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Color lithograph, Battle Between the Monitor and Merrimac, Kurtz and Allison, Art Publishers, Chicago, ca. 1889

As Union officers watched from a point near Fort Calhoun, the U.S.S. Monitor (top center) and the Merrimac (C.S.S. Virginia, top right) battled for several hours, each inflicting damage on the other. The Merrimac had earlier destroyed two wooden Union frigates, including the U.S.S. Congress, shown in flames (top left).

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Color lithograph, Battle Between the Monitor and Merrimac, Kurtz and Allison, Art Publishers, Chicago, ca. 1889

The Monitor and the Merrimac - 2

Congress played an active role during the Civil War (1861–1865) through legislation, appropriations, and oversight. In 1861, Congress encouraged development of the ironclad warship the U.S.S. Monitor. Designed by Swedish-American engineer John Ericsson, it was tested in an epic encounter with the Merrimac, a Union ship the Confederates had captured, fitted with iron armor, and renamed the C.S.S. Virginia. Their March 9, 1862 battle at Hampton Roads, Virginia—the world’s first between steam-powered ironclads—revolutionized naval warfare.