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USS Monitor

A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage

John D. Broadwater

Publication Year: 2012

On March 9, 1862, USS Monitor, prototype of a new class of armored warships, fought the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia, only a day after Virginia had ravaged the Union fleet blockading the James River.   The events at Hampton Roads changed the world’s navies. After centuries of dominating battles at sea, wooden, sail-powered warships would be rendered obsolete. The harbinger of that change did not last long, however. Less than nine months later, the now-famous Monitor was under tow, heading south to Beaufort, North Carolina, when, in heavy seas, the vessel sank, taking sixteen of its crew with it. Monitor was considered at the time to be a total and irretrievable loss; even the location of its final resting place became a mystery. Not until 1973 was the inverted hulk located, and in 1995, partial recovery of the wreck began under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the US Navy. The story of the subsequent protection and management of the historic resource, and the raising of major hull components including the gun turret, add another layer of history to the Monitor’s fascinating story.   Lavish illustrations (photographs, site drawings, and artifact sketches) complement this informative and highly readable account. Naval warfare buffs, amateurs and professionals involved in maritime archaeology, and Civil War aficionados will be intrigued and informed by USS Monitor: A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage. Published with support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book reaches the American people on the 150th anniversary of the key events in the yearlong career of USS Monitor, beginning with its launch on January 30, its commissioning on February 25, its battle with CSS Virginia on March 9, its refit at Washington Navy Yard in October, and its loss, with sixteen officers and crew, ...

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pp. xi-xii

The story of the ironclad warship USS Monitor and its famous Civil War battle with the Confederacy’s CSS Virginia (ex-Merrimack) is learned by every American school child. The story is compelling: the “little ironclad that could” proved itself worthy against a larger, heavily-armored foe, helping preserve the Union ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

As I was writing this book I began keeping a detailed list of those who deserved acknowledgment, but when the draft reached nearly a dozen pages, I realized that in a work of this scope—spanning nearly four decades of research and stewardship—it would be nearly impossible to adequately recognize and thank ...

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Prologue First Encounter

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pp. 1-4

I twist my body to peer through the tiny viewport. The cobalt blue Gulf Stream water darkens to everdeeper shades as we descend toward the sea floor. Huddled in a cramped aluminum cylinder, I’m struggling to control my fear of close spaces. I have to stay focused, because I am sealed in the dive chamber of the Johnson-Sea-Link, ...

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Chapter 1 The Monitor is No More

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pp. 5-13

As dawn broke over the Outer Banks of North Carolina on the morning of Tuesday, December 30, 1862, the sun’s dim glow silhouetted a strange procession on the cold Atlantic Ocean. Far off shore, two sidewheel steamships were slowly making their way through gentle swells as they headed southsoutheast. ...

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Chapter 2 Discovery

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pp. 14-27

Following Monitor’s loss, Bankhead submitted an official report, as did the commanding officers of Rhode Island, Passaic, and State of Georgia. Based on those reports, and most probably on their own sea experience, Navy Board officials concluded that the officers and men of Monitor and Rhode Island had done everything ...

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Chapter 3 Story of an Ironclad

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pp. 28-61

Throughout history there have been events so powerful that they changed the world in significant ways. Similarly, certain technological innovations have been so remarkable that they created fundamental new ways of doing things. Such changes sometimes come about through the actions of a single individual, ...

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Chapter 4 A Sanctuary for America

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pp. 62-97

Our high-quality photographs and video from the 1974 Seaprobe expedition clearly revealed Monitor’s unique armor belt, anchor well, gun turret, and other distinctive features. Also clearly recognizable on the images was the camera “Doc” Edgerton lost on the wreck the previous August, confirming that the Duke team ...

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Chapter 5 Charting a New Course for Monitor

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pp. 98-116

By the end of the second decade after Monitor’s discovery, NOAA faced a decision on how best to manage the wreck for the American public. Simply stated, the key issue was to whether to leave Monitor where it was found, on the seabed, or to recover all or parts of the ship. This was an important question for a variety of reasons, ...

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Chapter 6 Implementing the Recovery Plan

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pp. 117-138

By fall 1997, we had completed the draft of the Monitor Comprehensive Plan required by Congress, but so far Congress had not appropriated funds nor had the Navy committed to a multiyear recovery effort. Without Navy support, I didn’t think the plan could succeed. Recovery would require massive equipment, skilled personnel, ...

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Chapter 7 Engineering the Recovery of Monitor's Machinery

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pp. 139-165

While we were planning and conducting research at the Monitor sanctuary in 1999, others were trying to secure funding for the upcoming recovery missions. The MDSU TWO, working closely with Commander Murray, who was now Naval Sea Systems Command’s Supervisor of Diving, had submitted a request for support ...

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Chapter 8 Monitor Completes Its Final Voyage

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pp. 166-182

Monitor Expedition 2002 was our last scheduled recovery mission to fulfill the objectives of the comprehensive, long- range Monitor preservation plan. In 1998, Navy divers recovered Monitor’s propeller, which reduced stresses on the hull. NOAA and the Navy conducted additional survey and site preparation work ...

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Chapter 9 In Monitor's Turret

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pp. 183-206

At just past 5:30 P.M., the lip of the turret broke the surface to the cheers of everyone on Wotan and also on the R/V Cape Fear and several charter boats that had come out from Hatteras. Someone shouted and pointed to dark shapes darting around the turret. Our resident school of amberjack had escorted the turret ...

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Epilogue The Story Continues

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pp. 207-216

From the Civil War to the present day, the USS Monitor has sparked the interest of each new generation until its story has become an amalgam of praise, disparagement, exaggeration, and myth. New books on Monitor continue to appear every few years, validating Grenville Weeks’ prophecy that the little ironclad would ...


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pp. 217-224


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pp. 225-234


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pp. 235-239

Cover 2

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603447492
E-ISBN-10: 1603447490
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603444736
Print-ISBN-10: 1603444734

Page Count: 338
Illustrations: 189 color, 161 b&w photos. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series
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OCLC Number: 776621823
MUSE Marc Record: Download for USS Monitor

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Naval operations
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- North Carolina -- Hatteras, Cape.
  • Hatteras, Cape (N.C.) -- Antiquities.
  • Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (N.C.).
  • Shipwrecks -- North Carolina -- Hatteras, Cape.
  • Underwater archaeology -- North Carolina -- Hatteras, Cape.
  • Monitor (Ironclad).
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