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Civil War Trust

The Sinking of the USS Cumberland

Paintings of the American Civil War

On March 8, 1862, the CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) steamed out of the Elizabeth River and into the waters of Hampton Roads to attack the Federal fleet.  The Virginia's first target was the USS Cumberland.   The steam-powered, ironclad Virginia drove its 1,500 pound iron ram into the wooden side of the Cumberland, delivering a mortal blow. The Virginia's ram attack, combined with its deadly broadsides led to the deaths of 121 sailors out of 376 aboard the Cumberland.  This painting by James Gurney shows the final moments of the Cumberland as it sinks into the waters of Hampton Roads.  The Virginia, which had trouble dislodging itself from the crumpled side of the Cumberland, can be seen lurking just behind the stricken ship.  To learn more about this battle, visit our Battle of Hampton Roads page.

The Sinking of the USS Cumberland
© James Gurney

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