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Today in History: March 9, 1862

Today in History, March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia clashed in a naval battle. (Not a navel battle, as that involves throwing oranges at one another and hoping to hit your opponent in the belly button. Navel battles are used to settle citrus grove disputes in Apopka, Florida.)

History remembers this date because it was the first conflict of two metal-armored vessels and it changes the face of naval warfare. The ships get bigger, the armor heavier, and eventually wood ships fade away. The next major change in naval combat really comes at Midway in World War 2 when naval warfare becomes centered on naval aviation. Well, and with the advent of effective submarine warfare, something pioneered by the CSS Hunley, but not truly coming into its own until the World Wars. However, submarine warfare is much more of a one-to-one proposition rather than an all-out battle. Still, respects to the Silent Service folks.

I think there is something of greater importance to remember about the battle of the Monitor and the Virginia. It’s this:

Neither one of those ships are seaworthy. They’ve both been sunk and then partially salvaged or scavenged. The great historic battle? Actually irrelevant in the outcome of the US Civil War.

In all honesty, it was even fought before the Civil War was truly about the right and honorable goal of ending slavery: had the Union won in 1862, slavery would have persisted for a time longer in the United States. It’s only after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 that the war is truly going to result in the end of slavery.

What do I think we need to learn?

Some wars are worth winning, and the battles necessary to win them are worth fighting.

At the end of the day, though, both ships sink and it’s all over. You may be famous for your involvement, but do you really accomplish anything?

Consider whether the battle you are fighting is worth anything. If it isn’t, then maybe living to fight another day when the battle matters.

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