I don't think people understand or realize just how slow and boring that battle was to the witnesses to it. The slow rate of fire of the guns, the resistance of each ship to take any real damage, and the weak steam engines straining to move those ungainly heavy masses through the water; it must have looked like two drunken and exhausted heavy weight boxers trading blows with a wiffle bat. It was still dangerous for the sailors involved and took much courage to face heavy naval guns at point blank range. But three and half hours of shooting at each other, face to face, barely moving, on the open water is a very long time.
Even with the arrival of Monitor and dissapointing tactical tie of the Battle of Hampton Roads, the CSS Virginia did contributed to the failure of McClellan's campaign against Richmond by denigning the Union forces the use of the James or York Rivers, it did its duty and did it well.