Monitor and Merrimack, Battle of the, March 9, 1862, a naval engagement in the American Civil War. It was the first fight between ironclad (armored) ships. The steam frigate Merrimack had been scuttled when Union forces abandoned the Norfolk Navy Yard. The Confederates raised and rebuilt it, covering its sides with iron plates, and renamed it Virginia. The Monitor, designed by John Ericsson, sat low in the water and was the first vessel to have a revolving gun turret. It was nicknamed “the cheesebox on a raft.”

The Merrimack steamed into Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 8, 1862, and easily destroyed two wooden frigates. During the night the Monitor arrived and the next morning challenged the Merrimack. The fight was a draw, but the immediate peril to the Union Navy was averted.

The Merrimack was scuttled when the Confederates abandoned Norfolk in May, 1862. The Monitor sank in a storm in December, 1862. In 1973 a Duke University expedition located the Monitor's remains, and in 1975 the wreck became the first federally designated marine sanctuary, a status that protects it from scavengers.