USS Monitor Monument Dedication
On December 30, 1862, the USS Monitor, under tow by the USS Rhode Island, prepared to round Cape Hatteras, N.C., when waves hit the turret so hard it trembled. By 7:30 p.m., one of the hawsers snapped. The Monitor began rolling wildly, which forced out some of the oakum under the turret allowing water to pour in through the gaps.
The situation below deck was serious. The water level had risen to one inch in the engine room and the Worthington pumps were put to work. Soon it was realized that the pumps were having no effect. Therefore, at 8:45 p.m., the Rhode Island stopped the tow, but the water level continued to rise in the Monitor. By 10:00 p.m., Captain Bankhead gave the order for the red distress lantern to be hoisted, and at 11:00 p.m. he sent a message to the Rhode Island to send boats immediately as they were sinking!
Around 1:30 a.m. on December 31, 1862, the red signal lantern could no longer be seen as the USS Monitor slipped beneath the waves. Forty-seven men were rescued from the Monitor before she sank. However, sixteen men were lost—either washed overboard while trying to reach the rescue boats or trapped inside the foundering vessel.
The remains of the ship and these crewmen remained unknown for over 100 years, until the shipwreck was confirmed in 1974 by John Newton and a team from Duke University. The ironclad was found lying upside down with the turret separated from the hull. The ship rested in 230 feet of water approximately 16 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C. In order to protect this national treasure, Congress used the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 to create the nation’s first national marine sanctuary. The site was designated on January 30, 1975—the 113th anniversary of the ship’s launching from Greenpoint, N.Y.
In 2002, the turret, one of the ship’s most iconic pieces, was recovered through a collaborative effort between NOAA and the U.S. Navy. During the underwater excavation of the turret to reduce the turret’s weight, a set of human remains was found. Once the turret was on the deck of the Navy barge, a second set of remains was discovered. The remains of these two unknown sailors currently reside with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. NOAA is making every effort to identify these sailors and to have them interred at Arlington National Cemetery in 2013.
On Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, together with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will dedicate a memorial to honor the USS Monitor and the memory of the 16 sailors who died that night the Monitor sank. Placed in the Civil War section of Hampton National Cemetery, located on the Hampton University campus, the monument will be unveiled at 2:00 PM in a ceremony to memorialize the iconic vessel and the heroic efforts of the brave men who served their country.
The event is open to the public. Reception will follow for invited guests.
For more information contact Shannon Ricles at 757-591-7328 or at Shannon.Ricles@noaa.gov
Click here for directions.
Click here for the press release.