MARCH 8TH, 1862: The ironclad CSS Virginia, Captain Franklin Buchanan, destroyed the wooden blockading ships USS Congress and USS Cumberland in Hampton Roads. The Virginia, without trials or under way-training, headed directly at the Union squadron.
She opened the engagement when less than a mile distant from the Cumberland and the firing became general from blockaders and shore batteries. The Virginia rammed the Cumberland below the waterline and she sank rapidly, "gallantly fighting her guns," Buchanan reported in tribute to her brave crew, "as long as they were above water."
Buchanan next turned his ship's attention to the USS Congress, hard aground, and set her afire with hot shot and incendiary shell.