Newport News, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Congress – Cumberland
Give Them a Broadside Boys, as She Goes
—1862 Peninsula Campaign —
On March 8, 1862, the Confederate ironclad ram CSS Virginia attacked the Federal fleet blockading the James River. The conversion of the Virginia during the past year from the former steam frigate USS Merrimack, scuttled when Federal forces evacuated Norfolk in 1861, had been a remarkable test of Confederate ingenuity and resources.
The Virginia, appearing like a “floating barn belching smoke,” and armed with 10 guns, steamed toward Newport News Point, commanded by Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, CSA. Methodically passing the 50-gun USS Congress, the Virginia rammed the 30-gun Cumberland, creating a hole “large enough for a carriage to drive through.” The Cumberland quickly began to sink into the James River with her guns firing and 121 men aboard. With her ram embedded in the Cumberland, the Virginia’s engines struggled to free her from being pulled under the waves. The ironclad survived because her ram broke off, thereby freeing her to attack the Congress, which had run aground endeavoring to escape
Lieutenant Catesby Roger Jones, CSA, assumed command of the Virginia. The ironclad moved to attack the USS Minnesota, one of three vessels that had run aground coming to the aid of the Cumberland. The Union vessel was only saved from destruction because the tide had ebbed. The Virginia returned to Norfolk, determined to finish destroying the Union fleet on the morrow.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 36° 58.668′ N, 76° 26.068′ W. Marker is in Newport News, Virginia. Marker can be reached from West Avenue, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in Christopher Newport Park, at the waterfront. Marker is in this post office area: Newport News VA 23607, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Newport News Point (here, next to this marker); Collis Potter Huntington (a few steps from this marker); A Nameless Grave (within shouting A Great Confederate Naval Victory (within shouting distance of this marker); Newport News (within shouting distance of this marker); Headquarters, Hampton Roads (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Newport News Victory Arch (about 700 feet away); The Victory Arch (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Newport News.
More about this marker. Two pictures appear at the top of the marker. One, sketched by F. Newman, shows “The Sinking of the ‘Cumberland’ by the Iron Clad ‘Merrimac,’ off Newport News, VA March 8, 1862.” The other picture is of soldiers on shore watching the burning Congress as the Monitor and Virginia face off. It has the caption “Battle between the Monitor and Merrimac. This fanciful scene includes the March 8th events with those of March 9, 1862. - Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum”
Also see . . .
1. CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS Congress, 8 March 1862. Naval Historical Center website. (Submitted on August 16, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
2. Tidewater Virginia, The 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Civil War Traveler. (Submitted on August 16, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Categories. • Military • Notable Events • War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 16, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,252 times since then and 35 times this year. Last updated on April 7, 2011, by Jonathan Carruthers of Bealeton, Virginia. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on August 16, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.