While history records the encounter between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads as a tactical draw, could either of the two ironclad ships have sunk the other? Anticipating action against wooden Union ships, the Virginia carried only explosive shells, which lacked the penetrating power against the Monitor’s 8” inch turret armor. The Virginia struck the Monitor 22 times, including 9 against her turret. Shots fired from her four rifled Brooke guns made in some instances 4” indentations in the Monitor but failed to penetrate. The Monitor fired 43 times, striking the Virginia 20 times, but none at or below the Confederate’s vulnerable wooden waterline. More telling perhaps was the fact that the Monitor was restricted by the Navy Department to using 15 pound explosive charges with her twin 11” Dahlgren guns, rather than the 30 pound double-charges later authorized. Lt. Greene of the Monitor later commented that had 30 pound charges been used, it was probable that the shots would have penetrated the Virginia’s casemate.
Whether they produced battlefield images of the dead or daguerreotype portraits of common soldiers, […]
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