Famous The C.S.S. Virginia Gun, a IX-inch Dahlgren

Damaged by a cannon shot from the U.S.S. Cumberland, this IX-inch Dahlgren is evidence of some of the very limited damage done to the C.S.S. Virginia by cannon fire from other ships or from shore based batteries. This gun was also aboard the Virginia during her March 9th, 1862 encounter with the U.S.S. Monitor, but as far as we know, it was not used and considered "disabled" for that famous engagement.

  • Model: IX-inch Dahlgren
  • Type: Muzzleloading Smoothbore Shell Gun
  • In Service With: C.S.S. Virginia, Confederate States Navy
  • Under the Command of: Lt. Hunter Davidson
  • Invented By: John A. Dahlgren, USN
  • Current Disposition: Mounted inside the Front Entrance, The Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Virginia
  • Map Coordinates: 37° 3' 18.648'' N, 76° 29' 17.1708'' W
  • Special Notes: This gun is sometimes referred to as the "Merrimack Gun", in reference to the ship's previous name.


C.S.S. Virginia in action against the U.S.S. Cumberland off Newport News, March 8, 1862
Engraving from Harpers Weekly Magazine, March 22, 1862

  • Casting Foundry: Tredegar Foundry
  • Year of Manufacture: 1859
  • Tube Composition: Cast Iron
  • Markings:
    • Right Trunnion: P / GM
      (Navy Proof Mark / Inspectors Initials)
    • Right Vent: TF (Tredegar Foundry)
  • Registry Number: 277
  • Foundry Number: Unknown
  • Ordnance Inspector: GM - Federal Naval Ordnance Inspector George Minor
  • Purchase Price in 1859: $690.00 (US)
  • Inscription:
One of the Guns of the MERRIMAC
in the action with the U.S. Frigates
March 8th 1862
when the chase was shot off.
The mutilation of Trunnions
shows the ineffectual attempts
to destroy the Gun, when the U.S.
abandoned the Norfolk Navy Yard,
April 20th 1861.
  • Bore Diameter: 9 inches
  • Rifling Type: no grooves
  • Tube Length: 131 inches (undamaged)
  • Tube Weight: 9164 lbs. (undamaged)
  • Carriage Type: Marsilly Carriage
  • No. of Crew to Serve: 16 plus a powder boy
  • Standard Powder Charge: 10 to 13 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 90 lb. Exploding Shells, 150 lb. Solid Shot
  • Rate of Fire: One shot every 40 seconds
  • Range (at 5°): firing Shell, 1,712 yards ( miles)
  • Range (at 15°): firing Shell, up to 3,450 yards (1.96 miles)
Notes on the C.S.S. Virginia Gun

Just before the Norfolk Navy Yard was abandoned on April 20, 1861, workers attempted to destroy the remaining guns to keep them out of the hands of the Confederates. With little time, and without the proper equipment, they resorted to mutilating the trunnions and the cascabel of this gun. They were unable to do enough damage to keep this gun out of Confederate service. In 1862, Confederates successfully mounted this gun aboard the newly reconstructed ironclad ship, then named C.S.S. Virginia.

On March 8, 1862, the C.S.S. Virginia, formerly named U.S.S. Merrimack, encountered and defeated the Union ships, U.S.S. Cumberland and U.S.S. Congress, near Newport News, VA.

This gun was one of the six Dahlgren guns mounted on the C.S.S. Virginia. It was apparently the forward-most port (left) broadside gun (gun #2, Midshipman Marmaduke, under the command of Lt. Hunter Davidson).

As the Virginia approached the Cumberland to ram her, the Cumberland's gunners fired a broadside at the Virginia, inflicting the only serious damage ever done to the Virginia by cannon shot. A shell hit the muzzle of this gun, causing it to break off and discharge. Another gun on Virginia's port side was also damaged and disabled in the same volley. One man was killed and several wounded, including Midshipman Henry H. Marmaduke. Despite the obvious damage to this gun, they continued to use it but it kept setting fire to the two feet of wood on the inboard side of the iron shield.


U.S. Naval Historical Center photos, taken at the Washington Navy Yard, in D.C.
Above Photo from the late 1880's or 1890's, Below Photo from April 1933.


On the next day, the C.S.S. Virginia engaged in battle with the U.S.S. Monitor. This was the famous confrontation between the first two ironclad ships. Unfortunately for the Virginia, having two guns disabled from the previous day's battle, including this Dahlgren, one side of the Virginia now had a blind spot on the port side, with no guns able to fire against the Monitor.

The outcome of the Battle on March 9th was called a draw, but it changed naval warfare.

When Union forces captured Norfolk just a few weeks later, they found this damaged gun at the Gosport Navy Yard and claimed it as Union Navy "Trophy No. 1".

After the war, this gun was displayed by the Washington Navy Yard. From 1960, it was exhibited at the Dahlgren Naval Base as a reminder of its namesake. For a time, it resided on the grounds of the Fredericksburg Area Museum in the historic Fredericksburg district. Today it is on display inside the U.S.S. Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

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Major General
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Well...dadgumit! I visited the Mariners' Museum in June 2014. Don't know that it had been moved there by then but time constraints kept me from viewing much of the outer works. Then again,that was my first time to visit a museum to see CW exhibits and I didn't know what I didn't know.


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Apr 1, 1999
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Well...dadgumit! I visited the Mariners' Museum in June 2014. Don't know that it had been moved there by then but time constraints kept me from viewing much of the outer works. Then again,that was my first time to visit a museum to see CW exhibits and I didn't know what I didn't know.
I don't yet have a good photo of this gun from inside the entrance, it was moved in 2010 and put on display right at the entrance, so you probably wouldn't have missed it, but I do think that they've added more signage recently, so maybe it wasn't obvious what it was before....

In addition to good overall photos, what I really want are good photos of the trunnions, particularly the right one, but it's against a wall, not sure what the engraving on that side shows. Also above the breech, I know I can see engraving in other peoples photos, besides what I've already reported, but I think there is more to it, unless it's just glare from overhead lights.

Anyway, maybe I'll get down there and visit for my self one day soon. Still working on doing an update to the Monitor Dahlgren info anyway!

James N.

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Feb 23, 2013
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No problem, that will buff right out and she'll be good as new.
Or as my old friend Ed Owens and collecting mentor Robert Justice used to say about condition, "Will grind to excellent."