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 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 10:29 am
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Henry
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The C.S.S. Virginia I, as constructed from the propeller steam frigate U.S.S. Merrimac, was deficient in engine power and reliability. That's the reason she was left in the naval yard in Norfolk. She couldn't be moved due to lack of motive power. Her masts were sheared out, as well, and the hull was put to the torch as the Federal navy withdrew from the area. This said I believe the vessel could have stemmed the current of the Potomac as it was in March of 1862 with perhaps a walloping three knots of headway. Given the resistance of the hull to the pummeling she took from the U.S.S. Monitors eleven inch bore guns she might have withstood the fire from Fortress Monroe as she made for the Washington Navy Yard.
You question the ability to bombard Washington, D.C. I believe the use of the ironclad would have been as support to a crossing in force by Confederate grunts. The rifles of the Virgina were limited as to elevation and depression of the tubes limiting field of fire.
The vessels major feat was that of inducing fear along the Federal Atlantic coastline, fears unfounded due to the lack of seaworthiness of the vessel. The same fears prodded Northern efforts to produce more armor and larger guns.

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