Bang-Clang Day is observed on March 9 every year to commemorate the Battle of Hampton Roads that took place during the Civil War in 1862. The battle is a historic one as it was the first to be fought between two ironclad ships — you can probably figure out where the day gets its name from. The Confederacy’s CSS Virginia and the Union’s USS Monitor faced off in a two-day long battle that signaled the arrival of a new era of naval warfare. This Bang-Clang Day, take a minute to marvel at this feat of engineering that changed the game for navies around the world.
History of Bang Clang Day
The CSS Virginia, originally called the Merrimack, was first commissioned in 1855 but was sent to Norfolk, Virginia for repairs in 1861 when the Civil War began. After being sunk by the Union, it was rebuilt by the Confederates, refitted with powerful artillery, and renamed the Virginia. The South hoped that the ship, which succeeded in destroying several of the North’s wooden ships, would be able to break the Union blockade of Southern ports.
But Virginia soon met its match in the North’s Monitor. Built-in striking new design in Brooklyn, the 172-foot ironclad ship arrived on the scene on March 9 at Hampton Roads, Virginia, a harbor at the mouth of the James River, where the Virginia was attempting to finish off the Union’s wooden Minnesota.
The duel between the two lasted for around three hours and ended anti-climatically as the Virginia returned home to her naval yard for repairs and the Monitor resumed her station, while the blockade remained.
Their journeys came to an end soon after. The Virginia was blown up by her own crew after the Confederate evacuation of Norfolk in May of the same year, while the Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in December. Its wreckage was located in 1973, and divers managed to bring back some of its artifacts in 2002.
Bang Clang Day timeline
The earliest historical evidence of boats is found in Egypt.
The oldest discovered sea-faring hulled boat is the Uluburun shipwreck found off the coast of Turkey, and dates back to this time period.
The Vikings become skilled traders, explorers, and fearsome raiders, thanks to their development of different kinds of ships.
Ironclads begin to go out of fashion in favor of steel ships.
Bang Clang Day FAQs
Why is the battle significant?
The battle is not considered important for its outcome, but more so because it ushered in a new age of naval warfare.
Who won the battle?
Although the Union suffered more casualties, the battle ended indecisively with each side claiming victory.
Who were the key people in the battle?
The Virginia was manned by Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, who was hit by a bullet in the thigh during the battle. The Monitor was led by Captain John Worden.
How to Observe Bang Clang Day
Take a road trip to Virginia
Drive down to The Mariners’ Museum & Park in Virginia to see over 200 tons of artifacts recovered from the USS Monitor. You could also visit the American Civil War Museum where CSS Virginia’s anchor is on display.
Read a poem about it
Put on your reading glasses and settle in to read the 1866 poem, ‘A Utilitarian View of the Monitor’s Fight,’ written by Moby Dick author Herman Melville, which details the battle’s events.
Watch a movie
Watch the 1991 Emmy-Award nominated made-for-television movie “Ironclads.” It details the events of the battle.
5 Facts About Ironclads That Will Blow Your Mind
Iron goes back a long way
Korean national hero Admiral Yi-Sun put armor plates on his famous ‘turtle ships’ in the 1500s to protect them from arrows, bullets, and fire.
The first of its kind
France was the first to make an ironclad ship called ‘Gloire’ in 1859.
The first ocean battle
The first ocean battle and the first ironclad fleet battle took place in 1866 between Austria and Italy.
The Brits weren’t far behind
The Royal Navy became the second nation to commission ironclad warships and put them to use in various roles.
Steel takes over
Most ships today are built of steel, but because of how heavy steel can be, many larger ships are also made from lightweight materials like aluminum.
Why Bang Clang Day is Important
It put wooden ships out of business
The arrival of ironclads quickly put an end to wooden ships. This is because they could be easily destroyed by the hunk of metal.
It influenced the world
The strongest navies around the world, including Great Britain and France, stopped the construction of wooden ships. They began switching to iron instead.
A new design
Apart from the use of iron, the battle also led to developments in ship design. We love innovation.
Bang Clang Day dates