A very detailed history of that most famous Civil War naval battle, between the North's Monitor and the Confederacy's Merrimac--the first confrontation between ironclad ships. Davis traces the ships' fates iron conception through construction, and the March, 1862 naval encounter in which the Monitor successfully protected the wooden Federal fleet from the new Southern superweapon. Contrary to popular myth, Davis points out, the ironclad was not a new idea at the time; it had already been built by several European powers. The Monitor revolutionized naval warfare nevertheless by successfully combining iron construction with a moveable gun turret, high maneuverability, steam power and a ventilation system. From the War's start both the North and South were engaged in a race to produce such ships. Promoters had to overcome government bureaucracies, spies were dispatched by each side to get drawings and blueprints, the bugs were worked out and, at last, before a huge crowd on the Virginia shore--including French and British observers--the two titans met. Davis successfully captures the excitement and horror of that history-making sea war and the political and engineering feats which launched the new age of iron fleets.