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Ironclads (1991)

Unrated | | War | TV Movie 11 March 1991
A naval battle between two large ships: the "Monitor" and the "Merrimack".


Delbert Mann


James Retter (story), Harold Gast (teleplay)
Nominated for 4 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Virginia Madsen ... Betty Stuart
Alex Hyde-White ... Catesby Jones
Reed Diamond ... Leslie Harmon (as Reed Edward Diamond)
Philip Casnoff ... Lt. Guilford
E.G. Marshall ... Commdr. Smith
Fritz Weaver ... John Ericsson
Leon B. Stevens Leon B. Stevens ... Capt. Franklin Buchanan
Kevin O'Rourke ... Lt. Joe Smith Jr.
Joanne Dorian Joanne Dorian ... Blossom
Beatrice Bush Beatrice Bush ... Opal
Conrad McLaren Conrad McLaren ... Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy
Burt Edwards Burt Edwards ... Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War
James Getty James Getty ... Abraham Lincoln
Phil Whiteway Phil Whiteway ... Cmdr. Davis
Carl Jackson Carl Jackson ... Cletus


In 1861, at the onset of the American Civil War, the Union forces stationed in Gosport, Virginia, prepare to leave. The Confederate forces are poised to take Gosport. Before departing Gosport, the Union forces destroy the port facilities, docks, warehouses and a few ships that cannot sail. One of these ships is U.S.S. Merrimack, a 40-gun steam frigate. However, the Union forces fail to destroy the dry dock. The Confederates use the dry dock to repair the Merrimack and cover it with iron plates in order to turn it into an Ironclad. The Confederates intend to use the ironclad ship, re-named C.S.S. Virginia, to attack the Union wooden warships blockading the Confederacy. Washington D.C. gets wind of these Confederate plans and decides to send two spies, one man and a Southern belle, to Virginia to steal the exact specs of the new Confederate ironclad ship. This information is vital for the Union in order to allow it to build a more powerful ironclad ship than the Confederate one. While ... Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Men of steel in ships of iron clash in the fiercest naval battle of the Civil War.




Unrated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

11 March 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A ferro e fuoco See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Turner Pictures (I) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


If you watch carefully during the opening credits, you will see a horse fall and the rider strike his head on the ground. That was not an effect, but rather a real event where the rider suffered a head laceration and required transportation to a local hospital. There were multiple cameras used for that shot, and they continued to roll for about twenty seconds to capture the explosion effects before medics were clear to assess and treat the rider. See more »


When the Monitor first appears from behind the Minnesota there is nobody on deck. But in the next close-up the Monitor's captain and her officers are standing on deck. See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: At the beginning of the American Civil War, when Virginia voted to secede from the Union, the United States Navy was forced to abandon Gosport, its finest naval facility. The U.S.S. Pawnee arrived with orders to make certain that nothing of any value was left to fall into Confederate hands, including the pride of the Navy: the 40-gun steam frigate Merrimack.
Commdr. Smith: Burn every ship that can't be towed! Burn the machine shops, the storehouses...
Lt. Joe Smith Jr.: What about the drydock, sir?
Commdr. Smith: Destroy it, ...
See more »

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User Reviews

Nominated for four emmys, and won none, and here's why...
5 July 2005 | by rixrexSee all my reviews

This mediocre claptrap about the great battle of the ironclads was nominated by the politically correct Emmy Awards committee because it was a 1990 politically correct way of presenting the greatest naval battle of the civil war, completely sanitized and with abundant civility. The whole dramatic story wrapped around the events of the great battle was so much hokum and corn, it was hard to wade through to get to the well-done battle sequences. One example of this, just one of many, is the degrading of a slave, only verbally mind you, in front of a Yankee spy masquerading as a Southern sympathizer. The slave was called whatever a TV censor would allow to pass muster, so the kids could watch, and then we see the Yankee spy clench his teeth and hold in his indignation. Later he confesses that he never witnessed such abuse. Yeah, right, like nobody in the North ever said anything but a kind word to blacks at that time. One can only imagine how such a scene would have been handled in a film like, say, Cold Mountain, where the slave would have gotten a terrible beating, and the evils of slavery and bigotry would have been roundly exposed, rather than whitewashed, no pun intended. It didn't win any Emmy awards because it didn't even deserve the nominations. But the scenes around the building of the ships and the battle were very good overall, except for the portrayal of Lincoln as a simpleton of sorts. I lay the fault of that to the actor, for the same lines said by someone of stature and strength would show strength of conviction.

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