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By Another Name

May 2024
1min read

The Merrimac did not do battle with the Monitor (Item 69 of “101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know about American History,” December 1987), nor indeed with any other United States ship in the American Civil War. When U.S. forces had to abandon the Merrimac in the early days of the war, an ill-executed attempt to burn her failed. The Confederate states resurrected her, redesigning everything except the keel, and then christened, launched, manned, and fought her as the Confederate States Ship Virginia . To call that ship the Merrimac is like saying the British sank the Argentine ship USS Phoenix during the Falklands War.

History is a powerful editor, and we find it difficult to resist the traditional alliteration of the warships’ names—as do a good many authorities, including Capt. Edward L. Beach in his excellent recent history The United States Navy.

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