, with front and back photos, in David Schenkman's 1979 reference booklet listed in the Reference section (below).
  • The name of the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel, built in Hampton Roads in the general vicinity of the famous engagement, with both Virginia and federal funds, also reflects the more recent version.
  • Should periodic modern efforts to recover more of the Confederate vessel from the depths of Hampton Roads prove successful, it is unclear what name will be applied to the remains.

CSS Virginia's battle ensigns & other naval flagsEdit

The practice of using primary and secondary naval flags after the British tradition was common practice for the Confederacy, linked as she was by both heritage and economy to the British Isles. The fledgling Confederate Navy therefore adopted and used ensigns, jacks, small boat ensigns, commissioning pennants, and signal flags aboard its warships during the Civil War.

The stars and barsEdit

CSA FLAG 4.3.1861-21.5.1861

Typical First National Flag (Stars and Bars) 7-star battle ensign design. (4 May, 1861 - 21 May, 1861)</small>

On 4 March 1861, the committee of the first Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America established the general requirements for the First National Flag of the Confederacy. Many designs were submitted by the public, but the new flag's approved design came from Marion, Alabama, Prussian artist Nicola Marschall, who had married into a Montgomery, Alabama family. The new Confederate flag was loosely adapted from his homeland's Austrian flag (with a dark blue canton added), quickly becoming known in the South as the Stars and Bars. Its hoist-to-fly (width-to-height) proportion was later established by the committee with the 2:3 ratio. The flag's dark blue canton would have a 1:1 (square) ratio and contain seven white, 5-pointed stars placed in a circular layout. The flag's three horizontal stripes would be red over white over red and were to be of equal height. The newly adopted Star and Bars made its first public appearance outside the Ben Johnson House in Bardstown, Kentucky. It was then raised over the dome of the first Confederate capitol in Montgomery, Alabama where it flew until 26 May 1863 when it was replaced with the new Second National Flag design.

(Detailed descriptions of CSS Virginia's two surviving battle ensigns and one small boat flag will follow here at a later time.)

Jacks and secondary flagsEdit

Jack of the CSA Navy 1861 1863

The First Confederate Navy Jack, 1861-1863

Virginia's original seven-star naval jack (illustration, right) would have flown forward of her battle ensign at prescribed times. It would have flown atop the tall jackstaff directly behind her armored, conical pilot house, located forward on the upper deck of her armored, slopping casemate. Her original jack would have duplicated the circular seven-star arrangement seen on the square canton of Virginia 's original battle ensign. (That seven-star ensign still survives today and is located in the special collections of the Museum of the Confederacy). Her later 11-star and 13-star naval jacks would have also flown atop the ironclad's jackstaff, matching the circular star arrangement of Virginia 's 11-star and final 13-star battle ensign. (Her 11-star ensign also survives (less four of its' stars) and today is located in the collections of the Chicago Historical Society).

All pre-1863 Confederate jack's were of a rectangular shape, rather than square, because the Confederate Navy emulated the overall designs being used by their U. S. Navy counterparts. There is one piece of evidence--the still surviving seven-star naval jack of the captured ironclad ram CSS Atlanta--that strongly suggests all early Confederate jacks were not a medium blue color but actually a dark blue, matching the color of the ensigns' cantons. Whatever shade of blue, later versions of Virginia 's jack would have contained, like her ensign, 9, 11 and 13 white, 5-pointed stars, as additonal Southern states seceded and joined the Confederacy during 1861.

Virginia 's commissioning pennant would have closely followed the pennant designs in use by the U. S. Navy. It would have been long and narrow and one of five approved sizes, being anywhere from {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} feet ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m) to {{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} feet ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m) in overall length. It would have either flown atop Virginia 's forward jackstaff or atop a line attached to a removable metal signal flag framework that attached to her upper smokestack. The pennant's narrow canton (hoist) was a medium or possibly dark blue color and would have been one-quarter of the streamer's overall length (fly). It would have carried either 7 or 13 white, 5-pointed stars, with the stars being layed out in a single row. The remaining three-quarters of this long, narrow streamer would have been divided equally with two stripes, red over white (some accounts report white over red), both gradually tapering to a point.

See alsoEdit

Notes Edit

ReferencesEdit

  • Preston, Antony and Batchelor, John, Battleships: 1856--1919, London, Phoebus Publishing Co., 1977, No ISBN.
  • Besse, Sumner B., C. S. Iroclad Virginia and U. S. Ironclad Monitor, Newport News, Virginia, The Mariner's Museum, 1978, ISBN 0-917376-32-3.
  • Potter, E. B., ed., Sea Power: A Naval Tradition, 2nd Edition, Annapolis, Maryland, U. S. Naval Institute Press, 1981, ISBN 0-87021-607-4.
  • deKay, James, Monitor, Ballantine Books, 1997, New York, New York, ISBN ?.
  • Smith, Gene A., Iron and Heavy Guns, Duel Between the Monitor and Merrimac (sic), Abeline, Texas, McWhiney Foundation Press, 1998, ISBN 1-866661-15-4.
  • Thomas, Campbell R., and Flanders, Alan B., Confederate Phoenix, The CSS Virgina, Burd Street Press, 2001, ISBN 978-1572492011.
  • Park, Carl D., Ironclad Down, USS Merrimack-CSS Virginia From Construction to Destruction, Annapolis Maryland, U. S. Naval Institute Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-59114-659-9.
  • Schenkman, David, Tokens & Medals Commemorating the Battle Between the Monitor and Merrimac (sic), Hampton, Virginia, 28-page booklet (the second in a series of Special Articles on the Numismatics of The Commonwealth of Virginia), Virginia Numismatic Association, 1979, no ISSN or ISBN.
  • Madaus, H. Michael, Rebel Flags Afloat: A Survey of the Surviving Flags of the Confederate States Navy, Revenue Service, and Merchant Marine, Winchester, MA, (80-page special edition of "The Flag Bulletin, #115"), Flag Research Center, 1986, ISSN 0015-3370.
  • Military Heritage did a feature on the Merrimack (CSS Virginia), USS Monitor, and the Battle at Hampton Roads (Keith Milton, Military Heritage, December 2001, Volume 3, No. 3, pp.38 to 45 and p. 97).

External linksEdit

cs:CSS Virginia

de:CSS Virginia es:CSS Virginia fr:CSS Virginia it:CSS Virginia ja:バージニア (装甲艦) pl:CSS Virginia pt:CSS Virginia fi:CSS Virginia sv:CSS Virginia ta:சிஎஸ்எஸ் வெர்ஜீனியா

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