USS Monitor (1862-1862) -- Construction
USS Monitor's construction resulted from a study of ironclad warships
mandated by the Congress in July 1861, as the Civil War moved rapidly from crisis to serious armed conflict (see USS Monitor: Homepage). During August and September the study board's members, Commodores Joseph Smith and Hiram Paulding and Commander Charles
H. Davis, reviewed seventeen proposals and selected three for construction. Two were relatively conventional designs and became
USS New Ironsides and USS Galena. The third, unconventional in virtually every way, became the Monitor.
(USS Monitor: Original "Hull Construction Contract" and In The USS Monitor Turret)
Below: Monitor Montage, signed by Thomas Fitch Rowland.
It includes photographs of the "Monitor Shiphouse" and USS Puritan
on the building ways at the Continental Iron Works, Greenpoint, New York, and an artwork of the battle between USS Monitor
and CSS Virginia. The original was in the Office of Naval Records
& Library Collection at the National Archives, circa the early 1960s.
|USS Monitor. Courtesy U.S. Naval Historical Center
Swedish engineer John Ericsson (John Ericsson: Inventor) was personally responsible for Monitor's conception and the details of her design. Perhaps with Scandinavian coastal
defense conditions in mind, he had been developing the concept on paper for several decades. What emerged was well-suited
for the Civil War's inshore fighting: a relatively shallow-draft iron hull, topped by an armored raft that provided good protection
against ramming and cannon fire. Freeboard was less than two feet, sufficient for coastal requirements, though a real problem
when the ship went to sea. Engine power was modest, but again sufficient to the need, and a Navy requirement for masts and
sails was quite appropriately ignored.
The most stunning innovation, on a ship whose design was dominated by innovations,
was the method of carrying her guns: a thickly-armored round turret, twenty-feet in diameter, rotated by steam power to permit
nearly all-around fire from a pair of eleven-inch Dahlgren smoothbore shell guns, the heaviest weapons then available.
Below Plans of the USS Monitor (1862): General plan published in
1862, showing the ship's inboard profile, plan view below the upper deck and hull cross sections through the engine and boiler
spaces.U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
|USS Monitor Construction Plans
|USS Monitor Construction Plans
Iron fabrication began even before the Monitor's contract was issued
in early October. Rapid construction was a necessity, as the Confederates were known to be pushing work on their own ironclad,
which became CSS Virginia (see CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack): Homepage). The new ship's hull was built by the Continental Iron Works, at Greenpoint, Long Island, with iron stock, machinery and
much equipment furnished by other firms. Launched on 30 January 1862, she was outfitted over the next month and placed in
commission on 25 February, under the command of Lieutenant John L. Worden.
After trials and modifications, Monitor left New York on 6 March.
The next day, she encountered stormy weather, which abundantly demonstrated both the inherent
seakeeping problems of the design and some more-easily correctable technical difficulties. Late on 8 March, just a few hours
after CSS Virginia had spread terror among the Union fleet (CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS
the weather-beaten Monitor arrived off Hampton Roads, where her exhausted crew spent a long night urgently preparing
their ship for action.
Reference: Department of the Navy, Naval History & Heritage Command,
805 Kidder Breese SE, Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C., 20374-5060
Reading: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor. Description: In a familiar story, the USS Monitor battled the CSS Virginia (the armored and refitted
USS Merrimack) at Hampton Roads in March of 1862. In War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor, David A. Mindell
adds a new perspective to the story as he explores how mariners -- fighting "blindly" below the waterline -- lived and coped
with the metal monster they called the "iron coffin." Mindell shows how the iron warship emerged as an idea and became practicable,
how building it drew upon and forced changes in contemporary manufacturing technology, and how the vessel captured the nineteenth-century
American popular and literary imaginations. Continued below…
personal, administrative, and literary analysis, Mindell examines the experience of the men aboard the Monitor and their reactions
to the thrills and dangers that accompanied the new machine. The invention surrounded men with iron and threatened their heroism,
their self-image as warriors, even their lives. Mindell also examines responses to this strange new warship by Nathaniel Hawthorne
and Herman Melville, who prophetically saw in the Civil War a portent of the mechanized warfare of the future. The story of
the Monitor shows how technology changes not only the tools but also the very experience of combat, generating effects that
are still felt today in the era of "smart bombs" and push-button wars. "We find new significance in the otherwise well-known
history of the Monitor. It is no longer the story of the heroic inventor and his impenetrable weapon thrusting themselves
upon a doubtful and conservative bureaucracy... It is no longer the story of a heroic battle and the machine's epic loss soon
after. Rather it is a story of people experiencing new machinery, attempting to make sense of its thrills, constrictions,
and politics, and sensing its power and impotence -- both in glory and frustration." -- from War, Technology, and Experience
aboard the USS Monitor. About the Author: David A. Mindell is Dibner
Associate Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at
MIT. He has degrees in Electrical Engineering and Literature from Yale University
and a Ph.D. in the History of Technology from MIT. His research interests include the history of military technology, the
history of electronics and computing, and archaeology in the deep ocean. He is currently working on a history of feedback,
control, and computing in the twentieth century, and on locating and imaging ancient shipwrecks and settlements in the deep
regions of the Black Sea.
Reading: Civil War Ironclads: The U.S. Navy and Industrial Mobilization (Johns Hopkins
Studies in the History of Technology). Description: "In this impressively researched and broadly conceived study, William
Roberts offers the first comprehensive study of one of the most ambitious programs in the history of naval shipbuilding, the
Union's ironclad program during the Civil War. Continued below...
Perhaps more importantly, Roberts also provides an invaluable framework for understanding and analyzing
military-industrial relations, an insightful commentary on the military acquisition process, and a cautionary tale on the
perils of the pursuit of perfection and personal recognition." - Robert Angevine, Journal of Military History "Roberts's study,
illuminating on many fronts, is a welcome addition to our understanding of the Union's industrial mobilization during the
Civil War and its inadvertent effects on the postwar U.S. Navy." - William M. McBride, Technology and Culture"
Reading: Confederate Ironclad vs Union Ironclad: Hampton
Roads 1862 (Duel). Description: The Ironclad
was a revolutionary weapon of war. Although iron was used for protection in the Far East
during the 16th century, it was the 19th century and the American Civil War that heralded the first modern armored self-propelled
warships. With the parallel pressures of civil war and the industrial revolution, technology advanced at a breakneck speed.
It was the South who first utilized ironclads as they attempted to protect their ports from the Northern blockade. Impressed
with their superior resistance to fire and their ability to ram vulnerable wooden ships, the North began to develop its own
rival fleet of ironclads. Eventually these two products of this first modern arms race dueled at the battle of Hampton Roads
in a clash that would change the face of naval warfare. Continued below…
with cutting-edge digital artwork, rare photographs and first-person perspective gun sight views, this book allows the reader
to discover the revolutionary and radically different designs of the two rival Ironclads - the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor
- through an analysis of each ship's weaponry, ammunition and steerage. Compare the contrasting training of the crews and
re-live the horrors of the battle at sea in a war which split a nation, communities and even families. About the Author: Ron
Field is Head of History at the Cotswold School in
Bourton-on-the-Water. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1982 and taught history at Piedmont
High School in California
from 1982 to 1983. He was associate editor of the Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain, from 1983 to 1992. He is
an internationally acknowledged expert on US Civil War military history, and was elected a Fellow of the Company of Military
Historians, based in Washington, DC,
in 2005. The author lives in Cheltenham, UK.
Reading: A History of Ironclads: The Power of Iron over Wood. Description: This
landmark book documents the dramatic history of Civil War ironclads and reveals how ironclad warships revolutionized naval
warfare. Author John V. Quarstein explores in depth the impact of ironclads during the Civil War and their colossal effect
on naval history. The Battle of Hampton Roads was one of history's greatest naval engagements. Over the course of two days
in March 1862, this Civil War conflict decided the fate of all the world's navies. It was the first battle between ironclad
warships, and the 25,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians who witnessed the battle vividly understood what history would soon
confirm: wars waged on the seas would never be the same. Continued below…
About the Author: John V. Quarstein is an award-winning author and historian. He is director
of the Virginia
War Museum in Newport News and chief historical advisor for The Mariners' Museum's new USS Monitor Center
(opened March 2007). Quarstein has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on American, military and Civil War history,
and has appeared in documentaries for PBS, BBC, The History Channel and Discovery Channel.
Reading: Lincoln's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization, 1861-65 (Hardcover). Review: Naval historian Donald L. Canney provides
a good overview of the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, describing life at sea, weapons, combat, tactics, leaders, and of course,
the ships themselves. He reveals the war as a critical turning point in naval technology, with ironclads (such as the Monitor)
demonstrating their superiority to wooden craft and seaborne guns (such as those developed by John Dahlgren) making important
advances. Continued below...
The real reason to own this oversize book, however, is for the images: more
than 200 of them, including dozens of contemporary photographs of the vessels that fought to preserve the Union. There are maps and
portraits, too; this fine collection of pictures brings vividness to its subject that can't be found elsewhere.
Reading: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883 (The
U.S. Navy Warship Series) (Hardcover).
Description: Civil War Warships, 1855-1883 is the second in the five-volume US Navy Warships encyclopedia set. This valuable
reference lists the ships of the U.S. Navy and Confederate Navy during the Civil War and the years immediately following -
a significant period in the evolution of warships, the use of steam propulsion, and the development of ordnance. Civil War
Warships provides a wealth and variety of material not found in other books on the subject and will save the reader the effort
needed to track down information in multiple sources. Continued below…
size and time and place of construction are listed along with particulars of naval service. The author provides historical
details that include actions fought, damage sustained, prizes taken, ships sunk, and dates in and out of commission as well
as information about when the ship left the Navy, names used in other services, and its ultimate fate. 140 photographs, including
one of the Confederate cruiser Alabama recently uncovered by the author further contribute to this
indispensable volume. This definitive record of Civil War ships updates the author's previous work and will find a lasting
place among naval reference works.
Reading: Naval Strategies
of the Civil War: Confederate Innovations and Federal Opportunism. Description: One of the most overlooked aspects of the American Civil War is the naval strategy
played out by the U.S. Navy and the fledgling Confederate Navy, which may make this the first book to compare and contrast
the strategic concepts of the Southern Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory against his Northern counterpart, Gideon Welles.
Both men had to accomplish much and were given great latitude in achieving their goals. Mallory's vision of seapower emphasized
technological innovation and individual competence as he sought to match quality against the Union Navy's (quantity) numerical
superiority. Welles had to deal with more bureaucratic structure and to some degree a national strategy dictated by the White
House. Continued below...
The naval blockade
of the South was one of his first tasks - for which he had but few ships available - and although he followed the national
strategy, he did not limit himself to it when opportunities arose. Mallory's dedication to ironclads is well known, but he
also defined the roles of commerce raiders, submarines, and naval mines. Welles's contributions to the Union effort were rooted
in his organizational skills and his willingness to cooperate with the other military departments of his government. This
led to successes through combined army and naval units in several campaigns on and around the Mississippi River.