Until our Civil War, all ships, even ships of war, were made of wood. Now, they are made of steel. A single sea-fight changed the great ships of the world from wood to steel,— the fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac.In this post I will go over some of the naval technological development so that we can understand the true significance of ironclads in the Civil War.
|Floating Battery from Charleston Harbor|
|La Glorie, first oceangoing ironclad|
With the success of their floating batteries, in the late 1850s France began developing iron plated ships which were intended for faster movement. In 1859 La Glorie was launched, which has been called the first true ironclad. It was covered by 4.5 inches of iron, and was capable of moving at the rate of 13 knots. She was armed with 36 rifled guns. It was recognized in Europe that these were the ships of the future. Britain and France began to construct large numbers of these new ironclads, recognizing that wooden ships would be useless against them. In 1860 Britain launched the Warrior, a faster and more powerful ironclad.
|British Ironclad Warrior today|
So although ironclads had not proved everything they were capable of until the battle of the Monitor and Merrimac, all the navies of Europe had already guessed it and had many ironclads under construction.