Byline: John Lockwood, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
When the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor slugged it out at Hampton Roads, Va., on March 9, 1862, it was the first battle in history between ironclad ships, ending in a draw. Contrary to a still-widespread belief, however, they were not the first ironclad ships in history. The French, followed closely by their British rivals, had been building armored vessels first.
The French government of Emperor Napoleon III began experimenting with the idea in 1854 during the Crimean War, a conflict fought mostly along the shores of the Black Sea, with France, Britain and Turkey on one side and Russia on the other.