A Conversation for 'The Monitor' and 'The 'Merrimack' Armoured Ships


Post 1

Advocatus Diaboli

Call me Mr Picky, but I had always understood that the the nickname "Ol' Ironsides" was applied to USS Constitution, one of four frigates built shortly before the War of 1812. The name was entirely metaphorical, as while she was undoubtedly a very strong ship and highly resistant to enemy gunfire, she was completely made of wood.

The first iron warships are usually held to be La Gloire of France and HMS Warrior, perhaps because they were steam powered.

USS Monitor was in many ways a harbinger of things to come, although not widely copied as she was demonstrably unseaworthy. The name later came to refer to a type of coastal defence vessel equipped with a pair of large calibre guns.

Great Britain's first turreted warship was the ill-fated HMS Captain. Given a higher freeboard than Monitor, she carried in addition to her steam engines, the most expansive rig of sails then in the Royal Navy. Her designer, Cowper Coles, was in the unfortunate position to appreciate the resultant top-heaviness, being aboard when she capsized and foundered in a gale.


Post 2

Mark Time

Since HMS Warrior has had a mention I would add that she can be seen at the Portsmouth dockyard museum and is well worth a visit.


Post 3

Baron Grim

I seem to remember seeing a programme about these ships which brought up an interesting sidenote. Technically speaking neither of these ships were what were considered at the time to be "iron clad" ships. A true iron clad ship was a conventional wooden sailing warship with plates of iron hung over the sides of the hull. Of course the Monitor and the Virginia made this strategy quite obsolete. Now they are universaly refered to as "ironclads" even though, pedantically speaking, they weren't. Of course it probably comes down to the people of the time not knowing what else to call them.


Post 4


There is an article about HMS Warrior here: A538030
Although the Merrimack & Monitor were far from the first ironhulled warships - even before the Gloire and Warrior there were British iron warships built as early as the 1840s and the first armed warship to take part in any battle was the Nemesis during the 1841 Opium War - their fight was the first between two ironhulled ships.


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