"The combat of the Merrimac and the Monitor made the greatest change in sea-fighting since cannon fired by gunpowder had been mounted on ships..."
—Winston Churchill, History of the English-Speaking Peoples
Many knew it as Hampton Roads, or a place where the Nansemond, James, and Elizabeth Rivers meet off the coast of Virginia. Lincoln had organized a blockade and the South had brought in their "attack dog" the Virginia, previously the Frigate Merrimack, in defense. On March 8th, the Virginia attacked and sank 2 Northern ships in an attempt to break the blockade posed on it. Though their attempt failed, it did manage wake a drowsy enemy. The next day, the Northern Monitor, under command of Lieutenant John L Worden and the second ironclad ship, lurked forward from the seas. That day the two entirely different ironclad ships engaged in combat. It was the first fight between iron-armored ships known in history. The two ships battled for hours, shooting large cannonballs back and forth at each other. Finally, the fight ended in a draw, but the Union fleet at Hampton Roads was saved. For the next two months, neither boat attacked the other, as there were no other ironclads in reserve as yet. When McClellan’s army took Norfolk in May 1862, the Virginia was blown up. The Monitor did not survive much longer.
In the summer of 1864, the Tennessee single-handedly fought Farragut's entire fleet at Mobile Bay, surrendering only after having survived one of the most one sided fights in Naval history. Many other naval skirmishes occurred throughout the Civil war. Here is a chronological list of Naval events throughout the war.
North imposes an increasingly effective blockade of southern coast. South replies with a commer-raiding campaign that continues through the war.
March 8/9, 1862
Action in Chesapeake Bay
December 12, 1862
The Cairo, a Northern gunboat, is sunk by a confederate mine in a tributary of the Mississippi and becomes the first victim of mine warfare.
July 4, 1863
Vicksburg falls to general Grant and cuts the confederacy in 2, following a combined operation which gunboats commanded by Admiral Farragut play a key role.
Febuary 17, 1864
Confederate submersible H.L. Hunley becomes the first submarine to sink an enemy ship.
August 5, 1864
Battle of Mobile Bay results in confederate defeat and confederate blockade-runners can no longer use the port.
April 9, 1865
General Lee's surrender to General Grant.