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An ut­terly ab­sorb­ing ac­count of one of his­tory’s most mo­men­tous bat­tles and the fas­ci­nat­ing events and per­son­al­i­ties that brought it about. “Many naval bat­tles— Trafal­gar, Mid­way—have bent the course of his­tory in hours or even min­utes,” Snow writes. “But none has fo­mented in a short day’s work a whole new kind of war­fare.”

The bat­tle that took place at Hampton Roads, Vir­ginia, in March 1862 was tech­ni­cally a draw, but it saved the Amer­i­can Navy. The day be­fore, the Mer­ri­mack had in­flicted “the worst dis­as­ter the US Navy had ever suf­fered, one that would not be sur­passed un­til a De­cem­ber Sun­day 80 years in the fu­ture.” By John tamny

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