fought — to a draw — the first battle between ironclad warships on this date in 1862. The previous day the Merrimac (actually christened the Alabama) had mauled the Union fleet that was blockading Hampton Roads. The following is an Extract from Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy Concerning the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac (via The American Civil War Home Page).
All efforts to get the Minnesota afloat during the night and into a safe position were totally unavailing. The morning was looked for with deep anxiety, as it would in all probability bring a renewed attack from the formidable assailant. At this critical and anxious moment the Monitor, one of the newly-finished armored vessels, came into Hampton Roads, from New York, under command of Lieut. John L. Worden, and a little after midnight anchored alongside the Minnesota. At 6 o’clock the next morning the Merrimac, as anticipated, again made her appearance, and opened her fire upon the Minnesota. Promptly obeying the signal to attack, the Monitor ran down past the Minnesota and laid herself close alongside the Merrimac, between that formidable vessel and the Minnesota. The fierce conflict between these two ironclads lasted for several hours. It was in appearance an unequal conflict, for the Merrimac was a large and noble structure, and the Monitor was in comparison almost diminutive. But the Monitor was strong in her armor, in the ingenious novelty of her construction, in the large caliber of her two guns, and the valor and skill with which she was handled. After several hours’ fighting the Merrimac found herself overmatched, and, leaving the Monitor, sought to renew the attack on the Minnesota; but the Monitor again placed herself between the two vessels and reopened her fire upon her adversary. At noon the Merrimac, seriously damaged, abandoned the contest and, with her companions, retreated toward Norfolk.