When Virginia seceded, the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia was abandoned by federal troops. The buildings and ships were ordered to be destroyed, but one ship sank before being destroyed. The USS Merrimack was a steam frigate that had been built in 1855. Although she had burned to the waterline and sank, the Confederacy was in such a great need of ships they raised her to attempt to reconstruct her.

Burning Merrimack

She was the only large ship with working engines available in the area and it was decided that she would be rebuilt as an ironclad. While ironclads were a new invention, this ship was not the first ironclad as many believe. Several had been built in Europe, and although it was recognized that they would become powerful forces in future wars, they had not seen much combat. Rumors were heard from the North that they were working on an iron covered ship as well, so they set to work on transforming the Merrimack into the CSS Virginia, 150 years ago today. This ship would later prove to the world exactly what ironclads were capable of.

Completed Virginia

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.