adj. /uy"euhrn klad"/; n. /uy"euhrn klad'/, adj.
1. covered or cased with iron plates, as a ship for naval warfare; armor-plated.
2. very rigid or exacting; inflexible; unbreakable: an ironclad contract.
3. a wooden warship of the middle or late 19th century having iron or steel armor plating.
[1850-55; IRON + CLAD1]

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Type of warship developed in Europe and the U.S. in the mid-19th century, characterized by the iron armour that protected the hull.

In the Crimean War (1853–56) the French and British successfully attacked Russian fortifications with "floating batteries," ironclad barges mounting heavy guns. In 1859 the French completed the first iron warship, the Gloire; its iron plates, 4.5 in. (11 cm) thick, were backed by heavy timber. Britain and the U.S. soon followed. Union forces launched armored gunboats on the Mississippi at the start of the American Civil War, and a flotilla captured Fort Henry (1862). The first battle between ironclads was the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack (1862). Later refinements led to the battleship. See also monitor.

French ironclad Gloire, engraving by Smythe after a painting by A.W. Weedon

By courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum; photograph, J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd.

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 type of warship developed in Europe and the United States in the mid-19th century, characterized by the iron casemates that protected the hull. In the Crimean War (1853–56) the French and British successfully attacked Russian fortifications with “floating batteries,” ironclad barges mounting heavy guns, that were towed into position. The French built the first iron warship, the Gloire, completed in 1859. The Gloire's iron plates were about 4.5 inches (11 cm) thick and backed by heavy timber. Displacing 5,617 tons, the vessel carried 36 guns. A sister ship, Couronne, soon followed; two British ironclads, the Black Prince and Warrior, each of 9,210 tons and capable of 14.5 knots, were completed in 1861 and 1862. Meanwhile, at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Captain James Buchanan Eads (Eads, James B.) of St. Louis, Mo., constructed shallow-draft armoured gunboats for use on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. A flotilla of them captured Confederate Fort Henry on Feb. 6, 1862, and successfully engaged a Confederate squadron in April 1862 at Memphis, Tenn., the first ironclads to fight enemy warships. On March 9, 1862, the Monitor and the Merrimack (correctly, the Virginia) fought their historic duel off Hampton Roads, Va., the first battle between ironclads.

      A number of refinements in the years following converted the ironclad into the battleship (q.v.).

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Universalium. 2010.

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