The Confederate Navy couldn't match the Union ship for ship, so they needed a super-weapon to change the balance of power, according to Edward Sheehy, historian at LaSalle University.
The confederates captured the Norfolk, Va., Navy Yard and salvaged a fairly new Union frigate Merrimac. Engineers stripped it down, put iron sidings on it and sunk two Union wooden warships in Hampton Roads.
The Union's Monitor showed up the next day. Built in 90 days, and containing over 40 patentable inventions, John Ericsson, inventor, had devised a ship that looked like a "cheesebox on a raft."
"The first battle between iron-clad ships resulted in a draw," Sheehy said by email. "But in fact it was a Union victory, since they could produce more monitors faster. These were not the first ironclads, but participated in the first battle involving only steel ships."