Battle of Hampton Roads

Clash of the Ironclads - March 8 and 9, 1862

Michael Rigg

3/5/20241 min read

Battle of Hampton Roads (shutterstock_237233137)
Battle of Hampton Roads (shutterstock_237233137)

In geographic terms a "roadstead," generally refers to "...a place less enclosed than a harbor where ships may ride at anchor." Near the southeastern Virginia cities of Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton, the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers flow into a broad expanse of water called "Hampton Roads." For anyone flying into Norfolk International Airport or driving across one of the bridge tunnels between the Virginia Peninsula and "Southside," Hampton Roads certainly fits the image of a peaceful anchorage. But it certainly hasn't always been so.

On March 8, 1862, with the American Civil War less than a year old, "...the first battle of ironclad vessels began as a one-sided attack by the new Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia, upon U.S. Navy wooden fighting ships anchored near Fortress Monroe. The following day, the arrival of new U.S. Navy ironclad, Monitor, at Hampton Roads resulted in a rather inconclusive outcome for both sides." Yet, despite the seeming stalemate, the battle signaled the beginning of a new era in Naval warfare.

To learn more about the "Thunder at Hampton Roads," take a look on this website under the "Locations/Virginia" tab. (Source: Naval History and Heritage Command website, 1862 (