Original Photos and History of Civil War Ironclads

In the mid-19th century, the British and French navies developed armored, steam-powered warships as a response to the rising use of explosive shells, which could burn through wooden-hulled ships. In addition to warships clad in a thin skin of iron, heavily armored floating batteries were developed.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Union and Confederate navies rushed to build ironclad ships to counter each other.

The Confederates retrofitted the sunken hull of a scuttled Union ship with iron armor four inches thick, transforming her into a squat, low-floating fortress rechristened CSS Virginia.

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