The Most Decisive Draw Monitor And Virginia At Hampton Roads, 1862

jessgettysburg1863

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The Most Decisive Draw: Monitor And Virginia At Hampton Roads, 1862.

By John D. Beatty .

The battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia(1) around Hampton Roads in March of 1862, though tactically indecisive, had positive results for both sides, making it one of the most decisive draws in history. For the North, Monitor proved that the United States could build warships more powerful than nearly any other then afloat in a very short time, and could defend Northern interests against any interference by Europe into American affairs. For the South, Virginia represented sound and powerful harbor defense warship design that was at least equal to anything the Union could float, and that compelled the Union to take the threat of other, similar ships seriously. Further, her short career may have saved the Confederate capitol and lengthened the war by two years.

See link for the full article.

http://ehistory.osu.edu/uscw/features/articles/ArticleView.cfm?AID=18
 

whitworth

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The one great problem is the Confederacy had only one Virginia and after the battle, it had no way of matching the Union in the number of ironclads. The Confederacy only proved it had talent and not enough logistics to make enough iron for many ironclads.
The Union had the funds and technology to change the charging of the rifled cannon on ships, destroying any Confederate ship that approached Union sea lanes. The Confederacy proved so weak in naval ships, later in the war, the North had a Confederate prison camp in southern Maryland, directly across the Chesapeake from Virginia at Point Lookout. It was never vulnerable to Confederate ship attack.
 

AndyHall

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For the North, Monitor proved that the United States could build warships more powerful than nearly any other then afloat in a very short time, and could defend Northern interests against any interference by Europe into American affairs.
LaGloirePhotograph.jpg

French ironclad Gloire, 1860.

I'm not so sure about that. Britain and France both had ironclad warships already in commission at the beginning of the war (though only a handful), and were pushing ahead with the technology as fast as they could, as well. Moreover, their ironclads (e.g., Warrior, Gloire) were true, seagoing warships, while neither U.S. nor Confederate ironclads were suited for blue-water operations. The U.S. didn't have a comparable vessel until Dunderberg, which was not completed until after the war, and never actually entered service with the U.S. Navy.

So, anyway, I'm skeptical as to how effectively Ericsson's baby, remarkable as it and its follow-ons were, played a role in staving off European intervention. The presence of Union monitors certainly would have influenced French or British operational planning in such an event, but I don't know if they played much of a factor in the policy decision whether to intervene or not.
 

jessgettysburg1863

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LaGloirePhotograph.jpg

French ironclad Gloire, 1860.

I'm not so sure about that. Britain and France both had ironclad warships already in commission at the beginning of the war (though only a handful), and were pushing ahead with the technology as fast as they could, as well. Moreover, their ironclads (e.g., Warrior, Gloire) were true, seagoing warships, while neither U.S. nor Confederate ironclads were suited for blue-water operations. The U.S. didn't have a comparable vessel until Dunderberg, which was not completed until after the war, and never actually entered service with the U.S. Navy.

So, anyway, I'm skeptical as to how effectively Ericsson's baby, remarkable as it and its follow-ons were, played a role in staving off European intervention. The presence of Union monitors certainly would have influenced French or British operational planning in such an event, but I don't know if they played much of a factor in the policy decision whether to intervene or not.

Nice post and picture Andy, the Royal Navy counted the French lronclad Gloire with
their own lronclad HMS Warrior.

http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/shipprofiles/p/hmswarrior.htm
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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The presence of Union monitors certainly would have influenced French or British operational planning in such an event, but I don't know if they played much of a factor in the policy decision whether to intervene or not.

Excellent point, and an important distinction to draw... the decision of whether or not to intervene was mostly separate from the operational considerations of how to intervene.

Howard Fuller, in his interesting and provocative Clad in Iron, makes the case that Union ironclad construction was aimed at least as much at Britain as at the Confederacy.

The problem confronting Britain vis-a-vis Union monitors was not so much that a vessel like the Warrior couldn't have handled a fight with a monitor... it was that British seagoing ironclads were, almost to a one, too deep-drafted to enter most Northern (and all Southern) coastal areas, so the vessels coming in close would have been wooden. The monitors had no need to go out and engage the British ironclads, and the British ironclads could not come to grips with the monitors... The quandary was, if you build a vessel small enough to enter most American harbors, it was likely to have been too small to effectively make the Atlantic crossing, and the British just weren't building ironclads that small until (ironically) they seized the two 'Laird Rams' being built for the Confederacy and took them into the Royal Navy as HMS Scorpion and Wyvern.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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(The exception here would probably have been New York harbor, which we can confidently expect would have been strongly defended by the Union... as it was with ironclads such as the triple-turret Roanoke and the "super" monitor Dictator, along with the aforementioned Dunderberg, which could have been finished more quickly than it was if it had been necessary.)
 

OpnCoronet

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Would not the policy of Great Britain and France(or any European gov't) almost necessarily, have to be reconciled with the operational realities by the existence of Union Monitors?
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Would not the policy of Great Britain and France(or any European gov't) almost necessarily, have to be reconciled with the operational realities by the existence of Union Monitors?

Union monitors weren't a trump card; Britain could have dealt with them successfully, given enough investment in time and effort. But the monitors certainly raised the stakes, and Britain was forced to take them into account.
 

OpnCoronet

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To the extent European policy of watching and waiting, was the result of the question of what to do about Union Monitors, their Policy would, to that extent, be dependent on proposed operations concerning the Monitors.
 

Carronade

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As others have said, the impact of monitors would depend on, and influence, the selected British strategy; but I don't see the existence of monitors deterring the British if they wished to intervene. I've always thought their primary or at least first strategy would be to deploy the Royal Navy in American waters, to break the blockade of southern ports and impose their own blockade on the north, both to interdict American commerce and to prevent American warships and commerce raiders from getting to sea, as they did in the War of 1812. Monitors would not prevent this. The blockade extended out to a day's steaming distance, to ensure that blockade runners would have to make at least part of their passage through the zone in daylight. Since blockade runners were unarmed, most of the blockading ships were lightly armed themselves, including purchased merchant ships and captured runners. A few real warships could sweep most of them away. Even if small squadrons protected by as many monitors as were available patrolled immediately outside some southern ports, a much larger proportion of blockade runners would get through, supplying the Confederacy with weapons, foodstuffs, everything they needed.

The north was closer to self-sufficiency, but still benefitted from foreign trade, including the continual stream of immigrants, many of whom went directly into the army. The Royal Navy would cut most of that off long before ships could approach the coastal waters where monitors were effective. Just as important, the Union would lose the ability to move troops and supplies by sea. Bases like New Orleans and Port Royal would find themselves cut off.

Like most nations at war, the Union vastly increased its production of warships, weapons, and other military-related hardware. Britain as a belligerent could do the same, including a "War Emergency Program" of ironclads, either conventional types like Warrior and Black Prince or something optimized for the American war like the Laird rams.

Side question - does anyone know who designed the Laird rams? Their turrets were of the Coles type, which became the standard in all navies, supported by a base ring rather than the central spindle of the Ericsson design. Very advanced ships for the time.
 

Carronade

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Thanks, hadn't realized there were women on the Monitor :wink: Wearing mens' clothing no less!! Check out those pants - you can see her legs!!!!

When Elmo Zumwalt was Chief of Naval Operations - professional head of the US Navy - in the 1970s, someone once remarked "When you were a young officer, just starting your career, I bet you found it hard to imagine women on ships." "On the contrary" said Zumwalt "I spent a lot of time imagining women on ships!"
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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The hypothetical war with Britain would have been a very serious threat to the US and the US Navy in particular. However, Britain relatively little to gain from such a conflict, and the risks were significant. As I said, the monitors were not invulnerable war-winners-- there were those who thought they were, but I don't think there were many of those in the Royal Navy or in Westminster-- but they still would have presented a significant obstacle to a direct descent on the Northern coast.

The distant blockade suggested would have been difficult for the Royal Navy to maintain for any length of time in the face of opposition. It would have depended heavily on the base at Bermuda; without this, the only viable bases were at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in the West Indies.

In terms of raw naval power, Britain still had the edge over the Union, but the Union Navy was certainly large enough to provide a challenge. (As I'm typing this, I'm thinking of Tirpitz's Risikflotte -- the principle that a naval force need not necessarily be as large as the opponent's, as long as it's large enough to be a credible threat-- though of course that would be anachronistic...) For their part, there's no question that the Union navy took the British threat seriously. The projected development of "super-cruisers" like the Wampanoag and Madawaska and the big ocean-going monitors of the Kalamazoo class are solid evidence of that.

The Great Anglo-American War of the 1860s would have been one for the record books, no doubt, with a highly uncertain result.
 

OpnCoronet

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Another 'decisive' effect of the Drawn battle. It allowed McClellan to continue his campaign on the Peninsula
 

OpnCoronet

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In allowing McClellan to continue, the drawn battle also guaranteed the loss of the Va. in the end.
 
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