March 9 - 1862 - The Battle of Hampton Roads
The Battle of Hampton Roads was a stalemate, which did little of note for the overall shape of the American Civil War. For naval warfare, however, the battle was revolutionary. The Battle of Hampton Roads was the first engagement between two ironclad warships. As often happens in large wars, both the Union and the Confederacy took chances with naval designs to build warships decked out in iron, which could withstand new exploding shells on warships. The Confederacy salvaged the former USS Merrimack, refitted it with iron plating and a large battering ram, then renamed it the CSS Virginia. The Union turned to the Swedish inventor John Ericsson, who created a ship that sat low in the water with a rotating gun turret and was entirely made of iron called the USS Monitor. The Virginia went out first, and created immense havoc by ramming into a series of wooden Union ships on the evening of March 8. By the morning of March 9, the USS Monitor showed up, saving the Union ships, but largely battling the Virginia to a draw. While neither of these revolutionary ironclads would survive the year, the use of ironclad warships changed naval warfare forever.