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Friday, March 6, 2015

USS Cumberland & USS Congress Memorial of 3/8/1862

Blog #42. March 6, 2014 by Marcus W. Robbins

Please endure a bit of background first…
Looking back at events from the Confederate held Gosport Navy Yard 153 years ago this week the most revolutionary ship ever produced upon these grounds without question was the Confederate States Ship, CSS Virginia.  Raised here in 1861 from the sunken and burned USS Merrimac then converted and launched in 1862 from Dry Dock 1 as the CSS Virginia, Gosport again lead the way in naval architecture and warfare design .
That entire amazing journey of transformation for the CSS Virginia which first begins with the Union burn of the Gosport Navy Yard (April 21, 1861) along with an expanded summary of the Battle of Hampton Roads (March 8 & 9 1862) and concluding with the Confederate burn of the Gosport Navy Yard (May 10, 1862) has been previously told within my "History Matters" Blogs # 4-20 inclusive written over the time period of March 18, 2011 to April 22, 2012 as found here if you wish to read the entire run in consecutive order:

Yet now, look at the title of this Blog and how does the CSS Virginia fit in with the USS Cumberland and USS Congress and a memorial you might ask?  Well, the Battle of Hampton Roads that took place here in our local harbor was a two day event.  On the 2nd day CSS Virginia fights to an inclusive draw with the USS Monitor, a story that is well known as these ironclads revolutionized naval warfare worldwide forever.
I want to focus upon that lesser covered 1st day of battle, or should I say the massive death projected upon the USS Cumberland & USS Congress on a day that marks the end of the age for wooden ships and sail.  The CSS Virginia wrought the most damaging naval defeat to the United States Union Navy till the unfortunate events of Pearl Harbor in 1941 right here in our local waters.  War, by its very nature produces death in the achievement of its dark end game of conquest.  No different were the conditions as CSS Virginia sought to break the Union blockade of the Hampton Roads harbor in the spring of 1862.

The Sinking of the Cumberland - oil on canvas at Mariners’ Museum,
(photo courtesy of Marcus W. Robbins - 150 years of event occurrence)
CSS Virginia engages USS Congress, 8 March 1862
(Navy History & Heritage Command image NH 42216 – painting by F. Muller)
Within the Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s historic Trophy Park you can touch iron plate from the CSS Virginia, a gear wheel from the USS Cumberland and a cannon from the USS Congress, all items in which to honor the memories of these three great ships but it took me driving down the street the United States Naval Hospital Portsmouth, Virginia last week in order to honor the dead of March 8, 1862.

USS Cumberland and USS Congress Memorial
(photo courtesy of Marcus W. Robbins 2/27/2015)
USS Cumberland and USS Congress Memorial
(photo courtesy of Marcus W. Robbins 2/27/2015)

How can one learn more about the Battle of Hampton Roads?  Well you have the perfect opportunity this coming weekend to visit the fine folks at the Mariners’ Museum, see the attached link for more details:

In conclusion remember that our Gosport Navy Yard was the birthplace of the CSS Virginia, a ship whose actions on March 8, 1862 upon the USS Cumberland and USS Congress proved the age of wood and sail was no match to an ironclad ship.  A massive loss of life came about that day but you can right here in Portsmouth Virginia see a monument to honor those fallen sailors because - "history matters".

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