On March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor met the CSS Virginia in battle in Hampton Roads, Virginia. This was the first time ironclad vessels would engage each other in combat. For four hours, the two ships pummeled one another as thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers and civilians watched from the shorelines. Although the battle ended in a draw, this engagement would change the very nature of naval warfare. The “wooden walls” of navies around the world suddenly appeared far more vulnerable to political and military leaders. At the same time, in the weeks after the Battle of Hampton Roads, Americans developed their own ideas for improving the Monitor or for sinking the Virginia. This talk will discuss some of the inventions devised by terrified northerners, as well as the legacy of the USS Monitor in American life and culture since its sinking on New Year’s Eve 1862.
Jonathan W. White is associate professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University and is the author or editor of eight books, including Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln, which was a finalist for both the Lincoln Prize and the Jefferson Davis Prize, a “best book” in Civil War Monitor, and the winner of the Abraham Lincoln Institute’s 2015 book prize. His most recent books are Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War, which was named a “best book” by Civil War Monitor, and “Our Little Monitor”: The Greatest Invention of the Civil War, with Dr. Anna Gibson Holloway.