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US buries two Civil War sailors, 151 years later

9 March AFP

The remains of two sailors who died aboard a famed US Civil War ship were buried with full military honours, 151 years after their groundbreaking vessel fought a crucial battle.

The skeletons of the unidentified crew members were recovered in 2002 off the coast of North Carolina, where the Union's USS Monitor went down in a storm in 1862.The extraordinary ceremony at Arlington national cemetery was held on the 151st anniversary of the naval battle that made the ship famous.

The Battle of Hampton Roads saw the Union's Monitor fend off a dramatic attempt by another iron-clad gunboat, the South's CSS Virginia, to break a Union blockade at the Virginia port of Hampton Roads.

After trading cannon fire for hours, the fight ended in a draw with both ships surviving. But the South had failed to break the damaging Union blockade at the Virginia port.

The battle not only shaped the course of the war but ushered in a new era in naval warfare, with ships afterward built from iron and steel instead of wood. The Monitor's design, by Swedish inventor John Ericsson, was radical for its time and was ridiculed as a "cheese box on a raft" and a "tin can on a shingle."

The innovative design allowed the vessel to ride low in the water and included a rotating turret containing the ship's powerful cannons.

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