ironclad, mid-19th-century wooden warship protected from gunfire by iron armor. The success of the ironclad when first employed by the French in the Crimean War sparked a naval armor and armaments race between France and Great Britain. Ironclads were later used by both sides in the U.S. Civil War (see monitor, Monitor and Merrimack), although only the Union navy had at its disposal sufficient industrial resources to build a sizable fleet. The armored ship became obsolete with the introduction (1870–90) of all-metal warship construction.
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