The Ironclad and Revolution in Naval Warfare

From the many inventions that emerged from the American Civil War, the Ironclad, designed by Captain John Ericsson and Robert L. Stevens, has impacted the world by advancing naval warfare technology. It gave America more influence in Europe and put America ahead of Europe in naval matters. The impact and influence changed naval warfares forever by forcing wooden ships to become obsolete.

The Ironclad was among the first technological and modern tools of war. Its impact on technology in navies can still be seen today in the designs and the construction of naval ships.(Mac Bride,1) It has impacted technology in the way ships are built. Because of the ironclads the ships that are used in wars today are much safer. They are stronger and easier to maneuver.

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The first ironclad to ironclad battle between the Merrimac and the Monitor was long and drawn out. Although neither one emerged victorious, the world began to see what a major improvement in warfare these ironclads were. A reporter from the Norfolk Day wrote: “This work will create a revolution in naval warfare. Americas improvement has impacted naval history in a way that no other invention ever has!” (Davis,135)

Many times in United States history the major nations of the world, such as England, France and Germany, have ignored the United States in political matters but this invention and the ironclad to

ironclad battle changed a large percentage of their attitudes toward

the United States. It made America become feared and respected by large European nations and all the major nations looked at this invention with pure respect and awe. (Love,29) The invention of the ironclad has helped to push America higher on the ladder to becoming a major world power and to be included in major decisions of the world. The ironclads caused a long range of reaction in navies and gave America a push for the influence they wanted in Europe.

Many say that the invention of the ironclad is quite possibly one of the chief reasons for the continued existence of the United States. (Mac Bride,43) In the past people have often thought of naval ships as only tools of war. Many never considered that a ship could be useful in improving foreign policy and in pushing for American influence, but when Europe heard about this invention they began to realize that America had an adequate navy and the largest and finest

destroyers in the world. Europe began to recognize America as a nation that should be taken seriously and would probably be better to have as a friend rather than a foe!

It has been said that without this invention, America would still be behind in world status, because major nations would not respect us.

The Europeans saw the ironclad for what it was, an invention that would revolutionize modern navies. The ironclad was seen as a very valuable vessel for rivers, harbors, and for blockading. Ironclads were also formidable adjuncts to fortifications on land for coast and harbor defense. (Trexler,72)

The invention of the Ironclad not only impacted and influenced navies, it also changed the direction of naval warfare by making the use of the wooden ship in war obsolete forever and served as a revolutionary change for modern navies.

The building of the ironclad broke a five hundred year tradition in warship construction, wooden ships were no longer built for Naval warfare. Wooden ships had long been the traditional war machine of western culture, and the invention of the ironclad single handedly

Two days after the first battle of ironclads, England declared the use of the wooden ship obsolete. (Arthur,247) The secretary of the Confederacy, Stephen R. Mallory declared, “ I regard the possession of an iron armored ship as a matter of first necessity.” (Sharf,43) A British admiral also said,

“ The possession of an Iron clad navy would advance Europe. Such ships at this time would traverse our entire navy and if to cope with other navies on the open seas we must have no more wooden ships built because our inequality will build up our vulnerability.” (Mahan, 102)

“Most of these innovations came about by pure chance and genius. All these ‘…machinations of chance often served only to heighten drama, to punctuate the inescapability of an event that would not be denied it’s place in time.’ (Davis,1) Some say the ironclad came about through a series of chances and elusive destiny, yet only after this invention did the world get a glimpse at the new era of

naval warfare that was emerging.” (Phinney,3)

Truly the use of iron to clad ships and the battle between the Merrimac and the Monitor is the most decisive factor to date to serve as a point of revolutionary change for modern navies.

The Merrimac and the Monitor fought like tigers for four hours in one of the greatest naval engagements that had ever occurred since the beginning of the world. (Mahan,7) This successful and terrible work caused a revolution in naval warfare, henceforth iron would be King of the Seas!

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The Ironclad and Revolution in Naval Warfare. (2018, Sep 17). Retrieved from