Which is better the CSS Virginia or the USS Monitor

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Which was the betterwarship?

  • CSS Virginia

    Votes: 10 38.5%
  • USS Monitor

    Votes: 16 61.5%

  • Total voters
    26
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Dilandu

Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
On the flip side the Monitor might be more vulnerable to high seas as that inevitably proved off of Cape Hatteras.
...I REALLY doubt that "Virginia" with her completely submerged hull & crude design have any better seakeeping ability. In fact, I strongly suspect that she was a lot less seaworthy than "Monitor".
 
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WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
Neither ship was well suited for bluewater service because of the low freeboard. At the same time, Virginia had a greater draft which limited her to coastal and harbor service. Virginia's armor did not extend below the waterline, so as the battle progressed and she rose in the water, her unarmored hull became increasingly exposed. Monitor was better armored and, with her low profile, a more difficult target.
Although Monitor had fewer guns, she was designed for 12-inch Dahlgrens. At the time of the battle, she carried 11-inch Dahlgrens and used less than optimum powder charges as there were safety concerns because of her newness. Even so, she did more damage to Virginia than Virginia did to her.
As I recall, there were also some problems with Virginia's old engines: perhaps some other member can confirm this.
In summary, given the choice, I would much rather serve in Monitor.
 
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DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Neither ship was as good as it could have been, but "better can be the enemy of good enough." The "best" ship arriving a week too late would have been useless. So, IMO:

Virginia was the better warship -- she swept the field on day one, was last on the field on day two, and unchallenged on several other occasions.

Monitor survived day two because Virginia did not expect her to be present. Had Virginia had sold shot, as well as shells, Monitor would have found out how poor her armor was. British and Confederate tests showed that thicker plates, backed by wood, resisted shot best. Monitor had 1" plates with not backing. Confederate bolts, present in Richmond for sure and maybe in Norfolk, would have made swiss cheese of the Monitor.
 

Dilandu

Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
As I recall, there were also some problems with Virginia's old engines: perhaps some other member can confirm this.
In summary, given the choice, I would much rather serve in Monitor.
They were of old 1850s design, overcomplicated because the engine space was very limited by design. Basically, she was grossly underpowered and constantly unreliable.
 

Dilandu

Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
Monitor survived day two because Virginia did not expect her to be present. Had Virginia had sold shot, as well as shells, Monitor would have found out how poor her armor was. British and Confederate tests showed that thicker plates, backed by wood, resisted shot best. Monitor had 1" plates with not backing. Confederate bolts, present in Richmond for sure and maybe in Norfolk, would have made swiss cheese of the Monitor.
Considering that Monitor was also not using her full firepower (wrought iron shots and full charges), I tend to disagree with you. While Virginia with bolts have CHANCES to penetrate Monitor armor, the penetration of Virginia armor by Monitor guns at full power are basically a certainity.
 
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67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Considering that Monitor was also not using her full firepower (wrought iron shots and full charges), I tend to disagree with you. While Virginia with bolts have CHANCES to penetrate Monitor armor, the penetration of Virginia armor by Monitor guns at full power are basically a certainity.
No. Firstly, Monitor was using her guns at their rated capacity. The guns on Monitor were serial numbers 27 and 28, and had been in service several years as the chasers on USS Dacotah. They were fired at the maximum charge then authorised, 15 lbs of NCP (Navy Common Powder, a standard cannon powder). Later in the war 20 lbs of NCP was authorised. There was another type of powder in service, DuPont No. 7. This was named for the sieve size and the grains were considerably larger than NCP, so it was slower burning. It was intended for rifled guns.

Secondly, no 11" Dahlgren penetrated a rebel ironclad during the entire war. The most extreme shots were from USS Winnebago, against CSS Tennessee. She had onboard 2 of the 10 wrought iron shot made in 1862, and used a proof charge of 25 lbs of NCP. They failed to penetrate the Tennessee at ca. 50 feet. At the same action, USS Chickasaw fired 4x wrought iron shot and 48 normal shot with 20 lb charges at the Tennessee. None penetrated. The six wrought iron shot were the six of the batch of ten made in 1862 that passed gauging - the reason the Monitor refused to fire them was because they were not gauged, and as it turned out 4 out of 10 would have destroyed the gun and knocked out the turret if loaded. Hence, the right choice was made.

Tennessee was armoured with Shelby rather than Tredegar iron, and had an extra 1" layer on the sides (where the hits were). However, due to iron shortages, in places a 2" plate had been omitted leaving only 3" of armour (2" + 1").

The idea that Monitor penetrating Virginia is a "certainty" is certainly wrong. In fact, the Virginia was essentially immune to the 11" Dahlgren.

Now, as to Monitor. The turret had 8 layers of 1" iron, and they would have stood up to quite a battering. However, as Charleston showed, the shock of absorbing heavy calibre solid shot hits rapidly caused the turrets to cease functioning. This is why the Ericcson turret went nowhere, and even the US adopted non-Ericcson pattern turrets ASAP. The decks of Monitor were extremely vulnerable. In fact analysis of the hits Virginia inflicted on Monitor show that two of the hits, had they been from solid shot rather than shell would have sunk the Monitor.

The US knew they were lucky that the Monitor survived, and that the Virginia was a far superior vessel. Hence they refused to allow the Monitor to be engaged again. They retreated their whole blockade force and sat under the guns of Fort Monroe for the next few months.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
While monitors continued to be used up until 1950s
The name "Monitor" entered the lexicon but was applied to ships with no commonality with the ACW monitors.

In 1873 there was a crisis between the US and Spain. The US reactivated all her monitors and sent them down to Florida. As Robley Evans recalled of this:

"The force collected ... was the best, and indeed about all we had ... and if it had not been so serious it would have been laughable to see our condition. We remained several weeks, making faces at the Spaniards 90 miles away at Havana, while two modern vessels of war would have done us up in 30 minutes. We were dreadfully mortified over it all."

The ACW monitor was a dead end.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The later ships called monitors could more correctly be said to be derivatives of Reed's Breastwork Monitor concept - this essentially retained the advantages of a low-freeboard vessel while removing most of the disadvantages, and is the beginning of the evolutionary process which ended in the pre-dreadnought battleship.

Even before the first breastwork monitor, though, many "monitors" bear little resemblance to ACW monitors. This is the Huascar:


Huascar1.jpg
 
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Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
To me the interesting thing about the Virginia is that she had a lot more range of capability. The Monitor is deeply vulnerable to almost any situation except a single enemy vessel with not many guns, while the Virginia can clearly take on an entire squadron of wooden vessels and win and was also able to fight the Monitor on even terms (and that largely with shell).

A later Ericsson turret design (the Miantonomoh) was considered by one observer to be so vulnerable to boarding that a two-man party equipped with a hammer, wooden wedges and a bucket could disable her...
 
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Dilandu

Sergeant
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Location
Moscow, Russian Federation
To me the interesting thing about the Virginia is that she had a lot more range of capability.
Exactly what capabilities? She was barely able to move under her own power.

The Monitor is deeply vulnerable to almost any situation except a single enemy vessel with not many guns,
Exactly why she is vulnerable?

, while the Virginia can clearly take on an entire squadron of wooden vessels and win
Again: how? She was extremely slow, have poor maneuverability, and her guns were hard to aim because of large casemate slopes (why do you think this idea was abandoned by everyone who could made a good armor plates)?

The only wooden ships she ever fought were immobile sail ships in coastal waters. How "good" were Confederacy ironclads in fighting a mobile battle we could see on "Tennessee II" example. She lumbered forward blindly, being constantly pounded, rammed, and capable of very limited resistance. And "Virginia" was MUCH worse, because she was a rebuild.

and was also able to fight the Monitor on even terms (and that largely with shell).
Sorry, but it was never even therms. Monitor basically controlled the course of action, while Virginia mostly "just moved & fired".

A later Ericsson turret design (the Miantonomoh) was considered by one observer to be so vulnerable to boarding that a two-man party equipped with a hammer, wooden wedges and a bucket could disable her...
Yeah, and "Nimitz"-class supercarrier could be destroyed by a one men with nuclear demolition munition. And so?

P.S. I would like to see any boarding party trying to attack a monitor... which basically have flat open deck with zero places to cover.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Exactly what capabilities? She was barely able to move under her own power.
Virginia was no slower than the Monitor, and was more maneouverable.

Exactly why she is vulnerable?
Why isn't she?

Again: how? She was extremely slow, have poor maneuverability, and her guns were hard to aim because of large casemate slopes (why do you think this idea was abandoned by everyone who could made a good armor plates)?
The gun aiming on the Virginia was fine. The 45 degree slope is not that much more than on 3 deckers upper decks.

The Monitor OTOH had a major issue. The turret gearing didn't allow for any precision in turning it, and the gun ports did not allow the guns to be aimed. Eventually the crew of the Monitor left the turret slowly rotating and fired the guns when an observer thought they were facing the right way. Due to the tight space in the turret, only had ca. 10 rpg available, and then had to haul off out of range to lock the turret forward and open hatches in the deck and the base of the turret. This could not be done with water over the deck, obviously, and required the Monitor to come to all stop (this was avoided in later monitors by placing a "breakwater" around the base of the turret). Indeed, Monitor did this during Hampton Roads, disengaging and running under the cover of the Minnesota, because she'd expended all rounds in the turret.

Sorry, but it was never even therms. Monitor basically controlled the course of action, while Virginia mostly "just moved & fired".
The Monitor of course retreated, leaving Virginia in "possession of the field". Eventually (1884), Lt Greene, who assumed command with Worden's injury, would commit suicide because the shame of his defeat when the prize court finally definitely declared that Monitor had not defeated Virginia.

P.S. I would like to see any boarding party trying to attack a monitor... which basically have flat open deck with zero places to cover.
What's to stop them? Where can you shoot at boarders from, for example?
 
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