Civil War Era Coins by Mike Sussman
Battle of Hampton Roads during the Civil War in often called
either the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack or the Battle
of the Ironclads. It was the most important naval battle of
the war from the standpoint of the development of the navies.
Fought over a period of two days, March 8th to 9th in 1862,
it took place just before the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay.
The battle was fought because the Confederacy tried to break
the Union blockade of Norfolk and Richmond Virginia, which
had prevented international trade with the CSA.
The battle was significant because it marked
the first time that ironclad warships met in combat. Built
from remnants of the USS Merrimack, the CSA’s ironclad
CSS Virginia was opposed by several conventional Union Navy
wooden-hulled ships. The Virginia destroyed two of them and
was about to attack the third, the USS Minnesota. However,
darkness came, and the Virginia withdrew to care for her wounded
including her captain, Franklin Buchanan.
During the night the ironclad USS Monitor
arrived to defend the Minnesota. When the Virginia came back
to renew the battle, the Monitor intercepted her. The two
ships fought for about three hours with neither able to significantly
harm the other. It ended when the Virginia returned to her
home port for repairs and strengthening, and the Monitor returned
to defending the Minnesota. The blockade remained, and the
ships did not fight again.
The worldwide attention on the battle had
immediate effects on navies of the world. Britain and France
stopped building wood-hulled ships. Others followed. A new
type of battle ship was produced based on the principle of
the Monitor. They used a small number of heavy guns mounted
so they could fire in all directions. Rams were also included
in the design of warships for the rest of the century.
Today there are medals made from metal of one of the ironclads.
Known as relic medals, they are among the many medals and
tokens of the era. There are also modern world coins that
commemorate the battle.
The Civil War Campaign Medal is the first
campaign service medal of the U.S. military. It was awarded
to members of the U.S. military who served on either side
of the Civil War. It was first authorized in 1905 for the
fortieth anniversary of the end of the Civil War. The Army
Civil War Medal displayed an engraved image of Lincoln while
the Navy and Marine Corps versions depicted the USS Monitor
and CSS Virginia’s battle of Hampton Roads.