I'm planning on working on a model of one of the Ironclads from the
Hampton Roads battle, and I was hoping someone could give me some
tips and ideas on planning and designing the parts. I intend to build
it from wood mostly, but I've not any idea how to go about drawing up
reasonable plans so that I can pre-plan out all the parts, instead
of just making them as I go.
There are two scratchbuilding books out by John Alcorn. The one I have
is called "master scratchbuilder'; I don't recall if it's his first or
In any case, some of the techniques he uses could be transfered to ship
building. For example, I know that he carves his wings from basswood,
then covers them with sheet styrene. That may be something that is
workable for your model.
Regarding blueprints/designs, I would start with the smithsonian. email
them and ask what's the best way to get a set of detailed plans of
either the Virginia or Monitor. Whatever scale the drawings are, go to a
kinko's and photocopy them to the scale of the model you'll build. That
way the drawings will be 1:1 templates for the various parts you'll need
Also..one more thing.. visit hyperscale discussion groups
you will find them a very helpful group as
I wrote an article for Ships in Scale a number of years ago on scratch
building the USS Cairo. Building one of the Hampton Roads ironclads
should not be that different. I'll look it up and let you know the
issue Old issues are available as CD-ROM collections.
The hull on the Monitor is easier than the Merrimack. I would build
the Merrimack as a standard bread-and-butter laminated hull. I think
the Monitor could be a simple block.
Any books that cover bread-and-butter hull scratch building should
work. There are a number. Check your local library. Such
scratchbuilt solid wood hulls are quite common in the scratchbuilding
game. Also, go to
and join the model shipbuilders
mailing list. Lots of folks there who can help you further.
Don, that would be great! I am always interested in learning more.
I know what the Monitor is, but I think you've referred to
the wrong ship. The other participant in the battle was not
It was the Virginia.
The Merrimack was the Federal hull that was burned to the waterline
that the Confederates built a new ship on. Lots of people make
I don't want to build the Merrimack. What would the fun be in
building a burned-to-the waterline hull?
I'm actually thinking that it would be easier to focus on the
above-the-waterline parts, and then make a simple hull below,
so that it rides at the correct draft. If I built the full hull
then it would sit so high out of the water that it wouldn't
My local library is REALLY small. as in a 2000 Sq Ft building.
They have to ILL everything.
Thanks for the suggestion. I appreciate it. I wasn't aware of
that group, but I am now.
It is not an error. It was still called the Merrimac by the North. It
was called Merrimac in an 1862 Federal Civil War song, and Currier and
Ives made a lithograph in 1862 of the battle, calling it the Merrimac.
In Utah, there are two buttes named Monitor and Merrimac. There are
even two accepted spellings of Merrimac, one with a 'k' at the end and
The writers and artists of the day probably found it more poetic to call
it the battle of the 'Monitor and Merrimac' rather than 'Monitor and
That does not prove that it is an error, since the ship was
renamed at the time of its Commissioning by the Naval Forces
of the Confederacy as the C.S.S. Virginia. Period. You could
call the QE II the "Baby Liz" but that does not mean that it
is her actual name.
The ship, as used by the Naval Forces of the Confederacy was
commisioned the C.S.S. Virginia:
"The Confederates, in desperate need of ships, raised
MERRIMACK and rebuilt her as an ironclad ram, according
to a design prepared by naval constructor Lt. J. M. Brooke,
CSN. Commissioned on 17 February 1862, as CSS VIRGINIA, the
ironclad was the hope of the Confederacy to wreak havoc
among the wooden ships in Hampton Roads and end the blockade's
- From the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, Vol II.
Also, this great explanation from Mabry Tyson, the great
grandson of Catesby ap Roger Jones, commander during the battle:
And Lincoln called the conflict the "Great Civil War" but that
doesn't make it what it was. He was wrong then, and everyone who
has ever used the term since has been wrong too. The definition
of a "civil war" is a war between populations within the same
governmental form, fought for control of that governmental form.
The conflict was most certainly NOT about that. To even call it
"The War Between the States" would be wrong too. The one I really
dislike is "The Second American Revolution" and all those other
similar names used by rabid SCV types. The proper name for the
conflict is "The War of the Confederacy".
Calling something by a wrong name is still wrong.
Even more irrelevant. And also incorrect.
Sir, I am not the least interested in what someone thinks is
"poetic". I am interested in using the correct name for the ship.
To call the Titanic the "Big Damn Ship" is not correct.
While I appreciate the offerance of your opinion, could we please
get back to the questions at hand? As in, direction to other sources
beyond those great ones that have been proferred to date?
Thank you kindly.
There wasn't much above the waterline anyway. But the bread and
butter construction builds the hull. So whether you call it Merrimack
or Virginia, it is the same hull and same hull lines. Upper structure
can be done in any of a number of ways of construction, but I see no
reason to use other than B&B up to main deck level (main deck of
Virginia, not Merrimack). That is pretty close to waterline of
You're very welcome, Sir. I don't wish to re-fight the Civil War,or
whatever you want to call it, but I'm sorry, it is what it is.
Guess in what southern state the 'Monitor-Merrimac Memorial
Bridge-Tunnel' is located?
Guess in what southern state where a town that supplied the iron for the
Confederate ironclad was re-named 'Merrimac' is located?
I believe that you took the thread off scratchbuilding when you
'corrected' Don about the name of the ship when you knew exactly what he
meant by Merrimac(k), as do a great many people.
That's correct. It is the Virginia. Used during the War of the
Confederacy. I'm glad we can at least agree on that.
I give you citation, evidence, and more research links, and you
give me finger-in-the-ears "la la la" response. Gotcha.
If I name you a nincompoop, does that make you one? I don't think so.
And it does not make them correct. Actually, it makes them
misinformed and ignorant.
If you enjoy being in those groups, please do so with my blessings.
You're right, of course, and I am thinking that 90% of the detail
involved will center around the above-waterline appearance of the
ship. The below-waterline will likely be almost a tub-shaped affair,
to hold the RC gear, and drive system. No need to even model the
whole hull, unless of course, it is going to be displayed anywhere.
Which isn't likely. The superstructure is relatively easy, with
regard to layout, but getting all the lines and angles correct is
going to take some doing, because no two images of the thing are
the same. I suppose it is going to have to be one of those "let's
make it look right" projects. Problem is, I am hoping to get it as
close to accurate as I can. I think I may need a time machine to
do that, but I'm still going to try, even so.
Thanks for the reply, Don.
Oh, and one other thing... Any good links besides the one you gave
already that outline some of these construction techniques?
I agree that the ship would be correctly called CSS Virginia. That's how
it was commissioned.
Regarding "war between the states", "war of the confederacy", "civil
war", etc... For most americans, most historians, etc, 'the american
civil war' is usually used. Go to amazon and click up how many books
there are about 'american civil war' vs 'war of the confederacy'.
Similarly, what is usually heard as the 'battle of bull run' is called
the 'battle of manassas' by southerners because of different naming
conventions that the north and south were using. (one based on nearest
moving water, other on nearest town). One is not more correct than the
other, but shows a different perspective.
Or every time I talk about WWII, I should call it the 'great patriotic
war' in case a russian is listening? Or should something be called what
it is most known as.... in this case 'american civil war'.
FYI, the reason it's referred to as that (I'm sure you know, Tessmacher,
as a civil war historian) is that the confederate states were never
recognized by the US. Did any country officially recognize CSA as a
country? I don't believe so. If I recall, Britain was on the verge of
recognizing CSA until Vicksburg.
Anyway.... good luck on your model. It sounds like a worthy project.
Who defines 'wrong'? It would seem that there is certainly no *moral*
right or wrong here since I doubt that any religious group really
cares. So we are left to law and politics. In law and politics, the
United States won the conflict, so I would expect that their
definitions are entitled to as much credence as any of the rest of
their institutions, compared to those of the late Confederacy. United
States currency continued to have the value attributed to it by the
government that backed it, just as did the Confederacy's (thus
becoming intrinsically worthless when the government collapsed). So,
while it may have been styled a 'war of southern liberation' by the
South, to the United States, it was simply a rebellion - a civil war.
Viewed in that light, the rebels simply refurbished the USS Merrimac
and used it, but didn't have the authority to rename it. In basic
terms, when you lose a war, you also pretty much lose the ability -
and the right - to have the history of that war written your way.
The south lost. Get over it.
(Been there; done that)
Have you considered a model of the model? Consider the old Pyro CSS
Virginia (called by them the Merrimac 8-P) and scaling the parts and
enlarging them to your scale. I'm not sure what problems (if any) the
old model had, but I'm sure that they could be overcome.
There are also two movies that I'm aware of that show an ironclad of
this type, "Sahara" has night shots and isn't very clear (and the
premise is laughable - the Virgina-type ironclad actually sails across
the Atlantic) and another one (whose name escapes me) that was
produced by Ted Turner and was about that battle.