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Rare Autograph of CSS Virginia Commander in Battle of Hampton Roads
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Jones served on the USS Merrimac, and then helped convert it into the ironclad CSS Virginia. After Frank Buchanan was wounded in the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads, Jones assumed command which he held during the battle with the USS Monitor.  In 1877, Jones was killed over a feud between his and another man’s son.

CATESBY AP ROGER JONES. Clipped signature. n.d. 1 p., 2¾ x ½ in.

Inventory #24006.04       ON HOLD

Catesby ap Roger Jones (1821-1877) was born in Virginia, as the son of Major General Roger ap Catesby Jones, who was Adjutant General of the U.S. Army from 1825 to 1852. The younger Jones was appointed a midshipman in 1836. Promoted to lieutenant in 1849, he served as ordnance officer for the new steam frigate USS Merrimack, when it began service in 1856. When Virginia left the Union, Jones resigned his commission and became a Confederate Navy lieutenant. He helped convert the USS Merrimack into the ironclad CSS Virginia. When Captain Franklin Buchanan was wounded in the CSS Virginia’s first encounter with ships of the Union blockade on March 8, Jones commanded the Virginia the next day during its epic battle with the USS Monitor. Promoted to the rank of Commander in April 1863, Jones was placed in charge of manufacturing heavy guns at Selma, Alabama. After the war, he engaged in business in South America and in Selma, where in June 1877, he was shot and killed by another man over a feud between their sons. Jones family relatives held commissions in every major American war from the Revolution to World War II.

Historical Background

When Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861, the U.S. Navy commander at the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia, ordered the USS Merrimack to be burned and sunk to prevent its capture. Workers burned the ship to the waterline, but Confederates discovered that the ship’s lower hull and machinery were undamaged. On that hull, the Confederacy constructed the CSS Virginia as an ironclad with fourteen gun ports distributed around its armored casemate. The casemate was constructed of 24 inches of oak and pine in several layers and two inches of iron plating.

On March 8, 1862, the CSS Virginia, under the command of Captain Franklin Buchanan, engaged the Union fleet blockading the James River and the Chesapeake Bay, and the CSS Virginia destroyed both the USS Cumberland and the USS Congress. That night the USS Monitor arrived at Fort Monroe, rushed from the Brooklyn Navy Yard while not yet complete. The next day, the first battle between ironclads took place. The smaller and faster Monitor, with a rotating gun port and commanded by Lieutenant John L. Worden, was able to outmaneuver the Virginia, but neither ship could do extensive damage to the other. Worden was temporarily blinded by a gunpowder explosion to his face, while looking through the Monitor’s narrow viewing slits. Because Captain Buchanan had been wounded by Union rifle fire the previous day, the command of the Virginia went to Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones. When the Monitor retreated to shallow water to assess damages, Jones took the Virginia back over the bar to Portsmouth before the falling tide trapped it within striking distance of the Monitor. The Virginia remained in drydock for repairs until April 4, 1862.

Over the next month, the CSS Virginia tried several times to lure the Union Navy into an attack; however, the USS Monitor was under strict orders not to re-engage. On April 11, the Confederate Navy sent seven ships in full view of the Union squadron, urging them to fight. The Confederates even seized three merchant ships, the brigs Marcus and Sabout and the schooner Catherine T. Dix, from their moorings at the mouth of Hampton Creek.  By late April, two more Union ironclads had joined the blockade at Fort Monroe. On May 8, the CSS Virginia again ventured out when Union ships began shelling the Confederate fortifications near Norfolk. The Union ships retreated to the protection of shore batteries on the north side of the James River and did not engage the Virginia.

Union troops occupied Norfolk on May 10, 1862, and the Confederates faced a dilemma. Because of its weight, the CSS Virginia was not seaworthy enough to enter the Atlantic Ocean, even if it could run the Union blockade, and it could not retreat further up the James River. The new captain reluctantly ordered the destruction of the Virginia, and Lieutenant Jones set the powder trails to the ship’s magazine, destroying it in a huge explosion and ending Confederate hopes for raising the blockade of the James River and Chesapeake Bay.

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