IroncladsHistory 8-3By: Kofi Yankey

The USS St. Louis.


During the American Civil War, ironclad ships were introduced in North America for the first time. The war was during an era in which navies were experimenting with several designs for the newly innovated ships. The Confederacy was the first place to have an ironclad then the Union had to create something to compete with it. There was an epic battle of ironclads which sparked the worldwide revolution.

Basic Ship History

Ever since navies had existed, warships were made of
wood. The main weapon of choice was a cannon which fired off of one
side of the boat. The larger battleships usually had several levels of cannons (click to cube to see some examples). These battleships were meant to fight out in the middle of the ocean. Battles between these

Ironclad Ship Structure

An ironclad ship has iron plates going all the way around a ship and onto the deck to provide full protection.
This is a diagram of the USS Monitor but it does not show the iron plates.

Ironclads in the Union and Confederacy

In 1861 the Union started to build a few ships of their own with iron hulls. The iron hulls didn't officially classify them as ironclads through they were often referred to that way. The first ironclad ship the Union navy constructed was the USS Monitor. She was built completely with iron and the modeler of the ship thought it would be a good idea to have a rotating turret with only two guns even though he already knew that the Confederate ship that was destroying most of the Union fleet had ten guns and a ram. When she was first launched on its mission to save the Union fleet in the South, she had some very minor issues but she held together and was able to go on the journey. She sort of looked like she was a submarine.
The Confederacy didn't make their own ironclad ship until 1862 and that was with the iron parts of formerly captured and sunken USS Merrimac. They then used more iron and put it around a ship as plates then added a ram to the bow. The ship was named the CSS Virginia and she had only one fight which was the battle at Hampton Roads, VA. The Virginia was the steam frigate Merrimac with iron plates all the way around so whenever the

USS Monitor vs. CSS Virginia

A black-and-white image of the USS Monitor.

The battle at the harbor in Hampton Roads, VA occurred on March 9, 1862. It started when the Virginia was firing at and ramming the woodenships of the Union army. While the Virginia was attacking the USS Minnesota, the USS Monitor with her revolving turret took a few shots at the Virginia. Of course the shots just bounced off. The battle continued for the whole day with shots bouncing off the iron plates. There were very few casualties by the time the battle ended in a draw. The

This video is a clip of the Civil War video we watched in class that I found on Youtube.

Worldwide Transition to Ironclads

Right after the Battle of the Ironclads, the Union and Confederate shipbuilders got right to work on transforming their entire fleet such that all the ship were indestructible. After news of the Battle at Hampton Roads, VA traveled around the world, other major war countries realized they were going to have to make some major changes to the way their navy was built. France and England were the first countries to move into the era of ironclads.


Jones, Terry L. "Hampton Roads, Virginia, Battle of (March 8-9, 1862)." The A to Z of the Civil War. Vol. 1. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2006.
617-18. Print.

Jones, Terry L. "Ironclads." The A to Z of the Civil War. Vol. 1. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2006. 717. Print.

Planetofice1. "Civil War Ironclads." YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 27 May 2012. <