The Civil War Connections Blog

“….and VIRGINIA was her name…”

The old Merrimack had undergone a transformation at Gosport. Though there was still work to be done, Flag Officer French Forrest wanted to launch and rechristen the new ironclad.  And so, on February 17, 1862, with very little fanfare, the Merrimack  got her new name.

Workmen continued to pound away during the ceremony. William Cline, who would serve as a Marine on board the new ironclad recalled that “There were no invitations to governors and other distinguished men, no sponsor nor maid of honor, no bottle of wine, no brass band, no blowing of steam whistles, no great crowds to witness this memorable event.”

And she received her new name: Virginia. Col. William Norris, Chief of Signal Corps and Secret Service Bureau, Confederate States Army later wrote about what one should call her:

And Virginia was her name, not Merrimac, which has a nasal twang equally abhorrent to sentiment and to melody, and meanly compares with the sonorous sweetness of “Virginia.” She fought under Confederate colors, and her fame belongs to all of us; but there was a peculiar fitness in the name we gave her. In Virginia, of Virginia iron and wood, and by Virginians was she built, and in Virginia’s waters, now made classic by her exploits, she made a record which shall live forever.

And so Virginia she became. 150 years ago, today.