previous next


When the United States naval forces, on the 21st April, 1861, evacuated the navy-yard at Norfolk, among other vessels abandoned was the forty-gun steam frigate Merrimac. She was sunk near the yard before the abandonment of that place by the Union forces, with a view to prevent her falling into the hands of the Confederates. The Confederates took possession at once of the yard, and soon raised the Merrimac, and converted her into an iron-clad vessel. The hull was 275 feet long; about 160 feet of the central portion was covered by a roof of wood and iron, inclining about thirty-six degrees. The wood was 2 feet thick; it consisted of oak plank 4 by 12 inches, laid up and down next to the iron, and two courses of pine; one longitudinal of 8 inches thickness, the other 12 inches thick. The intervening space on top was closed by permanent gratings of 2-inch square iron, 2 1/2 inches apart, leaving openings for four hatches—one near each end, one forward, and one abaft the smokestack. The roof did not project beyond the hull. There was no knuckle, as in other Confederate vessels, such as the Alabama, Tennessee, and others, which were of more improved construction. The ends of the shields were rounded. The armor was 4 inches thick. It was fastened to its wooden backing by 1 3/8-inch bolts, countersunk and secured by iron nuts and washers. The plates were 8 inches wide and 2 inches thick. The hull, extending two feet below the roof, was plated with i-inch iron. The prow was of cast-iron, wedge-shaped, and weighed 1,500 pounds. It was about 2 feet under water, and projected 2 feet from the stem. The rudder and propeller were both exposed, with no appliances for protection. The battery consisted of ten guns, four single-banded Brooke rifles and six 9-inch Dahlgren shell-guns. Two of the rifles, bow and stern pivots, were 7-inch, of 14,500 pounds; the other two were 6.4-inch, 32 pounds caliber, of 9,000 pounds, one being on each broadside. The 9-inch gun on the side nearest the furnace was fitted for firing hot shot. The ammunition for this gun was 9-inch solid shot. The engines were the same which were on the vessel when she was sunk, and were found to be defective. The crew numbered 320, made up principally of volunteers from the army, and 30 officers. The vessel, after its refitting, was called the Virginia, and placed in command of flag-officer Frank. Buchanan.

On October 4, 1861, the Secretary of the United States Navy contracted with Captain John Ericsson for the construction of an ‘ironclad, shot-proof battery of iron and wood combined,’ and under this contract, on the 30th January, 1862, at Green Point, Long Island,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Norfolk (Virginia, United States) (1)
Long Island City (New York, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Frank (1)
John Ericsson (1)
Ulric Dahlgren (1)
Buchanan (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 30th, 1862 AD (1)
October 4th, 1861 AD (1)
April 21st, 1861 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: